SMC Spotlight No.1 | Dacre Stoker: Exclusive Interview with ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ Author

by Candice Anne Marshall

Trying to formulate the words for a writer as established as Canadian-born, South Carolina-based Dacre Stoker, Author of ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ and great Grandnephew of legendary Author, Bram Stoker, who wrote ‘Dracula‘, is a daunting task at best for a newbie on the block like me. I was challenged to write an introduction worthy of the kind of authenticity and grandeur that prolific writers like Dacre deserve and that can sometimes feel a little intimidating. However, this Author is so personable, approachable, and friendly, the words came easy to say. This ascertainment was made after speaking to Dacre at length on the phone this week for our Limehead Radio interview (launching Monday – times announced following the interview): the conversation was candid, entertaining, and very profound. We also delved into discussion about his careers as a Writer, Educator, and established Athlete (yes, an Athlete!) which is not only admirable, it’s relatable to me (I too, enjoy running and writing!). ‘When you’re following in the footsteps of someone like Bram, you better make sure your work is equal, if not better than his because people expect this,’ was a comment that he made through these discussions. Given the fact that he has recently sold a script from a finished book (due out in 2018 – a prequel to Dracula co-written with JD Barker) to Paramount Pictures, it’s safe to say that Dacre Stoker is being recognized as one of the most prolific writers of our time. I do believe Bram would be very proud.

As a young girl, I was always drawn to the idea behind magical and mystical creatures, and Halloween was the one day each year my family and I would go all out. My siblings and I would dress up in our scariest Witch, Bride of Frankenstein, or Dracula costumes and give the neighbors a theatrical treat for the eyes. Even today, the very thought of the skeletal remains of tree branches set against an angry dark moonlit sky elicits excitement among my family because it means Halloween is near. For the last six weeks, Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) has been promoting our Halloween special in conjunction with Limehead Radio (in the United Kingdom) with vivid imagery and special effects in weekly videos leading to the start of this magical time of year when even the oldest among us become kids at heart. Yes folks, it’s officially the start of our five-day Halloween special with Limehead Radio and there’s no better way to start than with the topic of the seasons’ most iconic creatures of all: Dracula!

Let’s rewind a bit…

In mid-September, I stumbled across a promotional video that Airbnb had launched in 2016. They were advertising a contest for two people to ‘Win an Airbnb night for two at Dracula’s Castle on Halloween night’in Transylvania, Romania. I was immediately intrigued and all while doing my research on the subject, I also wondered what rock I had been hiding under last year. This story was huge! I discovered that a Canadian brother and sister won the overnight stay in the famed Bran Castle. I researched further to find that the host of this event was non other than Dacre Stoker. It only made sense for him to have hosted the event, given his family lineage and the fact that ‘Dracula’ was written and based on the infamous castle itself (or so I thought – new speculation has arisen from the actual whereabouts of Dracula’s castle which was discussed in my Limehead Radio interview with Dacre Stoker). Immediately, I began researching, discovering more about his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ presentations that have been ‘fascinating audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897 (quote from the Stoker website). I located his contact information and made my inquiry to see if we could line up an interview for our Halloween Special. He responded very promptly, agreeing to an interview on the SMC Spotlight.

By mid-October, I sent my interview over to Dacre and within days, it was returned, along with stunning imagery of Bran Castle, the Airbnb Halloween event, himself, and Bram. I began reviewing the questions and upon final review, became even more inquisitive. I sent over more questions which have now been included in this feature. This last week while chatting with Mark Richards at Limehead Radio about the depth of this interview, it donned on me that we should have a radio interview as well. There was just too much to this story to leave it at one part – this is a family, whose historical works of art both past and present have inspired the creation of (vampire) societies (see: Victorian Vampire Society UK), films (from the early black and white terrifying images ‘Nosferatu’ in the first film version of ‘Dracula’(1922) to the modern day Twilight series), to even more novels, articles, and a myriad of other things such as jewelry, comics, fashion, furniture, and dwellings inspired by these works. So, it was important for me to be able to extract all the pertinent information that avid Vampire and ‘Dracula’ lovers world-wide would want to know about the Stoker family history, mysteries hidden within the ‘Dracula’ novel, and where the family intends to take the ‘Dracula’ legend next.

