Bestselling Author Karen Essex Travels With Dracula

I’ve read every book by historical fiction author Karen Essex and never thought I’d have the opportunity to connect with her. As it turns out, Karen travels all over the world and relies on Boingo Wireless to keep her online! So thanks to Boingo, I had the chance to chat with the bestselling author about two favorite topics, books and travel.  As Karen explains, traveling is an important part of her book writing process:

“As an historical novelist, nothing informs my work like travel.  I love to walk in my characters’ footsteps, breathing in the air that they breathed, literally sharing molecules with them.”

I had just finished reading Karen’s latest masterpiece, Dracula in Love, and was fascinatedby the fact that Karen had visited the novel’s various settings, places that had lived vividly in my imagination during an all-consuming three-day read. Luckily, Karen obliged me with an interview.

Check out the Q and A below with Karen Essex and ask her your own questions in the comments section. The first twenty-five folks to post a note to Karen will receive a free copy of Dracula in Love.

I’d first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was fifteen years old, and even at that young age, I just knew that the character Mina Harker was dissatisfied with her role as the passive, cooperative Victorian virgin.  I knew that there had to be more to her!  That said, I had had my “vampire epiphany” even earlier.  I used to race home from grade school on my bike to catch the gothic soap opera, “Dark Shadows,” on TV.  I grew up in New Orleans, which is a haunted city.  I adored Anne Rice’s books, and then later, as a screenwriter, adapted Rice’s The Mummy or Ramses the Damned for James Cameron and 20th Century Fox (sadly, the film remains unmade!).  Because my other novels retell the stories of women in history in an empowering way, the idea of empowering the vampire’s “victim” was irresistible to me.

  • A good portion of Dracula in Love takes place in Victorian England.
    Which sites did you visit to transport you back to that period?

Karen Essex at Highgate Cemetery, London

When I say that I am a fanatical researcher I am not exaggerating.  Iliterally moved to England to research the book, settling in a London neighborhood that was developed in 1890, not far from where Bram Stoker resided.  Some of my favorite Victorian sites include the various collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the pre-Raphaelite room at the TateHighgate Cemetery (where one of my favorite sequences in the novel takes place), Fleet Street (where Mina’s friend, Kate Reid, the “lady journalist,” lives and works) and of course all of London’s historic pubs and restaurants.  In London, the late Victorian era is still very much alive in virtually every neighborhood!

I also traveled to Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, taking the same route Mina takes, by train and then over the moors.  Whitby is amazing—windswept cliffs, haunted churches and cemeteries, and a red-roofed Victorian skyline.  Stoker fans and all-around Goths make a pilgrimage to Whitby twice a year to celebrate Goth Weekend, when this sleepy seaside town really comes alive.

  • You didn’t take us to Bram Stoker’s Transylvania in Dracula in Love. Instead, the heroine Mina Murray travels to the Ireland coast and Austria. Why did you choose those locations?

Karen Essex in Sligo, Ireland

I wanted to give Mina a depth and a history missing in the original story, so I set the place of her birth as Sligo on the west coast of Ireland.  I then discovered that Bram Stoker’s mother was born there and had filled her son with its ghost stories and folklore, including the ways of the fairies and the concept of the immortal lover—all present in my book.  I had also toyed with changing the vampire’s birthplace from Transylvania to a different location, and then found in Stoker’s handwritten notes that his original choice for Dracula’s home was Styria, in southern Austria. Another happy coincidence!  I decided to follow that line of thinking, and I must say it was great fun to play out one of Stoker’s choices!  I had a phenomenal time visiting Styria and discovering its rich (and spooky) folklore.  The city of Graz is perfectly preserved because it was not bombed in WWII, and the surrounding countryside is some of the prettiest I have seen.   The Gothic architecture, especially foreboding Riegersborg Castle, did give me some great ideas!

When research takes you to Italy, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, England, Ireland, Austria, and places like that, it’s hard to play favorites!  I love the academic research I do for my novels, but my true joy is to travel to the places where my characters lived and walk in their footsteps.  Readers tell me that they like to take my novels with them on trips as travel and historical guides, so I think that my love of travel and my devotion to making a place and an era come alive are evident in my work.

  • What’s next? Which historical figures are you intrigued by? Where will that take you in the world?

I am planning another novel set in the Italian Renaissance like Leonardo’s Swans, so I am off to some of my favorite places in Italy.  I love the smaller towns of Verona, Mantua, and Ferrara, which have so much history.  Many people know Verona because of the opera festival there, which I will attend this summer, and also because it’s the setting of Romeo & Juliet.  Ferrara and Mantua, on the other hand, are exquisite hidden jewels!

