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Happy Friday, everyone! Many exciting things are happening today! Head on over to Shut Up and Read for my latest interview, in which you will learn about the characters of Corcitura, discover what 80’s fantasy movie caused me to break my ankle as a child, read a brand new excerpt from the novel, and find out the latest news about Uendelig and the other planned works in my eight part novella series, Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light.
And don’t forget to enter within the next six days for your chance to win one of five Kindle (US only) copies of Corcitura! http://shutupandreadgroup.blogspot.com/2013/07/q-with-melika-dannese-lux.html
Read on for the interview and short excerpt! 😀
1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
I had always wanted to try my hand at writing a book with multiple narrators. It’s fascinating how one character can perceive something and another can think he or she is completely insane and see the same events in a whole new light. When I set out to write Corcitura, I decided the best way to tell the story would be to have a trio of narrators pick up the strands and weave them into a tale that spans the years 1888-1895 and about a half dozen locations in Europe and America. Each narrator is interconnected with the others in ways he or she only begins to understand as the story progresses and the mystery deepens.
The lion’s share of the novel is spent with Eric Bradburry, an eighteen-year-old Englishman who embarks on a grand tour of Europe with his best friend, Stefan Ratliff. To Eric, the whole trip is a chance to see the world and possibly have the greatest adventure of his young life. The fact that he and Stefan are striking out on their own for the first time only adds to his rather grand expectations. He and Stefan have been inseparable for years (13, to be exact), and Eric has always trusted Stefan with his life, so when things begin to unravel almost the minute he and Stefan meet up with a coterie of bewitching and otherworldly people in Paris, Eric essentially has to grow up overnight and make several life shattering choices to try and save not only Stefan’s, but his own life and soul as well.
Six years later in Gilded Age New York, we meet Madelaine Dennison, our second narrator. Madelaine is a strong woman who fights for what she wants and is not afraid to speak her mind, even to her father (and this was a dicey thing at best in the Victorian age!), regardless of the consequences. She would literally “go to hell and back and cut off the devil’s head” to save the ones she loves. Madelaine, as one character calls her, is “a brick” and such a vital part of the second half of Corcitura that I don’t know how certain characters would have made it through without her. Can you tell I’m a fan of Miss Dennison? 😉
And then there is Zigmund Fertig. I love all my characters, of course, but Zigmund (the third and final narrator of Corcitura) is my favorite. Don’t tell the others. 😉 The shock and horror he endured at a young age at the hands of a Vrykolakas and the resentment and confusion he carried with him for thirty-odd years endeared him to me most, especially because everything he thought he knew about his parents and what he was a part of in Greece turned out to be a far cry from what really happened. I absolutely LOVED writing his narrative and exploring those feelings/emotions/demons he struggles to overcome, and whether or not he could ever overcome them at all. This conflict was vitally important to the outcome of the stories of all the other characters because their fates were so intertwined with the choices he might make. So Zigmund Fertig will always hold a very special place in my heart.
But, of course, you want to know about the vampires, right? Along with the Upyr and the Vrykolakas who create the Corcitura, there are several female vampiric characters, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise by revealing their identities to you prematurely. If you love seeing female vampire protagonists having a major role in the outcome of a story, then you will love the two in this book. Let’s hear it for the girls! They have enough history and chutzpah to fill volumes more, which is my intended plan. Oh, and, by the way, they also happen to be werewolves, and if that duality doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!
Finally, there is Greydanus, who has a huge role to play towards the end of the novel. Keep an eye out for him because if I tell you his lineage now, the whole plot will be blown to smithereens. Suffice it to say, the last half of the book hinges on the secret birthright of the little boy who cries blood.
2. How long have you been writing, and when did you first consider yourself an author?
I’ve been writing books since I was fourteen, but I first considered myself an author when I completed a novel at the age of 18. The fact that I had actually finished something that was publishable solidified my decision to pursue this career path.
3. How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
The fact that my mother started reading to me when I was in the womb and my father told me wild, not-exactly-verifiable tall tales while I was still in the cradle, really engendered in me an early love for reading. I was also brought up on Classics and some really fantastic literature, which was the first step in causing the writing seeds to germinate from a young age.
