Past, Present, Future: Focus on the Past with The Vespertine

Today features the PAST portion of Past, Present, Future Week with Saundra Mitchell, Beth Revis and me! 

THE VESPERTINE is set in the summer of 1889, in Baltimore, Maryland ... and with her impeccable and extreme talent, Saundra does a spectacular job of pulling you right into her setting, making you feel as if you're there. Ball gowns and parties and dance cards and artists with paint stained fingernails ... wait ... what were we talking about? OH YEAH. 

If I could pick any time period to live in, I would choose ...

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have heard me mention "The Tasty British Man Sandwich." The Tasty British Man Sandwich is made up of two of my favorite poets:

George Gordon, Lord Byron (Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know - as well as the inspiration for the romantic vampire! YES, PRE-STOKER!).


Percy Bysshe Shelley

(Obviously, I am the filling. Also note it is best served with a side of Mary Shelley.)

See kids, way back in the summer of 1816, in Geneva, Switzerland, there was a meeting of the minds (and potentially a LOT of OPIUM).

There was also incessant rain. This forced Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, John Polidori, Claire Clairmont and (if we're honest, my favorite) Lord Byron, to stay inside the lovely Villa Diodati (not a hardship), the manse where they were spending their holidays. (Actually, they were all running from something or to something. Cue INTRIGUE.)

Villa Diodati
As writers are wont to do when trapped by bad weather, they funneled their energies into creative pursuits (although what they churned out has lasting artistic value, unlike Branson Confessions, as spectacular as it is).

The group took turns reading aloud to one another, everything from a book of German ghost stories, Fantasmagoria, to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, Christabel. They had to be way high or super drunk during this process, mostly because the reading of Christabel caused Percy Shelley to have a hallucination of women with eyes where their nipples were supposed to be.

That shiz doesn't happen when you stick to milk and cookies.

When the rain continued to pour, they decided to entertain themselves with a challenge: try to write something as good as the gothic fiction of the popular novels of the day.

Arguably the most memorable result came from Mary Shelley, who wrote the first draft of Frankenstein. Over the next two years, Percy Shelley convinced her to stick with it, deepen it, and she did. Do you think she ever imagined her words would be studied and discussed almost two hundred years later, all from a story that started on a dare?

What I love about this period in history, and this story, is how it takes on different meanings for every stage of my life (all good stories do this, in my opinion). In my teens, it was about CARPE DIEM and how I thought Byron was probably REALLY hot. In my twenties, it was about the romance and the passion, how to live boldly, without fear, especially as a young woman.

In my ... uh ... ahem ... *cough* ... much later twenties? ... what speaks to me is the way writers can spark each other to create, the way they spurn each other on. I have a deeper understanding of how they must have all felt there together, talking and engaging and truly connecting, without having to insert *crazy writer* apologies into every conversation. How companionable! How challenging! How invigorating! (Also, still pretty sure Lord Byron was REALLY HOT).

Now, it's your turn.

If you want to win a signed copy of Vespertine, go to Saundra's blog and tell her what time period YOU wish you could live in! Remember: while I would LOVE any comments here, to be entered for Saundra's drawing of THE VESPERTINE, you have to comment on HER site.

And don't forget to enter HERE for our grand prize giveaway of signed copies of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, THE VESPERTINE and HOURGLASS!


  1. Mmmmmm, hawt British men. Also, Percy was a whiner.

  2. A whiner who had *nipple* issues. Maybe it was all his evolution studies?

  3. I just starting reading this and the very first page blew me away. I can already tell it's going to be one of my favorite books of the year!

  4. Have you see the British film made several years ago about this? I have a feeling it was terrible but entertaining, sadly I can't remember what it was called any more...

  5. There's a bad one, GOTHIC, a good one, HAUNTED SUMMER, and a great one with Hugh Grant called ROWING IN THE WIND. I'm sure there are more than that, but those are the ones I've obsessed over. ER......watched before.

  6. Did you see the SNL Mary Shelley skit this weekend? Very silly and very funny. :)


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