I also hope to soon write a sequel to Dracula in Love.  Don’t be surprised to see Mina and the Count traipsing around both France and the New World!

Have in mind a place or historical figure you wish Karen to consider for a future project? Or need travel recommendations from Karen? Fire away in the comments section below! The first twenty-five people to chat it up with Karen will receive a free copy of Dracula in Love. Want a chance to win a Barnes and Noble Nook Color eReader with an eBook version of Dracula in Love? Register to win here.

Keep up with Karen Essex via her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

About Melody Demel

Melody is Senior Manager, PR for Boingo Wireless, where she is responsible for media relations, brand building and thought leadership initiatives. Melody is a die-hard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and retired NCAA DI college field hockey player.
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39 Responses to Bestselling Author Karen Essex Travels With Dracula

  1. Laura Kay says:

    I really want to win a copy!

    Karen- What do you find the most difficult part of writing historical fiction?

  2. sharon says:

    what about the infamous borgias? those would be cool characters to include in a book..

  3. Grace says:

    Historic Scotland would be the next place to go Karen!

  4. Skip Lasky says:

    Baochi, Loved reading this and would love a copy for Heather. Liked hearing about her motivation, hey, I want to read it…ha

  5. Roxanne says:

    I want a copy!!
    Just can`t wait to read this masterpiece!!!
    I want to devour it right now!! 🙂


  6. I was thinking of the strong Viking women of the Eddas and Sagas of Iceland.
    I’ve been there and walked near Thingvellir where they had a parliament, and Icelandic is the closest Nordic language to the same ones spoken by the Vikings. But what was interesting in reading the literature, was how Viking women had a greater equality in the historic culture than anywhere else in Europe at the time… of course, one could cover Norway, Sweden and Denmark as well.

  7. Celeste says:

    Thanks again Baochi for adding to my “must read” list!! This sounds awesome and I can’t wait to dive in. Great interview too!

  8. I agree with the previous posters – the book sounds amazing!

    @Karen – What do you think it is that intrigues society most about vampires? Why do you think we relate to them? What are your thoughts on the Twilight saga, and what is your all-time favourite vampire film and why?

    Stu 🙂

  9. Karen Essex says:

    Laura, I discover so many amazing things in the research process that I want to include it all in the book. However, it’s really important to only include the pertinent things. Otherwise, the reader is lost! For example, I could have done an entire book on Victorian insane asylums because I found the research so fascinating. But when it came to writing those sequences in DRACULA IN LOVE, I had to discipline myself to stick to my own story! I write a post about my asylum research, and you can access it here:

  10. Karen Essex says:

    Sharon, you psychic devil, my next book does include one of the infamous Borgias! I am sitting here in London reading about them, and I just returned from a trip to Italy to get an upclose look at their environment. I’m not prepared to say more now, but stay tuned!

  11. Karen Essex says:

    Grace, check out my novel, STEALING ATHENA. The heroine, Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin, is one of Scotland’s most famous (and infamous!) ladies. Scotland is a place of unearthly natural beauty!

  12. Karen Essex says:

    Stuart, humans have always tried to find a fountain of youth, a way to escape the condition of mortality. Throughout history, we’ve related to vampires differently. Sometimes they’re monsters who reflect our fears, but these days, they are portrayed more as superheroes and objects of desire. I’ve written a post about why I, personally, want to be a vampire, and you can read it here:

    I think my favorite vampire film is The Hunger. That film, and the novels of Anne Rice, probably most influenced my thinking on what vampires could be. Twilight: They’re a bit light and fanciful for my personal taste but I think they are very imaginative books, and I love what the filmmakers did with the movies.

  13. Laura Kay says:

    just read it! Fascinating! I remember reading The Yellow Wallpaper and thinking i would have been locked up back in the day, so yep fellow cellmate here!

  14. Savvy says:

    Karen, I love your historical works! I admit, I have not picked up DRACULA IN LOVE yet but it is next on my list! I keep hearing wonderful things about it, and I love your talent and your topic. I look forward to reading!

  15. Martina says:


    How often do you get to travel to do research for your books? Internet must also help a lot with that!

    Book Drunkard

  16. Karen Essex says:

    Thank you, Savvy. Now you will have the chance!

  17. Karen Essex says:

    Martina, I don’t use the internet for research except for quick lookups of dates and terms. Unless the information is at a reputable academic website, I don’t trust it.

