Chris Denmead turns Dracula into Vlada
Vampires have grown quite stale over the last decade. The humanising of vampires over the last twenty years has resulted in watering down of the overall Vampire sub-genre. This humanisation has resulted in Vampires being not quite as scary anymore. A point that writer Chris Denmead is looking to change with his book, VLADA, in which he has gender swapped not only Dracula. But also the entire cast of characters in the original Bram Stoker novel.
I caught up with Chris Denmead to talk about his gender swapped Dracula novella: Vlada. A novella which has since been turned into an Audiobook. Here’s what he had to say about Vlada, Dracula and the state of the overall Vampire genre.
Revisiting Dracula is a hard task, not only to give it a fresh take, but also in avoiding a reboot of the original story. What was it about Dracula that fuelled your creative fire?
Chris Denmead: Dracula was one of the first Vampire stories I was ever introduced too and its really the first most well known story of the Vampire we all get our lore and fiction from. I love the Christopher Lee films and the Tomb of Dracula comic from Marvel so much. He was the ultimate villain for me growing up.
Dracula is the quintessential Vampire villain and I wanted to see what would happen if we made him a her. My first reading of Dracula as an Adult was when I was 20 years old but, originally, I read a junior novel of it when I was 13 and it had me hooked ever since.
Why the Dracula gender swap at all?
Chris Denmead: Dracula has gotten stale its the same story over and over again and really an over masculine story that needed a new twist. The patriarchy needed to be thrown out and a new hot sexy female vampire made. Also the number of female vampires vs male vamps is very low. I wanted to create a couple new characters.
I enjoyed the gender swap of Dracula’s brides. It gave a new and sinister take on those three characters. It also added a narrative to how women must feel when walking home alone at night or when being stalked. What was your intentions when you set out to gender swap these three supporting characters?
Chris Deamead: Mix it up a bit and make it different and unique compared to Bram’s old novel. The part of the three husbands I wanted to diversify the crowd a bit more cuz of felt it was too white and wanted things mixed up with the three grooms of Vlada being mixed race and VanHelsing a black woman based on Gina Torres from Firefly.
One thing about this Novella is the creepy macabre nature of the story being reinforced by the supporting artwork much like how an old mansion would be decorated by creepy paintings of long dead lords and ladies. This novella could’ve easily been a comic book and at the same time it could’ve easily just been a novel. But you’ve taken the middle ground. Why?
Chris Denmead: Money. Plain and simple. Ken and I worked together on this but we both agreed to do it this way he would have needed 10,000 to do a 80 page book and I could not raise that and he didn’t have time to draw 80 pages. Time and money really made us change our minds.
We also wanted to homage Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein which is a book he did in the 70s. 55 illustrations drawn for the novel he did that over several years. It had been several years since I had begun working on this project. Ken was a new Artist for the interior of the book.
Vampire stories have grown a bit stale over recent years. What is your take on the genre and excuse the pun but what can creators do to inject “new blood” into this sub-genre of horror?
Chris Denmead: We twist and turn this story in some different ways. We add a new character who does not appear in Brams novel BUT is an homage in some way that I don’t want to give away. I homage the hell out of Hammer Dracula and Fright Night Part 2 and CastleVania. Fright Night Part 2 is one of my favorite Vampire movies ever. Hollywood can make it so it’s not the same stuffy romance story over and over again.
What We Do in the Shadows is a great example of how much better the genre can get. Self aware humor like what Scream did for Horror Movies in the 90s. Make it dangerous and less pathetic. Make Vampire Monsters dangerous and don’t be afraid to take risks with the genre when you can.
I won’t spoil the ending for our readers or for your Kickstarter backers, but what does this story have that Bram Stoker’s Dracula lacks?
Chris Denmead: wanted to spin this off into another book without Vlada, She has a short film, a prequel comic book, and another prequel comic coming soon this Oct Halloween. This story really puts the voice into Vlada herself sometimes. With Bram Stoker’s original novel I felt as though the Vampire king didn’t have as much to say as he should.
Our Vlada has a bit more to do and flaunts what she has a lot more. She has a lot of dialogue too. I didn’t want a quiet vampire queen. If she is going to seduce you she is going to let you know she is.
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