Today on Hook of a Book, the wonderful Melika Dannese Lux has written an article telling her behind-the-scenes backstory of writing her novel, Corcitura. Melika is a historical fiction author with a penchant for fantasy and horror as well. Here is the description of her book that you’ll find in her article later on, but will give you an idea up front as to what her book is about and why I chose to feature her during October (it’s the time for all things scary, right?), yet also why she fits on shelves of both historical and gothic horror readers:
“After everything was said and done, and the book marinated and went through countless edits, I realized that Corcitura is, in fact, a horror novel, but not in the normal sense. It’s horror on many levels. The first part deals with the visceral, blatant horror of the vampires and the terror of having no way of stopping these creatures from corrupting you, body and soul; the second with the horror of deception, lying, treachery, betrayal, with thinking you know someone but discovering they have lied to you about practically everything; the third with the horror of abandonment; and lastly with the horror of the unknown—the uncertainty of things to come. But Corcitura is also a historical novel, a thriller, a book with that unnerving Gothic feeling that permeated the stories I grew up with—novels you could lose yourself in for days at a time, tales filled with characters you’d miss when the final page was turned.”
Enjoy the article and find more information on Corcitura following it! Stay tuned on the blog in the next week for an exclusive excerpt writing in a new POV, plus a review is coming soon. And you can win an e-copy of the book in an upcoming post!
The Backstory to Writing Corcitura…
by Melika Dannese Lux, Author
Be honest. You’re wondering what on earth a Corcitura is, right? Well, I’d be more than happy to slake your curiosity! Corcitura is the Romanian word for hybrid. It has no vampiric connotations whatsoever, but before I tell you why I chose this as the name for my new creature, how about a little backstory?
A year before I even got the idea for the Corcitura, I had seen a painting that sent my mind reeling with all the possible implications behind it. The painting was “Oh, what’s that in the hollow?” by Edward Robert Hughes.
I took one look at that painting and screamed “VAMPIRE!” There’s something so morbidly entrancing and enigmatic about that painting. Is he dead? The sheen of his nearly translucent eyes certainly seems to suggest it. But what if he’s just resting until the moon rises? I only recently found out that he is dead! But back then, I was still in the dark, and so I did what all good storytellers do: I totally ignored the inconvenient facts behind the painting and ran roughshod with my inspiration. Those translucent eyes were never far from my mind and inspired me so much that they found life in the book’s eponymous creature.
So, why vampires, after all? Out of all the monsters of myth, vampires had always been my favorites. I had always been fascinated by how they could be suave and alluring on the outside (or when the sun wasn’t up), but with the flick of a barbed tongue, turn into slavering, fang-toothed, bloodsucking beasts! The juxtaposition fascinated me, since in original folklore almost all vampires are essentially plagues. Some just know how to mask their true nature better than others.
I knew if I was going to write about vampires, they’d better be different and intriguing, and since I have always been crazy for folklore from different parts of the world, this idea gave me an excuse to explore vampire mythology. It’s fascinating reading, freaky, but fascinating. Up until this point, I had the makings of a novel, but my vampire wasn’t being cooperative at all and just stayed hidden in the background, kicking through my mind until he finally got his act together and distinguished himself enough to set the story in motion. Until then, I had nicknamed him “Our Combo,” since he was going to be a hybrid—created after being bitten by two vampires of differing species. I knew I couldn’t continue calling him by such a McDonald’s Value Meal sounding name forever, so I took the next step in finding out what the word “hybrid” in Romanian was (since Stefan’s family has a long and torturous history deep in the soil of that country). I have Romanian ancestors, so digging into the country’s myths and legends was an added bonus. When I discovered that corcitura meant hybrid, I thought about it, and since I didn’t like any of the names I’d made up in the interim, it eventually stuck.
One huge thing that was clear in my mind from the outset was to make certain my novel took place before Dracula was even published. Dracula was such a tremendous milestone in vampire literature…and I didn’t want my characters to know about it at all. I wanted to create new myths, new ways of dispatching the creatures of the night, new fears and horrors—all things which would have been greatly hindered by a post-1897 setting. Where would the suspense be if my characters could fall back on what they’d read in Stoker’s novel? When they came up against pointy-toothed demons, I wanted no little lights going off in my characters’ heads, and definitely no saying, “Ah ha! This is exactly like what happened in Dracula! Quick, get some garlic!” I wanted my characters to have absolutely no frame of reference for dealing with the horrible situations they found themselves in, which is why all the action in the novel takes place from 1888 (there is also a very ripping reason for choosing that year, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why through 1895.
That settled, I turned my attention to sunlight. Yes, sunlight. That was the real impetus behind the idea of having the victim be a hybrid, and was how the whole “combo” concept was born—finding a way to make sure my vampire would be able to frolic around during daylight hours without being charred to ashes by the sun’s rays. For three months, I went back and forth on how a vampire could achieve this, during which time I whittled down my choices for favorite vampire candidates. Once I started seeing how different the strengths and weaknesses were, and understanding how much more indestructible the combined blood of two vampires would be (plus the human blood of the original victim), I knew I was on the right path, and settled on the Vrykolakas (from Greece) and the Upyr (from Russia) for the creators of my new vampiric species.
