Monday, November 12, 2012

Interview with author Ed Erdelac--Will the real Van Helsing please stand up?

A little “apology” for this interview before we get started:

When my buddy Ed Erdelac started talking about his new book Terovolas (originally entitled "Van Helsing in Texas", which was awesome!), my ears perked right up. Of course, it’s me: I love all things monster hunter. Ed and I talked and I offered, as I usually do, to have him stop by the blog for an interview. He agreed and I immediately purchased a copy of the e-book at JournalStone Publishing’s website. I dove right in and was at once captivated by the tale of Van Helsing’s tragic adventures following the close of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel. This thing is a direct sequel, a really great approach that Ed seemed to get right when so many others had done it wrong. But, the more I read, the more I felt very unsettled by the prose. Much like Stoker’s original, this book is split up into supposed diary entries of the great Monster Hunter himself, as well as newspaper articles and whatnot. They were just so detailed and I marveled at the care Ed had gone to in creating these fictional documents. I’ve always known Ed to be a history buff and he excels at making you feel like you’ve got your very own time-traveling DeLorean, but, in Terovolas, Ed managed to really outdo himself. The things he described in the book, though, were so vivid, that it really stayed with me after I put my Nook down. I wrote him and told him as much and that’s when he let me in on the big secret: He didn’t write it. He, in fact, claims he only compiled it from Van Helsing’s notes—the real Van Helsing.

At first I responded “Rad!” and left it at that, figuring Ed was just being geeky, but the more we talked about it, the more I realized that he was serious. Or, at least, thinks he’s serious. He spelled out the whole account of how he stumbled upon the real Abraham Van Helsing’s papers and began compiling them. I listened intently, at first intrigued, then growing more and more bothered. I hesitantly asked Ed if he intended on telling the reading public what he told me. He said he was considering it, and I told him not to. I still wasn’t convinced he wasn’t just trying to pull off some lame publicity stunt and I thought it was kind of weird.

Then, lo, he posted his entire first-person account on his blog just a few weeks ago.

I wrote him back and told him I didn’t think that was a good idea. I also wasn’t so sure I wanted to interview him anymore to be honest, but Ed’s really been there for me, pulling for me in my career, so as a friend, I decided to treat him the same. So, here’s our interview, for better or worse, pieced together from a number of back-and-forth e-mails. After compiling it, I debated posting it, as it gets pretty intense and, above all, I don’t want you to think ill of Ed Erdelac. I tried to steer the interview towards ambiguous waters, treating the work as fiction, but, well…you’ll see. I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? So here we go:
* * *

Greg Mitchell: Thanks for stopping by, Ed! Your new book Terovolas just came out from JournalStone Publishing! Tell us about it.

Ed Erdelac: Thanks for having me, Greg! Terovolas concerns the period of 1891, directly after the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, when Professor Abraham Van Helsing was checked into Dr. John Seward’s Purfleet Asylum suffering from a bout of violent obsessive fantasies stemming from his killing of the count’s three vampire brides. Seward diagnosed Van Helsing with melancholic lycanthropea and treated him for a number of months. Upon his release, and seeking some downtime, Van Helsing volunteered to bear the ashes and personal effects of Quincey P. Morris (the Texan who died fighting Dracula) back to the Morris family ranch in Soreftoot, Texas. He found Quincey’s estranged brother Cole Morris involved in an escalating land war with a neighboring outfit of Norwegian cattle ranchers led by a charismatic man named Sig Skoll. When a few residents and animals started turning up horribly slaughtered, Van Helsing began to suspect a supernatural force was at work, but worried it was the delusions of his previously disordered mind returning.

I’ve got to point out that this is not a work of fiction. It’s a true account culled from some of the same source documents Stoker used in writing Dracula, chief among them, Van Helsing’s personal journal, which Seward translated and compiled along with an array of substantiating documentation from contemporary primary sources including the diaries of Sorefoot Picayune editor and founder Alvin Crooker, and local horse trader Aurelius Firebaugh among others. I’ve hunted down archived copies of some of these accounts, especially the relevant old articles from the Picayune, thanks to the historical society in Bastrop.

I don’t want to take up a lot of space here with how I came into the possession of these documents. Those interested can read my own post about it here.  
GM: I understand your original working title was “Van Helsing in Texas”, which I thought was awesome, if not a little campy (though that probably made it even more awesome). Why the switch?

EE: Believe it or not, the publisher told me the name Van Helsing wasn’t bankable and was played out. It baffles me that they thought an obscure Arcadian Greek surname was more evocative. The funny thing is, I’ve heard similar things a dozen or more times from agents and publishers I shopped the manuscript around to. ‘We love this, but we wouldn’t know what to do with it.’

I jokingly referred to it as ‘The Van Helsing Curse’ to my wife, but taking into consideration it’s taken me fifteen years to get this book published and the fact that Van Helsing was cursed at least a half a dozen times (perhaps most memorably and potently by a Zulu umthakathi yemithi, who, as part of the curse, told Van Helsing that his life would go ‘unremembered by man’ in 1878 or so), I’ve come to believe there’s something to it.

Or maybe it’s something else. I hate to use the word conspiracy because I fully understand the negative connotations. I don’t want to say much about that. I don’t want to come off as a nutcase.

GM: You take a really interesting approach to this book that’s markedly different from your previous works, in that it’s built as a non-fictional document. Did you find that type of formatting difficult?