The following interview is part one of a two-part Halloween special on Dacre Stoker and his own novel ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’, a well-written sequel to his great Granduncle’s book, and the folk lore, myths, and truths of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.

Editor’s Note: I would personally like to thank Dacre Stoker for taking the time to connect with me for this interview and on such short notice for our radio interview with Limehead Radio. I am honored to have been able to catch a glimpse into this magical and mystical world of the Stoker family where fiction is fact, and the pursuit to discover more about the family history and ‘Dracula’ legend is the very heart of this prolific Author. I look forward to connecting with him following his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ tour in the UK next month where we will continue discussion of his experiences and discoveries while on tour. It is an honor to know you sir, and I look forward to continuing to document your journey through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series.

Dacre Stoker, descendant of Bram Stoker speaks during an interview at Bran Castle, in Bran, Romania, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. A Canadian brother and sister are passed Halloween night curled up in red velvet coffins in the Transylvanian castle that inspired the Dracula legend, the first time in 70 years anyone has spent the night in the gothic fortress after they bested 88,000 people who entered a competition hosted by Airbnb to get the chance to dine and sleep at the castle in Romania. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) Photo courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Starlight Music Chronicles Exclusive Spotlight Interview | Dacre Stoker

Career Life & Bram Stoker History 

SMC – Hello Dacre! Welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles Spotlight! We are thrilled to be including you in our Halloween month special. There is so much depth to this interview, so we will break it down into parts, but for the sake of our readers, can you give us a brief background of yourself and your relation to Bram Stoker?

Dacre – Bram Stoker’s youngest brother George is my great grandfather, this makes me the great grandnephew of Bram Stoker.

SMC – I first found out about you late last month when I saw a post in my newsfeed about an Airbnb contest for two to spend a night in ‘Dracula’s Castle’ in Transylvania. It had me completely intrigued. Can you tell us about this event?

Dacre – Airbnb hired me to be the host of “Night at” Dracula’s Castle. They do these “Night at” events in different locations around the world as promotional events. So, I spent Halloween 2016 at Bran Castle in Transylvania Romania helping put on the event. I helped read thru the finalists of 88,000, 500-character “essays” from people all over the world to see who would win a trip to Romania and spend an overnight in the Castle, complete with gourmet diner, in Bran Castle.

SMC – I also read that two Canadians were the winners of the contest and that they also have familial ties to the castle. That’s awesome! I also know that you are Canadian-born yourself. Can you tell us what the experience was like for all of you?

Dacre – The winners were a brother and sister from Ottawa, they had a famous relative who was a professor and an author specializing in Gothic Literature. They got to face an amazing barrage of world press including: AP, AP France, Reuters, and about 10 other journalists from assorted countries.  They were picked up in Bucharest driven to Bran, spent the night in an AirbnB house, then on Halloween they were driven by horse and carriage to Bran Castle where the filming and interviews started.  I then led them on a tour of the Castle for an hour before we left them in their crypt with their coffins and cell phones for the night. The next day after breakfast we all were driven back to Bucharest where we had drinks at the Canadian Embassy with the Canadian Ambassador and his staff.

SMC – Is there going to be another AirbnB event this year for Halloween?

Dacre – I have not heard of one at this point.

SMC – Can you tell us more about the Stoker on Stoker events/presentations and how people have reacted to them?

Dacre – I have been pleasantly surprised how well received my presentations have become. The audiences range from high school students to hard core movie fans, to literary and historical buffs. In most cases, over the past 5 years, audiences are entertained and become well informed about the backstories of a book that all have heard of and many have read. In the Q&A and discussions and comments on Facebook I have found that people had no idea that so much of Bram’s personal life was involved in the novel Dracula. Many say they will go back and re read it with a much different eye. 

