[Today’s guest post is brought to us by one, McVladie. But let us allow her to introduce herself:]
It is ironic isn’t it that a writer can go on for ions about the characters they have created yet when it comes to self description there is a void as deep as a black hole….HELLLOOOO Can you hear the echo…echo? I suppose I should start with my name. I go by many for I have many a strange tradition in my family…Always figured my father thought we might need an alias someday. I am well prepared in that case. My pen name is CLMcNally but most know me as Carlota aka McVladie. I have always been passionate about two things law and writing. I had great aspirations to be a lawyer. Won my first mock trial at the age of nineteen. My defendant was none other than Prince Vlad Dracula aka The Impaler and I have been defending him ever since.
It wasn’t until college a professor asked why on earth I wanted to be a lawyer to which I ruffled back, “Do you not think I would be a good one?” She replied I think you would be a good lawyer but a great writer. Unbeknownst to me she had shown some of my work to a colleague and it was published and the rest is history…I have not regretted my decision to write it fills my very soul and so does writing about Vlad Dracula.
I have written a novel due out in 2012 tentatively titled Vladie a fictional story of Prince Vlad Dracula and there are absolutely no vampires in my book. If you care to follow my madness you may do so on twitter I am McVladie.
As I sit at my keyboard in the dusky dark of candlelight I ponder over many a curious volume….no, no, no too Poe like. Alright let’s try again Hi, I’m your biggest fan or it is not often that people get to meet their idols…no, no scratch that sounds too much like Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s novel Misery. What in the name of Basarab’s ghost does one first say to someone who is internationally acclaimed as one of the world’s foremost Dracula scholars, having published six books on the subject along with dozens of articles including Reflections on Dracula, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense, a volume on Dracula for the Dictionary of Literary Biography and, most recently, Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition with Robert Eighteen-Bisang. Her expertise is much sought after for TV documentaries and magazine articles around the world. The recipient of numerous accolades: Baroness of the House of Dracula (Romania, 1995); Daughter of Aref (Romania, 2000); and Professor Emerita, Memorial University (2005).
Not to mention a new book tentatively titled Bram Stoker’s Dublin Notebook co-authored with Dacre Stoker, grand nephew of the Bram Stoker due out in 2012.
In her spare time (insert smile of humor here) the Baroness maintains the Dracula Research Centre and is managing editor of the Journal of Dracula Studies. Miller is also president of the Canadian chapter of Transylvanian Society of Dracula.
Whew give me a moment to catch my breath. There that’s better back to the dilemma at hand what does one call Elizabeth Miller? Hello Dr. Miller or Salutations Professor Miller or better yet good evening Baroness I bid you welcome to your interview.
All kidding aside Elizabeth has kindly put up with my correspondence since 2008 answering any questions this admiring writer could conjure accompanied with an extreme kindness a rare thing coming from someone so famous and I gladly call her friend…
So all you lucky Gravediggers put down your shovels gather freely and of your own will for this is an interview not to missed!
If you could be any character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula who would it be and why?
Van Helsing? Appealing – as I’d get to play around with a wooden stake (Freudian slip unintentional).
Renfield – absolutely not. I don’t like flies.
Jonathan Harker? A bit tedious.
Arthur Holmwood? Yawn!
Dr Seward? Ditto.
Lucy? Too malleable. But at least I could then be the “bloofer lady”.
Mina? Hmm, she’s a possibility. A strong woman at times – though she usually slips back into the stereotype.
Quincey P Morris? At least he’s different – and interesting. The only one who chews tobacco! And he speaks in slang. It’s interesting that he was probably based on Buffalo Bill.
The only other one left of the major characters is the Count. Would I want to be the Count? I am ambivalent about that.
Guess I’ll just have to be content with being a reader.
If Bram Stoker were alive and sitting in front of you now what would you ask him?
The first question I would ask him is “How much of an influence on your novel was Vlad the Impaler?” I am almost certain what his first reaction would be – “Who?”. Once I clarified who Vlad was (the “voivode Dracula” he mentions in the novel), I am convinced Bram would say “Not very much”. From my own research I am certain this is correct – but I would just love to hear it from Bram’s own lips.
I am compelled to ask this next question only because I am a fan of Vlad Dracula and am dying to know no pun intended. If Vlad were alive and in front of you what would you ask the impaler?
I’d ask him where he is buried. Maybe he’d be kind enough to lead me to his gravesite. Its location is one of many unresolved issues about Vlad. Some argue his remains are at the Snagov Monastery, but other Romanian historians have offered alternative sites. I’d just like to know.
If he’d permit a second question, I’d ask about his “wife” – the one that purportedly committed suicide by leaping from the fortress wall in Poenari when it was under Turkish siege. Did that actually happen? Or is it just a folk legend?
In numerous pictures you are seen wearing a fantastic bat necklace, is there a mysterious story behind this jewelry… a possible gift from Dracula hmmm?
I still have that bat necklace as well as a similar smaller one and bat earrings. I wear bat jewelry at most of my presentations and lectures as a visual aid. Inevitably, someone in the audience will ask about bats and I then go into my spiel about the connection between bats and Dracula.
Have you ever dreamed about Bram Stoker or Dracula?