Following on from this early fascination with storytelling, a big part of my childhood was spent watching and marveling over fantasy movies and TV shows (Willow, The Neverending Story, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, and Return to Oz, to name a few). I was a sponge for these films and shows and couldn’t get enough of all their magic and wonder. And to show you how deep my love for these movies ran, at the age of three, I broke my ankle pretending to be Dorothy as she stepped across the rocks to avoid the quicksand. Yes, I was hooked from a very early age. 😉
When it came time to write my first novel, I naturally set it in the fantasy genre. This was the book I began at fourteen but abandoned for school, life, and other projects. However, in July of last year, I broke the manuscript out of the attic and began totally transforming it into a dystopian epic set in a brutal and lawless world. The entire theme and outcome of the story have changed drastically but all the exciting bits (mythical beasts, hidden identities, battles, political intrigue, and some truly horrifying and treacherous villains) are still part of the fabric of the story. With the passage of years, however, everything within the story seems to have more meaning and gravitas to me now. It is definitely not the same book I would have written as a fourteen-year-old, so I am very happy I put the novel on hold.
You should also know that Gandalf is directly responsible for my decision to become a writer. It was all that wizard’s fault! 😉 My mind was made up in the winter of 2001 as I sat in a darkened theater and heard Gandalf the Grey speak the following line to Frodo Baggins:
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
That was it, and I haven’t looked back since. 🙂
In addition to loving fantasy, I was also a big fan of monsters, vampires in particular, so it was only natural that I would start writing about them, too, one day. A project begun in 2003 was finally finished nine years later with the publication of Corcitura, a 700 page novel about vampires that vampirised me! I remember watching an interview with Elizabeth Kostova once and laughing when I heard her say it took her a decade to write The Historian. At the time, I thought that was insane. A decade to write a single book?! Inconceivable! Serves me right for scoffing at her. 😉
In my current projects, what I’ve noticed is that I’m getting away from historically based novels and going back to my fantasy roots. Not straight or high fantasy, although a few projects down the line, I am planning on beginning work again on a fantasy duology that I’ve been writing on and off since 2003. One of the books in Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light, an eight part series of loosely connected novellas I’m writing now (the first, Uendelig, will be released in a month or two), actually serves as a prequel to my fantasy duology, set 60 years before the action of the book.
My last two novels were set in our world’s past (City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier being a YA historical romance with a dash of sibling conflict; Corcitura being a combination of many genres, but set within a historical time frame), but even though my upcoming novella series is also set in our world, each story is infused with fantasy and the supernatural, dealing with creatures from the otherworld crossing the void into and wreaking havoc on our own. I love dropping the phantasmal into everyday life and seeing how my characters react—some with horror, some with laughter, others with extreme annoyance, as is the case in one novella with a character who finds it highly inconvenient that his brother is now undead. It’s great fun! 😀
4. What is a Corcitura and where did the idea come from to turn it into a book?
I’m so glad you asked! 😉 Corcitura is the Romanian word for hybrid. It has no vampiric connotations whatsoever, but before I tell you why I chose this as the name for my new creature, how about a little backstory?
A year before I even got the idea for the Corcitura, I had seen a painting that sent my mind reeling with all the possible implications behind it. The painting was “Oh, what’s that in the hollow?” by Edward Robert Hughes.
I took one look at that painting and screamed “VAMPIRE!” There’s something so morbidly entrancing and enigmatic about that painting. Is he dead? The sheen of his nearly translucent eyes certainly seems to suggest it. But what if he’s just resting until the moon rises? I only recently found out that he is dead! But back then, I was still in the dark, and so I did what all good storytellers do: I totally ignored the inconvenient facts behind the painting and ran roughshod with my inspiration. Those translucent eyes were never far from my mind and inspired me so much that they found life in the book’s eponymous creature.
So, why vampires, after all? Out of all the monsters of myth, vampires had always been my favorites. I had always been fascinated by how they could be suave and alluring on the outside (or when the sun wasn’t up), but with the flick of a barbed tongue, turn into slavering, fang-toothed, bloodsucking beasts. The juxtaposition fascinated me, since in original folklore almost all vampires are essentially plagues. Some just know how to mask their true nature better than others.
I knew if I was going to write about vampires, they’d better be different and intriguing, and since I have always been crazy for folklore from different parts of the world, this idea gave me an excuse to explore vampire mythology. It’s fascinating reading, freaky, but fascinating. Up until this point, I had the rudiments of a novel, but my vampire was content to stay in the background, kicking through my mind until he finally distinguished himself enough to get the story going. Until then, I had nicknamed him “Our Combo,” since he was going to be a hybrid—created after being bitten by two vampires of differing species. Realizing that I couldn’t continue with such a McDonald’s Value Meal sounding name, I took the next step in finding out what the word “hybrid” in Romanian was (since Stefan’s family has a long and torturous history deep in the soil of that country). I have Romanian ancestors, so digging deeper into the country’s myths and legends was an added bonus. When I discovered that corcitura meant hybrid, I thought about it, and since I didn’t like any of the names I’d made up in the interim, it eventually stuck.