SMC – When do you expect the details of the tour guide to launch for the life of Bram Stoker?

Dacre – Tough question, I have just finished, with Co-Author JD Barker, a prequel to Dracula, we are slated to do a lot of promotion starting in a few months. In the mean time I am working on a documentary about Bram Stoker with an Irish filmmaker. I have 2 tours to Transylvania in the spring and summer to plan and promote, so in reality the tour guide takes a back seat to these other more time sensitive projects.

SMC – I had read that Walt Whitman and Bram were Pen Pals. Can you tell us more about how they met or collaborated?

Dacre – Bram first read Whitman’s controversial book of poetry “Leaves of Grass” while he was at Trinity College, Bram was impressed by the freedom that Whitman was able to express in his writing. They corresponded by letters, then finally met in Camden, New Jersey on one of Bram and Henry Irving’s trips to America with the Lyceum Theater. I believe that they shared a mutual respect for each others’ writings. They both shared a great respect for Abraham Lincoln, It is believed that Bram delivered his manuscript of “Dracula” to Whitman’s friend and lawyer Thomas Donaldson as a thank you for Donaldson passing on Whitman’s elaborate notes on Abraham Lincoln. Whitman had passed away, but Donaldson followed thru with Whitman’s wishes to give Bram the Lincoln Notes, in return Bram gave his “Dracula” manuscript to Donaldson possibly originally destined for Whitman.  This manuscript turned up in a Pennsylvania barn on a farm once owned by descendants of Mr. Donaldson. The manuscript is technically a typescript since it is typed, was sold at auction to Mr. Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.  I have been fortunate enough to study it as part of my research for my “Dracula” prequel. 

Dacre Stoker during a ‘Stoker on Stoker’ presentation at Columbia College . Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

SMC – I read on your website that you are beginning to organize a ‘Bram Stoker Dracula travel guide’ identifying the real-life locations mentioned in the novel as well as highlight the places of your Great Uncle ‘Bram Stoker’s’ origins. How is that coming along? Can you tell us some details about it?

Dacre – It is moving along very slowly mainly because every time I go back to Romania, seven times now, I learn something new that needs to be included in the travel guide.  This is a guide to show interested readers where to find the locations associated with the life and times of Vlad Dracula lll and also the places where Bram Stoker set his novel Dracula.

SMC – I read in an article where it was said that you are ‘determined to stop the deluge of vampires in popular culture from making people forget who invented the original cape-wearing bloodsucker (Dracula).’ (quote from this article here) Can you expand on that for us?

Dacre – Essentially, I want people to learn about the author who brought the world Count Dracula. He was an interesting man in many respects.

SMC – You have written ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ with Ian Holt. Can you tell us what prompted you to set out writing this book?

Dacre – Ian had the idea to write a sequel of Dracula using a screenplay of his as a starting point that was never made into a movie, it was a continuation of Bram’s novel. We decided to modernize our Count Dracula, he was similar to the Count played by Gary Oldman in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ian asked me to get involved as co-author, this is what opened my eyes and interest level into the whole word that my great grand uncle created.

SMC – In reference to the last question, what was the public response from your book like?

Dacre – The book made it to number 21 on the New York Times best sellers list, it was sold to publishers in 20 countries. We receive excellent reviews from professionals; Publisher Weekly, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Library Journal. However, some Dracula purists did not like the fact that we modernized Count Dracula and altered the characters.

SMC – Have you always wanted to write or direct?

Dacre – No, writing was something that came late in the game to me, I am slow and steady and need the assistance of good editors.

SMC – You were also a contributor to ‘Dracula in Visual Media: Film, Television, Comic Book and Electronic Game Appearances, 1921-2010’. What are your thoughts on this book?

