Francey’s nightmares are a very real cause for concern. So graphic, and so terrifying have they become, that the next one could very well end her life. A frantic search for the key to their unraveling leads her through a maze of past lives straight into the teeth of a web of intrigue so insidious that it has remained undetected for three and a half centuries; whereupon the path stops dead in its tracks at the gravesites of Lady Susan Sebastian and Edward Delaney. What possible connection could Francey have with the seventeenth century star-crossed lovers? And if there is one, how is she to draw the answer from them? This chasm of impossible proportions must be crossed, for only with the resurrection of the dead, and their secrets drawn from deep within their souls, can the little girl be saved.
It was a few years ago, after reading a book by Mark Twain about Joan of Arc, that I started writing in earnest. Joan of Arc, up until that point, had been almost unknown to me. There were the few bits and pieces I’d gleaned about her in school, and several movies which left me cold and wondering, ‘What’s the big deal?’ But Mark Twain’s book was a revelation and I decided I had to do something to get the word out. So just like that, and with no prior experience in the field, I wrote a screenplay in which I attempted to depict Joan as the magnificent being that she truly was. And if you’re curious as to when the movie is coming out, stay tuned.
Anyway–and in an effort to move things along–a publisher friend of mine, after reading and adoring my Joan of Arc screenplay, suggested that I turn my literary efforts to the writing of a novel. Were I to do that, she said, she’d see to it that it was published. I mulled this over for a while, decided I’d like to give it a try, and Francey was born. Where the idea for that amazing young lady came from is a story in itself and shall be saved for another time. However, since it was The Horrifying Tale of Mrs. Trollope that caused Ashlyn to request this bit of prose from me, we’ll turn our attention first to that novel.
With one novel under my belt, and while looking for an idea for another, I just happened to re-read Dracula. And it occurred to me that–at least as far as I knew–no female counterpart to the greatest vampire of them all had made her way onto the literary scene. Add to that my son’s challenge that I write a tale of horror, and there was now no turning back. For my money, Mrs. Trollope is the quintessential vampire. The personification of evil (the Devil, were he to encounter her, would step aside to let her pass), she is also not without her human frailties. Desperately lonely, an impossibly unrequited love: her human side will tug at your heartstrings. And though you may find her sense of humor a bit dry–as does Jonathan, Clara’s father, and a vampire-hunter from the old country–still it can’t be denied that she has one.
We join Jack and Clara Gallagher on the Night of Dread–when a full moon and Friday the thirteenth join forces–and their car has broken down. They seek help at a nearby house, and due to some rather bizarre circumstances, find themselves Mrs. Trollope’s guests for the night. The next day they awaken to find themselves trapped in a house of untold horrors. They escape, of course–but not before Clara’s been infected. An infection that–if permitted to run its course–will make of Clara a walking dead. The cure?–A wooden stake driven through Mrs. Trollope’s heart. A daunting task made no easier by the fact that Mrs. Trollope–a vampire as cunning as they come–will not rest until her vengeance toward Clara’s father has been satisfied. Not only does she want Clara for herself, but she wants Clara’s sister as well. The game of cat and mouse that follows–from the wilds of the New England countryside, to the jungles of New York City–will have you wondering more often than not: who is the cat and who is the mouse?
One other thing before we leave the world of Mrs. Trollope behind: I wrote it with people like me in mind–modern-day treatment of horror holds little attraction for me. In other words, you’ll find no nightmare-inducing mind-games, no blood, no gore, no grizzly tearing apart of human flesh. In fact, you’ll find not so much as a swear word. Simply a story in which you wouldn’t want to find yourself a participant.
Francey, on the other hand, is a horse of a radically different color. And no matter how many novels hereafter flow from my pen, she’ll always remain my favorite child.
Francey’s nightmares are a very real cause for concern. So graphic and so terrifying have they become that the next one could very well end her life. A frantic search for the key to their unraveling leads her through a maze of past lives straight into the teeth of a web of intrigue so insidious that it has remained undetected for three and a half centuries; whereupon the path stops dead in its tracks at the gravesites of Lady Susan Sebastian, and her forbidden lover, Edward Delaney. What possible connection could Francey have with the seventeenth century star-crossed lovers? And if there is one, how is she to draw the answer from them? This chasm of impossible proportions must be crossed, for only with the resurrection of the dead, and their secrets drawn from deep within their souls, can the little girl be saved.
So–you might ask–when, where, and why did I first pick up my pen? Well… I was sitting in my eighth-grade history class, doing my best to ignore the teacher’s mind-numbing drone, when, out of the blue, an idea for a story hit me. It was a glorious moment promising to serve me in two badly needed ways: devoting my energies to it during class would help me to ignore the teacher; and, even better, it would enable me to forget that I was trapped in that most unspeakable of places–school. Hence I got right to work.
That night, at dinner–a time when the whole family (parents, two sisters, a brother) sat down together and discussed the events of the day–if you can believe a time like that ever existed–I pulled out my creation and read it aloud. I don’t remember the details of the story, but I do, astonishingly enough, remember the gist. It was a short story centering around my older sister, Marilyn (who, today, plays violin with the New York Philharmonic), and the dilemmas–both uproarious and embarrassing–in which she found herself because of having to juggle her several boyfriends. I swear to God, my audience was in stitches: Marilyn was literally rolling on the floor. It was, and will remain, the single greatest moment of my life.
I became unstoppable, and over the next several years, wrote hundreds of short stories. I envy me my young self because back then the words poured effortlessly out of me; unlike today, when a single sentence can have me stymied for a week.
It was toward the end of my senior year in high school, while getting ready to make the transition to college, when I began my first novel. It remains unfinished. I’ll spare you the sordid details of why, upon entering those hallowed halls of higher learning, creative writing became as lost to me as my childhood. (The tears stand in my eyes as I write this.) Joan of Arc, bless her heart, started the ball rolling again; my publisher friend gave it a much needed push; but what really brought Francey about was a memory, so insistent, that I was given no choice but to set it down on paper. And, in so doing, I re-discovered the joys of writing. To say I’m glad I did would be a fair-sized understatement. And, I’m told by a decent number of people that they are glad of it as well. I hope you will be too.
Just as an aside and in case you’re interested, I’m working now on a novel called The Devil and Charlie Draper. I had meant to follow Mrs. T. with a sequel, and it will still happen; but The Devil’s nagging became impossible to ignore. To give you some idea:
Charlie Draper, a man getting on in years, has never gotten over the tragic loss of his childhood sweetheart. And though he has everything a man could wish for, still this cloud hangs forever over him. Enter the Devil with an enticing proposition. A set of circumstances will be created wherein Charlie, having been given back his youth, will also be given the opportunity to bring that tragic loss back to life. Should he succeed, and should he then be able to win back her love, Charlie will have fulfilled his end of the bargain thereby retaining possession of his soul and everything else he’s gained along the way. However, the odds are not exactly stacked in his favor and should he fail . . . Well, you get the idea. The bargain is struck and the clock starts to tick. Charlie has thirty days.
Though there will be moments of humor and levity, this will be no light and frolicsome tale. It is a serious and ambitious work and I’m gritting my teeth in preparation for countless long and harrowing nights. Gene Fowler, the well-known author and journalist, once said, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” That, my friends, is something to which The Devil may certainly attest.