    My usual process is to do all the academic research first and then travel. That way, I already have a keen understanding of what I am seeing. Arriving at a new destination can be unsettling and disorienting, and in those circumstances, it would be easy to miss things I need to see! So I prepare, prepare, prepare, which enriches my travel enormously. I often search for a guide/historian to help me get oriented to a new place. In fact, I do that as a tourist as well. A good walking tour of a new place will enhance the rest of the trip.

  18. Heather Lynn says:

    DRACULA IN LOVE – sounds like a good read! Must be wonderful to get to travel so much. What is the most romantic place you have been so far?

  19. Baochi says:

    Hi Heather, just tried sending you an email to coordinate your free copy of Karen’s novel. But I got a bounceback. When you have a chance, please email with your shipping address. Cheers! Baochi

  20. Baochi says:

    Hi Martina,

    Just sent you an email about your free copy of Dracula in Love.


  21. Baochi says:

    Good talking to ya via email today, Savannah!

  22. Baochi says:

    Your free copy is on its way, Laura! 🙂

  23. Baochi says:

    Stu! Just sent you email about your free copy! Cheers, friend! Baochi

  24. Baochi says:

    Hi Celeste,
    So happy to see one of my great friends who loves reading win a free copy! Just sent you email. xoxo Baochi

  25. Baochi says:

    Hi Jude,

    Just sent you an email to coordinate shipping for your free copy of Dracula in Love.

    Happy reading!


  26. Baochi says:

    Hi Roxanne,

    Just sent you an email about your free copy of Dracula in Love!


  27. Baochi says:

    Skip, you have mail from moi!

  28. Baochi says:

    Grace, just sent you an email about shipping info for your free copy of Dracula in Love!

  29. Baochi says:

    Hi Sharon,

    You have email! Enjoy your free copy of Dracula in Love!


  30. Baochi says:

    Hi Laura,

    Just sent you email for shipping info! Enjoy your reading of Dracula in Love!


  31. Karen Essex says:

    I love all the travel I have done but the most romantic place on earth is Italy! Also, I once flew into Cairo at night and checked into my hotel and went to sleep. I awoke at sunrise and stepped out onto the balcony, and the sun was rising over the great pyramid. That would have been the most romantic moment of my life except that I was with my mom!

  32. Jennifer Wells says:

    I would love to win a copy! I have to admit I had never heard of you before today, but that being said your book sounds incredible and I can’t wait to read it and any other works available for sale.Thank you so much and I will consider it a great honor to read your work.

  33. Karen Essex says:

    Always happy to recruit a new reader, Jennifer!

  34. Melanie says:

    I am so happy to hear you are thinking about writing a sequel to “Dracula in Love”! I always felt bad for the Count and Mina in the original book and I felt Mina didn’t get a chance to tell her story! I was so happy to find Dracula in Love. You really did a great job! It had that sometimes creppy Victorian feel to it. It was kinda disappointed she gave Jonathon her virginity though. I wanted the count to be the one she shared that with. But I know that if she remember him she wouldn’t have given that to him. Plus, Jonathon totally turned on her! Anyway I haven’t gotten to finish it yet because I downloaded it fron iTunes and it didn’t download all the way so I only got to where the just arrived in Ireland. I am almost afraid to finish it because I love the Count sooooo much! I will be sad if she goes back to her cheating faithless poor me Jonathon. “Oh the women made menhave sex with them!” Anyway thanks for writing such a great book. I wish I would have came across this earlier I would have loved a free copy! Not a big deal though it just gives me an excuse to go to Barnes and Noble. One more thing is there a way to send you a book and have you sign it? I want to give my Mother in law a copy for her bday. Thanks! Can’t wait for the Sequel. Speaking of novels, I practically just wrote one.

  35. Baochi says:

    Hi Jennifer! Sending you email now to request shipping info for your free copy of Dracula in Love!

  36. Baochi says:

    Hi Melanie! You should have an email from me requesting shipping info for your free copy of Dracula in Love. It sounds like you are currently reading it, so now you have another copy to gift to a lucky recipient!

  37. Roxanne says:

    Hi Baochi!
    I´ve just sent you an e-mail with the info. Thanks!
    Hoping to hear from you soon,

  38. Rosemary Preikschat says:

    I too love to read historical fiction when I travel. Do you have a favorite author ( for when you’re not researching and writing your own novels) ?

  39. Baochi says:

    Yay, Rosemary! You are hereby a lucky recipient of Dracula in Love! I will email you for details. Thanks!