Dacre – John Browning and Kay Picart did a fantastic job researching and putting this excellent reference book together. It really shows the impact that Dracula has had on popular culture. Let’s be honest, our culture is very driven by visual media, this book shows how prolific Dracula has been over the ages.

SMC – Are there any other projects we can discuss that you are working on currently?

Dacre – I am constantly being asked to make appearances to do my ‘Stoker on Stoker, The Mysteries Behind Bram Stoker’s Writing of Dracula’ presentation.  As a result, I am constantly striving to find new material to add to it. In early November, I am traveling to the UK to do some of these presentations. I will be visiting Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, Scotland for the first time. This is a town where Bram Stoker spent many of his summer holidays. He found inspiration here to write some of his other books and portions of Dracula as well. 

SMC – Which social media site are you most active on?

Dacre – I am a regular on Facebook and have recently started with Instagram and Twitter.

SMC – Can you tell us which ‘Dracula’ film was or is your favorite and why?

Dacre – I love the 1931 Todd Browning version with Bela Lugosi, I also like the 1992 Frances Ford Coppola version entitled “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, although I feel the name is somewhat misleading, I think it should have been called “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula”.

SMC – I read in an interview that you do think that the film adaptations of ‘Dracula’ are great in the sense of ‘evolving’ the original ‘Dracula’. Can you expand on that?

Dacre – I love the idea that Bram’s original work, his novel of 1897, has inspired many Authors, Screenwriters, Directors etc., over the past 120 years to write their own version or adaptations of Dracula. If we did not embrace and honor Bram’s work by adapting it, we would be pretty bored with just one original version after 120 years.

SMC – What are your thoughts on the 1922 German film ‘Nosferatu’ (the first film version of ‘Dracula’) and how it evolved into the films of today like the ‘Twilight’ series?

Dacre – ‘Nosferatu’ (below) was a ground-breaking film back in 1922, the only problem I have is that it was determined in German court to be a copyright infringement. This was in fact the first novel to movie copyright infringement in history. I am all for creativity and history etc., but I also stand up for the rights of artists, authors, and musicians who need to have their work protected by copyright.

SMC – Christopher Lee as Dracula (1958 Horror of Dracula). What are your thoughts on his portrayal?

Dacre – Christopher Lee was a fantastic Count Dracula, I loved the 1958 version, this was the first version of Dracula where censors allowed blood to appear on the fanged mouth of the Count.

SMC – If there was one thing you would like the world to know about your Great Uncle Bram Stoker, what would that be?

Dacre – Besides the impact he has had on the world with his novel Dracula, Bram wrote a manual for Clerks of Petty Sessions throughout Ireland, this manual was in use in Ireland up until the 1960’s.

SMC – What are five things that all avid ‘Vampire’ or ‘Dracula’ fans or followers should know about the origins of the novel your Great Uncle wrote?

Dacre –

1.He based the story on a combination of events in his own life, as well as a lot of research into existing superstitions and folklore. 

2.He set the story in many real places.

3.He inserted some real people into his novel.

  1. There is a little bit of Irish folklore and myth in Dracula.
  2. Bram’s brother Dr. William Thornley Stoker helped him write the parts of the book dealing with blood transfusion and brain surgery.

SMC – It is nice to see your loyalty to the family name and the origins of Bram’s book! What is one thing that you would change in terms of people’s perceptions of the book based on the evolvement of Dracula that the film industry has portrayed?

Dacre – Count Dracula in Bram’s novel is more like a present-day zombie then the sexy dashing model looking Dracula’s in today’s movies and TV series.

SMC – Have you ever been approached by young Authors or Writers wanting mentorship from you or even a collaboration of any sort?

Dacre – No, I need all the advice I can get, I am in no position to give it out.

SMC – The real Vlad Dracula’s story is different from Bram’s. What are those differences?

