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“When I was in Los Angeles on a book tour, I saw tables of silent teenagers texting each other instead of talking to each other. I immediately thought: what if I wrote a book for them, one they could read on their phones? Something that uses their language and format? Kids today read more than ever before, but they’re reading screens instead of pages. What does that mean for books? I think it means that we need new books for them.”

March 18, 2011

Arts & Literature, Interviews

DarkMedia Interviews Bekka Black:

After a childhood often spent without electricity and running water, Bekka Black (pseudonym for author Rebecca Cantrell) escaped the beautiful wilderness of Talkeetna, Alaska for indoor plumbing and 24/7 electricity in Berlin, Germany. Used to the cushy lifestyle, she discovered the Internet in college and has been wasting time on it ever since (when not frittering away her time on her iPhone). Somehow, she manages to write novels, including the award-winning Hannah Vogel mystery series set, in all places, 1930s Berlin. The series has received numerous starred reviews and the first book, A Trace of Smoke, was chosen as a Writer’s Digest Notable debut.

She lives in Hawaii with her husband, son, two cats, and too many geckoes to count. iDRAKULA is her first cell phone novel.

iDRAKULA is a “cell/mobile phone novel”, which has had great success in several countries like Japan, China, Germany and South Africa. Can you tell us what first attracted you to the genre? How did you discover it?

When I was in Los Angeles on a book tour, I saw tables of silent teenagers texting each other instead of talking to each other. I immediately thought: what if I wrote a book for them, one they could read on their phones? Something that uses their language and format? Kids today read more than ever before, but they’re reading screens instead of pages. What does that mean for books? I think it means that we need new books for them.

So, I decided to that was restricted to only things that I could download to a smartphone (like an iPhone or a droid). DRACULA was the logical choice, because it’s a great read and the original was written to showcase the high tech communication methods of its time: the typewriter, the wax Victrola recording disk, newspaper articles, and ship’s manifestos. So, I wrote iDRAKULA in the language of today: using only text messages, texted photos, URLs, a couple of voicemails, and short emails.

What challenges did you face in bringing such a well-known and beloved novel into the present day? Why Dracula?

I love the original DRACULA, so I was nervous, but I realized early on that if I had to let myself relax and have fun with it. If I was constantly freaking out and second guessing myself, I couldn’t write a new story. I tried to stay true to the feel of the original, but not slavishly so. People have very different values today than they did in Victorian England, so they have different reactions. It’s not an abridged version of DRACULA, it’s iDRAKULA.

Aside from reading Bram Stoker’s novel, what kind of research helped you bring a “classical vampire” into the 21st Century? Does real life “modern vampirism” play a role?

I’d done the research on hemolytic anemia (yes, it exists) for another project. I think the first thing modern people would do when confronted with someone with symptoms like Jonathan’s and Lucy’s is try to find a medical reason for these supernatural changes, so I had to research what vampirism might look like to a worried and conscientious doctor. That led to the anemia and also the spleen.

I stuck to the classics mostly, though, so modern takes on vampirism aren’t represented in the book.

In a previous interview you said, “I have gotten criticism (and outrage!) for changing things, but I stand by it”. How closely does the story follow the original, and what inspired you to change what you did?

The set up is the same: man called to Romania to help a mysterious Count move to Romania (after his predecessor, Renfield) goes insane. Waiting at home for him is his staunch love, Mina, and her flirtatious friend, Lucy.
But I made the characters younger (Mina and Lucy are 17, Jonathan’s 18, Abe Van Helsing is 20, Dracula’s the same age) and I had to modernize the women (no swooning!). Unlike the old Mina, the new one takes jujitsu, is ready to face down demons, and takes charge of her own problems.

Can you tell us about the iDRAKULA iPhone application?

The book is also available as an iPhone app, with added audio (voicemail messages between the characters and an extended phone conversation of the climax). The app did quite well, being named to several “Top 10 Halloween Apps” lists, including by PC World, Girl’s Life, and YALSA. It’s my favorite was to experience the story, because it’s the closest to how the characters lived it.

What, or who, is your greatest inspiration as a writer? What about it, or them, inspires you?

I hate these questions! I’m inspired by too many sources to list and I honestly can’t name a favorite. I’m also very inspired by readers and by the joy that I get out of reading myself.

What book do you like to give as a gift?

That depends on the person I’m giving it to. I’ve given the Lord of the Rings series and Harry Potter out to several sets of kids. Nice editions of Dracula and Frankenstein are always fun to give away too. Someone just gave me Super Sad True Love Story and I loved it. I’ll give that book to a few writer friends soon I expect.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading “The Monster of Florence” by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. Up next is “L8r, gr8” by Lauren Myracle.

Can you tell us what you have planned for your iMONSTER series? When will iFRANKENSTEIN be available for purchase?

I’ve been hoping that iFrankenstein would be out for Halloween 2011, but I’m starting to lose faith. After that I’d like to write iJekyll.

What other projects are you working on right now?

I’m in the middle of my fourth Hannah Vogel novel, A CITY OF BROKEN GLASS. That’ll come out in the summer of 2012. My next book to come out will be A GAME OF LIES on July 5, 2011. That’s the third book in the Hannah Vogel mystery series and it details her exploits as she reports from the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

How can your readers support you and your work?

Buy my books. Buy anyone’s books. Just keep reading and, please, don’t pirate.

Finally, what’s got you excited or inspired?

I’ve been working on a screenplay of IDRAKULA that’s been great fun. It’s a much more in depth look at the characters and I have some ideas about how to change how people experience film.
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Bekka Black is a Featured Member of DarkMediaCity.

Bekka and iDRAKULA can also be found at http://bekkablack.com/.

iDRAKULA can be purchased (paperback or Kindle) on Amazon.com.

For more books by Rebecca Cantrell, please visit her Amazon.com author page.

(All interviews are the exclusive property of DarkMedia, and may not be reproduced or shared without permission.)

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