Was Emily Dickinson a Mad Scientist?

emily_dickinsonThis week is special because it marks the one year anniversary since my fourth book, Dickinstein, was published with Rocking Horse Publishing. To celebrate, Dickinstein will be free on Kindle for the next 5 days starting today.

Dickinstein is a historical mash-up. It tells a biographical story of the life of the beloved and bizarre poet Emily Dickinson mashed together with the Gothic classic Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley.

I was already a student of Emily when I started writing the book, but I thoroughly researched the events of her life and used a very linear timeline to develop the plot of the story. Almost all of the “normal” events in the book, along with the characters she interacts with, are true to Emily’s life.

There’s the Homestead, the Dickinson family home where Emily spent most of her adult life. Emily’s parents play an important role, as does her beloved sister Lavinia and her brother Austin. I even tap into the well-known affair Austin had with a friend of the family named Mabel Todd. Mabel wrote letters to Emily and visited the Homestead often, but she never met Emily face to face.  She even played the piano at Emily’s funeral.  And yes, Emily’s funeral is even in the book!

One important character is Benjamin Newton, a college friend of Austin’s who befriended Emily. They shared a love of books and nature and continued to write to each other even after Newton moved away.  He plays a very important role in the story.

3775-emily-dickinsonEmily was a lover of nature and animals. That’s quite evident in her poetry.  A lot of her poems also obsess about death, so she was probably a child of God but was both frightened by, and curious with, death and mortality.

And if you are familiar with Shelley’s Frankenstein, then you know that it’s main theme is man’s mortality as well.  And when I discovered that these two leitmotifs should meet, it was quite magical. It just worked and I pounded out the first draft in just eight weeks.

Some readers have told me the book completely caught them off guard. They expected a love story between Emily and Frankenstein’s monster. Or perhaps Emily was the monster brought to life. Or thanks to other mash-ups, Emily was going to be a zombie killer.

But it thrills me to have readers discover something completely different. Remember I based a lot of the book on Emily’s real life, so I wanted you to believe that the entire book could have actually happened.  So there are no strange and monstrous events here to keep you up at night.

Twenty years ago I didn’t even know who Emily was.  It was a student professor of a writing class in college who introduced me to her.  He always liked to say, “We all must bow to Miss Emily.”  I had no idea what that meant and was too shy to ask.  I ran into him in a bar one night though and somehow managed to get him to tell me what he meant, without making myself look like a complete idiot.  And I’ve loved Miss Emily ever since.

I had read all of her poems several times before I started writing Dickinstein. I reread them again and used pieces of them for inspiration throughout the book. In fact, each chapter is named for a line from one of her poems, and that poem introduces each chapter. But you don’t have to like poetry to enjoy the story.

Few probably know that Emily only published a handful of poems while she was alive. She actually instructed her sister to burn all of her papers and writings upon Emily’s death. However, Lavinia sought help in having Emily’s poems published, which actually took several years due to the affair between Austin and Mabel. Lavinia had asked Mabel to help, but when the affair surfaced Mabel was so distraught that she actually locked Emily’s poems away for a while and forgot about them. But Lavinia’s persistence paid off and that’s how we know Emily today.

But in Dickinstein, I ask what if Emily was doing more than just writing poems up in her room?  Find out! So download it today!  It’s free through Halloween on your Kindle!

Was Emily a mad scientist?
Was Emily a mad scientist?


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