Dacre – The original Vlad Dracula lll was not a vampire, he was however a brutal ruler who ruled in a brutal and violent time in history, the late 15th century. He ruled over Walachia and fought the Ottoman Empire in an effort to protect his homeland. Count Dracula was a vampire who was lightly based on some portions of Vlad’s past history. Bram used existing superstition and folklore from Romania to attach to his fictional count to give the backstory that the count was schooled in the Scholomance, a mythical school of the dark arts in the northern Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. 

Bran Castle at Night
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Personal Life

SMC – I read that you are former member of the Canadian men’s pentathlon team and coached the team at the Seoul at the 1988 Summer Olympics. What an accomplishment! What were those experiences like?

Dacre – Twelve years of dedicated training and focus on achieving physical goals! It was very rewarding, both the participating and coaching. I met a lot of wonderful people, travelled to many countries, was constantly learning and stimulated to improve. I learned that with hard work and desire we can achieve almost anything that we set our mind to.  

SMC – You and your family are now in the United States. What prompted the move to where you are today?

Dacre – My wife is from South Carolina, when we first got married she moved to Ontario, I taught at Appleby College in Oakville. She really did not like the weather, so after two years we moved to the South. I knew the area well as my parents owned a winter home here, so it was like my second home. 

SMC – What area of your career as a Writer/Director/Athlete has been most rewarding to you personally?

Dacre – The process and single focus to achieve specific goals, be it winning an event or having a book published is wonderful, nothing beats the feelings when a goal is achieved. I have been involved as a Coach in helping two athletes win a World Championship; Lynn Chornobrywy win the Ladies World Championship in Modern Pentathlon in 1983, and then more recently in 2016, Camden Riviere won the Mens Singles and Doubles World Championship of Court Tennis. Helping these fine people achieve their own goals was extremely satisfying to me.

SMC – Halloween is right around the corner – I am going to ask some fun questions:  can you tell us which horror or suspense books and films you like?

Dacre – “American Horror Story”, “Penny Dreadful”, “It”, “Dracula Un-Told, Ripper Street, Ozark“. I also enjoy reading David Wellingtons vampire series, and my Co-Author, JD Barker’s Fourth Monkey.

SMC – What does your family do at Halloween – is there an expectation from neighbors or friends to ‘live up to’ the Stoker name by dressing up in a Dracula costume? (I had to ask – I was curious!)

Dacre – I get asked that a lot, I am usually not at home during Halloween, but instead at some gig somewhere in the world doing a Stoker on Stoker presentation. When I do dress up, instead of dressing up as Count Dracula I have put together a Bram Stoker costume consisting of the clothing that Bram would have worn as a theater manager in Victorian London late 1800’s.

SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have been given in terms of your career(s)?

Dacre – Bram Stoker would be proud!

SMC – I am sure you have been asked what weird experience you have had at Halloween from fans – but for the sake of our readers, can you tell us of an experience you’ve had?

Dacre – Vampire Con in Los Angles, was asked quite sincerely and quite convincingly if I would be interested in letting a person drink a small amount of my “Stoker blood”, needless to say I declined.

SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what advice you would give to a new generation of writers who are wanting to delve into the same genre of writing or style you and your Great Uncle have?

Dacre – If you are writing about Vampires, then do your research, create a convincing and unique “world” and then let your imagination flow. Make sure that you create a believable storyline consistent with the world that you have created.

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Dacre Stoker Social Media Links (click to view)

Website

Bram Stoker Facebook

Dacre Stoker Twitter

Dacre Stoker Instagram

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Bram Stoker and his famous quote, an ioriginal painting by Damian Byrne
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Bram Stoker / Dracula CSI UK Tour 2017 with Dacre Stoker

Nov. 7 University of Northumbria Newcastle 6pm

Nov 8 Art Central Gallery King Square Barry, Cardiff, Wales 7pm

Nov. 10 The Old White Lion Haworth 7pm

Nov. 11 Howl Bar Leeds 3:00pm

Nov. 13 Kilmarnock Arms Cruden Bay Scotland 7pm

Nov. 16 Edinburgh The Banshee Labyrinth 29-35 Niddry St Edinburgh 8pm 

Nov.  18 University of Glasgow TBD

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Limehead Radio Exclusive Interview with Dacre Stoker will air on Limehead Radio #Viral show on October 30th, 2017 starting at the following times:

7pm UK

North America

11am PST

Noon MST

2pm EST

*Please be advised that the interview will be aired following these times and not necessarily right at the times listed above. The Limehead Radio show is a 2 hour show.