Yet the real impetus behind the idea of having the victim be a hybrid came down to one thing: sunlight. Yes, that’s how the whole “combo” idea started—finding a way to make sure my vampire would be able to frolic around during daylight hours without being charred to ashes by the sun’s rays. For three months, I went back and forth on how a vampire could achieve this, during which time I whittled down my choices for favorite vampire candidates. Once I started seeing how different the strengths and weaknesses were, and understanding how much more indestructible the combined blood of two vampires would be (plus the human blood of the original victim), I knew I was on the right path, and settled on the Vrykolakas (from Greece) and the Upyr (from Russia) for the creators of my new vampiric species.
5. What is the best advice you have been given?
One thing I always keep in mind is a quote from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” That quote, and the message behind it, has really helped me to not be swayed by unscrupulous people or other flash in the pan fads and associations in this ever changing and chaotic industry. In the same spirit, the best advice that I’ve been given has come from my parents, loved ones, and other authors whom I admire: be true to yourself and never compromise your principles in your quest to get ahead. In other words, stay grounded!
6. Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a classically trained violinist, pianist, and soprano and have been performing since I was three. For something completely frivolous, I can probably recite the entire script of Jaws, complete with dialects and sound effects, and enhanced by the singing of various sea shanties! You wouldn’t want to watch the movie with me. I can also do a pretty mean Gollum impersonation, precious.
7. Hard/paperbacks or eBooks?
Both! I publish digitally and in paperback format, and for a while there I never thought I would be comfortable reading on the Kindle. However, I have recently become a huge devotee and seem to be reading more books than ever on a digital device! It’s so convenient and almost like discovering some lost cave of wonders with all the free Classics available on there. I think I’ve just about completed my entire Alexandre Dumas, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens collections thanks to the Kindle. Not only has it saved me thousands of dollars, but my library shelves are thanking me for not weighing them down more than they already are!
While I am excited about Kindle and seem to discover new books every day, I still love the actual feel of a book in my hands and will never totally stop reading or buying physical books. I have too many of them in my library, plus, I also have a colossal collection of bookmarks that would stage a revolt if I ever abandoned them. 😉
8. What book are you reading now?
Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie. I can always count on her to really get my mind puzzling over all those red herrings. Her books are so much fun! 😀
I love to chat with readers and other writers. Please feel free to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:
My web site: https://booksinmybelfry.com/ There are five more excerpts from Corcitura, plus a selection of quotes from each of the three main narrators, available on my web site. I also have a whole host of fun things relating to the book and my other novel and upcoming projects/releases posted there, so be sure to check them out if you’re curious! 😀
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry
My Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/booksinmybelfry/boards/
Taken from Corcitura, Chapter 8, A Tavern in Venice
“A toast to you, my brother,” he said, lifting his glass. “May your eyes be opened on this night, and may you see as you have never seen before. Knowledge is a very powerful thing. Drink and be free.”
Red light shot through the glass, red light reflected from the candle guttering in its holder above my head. My eyes darted up toward the ceiling. First impressions are tricky things, and mine had been wrong—horribly wrong. There were no angels in these panels. What had I been thinking before? Demons cavorted in a pit of rocks and shattered skulls. Fire licked their hellish bodies as they danced through one torture scene after another. In the center panel, a huge, black-winged beast devoured something that was still kicking as it was being forced down the devil’s gullet.
How could it still be kicking? Or, more importantly, how could I see it kicking?
The figures in the panel were moving.
Their movements were slow, tortured, dreamlike, but real—undeniably real. I watched, entranced, unable to turn away, as one poor soul after another was raked across hot coals or had its ashen flesh stripped by one of the devil’s overseers.
I put my hand to my mouth, but still my eyes remained riveted to the ceiling. The other panels did nothing to cure my nausea. Eleven horned beasts—looking like crosses between satyrs and devils—formed a circle around a giant creature, half dragon, half man, that held a severed head aloft in its clawed hands. Blood dripped from the stump, falling into the waiting mouths of some of the beasts, as the others caught the liquid in black chalices.
The fresco was blatantly hellish, but its living replica was even worse.
I had lied to myself from the very beginning, deceived myself into believing that I was being fanciful and overly imaginative. Surely such monstrosities only existed in nightmares? Yet I had lived through a nightmare these past months, and that was no dream at all.
I was still fighting against the awful truth, not wanting to give in, searching my mind for a logical explanation—but there was none. And the most horrible realization of all was that I had known, somewhere deep inside, ever since the day I first set eyes on that silver-tongued devil in Paris.
Drainer of life.
The phrasing did not matter. No euphemism could strike fear into the hearts of men the way that single word could.
And for me, the uninitiated, that single word meant death.