Sherri Browning Erwin has captivated readers with her perfectly seductive mash-up, JANE SLAYRE. It’s the perfect novel to pull out, and sink your teeth into, during Halloween. Which leaves this reader wondering, what novels does the author turn to when she’s in need of a fantastically spooky read come All Hallows Eve?
PC: JANE SLAYRE is a superb mashup, paying homage to Bronte’s classic, while exploring supernatural themes in a wonderfully wicked way. What drew you to creating a mashup novel?
SE: My daughter was about to read Jane Eyre for a school assignment. I decided to read it again to refresh my memory and give us something to discuss. I never thought that I would jump into the mashup genre, but the idea of Jane as a vampire slayer occurred to me when I was re-reading Jane Eyre and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A friend convinced me to go ahead and write it.
PC: While JANE SLAYRE is co-authored by Charlotte Bronte, it’s a very authentic novel in its own right. How did you manage to walk the line of keeping it in her world, as well as yours?
SE: I became somewhat obsessed with Jane Eyre for months, reading it over and over to try to absorb Charlotte Bronte’s voice. Each time I read it, I would layer in new ideas for changing her story and characters to suit my vision, but with great effort to retain the overall feel and themes of Charlotte’s original.
PC: While embedding a supernatural storyline in JANE SLAYRE, did you look to other classics (such as Dracula or Turn of the Screw) to help guide you?
SE: I had enough of an idea of what I wanted my vampires to be like without looking to other classics directly at the time, but of course a lot of the vampire lore held familiar comes from other writers, notably Bram Stoker, and also from sources like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
PC: What do you think is at the heart of readers wanting more and more vampire, witch, zombie and werewolf novels?
SE: When times are tough, with the economy struggling and wars going on, people turn more to historical and fantasy fiction, the more removed from our reality the better. Perhaps it’s comforting to see some greater evil being taken down by an average, every day girl. Or to know that even the creatures we’ve characterized as evil for so long can show some humanity and respond to love.
PC: JANE SLAYRE allows readers to imagine a world that is simultaneously removed from them by time, as well as by creature. Which was more challenging: staying true to the historical aspect or tackling the things that go bump-in-the-night?
SE: Staying true to the history is always harder for me than establishing paranormal elements. There’s a tendency to want to modernize women to give them more power in their time, and of course, I can’t help doing that with Jane Slayre. I feel that Charlotte gave Jane Eyre all the power and independence that she possibly could for her time and would appreciate Jane being able to have more equality that comes with Jane Slayre’s power and ability. The paranormal elements allow me more license because there’s no exact standard to follow. It’s all up to the imagination, as long as it’s delivered in a way that makes sense to the reader.
PC: What do you think makes a great Halloween read (what elements are you looking for when you chose a fantastically spooky book to hunker down with)?
SE: I love books (and movies) that play more on the psychological aspect of terror rather than the physical. I’m most affected by characters who are pushed to the point of exploring the potential for evil within themselves, but manage to pull back and maintain their humanity in the end. Sometimes, there’s nothing scarier than being forced to examine our own actions in the face of an extreme threat.
PC: Do you, Sherri Browning Erwin, believe in the supernatural? Do you have a personal ghost story you will share?
SE: I’m afraid I don’t have a personal ghost story. I do believe in ghosts, perhaps not as physical manifestations but in the possibility that people we love who have departed do watch over us. In that case, maybe it’s just more comforting to believe.
PC: Your top 5 Halloween reads cover a little bit of everything. Is it fair to say that you’re an equal opportunist in reading horror and thrillers?
SE: I read everything. I can’t name a favorite genre or choose between good commercial fiction and literary fiction. I love it all.
Sherri’s TOP FIVE Halloween reads:
1) Dracula by Bram Stoker. SE: The classic that introduced Count Dracula, and set the standard in vampire lore.
PC: What do you think makes Dracula the most seductive of all vampires? Why do we return to him again and again as setting the bar?
SE: Dr. John Polidori, an associate of Lord Byron who was with Byron and the Shelleys when Mary Shelley created Frankenstein, actually created the idea of the vampire as later more established by Stoker in Dracula. Polidori’s The Vampyre was published without his permission and often credited to Byron. As a result, both men distanced themselves from the idea. More power to Bram Stoker for picking up on it. Stoker’s image of Dracula was probably shocking and sensational when it came out, with Dracula having such mental power over his victims that they would lose their own will. Maybe we gravitate toward his vampire ideal because it gives us all an excuse to be bad without taking the blame. Poor beautiful Lucy Westenra couldn’t help herself… and we’re enchanted, too.
2) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. SE: A classic tale of good vs. evil, with a spooky carnival and witchery for good measure.
PC: The title says it all, doesn’t it? Will you share what it is about Bradbury’s classic that allows it the top 2 spot in your list?
SE: I first read it for an eighth grade English assignment and a film interpretation came out not long afterwards, adding interest among my classmates for both the story and the film. We didn’t have Harry Potter back then. (Smile). The movie fell a little short of the suspense Bradbury built in his story, and I began to appreciate Bradbury’s mastery of the macabre. I re-read it now and then, usually around Halloween.
3) Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. SE: One of my favorite books (the first one, part of a series, but the sequels haven’t lived up to the original). Touching, funny, sad, with a creep factor that makes Halloween the perfect time to read.
PC: Would you say that the element of what we cannot see (merged with our own overactive imaginations) makes Odd Thomas so spellbinding?
SE: That’s part of it, that Odd, our narrator, has such unusual skills and leaves us in fear and suspense for what is coming. But also, Koontz is so adept at characterization. His characters are so extraordinary yet accessible that he always manages to engage me with the very first sentence, and I’m hooked.
4) Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. SE: King is a master at chills and thrills, and the vampires of Salem’s Lot raise the bar from Stoker’s Dracula.
PC: Which scene is your favorite in this uber-creepy King creation? Which one scared you the most (or are they one in the same?)
SE: My favorite scene is probably when Ben, our leading man, has to stake his lover. But the scariest for me, probably because I first read it when I was a kid, is Danny, a kid, coming back as a vampire.
5) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. SE: A study in good old-fashioned psychological terror.
PC: The Turn of the Screw is a novella that I still struggle with – trying to reach my arms around all of its layers. What is it about this work that cemented it in your top five?
SE: I love the gothic feel of it, and the fact that it leaves the reader questioning what really happened at the end.
For more on Sherri Browning Erwin visit: http://www.sherribrowningerwin.com/