No. I have occasionally had a dream about my work, especially if I am approaching a deadline and getting anxious. But I have never had a dream about Dracula (or would that be a nightmare?) At least not one that I can remember. Friends have asked me whether spending so much time writing about Dracula/vampires has made me have nightmares. The answer is no. I seem to be able to separate this stuff from the rest of my life.
What question would you like to be asked but never have been asked?
I cannot think of one. But there are lots of questions that I wish had never been asked. Usually these come to me via email or snail-mail rather than at public events (where the questioner would be exposed for the idiot he/she is). I frequently get asked whether I am a vampire, or “How did you become a vampire?” or “Can you give me the dark gift?” At the other extreme are “Do you realize you are promoting Satanism?” Duh!
What are your thoughts about tuica brandy?
Before or after drinking it? My first introduction to tuica (Romanian plum brandy) took place at the village of Aref in Romania in 1994. A group of us in Romania for the World Dracula Congress were staying overnight at some farmhouses. We were offered tuica and could not refuse without seeming unappreciative. They kept refilling our glasses – and we kept being polite and not refusing.
What do you feel is the greatest misconception about Bram Stoker’s Dracula?
That’s an easy one. The most widespread misconception is that Vlad the Impaler was Stoker’s inspiration for his novel Dracula. My research has convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that Bram Stoker knew very little about Vlad, certainly not enough to base his novel on him. It is true that he did borrow Vlad’s nickname (Dracula) for the vampire novel he had already started. But there is no evidence Stoker knew much more than that about Vlad, his life or his infamous atrocities. If anyone is interested, I have written a detailed explanation of my position in my book Dracula: Sense & Nonsense.
Any five people living or dead you could invite to dinner…who would it be and why?
I’d prefer dead people – and dead people who when alive had some connection to Dracula/vampires. I’d start with Bram Stoker. He’d be at the head of the table. In his Irish brogue, he could tell us stories about his life, the writing of Dracula. And he could clear up many of the misconceptions about his famous book. Then I’d invite three people who were in life very close friends of mine, all having a connection to the Dracula story. First is Raymond McNally, a history professor from Boston College who died in 2002. He wrote books about Vlad, and we argued continuously about Stoker and Vlad. Yet in spite of our differing opinions, we remained close friends.
Sitting next to him I’d like to see Nicolae Paduraru, the Romanian who founded the Transylvanian Society of Dracula in 1991 and organized the World Dracula Congress in 1995. Nicky (as he was called by his friends) did so much to introduce me to Romania, right up until his death a couple of years ago.
Next to me at the table I would seat another close friend who died last year – Hammer film actress Ingrid Pitt. I always looked forward to seeing Ingrid whenever I went to London.
There’s one place left at the table – at the foot, facing Stoker. Maybe this guest will show up – maybe he won’t. Guess it depends on how powerful our imaginations are. But we’ll keep a place for him just in case. Count Dracula.
What do you think Uncle Mose aka your dad Ted Russell would say about his daughter being the world’s leading authority on Dracula?
I have asked myself that question many many times. Of course my father died many years before I started working in this field so he had no idea. Neither did I. I think he’d be very surprised to learn what I have been doing. The reason I say that is that when I was growing up, I had no particular interest in this sort of thing – that developed much later. But I think he’d be appreciative of my dedication to the subject.
Do you ever have a desire to write a play?
No. I have no talent whatsoever for writing any type of fiction. Wish I did.
Who would you say has been the greatest influence in your life?
That’s an easy one. My father. He had a wonderful sense of humor. We shared many interests including classical literature, international affairs and local politics. We’d spend hours discussing these subjects. But most of all we both loved baseball.
Which one do you like best of the many different covers of the Stoker Dracula novel?
I’d select the 1916 edition published by Rider. The cover illustration depicts the Count crawling down the castle wall – one of my favorite scenes in the novel.
Have you finished your memoirs, ‘From Pigeon Inlet to Transylvania’?
No. My Dracula work still makes great demands on my time. And after all, I am retired and like to do other things (especially travel). So the memoirs are still on the back burner. For how long? I have no idea.
How did you meet Dacre Stoker?
Dacre and I had corresponded for several months, as he and co-author Ian Holt had asked me to write an Afterword for their novel Dracula the Un-Dead. But we didn’t actually meet until March 2009. I was on my way to Florida to a conference and he invited me to spend overnight with him and his wife Jenne in South Carolina. We met again the following month in Dublin for “One City One Book” and our paths have crossed several times since.
What is special about 2012 and your upcoming book Bram Stoker’s Dublin Notebook and when and where can we get our grave digging little hands on a copy?
The year 2012 marks the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death (April 20). It is being marked by several special events. Dacre and I, for example, will be giving presentations and lectures are several venues in the U.K. in April 2012 to coincide with the publication of our new book (the Dublin Notebook). We are very excited about this project, as not a single page of the Notebook has ever been published. Also Dacre has many new photographs from family members that we will be sharing with our readers.
I’ll be posting updates about the book and various events for 2012 on my website at www.blooferland.com
[Once again, we wish to extend our deepest thanks to Carlota McNally aka McVladie for conducting this interview. You can follow her on Twitter via @McVladie ]