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Stoker's Manuscript
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From Jeffrey Pritchett of to Royce Prouty

I have to ask first off about your Dracula fetish and how that developed when it comes to your book Stoker's Manuscript? I have always enjoyed Dracula since my youth.

A: I, too enjoyed Dracula since my youth, but in its movie form. Several friends and relations own shelves of First Edition modern vampire novels, and I enjoyed discussing their likes and dislikes, but I never thought of vampires as warm and fuzzy, romantic creatures. Always envisioned them as sinister shadowy creatures with whom encounters always end badly for the humans.

It was not until October of 2009 that I read any vampire books, and that first was Bram Stoker's classic. The next day the storyline for my novel came to me. Like all my stories, the entire book came into my head at once, including plot, characters, setting, voice, and ending. I rushed to complete the character sketches and a synopsis, and sent it off to a professional editor, Ed Stackler. Following his suggestion, I wrote the first draft in about ninety days, then rested it and completed my research. Ed also suggested that I read a couple current vampire stories by Elizabeth Kostova and Dacre Stoker, both fine novels, to avoid covering any trodden ground.

What have you learned about Bram Stoker himself that you find fascinating during your research of this book?

A: Bram Stoker was busy. A real do'er, he had more than a full time job overseeing every facet of the Lyceum Theatre in London, from stage director to facilities manager to CFO. In addition, the adjoining nightclub, also under his purview, was the place to gather after shows for those considered London's gentry set. Somehow he managed to do all that and pen his monumental novel, complete with a hundred pages of notes and reference material. The original Dracula was far from a whimsical endeavor.

Through all that, more than a decade leading up to its 1897 publication, Stoker played second chair in all ways to his boss, Henry Irving, the theatre owner and actor, who did not treat Bram as an equal. Yet, by any measure, it was Stoker who was the more accomplished and more than a century later it is the author who needs no introduction, while Irving is behind the asterisk.

What can you share with us about Joseph Barkeley the character in your book, origins wise?

A: As for the image of the character, I saw him, heard him, when the story came into my head. I saw him as a skeptic, an intelligent loner who was going to have to get pulled through events in order to realize he's in deep trouble.

I have always been drawn by stories featuring ordinary persons yanked from a normal life and forced to extraordinary feats just to survive. In the end the person changes, becomes stronger, but still retains certain ordinary traits. Barkeley certainly qualifies as such, from the humblest of beginnings in a Romanian orphanage to the reluctant hero who battles a Noble Vampire.

When constructing a cast, I tend to draw a tight little circle around the characters in such a way that they all touch each other. And by the story's end, account for all their whereabouts. Joseph had to have some small tangent to the villain, and in giving him some vampire blood it allowed him to have some extraordinary attributes. Best to make him a son of the Transylvania soil, and connect him back to Stoker's helper.

When you read Dracula by Bram Stoker finally why were you disappointed in the end?

A: I actually had my character Joseph voice my personal disappointments when he commented that here was this exquisitely written, glorious, enduring novel with an inglorious ending as the count Dracula gets ambushed by the protagonists and swiftly killed, knifed in the heart, and immediately turns to dust. Not only did it lack a grand battle, or even a well crafted buildup, but his turning to dust eliminated any possibility of a meaningful ending.

What else would you like to share with us about the book? A wild card question if you will.

A: About twenty-five years ago I heard an interview of Gene Roddenberry, who, when asked about writing science fiction, responded roughly as follows: Think of a river meandering between two lands, the far side being science fiction land. The trick is to build a bridge in such a way that when you're leading your reader across and he questions 'can that really happen?', then he's already on the other side and you are free to roam around in unreality. It is at that bridge point where Roddenberry suggests that the writer spill a little extra ink because you only get one shot or the reader simply will not buy the story's premise.

When creating Star Trek, Roddenberry knew that he had to get past the inconvenience of traveling faster than light speed, so he took great pains in the pilot shows to explain "warp drive," and that is why he chose a plain-speaking mechanic like Mr. Scott as his engineer to explain the concept of matter and anti-matter converging asymptotically in an engine to produce a slingshot effect for travel.

In constructing my novel, I knew the bridge to vampire-land was already built, and I only needed to find a fresh entry point. However, Bram Stoker wrote his story within the confines of 1890s science and medicine, producing what looks today like conflicting conventions. I felt it necessary to explain the nocturnal creatures within the modern precincts of science and dispel some of the inconsistencies that I would never accept myself, such as shapeshifting. In other words, I wanted to reinforce the old bridge and bring it up to modern code, if you will, for a sturdier walk across.