What if Bram Stoker hunted vampires? An interview with Dracul writers Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

Interview by Alan D.D., Writer and Journalist

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Have you ever thought about why Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula came to exist? What if there was something more than just myths, legends and folklore behind his story? The author’s descendant, Dacre Stoker, teamed with J. D. Barker to create Dracul, a prequel to the Count’s tale, and Bram is more than a writer in the story. Discover what lies behind the legendary vampire as the authors speak about it.

Dracul was published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons on October 2 and has been highly praised by both the critics and readers.

1. When did you decide to start working on Dracul, the prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula? What made you think about it in the first place?

JD: The story of DRACULA has always been a constant in my life. It’s one of the first “adult” books I ever read and I’ve revisited it many times over the years. I thought I knew the story, then I met Dacre Stoker. When he told me the first 101 pages had been removed from the novel prior to publication, and that Bram originally tried to publish DRACULA as a true story, I was blown away. When he asked me if I’d be interested in co-authoring a prequel, utilizing Bram’s original notes and journals, there was simply no way I could say no.

DS: As long as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with certain things about Bram’s life, one, in particular, has been his mysterious illness and his even more mysterious recovery to become a champion athlete. Dracul stems from the possibility that Bram had some sort of vampiric assistance to overcome his illness. In this way, Dracula is Bram’s way of warning others of the dangers of vampires. 

2. Is there any reason why Dracul is the title?

JD: Dracul is actually the family name. The addition of the “A” on the end came later, meaning “son of.” In Wallachian, Dracula also means “Devil.” It seemed fitting that “Dracul” would reference the original being while he would later be considered a devil in legend.

3. When I first read the title, it made me think on Vlad Tepes – is he somehow related to this book as a character or an inspiration?

DS: Many people believe that Bram Stoker based his Count Dracula character on the historical person Vlad Dracula. I believe that he borrowed the name Dracula from Vlad Dracula III and the similarities end there. Our character in Dracul is not Vlad Dracula III.

4. Before this novel, you worked with Ian Holt on Dracula the Un-dead, a sequel for Dracula. Will we find a tie or any clue of that sequel in Dracul?

DS: The story Dracula the UnDead is a continuation of Bram’s novel Dracula, this story Dracul on the other hand, is a fictionalised story of Bram’s life and his writing of Dracula. 

5. How would you describe the process of creating this new book when comparing it with the previous one? 

JD: Much of the story came from Bram’s own notes and journals. Dacre and I brainstormed continuously – first at his cabin in the Carolina mountains, then over the phone and via email, flushing out the story. Dacre submitted blocks of text, I submitted blocks of text, some were used, others were not, all were important because they ultimately led us to the outcome. Because Dacre’s writing style/voice tends to be more professorial, more in line with non-fiction, we decided to let my voice (more suited for fiction) dominate the final text. We also had to match Bram’s voice, his cadence, vocabulary… to do that, I read everything he wrote and listened to the audiobook of DRACULA on constant repeat until the last page was on paper. In general, this created a fluid partnership – two fiction writers in the same kitchen can trip over each other. With us, [our] individual skill sets complimented [one another] instead.

We were joking around about this the other day and came up with this – if we had to bake a cake, and Dacre was tasked to write the grocery list, the list would be incredibly detailed. Possibly annotated. Most likely have footnotes. And nothing would be missed. If I’m asked to write that same grocery list, you’d read it, speed to the grocery store, double-park out front, run through the aisles, and probably forget to pay on your way back out the door. I’d probably end the note with a cliff-hanger requiring you to read the back. Maybe lead you to a second note for the frosting. Once we figured this out and fell into a rhythm, the writing process went incredibly smooth.

6. What was in your mind when working on Dracul? To reinvent the Dracula mythos or to respect the mythology Bram created in the first novel? 

DS: We totally respect the myths that Bram invented, in fact, our story dwells on how and why Bram wrote Dracula and the very real possibility that vampires exist and Dracula was Bram’s warning to the world. 

7. There are already plans for a movie based on your novel, how do you feel about it?

JD: Paramount scooped up the film rights about the same time the print rights sold. They have a fantastic team working on it, including director Andy Muschetti who is best known for his remake of Stephen King’s IT and Mama. We couldn’t be more thrilled.

8. Are you involved in any form with the movie or does it only take Dracul as a base to develop another story?

JD: Both Dacre and I are executive producers on the project and hope to be as involved as they will permit. To the best of our knowledge, they plan to follow the story as it’s portrayed in the novel.

9. Would this be the last fiction book you write about Dracula or are there more to come?

DS: JD and I have plans to write more together, Dracul ends in 1890, we have plans to advance our story until Dracula is published in 1897. 

10. What other plans do you have? Are you working on anything now?

JD: I’m always working on something. I recently turned in a new novel to my agent. It’s a little bit of a departure for me, but I believe it’s my best work to date. I’m also finishing up a book with James Patterson – I can’t wait to share that one with the world! We’re both known for our fast pace and many twists – imagine what happens when you put the two of us together!

DS: I am currently working on a book with my son about our search to fully understand Bram, his research and places he visited to write Dracula.

dacre stoker and j. d. baker

Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker © Dayna Barker. Source: https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/dacre-stoker 

Dracul is available to buy from these stores: https://books2read.com/u/4jDl6Y

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One response to “What if Bram Stoker hunted vampires? An interview with Dracul writers Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

  1. Reblogged this on victorianmasculinity and commented:
    Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker is on my to-read list from this Christmas. Check out this interview by Alan D.D. for BAVS’s ‘Victorianist’ blog.

    If you don’t already follow ‘The Victorianist’ then you should, for a regular dose of new and exciting 19thC scholarship and events.

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