EE: Well Greg, as I’ve told you, it is real. The ironic part of the whole thing is that this has been the easiest book I’ve ever ‘written’ in terms of format, because Seward had basically assembled the relevant documents into a publishable form and was shopping it around the world in the 30’s. Only his death in the London bombings by the Luftwaffe stopped him from publishing the book himself.

Again, I’d urge your readers to take a look at the account on my blog.

GM: Okay, okay, ha ha, let’s be serious for a second. Don’t you think this whole “It’s real!” thing is going a little far? What if people start taking you seriously?

EE: If people start taking me (and Dr. Van Helsing) seriously, only then have I gone far enough, Greg. And I really wish you’d start taking this seriously.

I don’t know, maybe something of Dr. Seward’s spirit clings to these documents, or maybe it’s Van Helsing’s, but I feel sometimes as if they’re at my shoulder, urging me on, even when I’ve shoved it in the corner of a closet (long before I realized I needed to store the papers more securely) and tried to forget it. Every book I’ve written, every bit of fiction, The Van Helsing Papers always nag at the back of my mind.

I really think I need to get them out there before my own time’s up. Maybe if I don’t, my own ghost will wind up sitting on this old box of papers with the unquiet spirits of Van Helsing and Seward.

GM: But even working by your own logic, you go to great lengths to talk about how producing Dracula ruined the lives of Van Helsing and Seward. Why would you, therefore, do the same thing? People are going to think you’ve got a warped sense of reality.

EE: Van Helsing definitely learned his lesson from the controversy surrounding Dracula. That’s why he asked Seward not to publish his papers until a year after his death. I can’t imagine why Seward didn’t decide to leave the papers to someone else with the same stipulation considering he’s mentioned several times throughout the documents in conjunction with events far more fantastic and difficult for the layman to believe than what was put forth by Bram Stoker. Maybe he had given up on his professional clout. He was never very well respected, and after Purfleet closed and his wife was killed in the Battersea Railway crash, I think he was resolved to see the documents published and the hell with what anybody thought. Seward was very devoted to his wife. It was years before he even thought about courting anyone after what happened to Lucy Westenra, and it took a special woman to draw him out again. I think when she was killed so suddenly, it put his mind in a very careless place.

And don’t worry about my sense of reality. If anything, it’s clearer than it ever was.

GM: Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that you are absolutely right. Ed, you and I have talked about this—if this is real, if creatures like Dracula and the wolf-men in Terovolas are real, you are putting your family in actual danger. That’s my biggest concern. Haven’t you thought about what this will do to them?

EE: Oh, I don’t think there’s much danger to my family to be had from anything in Dracula or Terovolas. I think history has dropped a sufficient pallor of dust on the parties involved to protect them from scrutiny. We’re talking about people and beings who have had what? Over a hundred and twenty years to cover their tracks?

But you do bring up an interesting point. If they ever see the light of day, there are individuals and organizations mentioned elsewhere in The Van Helsing Papers  (and I’ve talked to you privately about some of these, Greg, without naming actual names, I want to add) that may still be around, and may have a definite problem with their activities being brought to light. Let’s just say I’m taking precautions.

GM: It just smacks of cheap sensationalism to me. You could have easily released this book and not told anyone that it was “a true story”, and you’d probably be hailed as the next bestseller, but you instead “revealed” this whole behind-the-scenes story. Are you that starved for attention that you would put your family in harm’s way for a book?

EE: I hardly expect Terovolas will be a bestseller considering the forces allied against it, and the powers that will probably seek to suppress it. I’m really surprised JournalStone has had the gumption to do it, and I applaud Christopher Payne and Norm Rubenstein for taking a chance on it, though I suspect that they, like you, are choosing to overlook my claims as some kind of artsy eccentricity.

I could have put Terovolas out the same way Stoker did Dracula, as fiction, and done the usual blog posts and book signings, tweets and banal Facebook solicitations, same as I’ve done with my Merkabah Rider series and all my other work. But I’d be doing Van Helsing and Seward a disservice if I didn’t reveal the whole truth. I really wish these papers had fallen into the hands of a Stephen Ambrose or I don’t know, Ken Burns or somebody. But unfortunately for Van Helsing, they came to a guy who writes ghoulie stories. I can’t change that.

And believe me, the kind of attention The Van Helsing Papers could potentially generate, I don’t want. You know this, Greg.

GM: I can’t support you in this, Ed. You’re treading a dangerous line for something as tawdry as sales. You really should be ashamed of yourself. You’re either a liar at best or a plagiarist at worst and I expected more from you. I’m here for you, bro, but I can’t stand by you in this. I’ve got my own family to think about. I’m sorry, man.

EE: I totally understand your position, and I want you to know I’m not angry. I guess technically I must be a plagiarist, slapping my name on the diligent work of a better man (and certainly a more learned man) than I am, but if I’m a liar, it can only be because all I know is a lie. And my research has led me to believe that I don’t think it is.

Also, I know the type of person you are, and I suspect that if you were in my place, knowing what I know, you would be doing the same thing. I hope you’ll still consider publishing this interview, and telling your readers about the book. Yes, everything about the book. Don’t worry about me coming off as a whack job or a liar. The only thing that matters is that the book finds its way to the people who will recognize the truth when they read it. If you shake your head at me telling you to do it for Van Helsing, then do it for me.

* * *

There you have it, folks. I suppose all I can do at this point is direct you to Ed's controversial book Terovolas and let you decide for yourself. But, please, read it at your own risk.

1 comment:

The Gill-Man said...

Pretty fantastic interview! Love the format...and I definitely intend to pick this one up!