Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Literary Inspiration

Ever since I published Restraint, I have heard that my depictions of characters and storyline is similar to Bram Stoker, the Bronte Sisters, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and Jane Austen (Yes, it is spelled with an "e" and not an "i"). However, I actually wasn't very inspired by any of these. Although these writers have made a deep and profound imprint on literary history, my actual inspiration is... American.

First, let me start off by going into depth about these historical authors and go into depth about what I know about them.

ABRAHAM "BRAM" STOKER (November 8, 1847 - April 20, 1912)
Bram Stoker was the author of Dracula. This Irish author started off life sickly. He was bed-ridden at the age of seven. However, he did recover from his illness, starting off his career in theater. He was known to be an assistant to actor Henry Irving and even managed the Lyceum Theater for a time. It was during his time managing the Lyceum Theater that Stoker began writing. Sometime later he began researching folklore (i.e. vampires) and historical figures known for their blood lust. Many believe that Stoker created the idea of a vampire, but folklore of this mythical creature has been around for longer than anyone recognized although these beings were called by many names. Stoker read many news articles in his research which inspired the novel.

Now, for what I know about Bram Stoker. Well, I know he wrote the book Dracula. I saw his biography once on television. I saw the movie adaptation of Dracula with Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder, but I never actually read Dracula. I know. I know. What kind of paranormal writer has never read Dracula? But I never read it, and to be honest, I never read a whole book before Junior High School. So, when I did start to read books on the paranormal, I opted for the more modern works of Richie Tankersley Cusick and R.L. Stine. Also, I didn't like the movie which I saw when I was like twelve. Aside from the costumes, I found it boring, but I have seen other modern vampire movies that I love and some I hate. I prefer the vampire crazed movies of the 80's to todays flicks. I like when a vampire's evil and demonic nature is revealed in their natural state. So, I can understand the comparisons to Bram Stoker's version of vampires, but he was not exactly my inspiration.

BRONTE SISTERS (Charlotte Bronte born April 21, 1816, Emily Bronte born July 30, 1818, and Anne Bronte born January 17, 1820)
These women were arguable the most talented group of women in British history, writing Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. However, these women were a bit eccentric and isolated themselves. There were many rumors of incestuous love in their time which seemed to be a theme in their writings, especially Wuthering Heights which was penned by Emily Bronte. However, many speculate that the feud which the sisters had with their only brother, Branwell, started when they stole his writings and passed them off as their own. Branwell separated himself from his sisters and preacher father, becoming an alcoholic. He even went so far as to paint himself out of a family portrait.

In America, British literature isn't actually taught everywhere. I was in English honors, and we studied American writers mostly. Even in college, The only course that was specifically British was a course on the plays of Shakespeare which I loved. Although I admire these women for writing works which such haunting themes, I have never read any of the works of the Bronte Sisters although I have seen the theatrical adaptations of their works. I happen to be a fan of the 1996 movie version of Jane Eyre and own the DVD. I also saw the movie version of Wuthering Heights starring Ralph Fiennes. I liked it, but it did not grip me like the love story within Jane Eyre. However, they weren't really an inspiration to me in terms of my writing style since I have never actually read their work.

JANE AUSTEN (December 16, 1775 - July 18, 1817)
Although some people think that Jane Austen's work was Victorian, she actually wrote in the era of time known as Regency Period. You can tell by the manner of dress with bonnets and empire-waisted dresses. The Victorian era was later and was named after Queen Victoria who favored high collared dresses to bosom baring corsets.

Jane Austen had a short life which ended in isolation and agony. Her father, George, was born to middle class family that was in the wool business. Her mother, Cassandra, came from the well known Leigh family. Although her father was a rector, he substituted his income with farming and tutoring. Austen had six brothers and a sister. Her large family had its share of hardships and failures, but Austen managed to make a number of connections in the arts and literary world. With no formal education, she penned several literary masterpieces. With publishers fearing a women writer would put readers off, her first works were anonymous although it was known in small groups that she was the actual author. Although her works were known throughout the land, she never actually benefited financially from them at least to the level she should have been. Unlike the happy ending of her characters, she died unmarried from a mysterious illness many suspect was Addison's disease which is a disease of the adrenal glands of the kidneys. It is when the kidneys do not produce enough hormones which regulate body functions  such as cortisol which triggers the SNS response.

I, again, am showing my literary ignorance by stating that have never read any of Jane Austen's works. I attempted to read Pride and Prejudice once after seeing the movie and found it difficult to read from the lack of detail in some areas such as setting. I gave it up before the fifth chapter. However, I have seen a number of her theatrical adaptations and happen to love them. I have seen programs of her life and seen the movie Becoming Jane (2007) which I loved. My favorites are Pride and Prejudice (2005), Persuasion (2007), and Mansfield Park (1999). I own these versions and watch them fairly regularly. I have to watch one of them at least once a year. In the future, I plan to buy the audio book, and at least, hear the book once. I loved the movies so much I think I need to read the books once in my lifetime. As much as I love Jane Austen's work, she was not my greatest inspiration since I had barely heard about her work before Keira Knightly's performance as Elizabeth Bennet. Remember Americans are not exactly spoon fed British literature.

So, who is my greatest literary inspiration....

Well, growing up in the Bronx and passing his small cottage as a child, I have to say I have always been intrigued by... Edgar Allan Poe!

EDGAR ALLAN POE (January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849)
Edgar Allan Poe was a literary genius! He was a poet, author, editor, and critic. He was best known for his love of mystery and the macabre. Born Edgar Poe, he was orphaned as a child when his mother died shortly after being abandoned by his father. He was adopted by, John and Frances Allan, a couple from Richmond Virginia. He later married, his beautiful 13 year old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Twelve years after they married, his wife died of Tuberculosis which was a huge blow to Poe who drifted into alcoholism. Most of his work seems to reference, at least symbolically, his life of love, loss, and death.
I was introduced to Edgar Allan Poe through school when we read his works aloud in class. I love all the works of Edgar Allan Poe! I have seen the 1960's movies based on his works starring Vincent Price. I have read his poems and literary works. I am eagerly awaiting the new movie called Raven which I guess loosely references Poe's work. I love how his work echoes his life. My favorite poem he wrote was "Anabel Lee" which was written in Poe Cottage located in Bronx, NY. In that poem, he states that all of heaven was jealous of the love he shared with his beloved, separating them forever. His life cruelly mimicked this poem when his wife died of Consumption (TB). Poe died of mysterious causes. Although his death certificate has been lost, he is believed to have died of cerebral inflammation or swelling of the brain which could have been caused by a wide range of diseases. However the newest theory may be that he contracted Rabies since he often fed stray cats. On the night he died, he was found in the street, wearing clothes that were not his own and appeared delirious. Over and over, he cried, "Reynolds!" No one knew who he was referring to. His last words were: "Lord help my poor soul." His death was the greatest tragedy. He died alone, without family, in Boston. He seemed to have lost his mind, dying without dignity and in obscurity.

So, there it is. I risked my literary credibility by admitting my ignorance of classic authors, but it was fun to research their lives and share what I actually know about them. But it was worth it to set that record straight. Although my literary inspiration is Poe, my work is utterly my own as most of my ideas come from my own unconscious visions. Even Restraint started as a dream one night where I saw two Victorian era sisters who were in love with the same man. When I was thirteen, I wrote this, my first novel, which was a love story, but it wasn't me. When I picked it up again in my twenties, I added a paranormal theme, making it a vampire novel instead of a romance.

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