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Dacre Stoker
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Dacre Stoker Biography

Dacre Stoker is the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker and the best-selling coauthor of Dracula the Un-Dead (Dutton, 2009), the official Stoker family endorsed sequel to Dracula. Dacre is also the co-editor (with Elizabeth Miller) of ‘The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years’ (Robson Press, 2012). His next novel  a Prequel to Dracula, expected out in 2018 co-authored with JD Barker, has been sold to Putnam with film rights purchased by Paramount Studios.   

A native of Montreal, Canada, Dacre taught Physical Education and Sciences for twenty-two years, in both Canada and the U.S. He has participated in the sport of Modern Pentathlon as an athlete and a coach at the international and Olympic levels for Canada for 12 years.

Dacre Stoker’s compelling and informative Keynote presentation, ‘Stoker on Stoker, the Mysteries Behind the Writing of Dracula’, weaves together the details of Dracula’s history with Stoker family lore, and Bram Stoker’s life in Dublin and London, then separates fact from popular fiction, revealing the truth about all things Stoker and Dracula.  Customized to appeal to university groups, Gothic scholars, vampire fans, or history buffs, Stoker on Stoker has fascinated audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897. Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books. 

Dacre has consulted and appeared in recent film documentaries about vampires in literature and popular culture. He currently hosts tours to Transylvania to explore both the life and times of the historic Vlad Dracula lll and also the locations where Bram Stoker set his famous novel.  

Dacre has become well known and a respected figure in the world of Vampires in both academia and popular culture. He lectures and makes presentations entitled Stoker on Stoker The Mysteries Behind the Writing of  Dracula in the U.S. and abroad at various engagements, including: 2012, Comic Con, New York, NY, Underground Film Festival, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, National Library of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland, University of Hull, Hull and Whitby, England  University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield,  England, London Dracula Society, London, England, World Horror Convention, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, Theatre Alhambra, Theatre en Anglais, Paris, France 2013 Historical Haunts Tour (Providence RI Newport RI, Mark Twain House, Hartford CT, Garde Theater, New London CT, Romania: Bran Castle, Hotel Castle Dracula, Samuel von Brukenthal High School, Sibiu . 2014 Historical Haunts Tour (Salem MA, Portland ME, Rockland ME, Woonsocket RI) Exhibition Dracula History & Myth: (consultant) National History Museum Taipei, Taiwan, US Navy Base,

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 2015 Whitby UK,  Horror Con Sheffield UK,  Historical Haunts Tour Salem MA, Saluda NC, Horror Writers and World Horror Convention Atlanta GA. 2016 International Vampire Film and Arts Festival, Sighisoara, Romania, Columbia College, Columbia SC, Sensoria Arts Festival, Charlotte NC, Monsterama, Atlanta Ga. Hendersonville NC Public Library, Bishops College School, Lennoxville, Canada, Airbnb “Night at Bran Castle”, Transylvania.  2017

Chattacon, Chattanooga TN, AnachroCon Atlanta GA, AgamaCon Aiken SC, Vulcan Industries Seattle WA, Whitby Goth Weekend, Whitby UK, Dragon Con Atlanta GA, University of North Georgia, Monsterama Atlanta GA. 

Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books. 

F o r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n : h t t p : / / w w w. b r a m s t o k e r e s t a t e . c o m / Presenting_Dacre_Stoker.html dacre@bellsouth.net    dacrestoker@