A Dowry of Blood emotionally retells the story of Dracula’s brides. In first bride Constanta’s perspective, this epistolary, second person narrative spans centuries, depicting the bloody revelry and intimacy among the brides in stark contrast to their relationship with terrible husband Dracula. In this interview, author S.T. Gibson talks about how she crafted this deeply character-driven exploration of love and devotion among vampires.
Buy link: NYX Publishing
Crafting A Dowry of Blood
Which element of this story came to your first?
Definitely the characters. I knew the sort of archetypes I wanted to explore and the sort of interplay between the characters I wanted to illuminate, so I started with the brides. Rendering them as full people with rich inner worlds was my primary concern, since they’re so often overlooked in the Dracula story. The big finish came to me pretty early as well, and I knew throughout the writing process that every word I put on the page was building to that moment.
The epistolary second person worked in such a compelling way with regard to how consent and identity are explored throughout. How did you determine that it was the voice for the book?
I wanted to push myself to do something experimental with this project, and since I knew from the start that Dowry was going to be novella length, I wanted it to pack as much of a punch as possible. Part of that punch comes from the dense, poetic language, and part of the punch comes from form. I used form to express what ruminating over an abusive relationship feels like, how you’re always slipping in and out of memories and trying to re-write things that have already happened in order to find agency or closure. Writing Dowry as an open letter addressed to a nameless ex lover seemed like the best way to do that. As far as inspirations go, reading Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House really gave me permission to play with time, point of view, and tense.
Had the story stayed consistent throughout the revisions process? Was there anything that surprised you?
This story stayed remarkably consistent from when I pitched my outline to my editor to publication. Sections got shuffled around for chronological flow, but the core story and main scenes remained. That doesn’t always happen, so I was grateful that I didn’t have to rip the seams out of the book and do a total overhaul in revisions. Most of my revisions for DOWRY entailed expanding upon material that was already in the book, not cutting and rewriting.
Honestly, I was most surprised by how much this book took out of me. It isn’t very long, but it’s quite emotional and dense, and having to step into the maelstrom of a larger-than-life abusive relationship between a narcissist and his devotee sapped me. I was also struggling with the onset of a mood disorder during the first draft, so I had to learn how to slow down and not overwork myself to the brink of sickness. I learned a lot about my own abilities and limits while bringing Dowry to life.
Did you have a favorite scene or moment to write?
Some of my favorite moments in Dowry are the prose-poetry breaks where Constanta projects her present thoughts onto her past memories. I put a lot of effort into those little passages and I think they came out beautifully. My favorite section is when Constanta compares herself to Mary Magdalene and Dracula to a sort of dark Christ; it’s the entire essence of the book distilled down into one page. As far as fun goes, there’s a very indulgent scene in a carriage in part three that I thoroughly enjoyed writing.
Will we ever find out Constanta’s pre-vampire name?
That one has been lost to the annals of time, I’m afraid.
You previously published Robbergirl and Odd Spirits. Where in the queue did Dowry come? Was it something you had written with the intention of traditional publishing or were there other plans or other works? What are you working on now?
Dowry is based on a short about the brides I wrote when I was in college, one that was featured in Nyx Publishing’s Unspeakable anthology. For years, I thought that was all I had to say about the brides, but after it was published, a lot of readers contacted me asking me if I had any intention of writing more. Once lockdown hit, I suddenly had the time and space to devote to the story again, and I realized that I had more to say about love and monstrosity and unhealthy attachments. I contacted my fantastic editor Celine, since it seemed natural to partner with her after having such a great experience working on the Unspeakable anthology, and we agreed to work together on Dowry for publication through Nyx.
One a more personal level, my vision for Dowry was one of unfettered authenticity. I challenged myself to be as true to my vision as possible without worrying about what other people would think of the project, and to leave everything on the floor while pursuing that goal. I always want to be evolving as a writer and bringing something new to the table, something that’s going to elicit deep and lingering emotions in my audience. As a result, Dowry is my darkest, sexiest, most experimental book yet, and I hope it resonates with the right audience.
What can we look forward to next?
I just finished writing an occult crime romance about dealing haunted artifacts on the black market, and I’m currently working on a summery, sultry folk gothic about an artist’s commune.
What are some books that you’re particularly excited about, not limited to 2021 releases?
So many! For the Wolf, What Big Teeth, The Wolf and the Woodsman, The Witch’s Heart, Tripping Arcadia, Lakesedge, The Devil Makes Three, The Witch King, the list goes on and on honestly. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some as well!
Saint is a poet, author, and village wise woman in training. A graduate of the creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the theological studies program at Princeton Seminary, she currently lives in Boston with her partner, spoiled Persian cat, and vintage blazer collection. She is represented by Tara Gilbert of the Jennifer De Chiara literary agency.