Drawn to the Vampire, Part 7

I took a longer break than expected since my last Drawn to the Vampire post, though that one was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception on the interwebs. Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, Instagram–I still get notices from people telling me how much they liked it (including Christian Camargo, the subject of the illustration!!). OK, I’m boasting a bit, and I rarely do that. But it felt good. Moving on…

These last couple of months have been busy for me. We moved into a new house in July, and since then we’ve had numerous friends and family come to visit from the Midwest and beyond (meaning, when they come, they’re here for a while–no complaints we’ve had a blast!). We also rescued a new dog (yay!), but we don’t get to keep him (awe–he’s just not the right fit for a house with young kids). In addition, I’ve been working on a novella intended to be a companion piece to my first novel, and I’m happy to say that I’m well over half-way done. I’d love to have the first draft done by the end of this month, but we’ll see how much life I can continue to ignore to see that through. Ah, the life of a writer…

But, back to the vampires. That’s why you’re here, right? This latest addition to my list of favorite pop culture vampires is another classic. Her story predates Dracula by more than 25 years and it very likely influenced Bram Stoker‘s writing. For the uninitiated, I’d like you to meet…

Carmilla

mi-vampire_carmilla

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer and the author of the novella Carmilla about a young female vampire, set in central Europe. In addition to being a vampiric precursor to Dracula, it’s also presented as a casebook of Dr. Hesselius (along with four other tales in Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly), and while the doctor is not presented in the same manner as Stoker’s vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing, Le Fanu’s character is recognized as being the first occult doctor to appear in literature.

Le Fanu’s Carmilla is also noted for its homosexual themes, though its lesbian tone and nature are quite tame compared to the standards of today. The story begins from the perspective of a young girl named Laura, who lives with her father in a forested castle in Styria where she longs for companionship from a girl her own age. An unfortunate carraige accident leaves the stranded Carmilla in the care of Laura’s father, and the two girls seem to recognize one another from a shared childhood dream.

I’ve read this story numerous times, in both written and audiobook format. With Halloween approaching (about two weeks away as I write this), the mood always strikes me for a classic piece of gothic horror. I’ve tried watching theatrical versions of the tale, but I’ve yet to find one that had any substance. The modern producers and directors want to make it a tale of lesbian eroticism, and that’s just not what the story was. Don’t get me wrong, the lesbian tones do exist in the book, but they’re suggestive at best, and in the most heated instance quite mild. Do not turn to this novella if you’re looking for some late-night erotica–trust me, you’ll be disappointed. I should correct myself and say that there’s a YouTube series based on the book (a modern retelling) and it’s been met with a fair amount of praise. Check it out.

As far as my illustration goes, I struggled with it for months–quite literally. Looking through my digital archives, it was late May when I began working on this, and mid-June when I left off (and here we are, mid-October). I did two early versions of the illustration before I settled on a third, which is what you see here. Evelyn Nesbit, who was idealized in the early 1900s as a Gibson Girl, was the initial model for the illustration, though I felt she appeared a bit too old for the teenage Carmilla. I’m quite happy with the end result of this digital poster, though I have no desire to spend this much time on a future post.

That’s it for today. If you’re a fan of gothic horrors (and, like me, a fan of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful), you should definitely check out Carmilla, available here as a free download. And if vampires are your thing, perhaps you’ll give my own book a shot–The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel is available at Amazon.com. Get your copy today! [star fade]

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