This Month's Special Page:
An exclusive interview with Dracula author Bram Stoker's great grandnephew
IN THE "SPECIAL PAGE" ARCHIVES:
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR DACRE STOKER
Q. Hi Dacre! We should probably start with the obvious: you are the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, Irish author of the 1897 gothic novel Dracula. I understand it is important to you to keep his memory alive. Do you consider yourself a vampire expert?
A. Pardon the pun but this past Halloween, the British newspaper The Telegraph picked up on this quote “I’ve got a stake in reminding people who invented the world’s most famous vampire.”
Am I an expert? I have read quite a few vampire books both fictional and non-fiction as I researched for my writing of Dracula the Un-Dead. I have enjoyed watching vampire movies and TV shows, but I have no specific “degree “in Vampirology; just a keen interest to learn and understand more about both the origins of the Vampire myth in history and also the impact of Vampires in popular culture. I will admit though to being quite knowledgeable about Bram Stoker’s life, his research, and his writing of Dracula.
Q. You have had special access to Bram Stoker’s original notes. Is it true that he changed the ending to Dracula? That the original ending had something to do with the vampire dying in a volcano?
A. First of all, you need to realize that Bram left 125 pages of source notes to his novel Dracula, these are a collection of thoughts, references, chapter outlines, etc; the originals reside in the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia.
There is also one typescript for Dracula, which is owned by Microsoft co founder Paul Allen. It is from this typescript that we noticed an altered ending to Dracula. Bram had originally included a volcanic eruption which leveled Castle Dracula just after the bowie knife was thrust into the Count’s chest and the kukri blade sliced his throat.
For whatever reason, Bram crossed out a large portion of the typing on one page, essentially eliminating the volcanic eruption, and thus leaving the count able to simply vanish or shape shift into dust rather than perish in a more definitive manner into the molten lava of a volcanic eruption. This revised ending was possibly a last-minute strategy leaving Count Dracula in a state where his is able to make a comeback if Bram or someone else cared to revive him in a sequel.
Q. As a child growing up, were you aware of your great-granduncle’s fame? If so, how did it affect you?
A. We actually had a few first editions of Bram’s books in our bookcase in our home in Montreal where I grew up. Around Halloween my friends would joke about what would happen if they came to our door to “trick or treat.” Would they be given candy or have their blood taken?
It was in the mid 70s when McNally and Florescu’s In Search of Dracula came out that international focus was shifted to Bram Stoker finding his inspiration for Count Dracula from Vlad Dracula III of Transylvania, Romania. That is when I also took notice.
I finally read Dracula in 1979 when I was in University. However, it still took me a while, until 2003 to fully focus on Bram and Dracula when I started working on writing the sequel to Dracula, entitled Dracula the Un-Dead with Ian Holt. It was at this stage in my life when I realized the enormous reach Bram’s writing had upon the literature and pop culture world.
Sitting in the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia looking over Bram’s original notes for Dracula, it struck me what an amazing impact my great grand uncle has had on the world. Quite the responsibility to follow in his footsteps.
Q. I understand you took a trip to Transylvania (Bran Castle in Romania) this past October. What did you do on that trip?
A. Together with Romanian Treasures Travel, I have been hosting people on tours of Transylvania for the past year. We visit sites associated with the real Prince Vlad Dracula III, and also significant sites associated with the novel Dracula.
This trip was different because I was actually the guest host for Airbnb’s “Night at Dracula’s Castle.” Airbnb organized a world-wide event which attracted 88,000 entries, these were 500 character “essays” where contestants stated what they would say to Count Dracula if they met him during their overnight stay in his Castle. The winner was provided airfare for two, accommodations for three nights in Romania, one of them in the famous Bran Castle, which was a source of inspiration for Bram Stoker in his description of his fictional Castle Dracula.
I met the winners after they arrived at the Castle in their authentic horse drawn carriage and welcomed them into the Castle as the Count did in Bram’s novel. We did a lot of interviews with the world’s leading press agencies, AP, Reuters, and AP France, as well as a lot of European press outlets. We never imagined that this event would attract as much attention by the press and also by all the people who choose to enter. Luckily Airbnb provided a lot of resources to help pre screen the short essays, so I only had to read over about 10,000 in last 4 days to help choose the winner.
Afterwards they were treated to a tour of the Castle and a wonderful dinner before retiring to the Castle crypt where they were provided two coffins to sleep in.
Q. You’ve had an interesting life in your own right. You are also an author. Can you tell us about your books?
A. Dracula the Un-Dead 2009, Dutton, is a continuation of Bram’s Dracula, I co authored this novel with Ian Holt. We set the story 25 years after Dracula was supposedly destroyed at the end of Bram’s novel. Our story focuses on Quincey Harker, Mina Harker’s child born at the very end of Dracula. In my book, he is now 25 years old, and ends up getting involved in a horrendous sequence of events stemming from his families past.
In 2012, Robson Press published Bram Stoker’s Lost Journal, The Dublin Years, I worked with Dr. Elizabeth Miller co-editing Bram Stoker’s Lost Journal, we both took turns writing commentary on portions of this personal journal that Bram Stoker kept while he was a young man growing up in Dublin prior to him writing Dracula. Other then the Dracula notes, this lost journal is the only other piece of personal or private writing by Bram yet discovered. It provides insight into the Bram’s thoughts for stories, observations and reflections that he deemed important enough to record.
Q. Besides being an author, you have also been very interested in pentathlon, which is a sport featuring five events: fencing, shooting, swimming, riding, and cross-country running. You coached that for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Are you currently involved with any sports?
A. I participated as an athlete then as a coach in the sport of Modern Pentathlon from 1977-1992. The two highlights were coaching a young lady named Lyn Chornabrywy to become World Champion in 1983, then coaching the Canadian Men’s team to their best Olympic finish 10/22 teams in 1988. I then become involved in the sport of Court Tennis in 1992, a unique historic version of Tennis whose origins date back to the 1500’s. I became involved as an athlete myself, then in the past four years I have coached a young man named Camden Riviere to become World Champion of Court Tennis. Sports are a great diversion from my writing and an exciting part of my life, where I travel and meet some wonderful people and also face many substantial mental and physical challenges.
Q. You live in South Carolina and were the Executive Director of the Aiken Land Conservancy. Is environmentalism important to you?
A. I love the outdoors, I am an avid hiker, mountain biker and fly fisherman. In what little free time I have I do enjoy the natural environment. I have served on a few different environmental boards and have run the Aiken Land Conservancy. I feel it is important for people to give back any way they can, especially as our society puts so many stresses on our environment. Writing horror is one thing, but the way we treat our natural environment is another form of horror.
Q. What future projects are you planning?
A. I am currently working with Irish filmmaker Jason Figgis on a documentary about adapting my illustrated lectures about my search for Bram Stoker and the mysteries behind his writing of Dracula into Film. I have access to many Stoker family images and stories that enhance my presentations about my famous relative which I believe will make an interesting documentary film.
In addition, I am collaborating with a wonderful author, J. D. Barker, on writing a prequel to Dracula, a historical based work of fiction. I have taken a lot of the information which I have learned about Bram and have fictionalized the events in his life which lead to him writing Dracula. Our basis is that every good story, even horrifying ones, has a certain amount of truth in it, as does Dracula.