The Vrykolakas (referred to as the Vryk from this point forward) was a jackpot find for me, mainly because he’s a virtual unknown in literature, but mostly because it is unclear if the Vryk is a vampire or a werewolf. You see where this is going, right? Just before I hit the halfway point of the novel, I realized I would have to be crazy not to exploit that gray area to the hilt. It only made sense to embrace this ambiguity, which led to a whole new story arc being created for my two female Vryk protagonists later on in the novel. I am so happy I did this because it launched the second and third halves of the novel onto a completely different plane, with the book beginning to essentially write itself from that point on. To quote Colonel Hannibal Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
The Upyr and the Vryk are two sides of the same coin. Where the Vryk was plague-ravaged, nasty, and didn’t do anything to hide his true nature, the Upyr moved heaven and earth not to show his hand. My Vryk was rabid and couldn’t do much to control it. But the Upyr…he was a bird of an entirely different breed. Debonair on the outside, but blacker than the foulest dungeon, he was ten times more deadly than the Vryk and no one would ever be able to tell. He was my linchpin and turned out to come on scene much quicker than expected, which goes to show you that when the character wants out, you’d better listen, because from the moment he waltzed into the story, everything was transformed.
I began this process thinking I would just write a vampire novel with a new twist, but what started as a story about hybrid vampires quickly morphed into something beyond what I had been planning to write. Probably more than anything else, Corcitura became the story of the corruption of a soul and how this has a domino effect on all those who encounter him—life is overturned for everyone; everything they have ever known is distorted past recognition; nothing can ever go back to the way it used to be, for now they live in danger, fear, and some that loved him most meet their ends at his hands.
After everything was said and done, and the book marinated and went through countless edits, I realized that Corcitura is, in fact, a horror novel, but not in the normal sense. It’s horror on many levels. The first part deals with the visceral, blatant horror of the vampires and the terror of having no way of stopping these creatures from corrupting you, body and soul; the second with the horror of deception, lying, treachery, betrayal, with thinking you know someone but discovering they have lied to you about practically everything; the third with the horror of abandonment; and lastly with the horror of the unknown—the uncertainty of things to come. But Corcitura is also a historical novel, a thriller, a book with that unnerving Gothic feeling that permeated the stories I grew up with—novels you could lose yourself in for days at a time, tales filled with characters you’d miss when the final page was turned. That’s what I set out to write, even more than a straight up vampire novel, because it’s really not about vampires in the end. It’s about the people whose lives they destroy, the people who choose to fight against them, who team up with vampires who have decided that it doesn’t matter what the legends have taught them, they will do everything in their power to stop the undead from claiming even more souls.
Ten years, thousands of revisions, and 700 pages later, Corcitura is finally here. Welcome to a world where an ancient Upyr plots your destruction and a half-wolf, half-vampire haunts your doorstep, its barbed tongue poised to rip into your throat the second you answer its call.
Button up your collar.
Keep the flame burning.
And come along for the ride.
Corcitura. Some call it hybrid, others half-blood, mongrel, beast. They are all names for the same thing: vampire—the created progeny of the half-wolf, half-vampire, barb-tongued Grecian Vrykolakas, and the suave but equally vicious Russian Upyr. Corcitura: this is what happens when a man is attacked by two vampires of differing species. He becomes an entirely new breed—ruthless, deadly, unstoppable…almost.
London, 1888: Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, best friends since childhood, have finally succeeded in convincing their parents to send them on a Grand Tour of the Continent. It will be the adventure of a lifetime for the two eighteen-year-old Englishmen, but almost from the moment they set foot on French soil, Eric senses a change in Stefan, a change that is intensified when they cross paths with the enigmatic Vladec Salei and his traveling companions: Leonora Bianchetti, a woman who fascinates Eric for reasons he does not understand, and the bewitching Augustin and Sorina Boroi—siblings, opera impresarios, and wielders of an alarming power that nearly drives Eric mad.
Unable to resist the pull of their new friends, Eric and Stefan walk into a trap that has been waiting to be sprung for more than five hundred years—and Stefan is the catalyst. Terrified by the transformation his friend is undergoing, Eric knows he must get Stefan away from Vladec Salei and Constantinos, the rabid, blood-crazed Vrykolakas, before Stefan is changed beyond recognition. But after witnessing a horrific scene in a shadowed courtyard in Eastern Europe, Eric’s worst fears are confirmed.
Six years removed from the terror he experienced at the hands of Salei and Constantinos, Eric finally believes he has escaped his past. But once marked, forever marked, as he painfully begins to understand. He has kept company with vampires, and now they have returned to claim him for their own.
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Author Melika Dannese Lux, Biography~
I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write Young/New Adult historical romance, suspense, supernatural/paranormal thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, novellas—you name it, I write it! I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.
If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.
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I’m very active on social media, so please feel free to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:
My Web Site: http://booksinmybelfry.com/