Archive for April, 2014

Angelique’s Descent by Lara Parker

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In 1997, when Lara Parker was approached to write a novel based on the show, Dark Shadows, she revealed her interest in writing a backstory of how her character became the twisted Witch- lover, nemesis, eternal foil to the monstrous, yet humanly conflicted, Barnabas.

Hence the title, the novel plays on the myth of the Sumerian Goddess, Inanna, who relinquished her earthly possessions to be initiated into the mysteries of the underworld.

A fun romp through Angelique’s beginnings as a child of the sea in Madinina, to her discovery of Voodoo while imprisoned by her father, to her love-stricken meeting with Barnabas in Martinique to his cruel forsaking of her when fate brings them together once again in that infamous mansion of Collinwood.

While forced by her father to partake in fake Voodoo rituals in order to frighten both his slaves and his free enemies, Angelique discovers she truly holds an affinity to the ancient African religion. Spells she tries out for mere amusement come true. While pretending to be possessed during one of the rites, Erzulie, the loa of love and beauty, overtakes her for real. This incident has a profound affect on the young girl, leading her to admit, “I want the goddess to come to me. If she thinks i am pretending to be her, then maybe she will come into my head, and I will know her.”

Continuing her studies into the religion and magical practices of Voodoo, Erzulie does indeed become her patron loa. The “master of her head”.

However, at the same time, a mysterious “devil” figure has also set his sight on Angelique, and is determined to make her one of his disciples. Unlike Inanna who journeyed out of her own free will seeking knowledge and enlightenment, Angelique is to be drawn- broken- into his lair. To achieve that goal, he must destroy everything she holds dear, so he remains all she has.

The novel is a well-written account- vividly drawn with a lyricism reminiscent of the sea that Angelique loves so much. Her character’s descent from sweet child to a woman maddened by grief is believably told.

The disadvantage is that since one knows exactly where this is going, the story lacks suspense. There is no question that the devil is going to beat Erzulie in their struggle over Angelique’s heart and soul. You know that anyone she befriends (platonically or romantically) is going to meet a tragic end. Therefore, the narrative does drag at times as you wait for the day that she sets that eternal curse upon Barnabas.

A bit uneven, yet fun and rewarding read.
Recommended for fans of the show, andd those who enjoy modern-style Gothics.

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Some years ago, I chanced upon DARK SHADOWS ALMANAC. Included within its pages was a wonderful essay by Lara Parker detailing her journey writing her first book, Angelique’s Descent
As a long-time fan of the gothic (and charmingly playful) 1960s daytime soap, I was delighted to hear my favorite actress from the show had written a book detailing the life of her infamous character: the romantic and very scorned witch. The woman who would curse Barnabas Collins to eternity as one of the living dead.

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From the moment I began to read I was swept away in Ms. Parker’s warm recollections for the show, and her determination in honing the craft of writing.

“How in the world does an actress end up writing a novel? Actresses are those vain, frivilous creatures who bask in the limelight and would never think of holing up in a dark office for months sruggling to produce a piece of fiction,” she began.

Afte Jim Pierson (director of the official fan conventions) spent much time convincing Harper Collins to consider releasing brand new novels based on the show, Ms Parker was called in to meet with Caitlin Blasdell, an editor from the publishing firm.

“I appreciated the opportunity but I really didn’t believe I’d be able to do it…I was neither foolish enough nor presumptuous enough to assume that I would have the ability to generate hundreds of pages that in any way would resemble the many fascinating, intriguing novels I had read in my life.”

While Lara confessed she would be interested in writing about Angelique’s childhood- all the heartaches she must have suffered to turn her into the woman fans saw on the show, she was surprised by Blandell’s confidence in the endeavor.

The other explained in a hushed tone, ” ‘Please don’t worry, Lara. Just write it the best you can. We have professional writers at Harpers who will take what you do, fix it up, and make it into a real book.’ ”

“My pride was injured, and all I could do was think how much I resented her offer.”

Invigorated by the challenge in front of her, Lara immediately began to study literature, digging deep into the lush language and intricate plots of Daphne du Maurier, the Bronte Sisters, Dickens, Stoker, Poe, as well as many others. “I read Interview with the Vampire and Gone With the Wind, digging beneath the stories to focus on structure and point of view. I was determined to steep myself in the romantic style.”

Thinking upon the character she had played decades ago, “I began to imagine ever more heartbreaking events which would harden Angelique. Her hopes would soar, only to be shattered agaisnt the rocks….Any student of literature will recognize the obvious symbolism I struggled to put into place… Since Angelique was a child of the sea, water was her emotional center….I played with these elements, only because, despite what I said about actresses in the beginning, I was an English minor in college, and these things returned to me.”

The book was ultimately published as Lara Parker wrote it. No need for any ghost writers for that lady!

next post: Angelique’s Decent: Book Review

source for this post: Dark Shadows Almanac
edited by Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jim Pierson

A lovely “yay! Persephone has awoken and spring is here”- day. So did I go to a park? Stroll down the city streets to window shop? Why, no. I jumped into my clothes and headed to the nearby cemetery.

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As I wandered about, I was struck by a statue of what appeared to be of a statue of Buddha. This being a Christian cemetery, I found its inclusion interesting and quite lovely.

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My gaze then turned to the next plot and while reading the headstone, my heart sank. I was reading the epitaph for a child who’d died in 2007 at the age of seven. Included on the headstone was a photograph of a smiling, chubby-faced little boy. I won’t include that photo for sensitivity reasons and respect to his family who might not want his name and face made public in such a way. But here is a picture of another little stone included at his site:

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(“In Memory of a Wonderful Person”)

While I’m certainly no stranger to the reality of young lives being cut way too short, coming face to face with it (so to speak) by such a terse, elegant statement hit me hard. AFter paying my respects, I moved on, walking about until another gravesite called me over to it. It was a joint plot for a husband and wife, born 1897 and 1898, respectively. Both had been doctors. Then I noticed the little grave beside them. It was of their child who’d they lost at only one years- old. No other children were mentioned or buried by them so I was left to wonder if they hadn’t been able to have any more, or had purposely refrained so not to possibly face such pain again.

I wandered on, reading more headstones, noting the sites left bare, and others adorned with fresh flowers. The tended graves and the ones with overgrown weeds. Even though the graves of the children stayed with me, I left that day with a feeling of peace and gratefulness.

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Sonnet 98

by William Shakespeare (1609)

“From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.”