Sunday, May 13, 2012

Waxing Rhapsodic on Poe, Part 1

When I first found out about the movie The Raven, I was thrilled. I'm not one of those historical purists that fears when Hollywood gets hold of anything. If I were a historical purist, I wouldn’t write historical fantasy and gaslight Gothic works where history is a framework for my own eerie tales, but not a constraint.  
 I was over the moon at the prospect of the film because Poe is my muse and I’ll take any excuse to get more of him in my life. I want him to continue to be popular, to grow in estimation and appreciation, for his historic sites to be preserved. I want interest in Poe to be kindled in a whole new generation. If it takes a somewhat cheesy Hollywood film to do it, sign me up. I enjoyed the heck out of it. And yes, John Cusack was HOT, running around all intense and billowing in black fabric. (Those of you who have read my Strangely Beautiful saga know I like my men in black, billowing fabric.)

When I was in grade school literature class at a small, progressive education program in Ohio, a teacher who I credit as influencing me most, Mrs. Church, introduced me to Edgar Allan Poe and my life would never be the same. Some of my earliest memories are of making up ghost stories to scare my friends, so when I “met” Poe, I met a kindred spirit and his poetry broke open the sky and unlocked my boundless creativity. I always had a fierce inner dark side. This still freaks out my parents a bit, who wonder where it came from. I’m not sure. I had a very happy childhood. But even happy, optimistic, perky people like me can have intense dark sides and can be as equally fascinated with dark and eerie things as we are energetic. I always found strange things to be beautiful (Hence the series title of my first series, the Strangely Beautiful saga) and nothing as romantic or stimulating as a dark and stormy night.

Poe made my world come alive. In his voice I found my own. In his poetry and stories my world-view coalesced. A strangely beautiful world. I adored his poetry, found it deliciously, morbidly romantic, unique and deeply personal. I really couldn’t get enough of it. I’ll never forget my first tattered paperback collection of his stories and poetry- a watercolor raven on the cover- I’ve gone through many editions through the years. This first great literary love affair made me into the Goth girl and Gothic author I am today. I remember hearing about Poe’s sad life, his love for Virginia, and knowing I’d have been his friend (if not his girlfriend) back in the day. (Yes, I know, I’d have gotten fed up with the addiction and drinking, but I wasn’t thinking of that in my pre-teen years.)

My freshman year of high school I was the only freshman cast in the play POE’S MIDNIGHT DREARY, cast as Fortunato the fool who gets bricked up behind a wall. I screamed brilliantly. That childhood love came back full force as I spent rehearsals and performances living in his amazing, twisted work, and I took to writing again. I had been writing stories ever since I could hold a pen or pencil and complete a sentence, so this renewed connection with my muse informed and spurred on my then novel-in-progress, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. (Don’t ask. It was bad. But it can’t have been any worse than "Love Never Dies”, surely...)

My love affair with Poe kept on burning like a candle in an attic window. Poe lives in the back of everything. I’m still a Goth girl, I’m now a multi-published, award-winning Gothic novelist, and my long term boyfriends have all been black haired with black goatees. Hmm. Just realized that one.
I've a prominent jewelry collection featuring his image as well as a host of ravens on clothes, figures, things in my home. His influence can be seen in small and large ways in my Gothic tales. I’ve a Raven as an important familiar in the Strangely Beautiful saga, elements of Poe crop up all over my work, especially in the Magic Most Foul saga, DARKER STILL and the upcoming THE TWISTED TRAGEDY OF MISS NATALIE STEWART. Natalie even feels she's trapped amidst a Poe tale herself. When you credit an author as being your foremost and most formative influence, it’s hard to see all the ways in which that author crops up in your own work. I’m a lot more direct about it in the Magic Most Foul saga than I am in Strangely Beautiful, which is more inspired by classic Fantasy authors than Poe’s more intimate horror and sad romance. I feel his presence like a guiding hand in my upcoming short stories, “Too Fond” for and “Charged” for QUEEN VICTORIA’S BOOK OF SPELLS (Tor 2013). 
I'll share more specific thoughts on The Raven film in part 2 of waxing rhapsodic, but I've got to get back to my word count for the day. I've stories of my own to write and new projects that I hope to announce soon. Stay tuned, on May 26th, New York Times and Stoker Award winning author Nancy Holder and I will be sharing snippets of our mutual thoughts on The Raven as fellow Poe fangirls, and how Poe inspires us, over at Sue Grimshaw’s Romance at Random blog!



Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

This is why we have to write Eat, Pray, Poe!

Nancy Holder said...

I love you so much, Leanna. I am your fangirl!


Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Elizabeth - I know!

Nancy - *blush* And you KNOW I'm yours!