Brand Stoker never visited Transylvania. He based Castle Dracula on the ruined Abbey above Whitby. Of course, the geography helped: Yorkshire is more or less on the same latitude as Romania, it exhibits similar bleak and capricious weather. There are no Carpathian peaks near Whitby but the abbey is perched on a respectable cliff and if there are no wolf infested forests, at least there some dark woods with similar pines and beeches. The smells of the natural world, especially in the 1890s, may not have been that different from Eastern Europe.
But imagine if Stoker had lived all his life in Queensland. He might have had to write some of the novel in an ice house to describe the physical sensations of almost freezing to death. To portray the Transylvanian forests and Carpathian Mountains, he might have had to visit the European Masters in Brisbane’s art gallery.
His biggest problem would have been the sun. Because Queensland is closer to the equator, the natural light is intense and a huge leap of imagination would be required to describe the dour skies above Castle Dracula.
On the plus side, Queensland would have possessed at least one source of inspiration for writing about vampires. Large fruit bats haunt the night skies there, only returning to roost before the first rays of dawn.
Of course writing a novel at home can never be the same as being in situ, but exploring the secrets of one’s own locality, employing all five senses, and above all using one’s author’s imagination, is a workable substitute.
R.L. Stevenson wrote Treasure Island while he was sick in bed. The settings were inspired by the patterns on his patchwork quilt.
by Christopher Holt
B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree