Let’s start the week off right, shall we? With a story about a story, and the permutations thereof. Also about the barnacle-like nature of certain ideas and how you can never *quite* do them justice, no matter how many times you give it a go.
So, if you were paying attention, The Infernal Express came out last week. On Friday the 13th, appropriately enough. It’s a book wherein the Royal Occultist takes the skull of Dracula on a long-distance haul across Europe, in order to turn it over to a foreign government for political reasons. In one way or another, it is a story I’ve tried to write on at least two occasions. It has gone through various permutations, chronologically and narratively, as well as stylistically.
Originally, it wasn’t a Royal Occultist story. But it did feature an occult detective, of sorts–namely Arthur Holmwood, the Lord Godalming. When I first had the rough inkling of the idea to stick Dracula’s skull on the Orient Express, bound for Istanbul, it was a loose sequel to Bram Stoker’s original novel. Lord Godalming, I theorized, would have had his horizons broadened in the aftermath of his encounter with the supernatural. His wealth and status would have been bent towards learning more about the occult, in order to better defend against future incursions of the eldritch. It was a whole thing…I imagined it as the first book in a series, detailing Lord Godalming’s growing obsession with the occult. He would go from the staid, stiff figure of Dracula to a more eccentric character, and his cross-continental adventure with the skull of Dracula would have been the first step on that journey.
Anyway, that didn’t pan out. I wasn’t certain I wanted to tie things so closely to Bram Stoker’s work, and I wasn’t certain anyone would buy a story set in pre-war Europe, involving a British eccentric carrying a skull to Istanbul. So I put it aside and went on to other things. But ideas aren’t that easy to shake. So, a year later, I got to discussing story ideas with my good friends Joel Jenkins and Derrick Ferguson (both great writers, btw, and you should check out their stuff post-haste), and came up with the idea of Dracula as a James Bond-esque villain. A nod to Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman’s brilliant Tomb of Dracula, with Dracula running this global Satanic network of cults and agents. I wrote the first book, Dracula Lives!, and published it through Pulpwork Press in 2010.
I reworked elements of my original idea into Dracula Lives!–the persistence of Dracula’s ghost, the competing factions of vampires, Satanists and government agencies all seeking to claim Dracula for themselves–and added some new factors–a dhampir named Harker and the Westenra Fund–to the mix, to create a sort of John le Carre/Hammer Horror mashup. I left out the Orient Express, obviously, because the book was set in modern times and people use planes these days.
It didn’t sell well.
Plans for the series were scuppered, and once more, the original idea went into a drawer. Until about a year or so ago, when I was looking around for an idea for the third Royal Occultist novel. So once again, I pulled out my old idea, gave it a new coat of paint, and set about making it fit into the world of the Royal Occultist. Which was no easy thing, by the way…Dracula is akin to Sherlock Holmes in that he’s a character that rapidly dominates any narrative he’s in. Hence my use of Dracula as a force literally seeking to dominate the main character, and usurp his existence…but that’s a discussion for another time.
The Infernal Express is now available in electronic format. A print edition will be out in the next few days, if you prefer your books to take up space on something other than a hard drive. Reviews are always welcome, and if you’re interested in keeping up-to-date on the world of the Royal Occultist please be sure to ‘Like’ the Facebook page and set your bookmarks for http://royaloccultist.wordpress.com/.