Karen Essex to P.S. I Love Books while on her blog tour!
Karen is an award-winning novelist, journalist and screen writer. Her novels include the internationally best-selling Leonardo's Swans, Stealing Athena, and two novels on the queen of Egypt, Kleopatra and Pharoah.
Essex was born and raised in New Orleans. She was graduated from Tulane University, attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University, and received an MFA in Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. She’s appeared on The Today Show and A Word on Words hosted by John Seigenthaler, as well as other PBS and NPR programs. She’s lectured at the Chicago Museum of Art, and extensively at universities. Her books are taught in many college courses from creative writing to history to women’s studies.
Leonardo’s Swans, a runaway bestseller in Italy, won the prestigious 2007 Premio Roma for foreign fiction. Essex’s novels are published in twenty-seven languages. She lives in London.
Welcome Karen! I appreciate you taking the time while on your book tour to visit P.S. I Love Books. Can you tell us a little bit about Dracula in Love?
Dracula in Love is a reimaging of the original tale from the perspective of the vampire’s muse and obsession, Mina Murray Harker. I wanted to turn the story inside out and expose its underbelly by explicating all the things that could not be expressed in the 19th century—namely, female sensuality and desire, and the realities of a woman’s life at that time.
What was one of your favorite and least favorite things about writing it?
I love every aspect of composing a book. The research process is enthralling to me, and for this book, I moved to London to absorb the atmosphere. I suppose my least favorite part of writing anything is having a deadline to meet. But if left to my own devices, I’d still be researching my first novel (Kleopatra, published in 2001!).
Which of the characters did you enjoy working with the most?
Well, it was a blast to revisit Bram Stoker’s memorable characters both male and female and reinterpret them according to the immense amount of research I did into the Victorian mind and culture. But my very favorite thing was to include Bram Stoker himself as one of the characters. I am so happy that I came up with that idea because it seems to delight readers to watch Mr. Stoker discover the material that inspired his novel Dracula.
If you had the chance to do it all over again would you change anything in Dracula in Love?
Perhaps the title. I think, in retrospect, that I should have called it Dracula’s Lover, which would have been slightly more accurate. Also, I might, just might, have changed the end, or rather, how I wrote the very end, because I think readers misinterpret my intention. I can’t say more because it would mean revealing a SPOILER. However, what happened in the very end will be dealt with in a sequel.
What do you think of the cover?
Adore, adore, adore.
The actress Rooney Mara from The Social Network embodies physically and in her essence everything I imagined when I wrote Mina. I completely adore Emily Blunt too. That is as far as I have gotten in casting it in my mind. Maybe Javier Bardem or Clive Owen as Dracula?
What is your favorite time period in history to work with?
Gosh, I love them all. I have written about the 1950s (Bettie Page: Life of a Pinup Legend), Graeco-Roman Egypt (Kleopatra and Pharaoh), the High Italian Renaissance (Leonardo’s Swans), classical Athens and the Napoleonic period (Stealing Athena), and the late Victorian era in Dracula in Love. I cannot say that one period grips me more than another. I can say that I have been utterly enthralled studying each period. When I study history, I don’t look at it as a fait accompli. I see it as revealing itself to me as I learn about it.
If you could write a book about absolutely anything with any other author (dead or alive) what would it be about and who would you choose?
Frankly I would like to sit down with every historian who ever wrote and make them let me put in the women’s stories!
I would be making films. I write screenplays and I’ve produced as well. I’d really like to have a parallel life to devote to that exclusively. But I cannot, would not, give up writing books for anything.
I’m always looking for books to add to my ginormous TBR (to be read) pile. What books are you currently reading or have read recently? Any good recommendations?
I’m not good on this because I am always reading exhaustively for my research. At the moment, I am revisiting the Italian Renaissance and reading a lot of court documents, things like that. Not leisurely reading. For fun, I just read a memoir by a new friend, Maria Dahvana Headley, The Year of Yes, and it was hilarious and wonderful! I can also recommend another friend’s book, Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. Absolutely masterful!
What are some of your favorite things to do when given a break from the writing life and other work-related things?
Play! I love to socialize with my wonderful friends in London or spend time with my daughter in Los Angeles. I’m a voracious culture vulture, so I devour theater, exhibitions, opera, and film. I also love to travel. By the time this is posted, I will be roaming around the Carpathian Mountains (Transylvania!!) and stalking the streets of Bucharest. After that, Greece. In the autumn, India!
Are you currently working on any projects that we may see from you in the future?
Well, I am gong back to Italy for my next book and I am also pondering a sequel to Dracula in Love. Those are the two things competing for attention in my brain these days.
Thank you so much for stopping by Karen! Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Please visit my website: http://www.karenessex.com/, and while you’re there, check out my new blog, Women, History, Sex & Power: http://www.karenessexblog.com/.
Please join me on Facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/people/Karen-Essex/1060811184
I’m also a goodreads girl! http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/51533.Ask_Karen_Essex_
Click here for a chance to win one of five copies of Dracula in Love
(Thanks to Amy from Historical Fiction Book Tours and the publisher)
Giveaway ends August 19th
US Entrants Only
Be sure to check back soon for my review of Dracula in Love
Click here to see Karen Essex's book tour schedule!