On this day of all Hallows' Eve, I would like to welcome Royce Prouty, author of the most excellent novel, Stoker's Manuscript.
As is tradition in our household, each October I read a story aloud to my wife, ending just before Halloween. A couple of years ago we chose the original Dracula, by Bram Stoker. (It was actually the first vampire novel I'd ever read.) After several days of reading we reached the ending, and both of us felt disappointed with the final outcome. Here it was, this gloriously written and constructed novel, and it ends with an inglorious ambush, followed by the Count turning to dust. It didn't even allow for a meaningful sequel.
We have a special Century edition of the book, appendixed with notes and reviews, and discovered that the ending had been changed, from one where the novel originally climaxed with a great battle at Dracula's Castle, down to a brief ambush. Originally, a great storm rages on outside while the Count battles to the death. Lightning strikes the castle and crumbles it. The Count is killed, and then is carted off by shadowy characters to be buried beside his wife.
"So why the change?" I mused.
My wife responded, "Maybe the family does not want anyone to know where they are buried."
The following morning the story hit me. Like all my stories, it arrived in entirety in a single moment-- the storyline, setting, characters, voices, final conflict scene-- everything. It is as if they are sent to me. From there it's a matter of getting it out and on paper. Quickly I wrote character sketches and a story synopsis and sent them off to my professional editor, Ed Stackler, up in the Bay Area. He gave it the thumbs up along with the following advice: "Go ahead and write the first draft. The put it down and read a couple of modern vampire stories, Kostova's Historian and Dacre Stoker's The Undead, to make sure you're not covering any trodden ground. Then to back and do your research before writing the second draft."
So that's what I did.
Funny thing-- when an author does research, it is typical to find things that causes one to alter/modify the manuscript. However, with every bit of research I did, both big and small, the historical events only strengthened my story, never necessitating a change. For example, I wrote of a fire at the Lyceum Theatre, where Bram Stoker worked, that forced the ending to change from his first editions to subsequent ones. Historically, there was a fire in the theatre during that time.
One of the areas I researched was the vampire creature itself. I never envisioned vampires as warm & fuzzy romantic creatures, but rather as sinister creatures of the night, encounters with which tended to end badly for the humans. In that vein I fashioned my villains. No romance in Stoker's Manuscript.
For help I enlisted my sister, Christine, for advice. She is an expert on things vampiric, and assisted on the list of vampire traits, conventions and expectations. From Stoker's writing in the 1890s to present, several permutations of the creatures have presented, and I felt it necessary to bring the medical and scientific understanding to modern. Bram Stoker did a great job of building the bridge over to Vampireland, but I felt the bridge needed to be brought up to modern building code, if you will. To explain what the creatures are, and equally, what they are not, seemed an important step. For example, there are several things in Stoker's novel that would not make it past an editor in today's publishing houses, such as having Count Dracula walking around London mid-day.
When completed, I sent my manuscript off to an agent, Scott Miller, at Trident in New York, who accepted it and successfully presented to Putnam & Sons.
Such are the origins of tales.
My thoughts on Stoker's Manuscript
I have been on somewhat of a Dracula kick lately. I'm listening to Bram Stoker's classic novel on audio and I'm slowly working my way through a reread of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. So I was thrilled when Royce contacted me and offered me a copy of his book. My friend, J. Kaye, had raved about it and it turns out she was not wrong.
What I liked most about the book was the creepy elements that crept up on me throughout the book. I felt chilling fingers move up my spine more than once. This made for excellent reading for the Halloween season. Add to that, the writing of a story that kept me guessing and characters and settings that made me feel part of the story, and this is definitely a book worth reading.
Anyone who is a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula or even Kostova's The Historian will love this book. It's obvious that Prouty has a voice. I look forward to his next novel.
I leave you with this wonderful poem by Romanian poet, Lucian Blaga, which Prouty included at the beginning of the book. It really struck me...
Lost in the night, somewhere, there is
all that once was and no more is,
what got lost, what was uprooted,
from living time to time that's muted.
In Hades is--all that is passed.
From Acheron, the river vast,
all memories to us return.
In Hades is--all that is passed
the Aprils and loves we yearn.
About the book
When rare-manuscript expert Joseph Barkeley is hired to authenticate and purchase the original draft and notes for Bram Stoker's Dracula, little does he know that the reclusive buyer is a member of the oldest family in Transylvania.
After delivering the manuscript to the legendary Bran Castle in Romania, Barkeley—a Romanian orphan himself—realizes to his horror that he's become a prisoner to the son of Vlad Dracul. To earn his freedom, Barkeley must decipher cryptic messages hidden in the text of the original Dracula that reveal the burial sites of certain Dracul family members. Barkeley's only hope is to ensure that he does not exhaust his usefulness to his captor until he’s able to escape. Soon he discovers secrets about his own lineage that suggest his selection for the task was more than coincidence. In this knowledge may lie Barkeley's salvation—or his doom. For now he must choose between a coward's flight and a mortal conflict against an ancient foe.
Building on actual international events surrounding the publication of Bram Stoker's original novel, Royce Prouty has written a spellbinding debut novel that ranges from 1890s Chicago, London, and Transylvania to the perilous present.
About the author
Patrick Royce Prouty is a CPA, business consultant, and Harley-Davidson enthusiast. He and his wife live in Southern California. Stoker's Manuscript is his first novel.
A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.