Good morning Gothic enthusiasts and spooky fans!
I am delighted to be on the blog tour today for a new and ambitious book, Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology, edited by Celine Frohn. For my spot on the blog tour I have an exclusive author interview with Saint Gibson who has written a vampiric short story ‘Brideprice’, included in this anthology!
But before that, here is a synopsis for the anthology as a whole:
Unspeakable contains eighteen Gothic tales with uncanny twists and characters that creep under your skin. Its stories feature sapphic ghosts, terrifying creatures of the sea, and haunted houses concealing their own secrets. Whether you’re looking for your non-binary knight in shining armour or a poly family to murder with, Unspeakable showcases the best contemporary Gothic queer short fiction. Even dark tales deserve their time in the sun.
Official blurb for Unspeakable.
Now it’s the time you’ve all been waiting for… an exclusive interview with author Saint Gibson!
(A round of applause!)
- What made you write this story?
I’ve loved the Dracula story since I was a spooky little kid, and I’ve always been fascinated by the beautiful, mysterious, vicious brides. I’m also a shameless aficionado of B-rate action fantasy movies, and Van Helsing in particular captured my teenage heart with its campy, high-drama vampire harem subplot. I think it was the first time I saw a character in love with (or at least undying vampire-married) to multiple people. I wanted a more explicitly queer version of the story as well (although the Dracula myth has always been about forbidden desire and the terror of female sexuality!) which is why two of Dracula’s consorts are a trans woman and a bi man.
- What was your writing process?
This one got drafted pretty quickly! It’s short and ‘voicey’, and originally took more of a poetry-prose shape. I tend to draft my poems in one go, and I wrote this story in couple sittings and then revised it off and on for some years, with feedback from critique partners informing the process.
- The narrative voice really struck me as something as unique, what encouraged you to write this story from that perspective?
Thanks for saying that! The Dracula myth is generally told from his perspective, or the perspective of his victims, but not the brides. I wanted to give them that agency. I liked the idea of them all being obsessed with this mysterious figure in their own ways, and doing their best to make sense of their own motives for joining up with him. This is why Dracula rarely speaks in the story and only exists filtered through the brides’ memorie: he’s just the catalyst for their leap into immortality. Whether they’re trying to escape violence, bigotry, or poverty, he’s their dark door into a new world.
- When did you begin an interest in vampires/the supernatural?
The Gothic has always been my sanctuary, starting with my middle school obsession with the Phantom of the Opera. That show really did save my life, so many times and in so many ways. The sheer melodrama of the story matched the intensity of my own emotions, and it helped me feel like maybe the way I operated was beautiful. From there I branched out into Dracula, Angela Carter, Anne Rice, exorcism accounts, and ghost stories galore.
I feel most at home in a haunting, or a dark deal struck for immortality, or in the obsession of cosmic love. When I was first coming to terms with my bisexuality, my desires felt monstrous, so stories of ravenous supernatural creatures pining away after maidens soothed rather than scared me. I’ve also always been irresistibly drawn to religion, and I find myself most sharply in the blurring of the line between sacred and the profane. The Gothic often explores that tension.
What I’m saying it most vampires are bisexual drama queens with a love/hate relationship with religious imagery, so I have no trouble identifying with them.
- Did anything surprise you when writing this story?
How defensive I was of the brides’ decision to take up with Dracula. Their motives, to me, feel sympathetic. If you were battered by wartime violence, or held down by bigotry. or struggling to keep a roof over your head in an economy that couldn’t provide for you, wouldn’t you want vengeance, or freedom, or wealth?
- When reading, I found the imagery very ethereal and Gothic. Did you have any inspiration from other works when writing? For example, classic vampire stories e.g. Dracula, or fairy tales?
I wrote this piece shortly after reading Catherynne Valente’s Deathless for the first time, and the influence is evident, I think. Constanta’s section is a response to a couple frames in Dracula Untold. I hope the whole piece feels like the darkest, most sumptuous moments in old, cold fairy tales.
- Are there any authors you look up to?
Valente, to be sure, for her sorcerous command of language and proclivity for writing hard-edged, hard-loving female protagonists. Maggie Stiefvater for her character work and bone-deep understanding of magic and sacrifice. Vladimir Nabokov for his sprawling, genius prose. Donna Tartt for her ability to bottle up the taste of nostalgia and sell it to you with a character that you have no reason to like, but fall in love with anyway. I’m also really enthusiastic about the works of Anne Rice, K.M. Szpara, Angela Carter, Priya Sharma, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Chris Wooding, and Ruthanna Emrys, among others.
- If you could have dinner with any three people (alive or deceased) who would they be and why?
This question is always so difficult! I’m going to assume this is a private tete-a-tete?
Mary Shelley, so I could get all the gossip about Percy and Byron and hear how she constructed the marvellous science-fable of Frankenstein. Although I would certainly fall in love with her if I spent more than ten minutes in her presence, so maybe that’s not the best idea!
Anais Nin next. I carried around her diaries in my purse all summer, losing myself in her thoughts and passions. I enjoy women entirely devoted to the pursuit of artistic authenticity and the deepest social entanglements. We could pass an entire night drinking wine and discussing transcendence and pleasure and love, and the merits of psychoanalysis.
And then I’ve got to say Stevie Nicks, because I’ve idolized her since I was five years old. I think she’s established herself as living patron saint of all unfettered, big-hearted, artistic women, and I would love to bask in a little of that glow.
- When did you start getting into writing?
I’ve been writing since I was eight or nine years old, since I was scribbling homemade superhero comic strips in my notebook during math lessons! Writing is my best defence against malaise, oldest friend, and a craft I’ll happily spend my life working on it.
- What are your top 3 favourite books and why?
Whenever I get close to someone, I recommend them either Deathless, The Secret History, or Lolita, depending on what I think they’ll like best. I feel like they all reveal a little something about me, about what I love and crave and fear, and they’re excellent talking points.
- What are your interests outside of writing?
I love doing yoga, snuggling with my Persian cat, sneaking into churches under cover of night, and thrifting like it’s an Olympic sport
- What is your top tip for writing a short story?
Jump right—and I mean dead centre—into the action. You’ve got almost no space in a short story for exposition, certainly not at the top of the first page, so any set-up needs to be invisible or sprinkled sparingly throughout. Even if you feel like you’re beginning in media res, it can probably be tightened up and made even more immediate.
Also, this is just a personal preference, but don’t sacrifice tone and character for concept. Good short story concepts are easy to come by, but it’s a vivid character and palpable atmosphere that makes a short story stick for me.
WOW. JUST WOW!!!
Thank you so much to Saint Gibson for such an eye-opening and passionate interview! Let this anthology be on the top of your TBR list as Gibson’s vampiric story is not to be missed!
I would like to give a huge thank you to Molly Llewellyn for organising this blog tour and getting me an exclusive interview with Saint Gibson! This has been a fantastic and wonderful experience and I hope to work with you in the future again, and Saint Gibson too! I have really worked up an appetite for vampire fiction, especially those with a twist!
To keep up-to-date with this tour, please go on twitter and follow: @molsbymoonlight @unspeakablegoth
Saint Gibson is also on twitter at @s_t_gibson
CLICK HERE for Saint Gibson’s website
Thank you very much for visiting The Gothic Bookworm today!