Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us about your latest novel, A Dowry of Blood [January 31st 2021]! I loved this sumptuous vampire tale that spans many lives and loves, including the terrifying and toxic love of Dracula himself.
I have long been curious about Dracula’s brides and I’m so happy to finally get their story. Did you begin this book wondering about them too, or did it evolve from some other source?
Vampires have always had a special place in my heart, and I’ve been fascinated by the mysterious, glamorous brides ever since I saw the Van Helsing movie when I was a little girl. That fascination only grew when I read Dracula in my teens. Whenever the brides are depicted, they always seem to live in Dracula’s shadow, and they don’t get to say much. I wanted to flesh out the mythology of the vampire bride and give them a chance to tell their own stories.
Queer culture talks a lot about “found family,” but what I love about Dowry of Blood is the emphasis on not just found but made family. How did you go about making these characters who make each other?
I feel like these characters have been around forever, but I started by working with classic archetypes from vampire literature that I was interested in: the suffering martyr, the beautiful sadist, the decadent hedonist. I also thought about the different philosophies one might develop for dealing with an immortal life. One of the most fun parts of the writing process was getting to see those embodied archetypes and philosophies interact with each other and fall in love with each other.
The three vampire brides are women in Dracula—so where did Alexi come from? Did he surprise you?
Vampirism is one of my favorite allegories for queerness, bisexuality in particular. I’ve certainly seen myself reflected in these stories of “deviant” desires and immortal hedonism and contemplation, but queerness remains subtextual in a lot of classic vampire lit. I wanted to bring it into the forefront of this story and celebrate it, which is why all the characters are attracted to and capable of loving all genders.
Alexi seemed like a natural addition to the book, and he allowed me to play with imagery from stories of queer male immortals like Dorian Gray. Alexi surprised me in that he was a delight to write, and he turned in to one of the bright spots in a pretty dark book. I think he complements the other personalities in the vampire family well with his sunny disposition and resilience.
Did anything surprise or challenge you in writing about a polycule through centuries of history?
Balancing four different character arcs and multiple intersecting love stories was certainly a tall order! I spent a lot of time balancing out scenes where the brides were alone with each other or with Dracula in order to give everyone’s relationships time to develop independently. In a novella, I didn’t have as much time to do that as I might have in a four-hundred-page book, so I spent a good amount of writing time shuffling around scenes and writing in little exchanges to beef up everyone’s individual entanglements. The book skips through time at a pretty quick pace too, so I was able to do some of that development off the page as well.
Which time and place was your favorite to write?
I don’t really have a favorite! I loved the excuse to learn about different European cities throughout history: Vienna as a medieval mercantile hub, or Renaissance Spain, or Venice during Carnival, or Paris in the 1920s. I think I would love to have been able to visit them all in different times.
The sensuality of Dowry of Blood really turns the gore from something frightful into something darkly delightful. Do you see yourself as a horror writer indulging the sexy side of vampires, a dark romance writer exploring history, or do you embrace some other label—or none at all?
I definitely see myself as a cross-genre author, which is one of the reasons I’m so attracted to the Gothic. The genre is completely unique to itself but also blends some of the best elements of horror, romance, fantasy, and thriller together. I’m most at home with the label of speculative fiction writer because it encapsulates so much of what I do, but two of my favorite genres to blend are horror and romance. I think that falling in love can be a really horrifying thing, and that awe and terror can be deeply romantic, and I enjoy bringing those themes into conversation with each other. Much of my work wrestles with spirituality, which I view as a deeply frightening and erotic thing, so I keep returning to horror and romance.
Do you plan to follow up with any of these characters in future work?
Not at the moment, but never say never!
Which of the vampiric spouses do you most identify with?
I think I’ve got a bit of all of them in me, but if I were a vampire I would probably indulge in Constanta’s religious ennui and existential questioning the most.
You’ve tackled the Snow Queen and Dracula as well as witches, hauntings, and other horrors. What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a contemporary occult crime romance and a sultry, summery folk gothic. As of right now I don’t have any more reimaginings slated, but I’m sure I’ll return to retellings in the future.
Will you be picking up A Dowry of Blood? Tell us in the comments below!