Stories With Pride is please to host Jackson Marsh’s blog tour for his new release, The Stoker Connection! Scroll down for a giveaway, buy links, an excerpt, and an exclusive article by the author!
Jackson Marsh has a new gay YA mystery-thriller book out:
What if you could prove that the greatest Gothic horror novel of all time was a true story?
Dexter and Morgan meet on their eighteenth birthday. The attraction is instant but confusing. As they deal with coming out, they are bound together by more than first love.
Both keep diaries, and each has the same goal – to prove that Stoker didn’t write ‘Dracula’. They are convinced that Harker, Van Helsing and the others existed and wrote the novel’s journals themselves. If Dex and Morgan can prove it, they will blow the lid off the vampire myth: Dracula existed.
As the two teenagers fall in love, so they fall into an adventure as thrilling as it is dangerous. They are being watched, and someone is willing to kill to stop them from making ‘The Stoker Connection.’
The Stoker Connection is an MM Romance treasure hunt thriller. It draws on the original text of ‘Dracula’, but it is not a story about vampires. It is a story of first love and the power of friendship. Sometimes funny, it is an intriguing and honest account compiled from Dex and Morgan’s original diaries.
Jackson is giving away copies of two ebooks – The Blake Inheritance and Remotely – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win:
‘The Stoker Connection’ is about two teens with a theory to prove that what is accepted as fiction in Stoker’s novel ‘Dracula’ was actually fact. To make that convincing, I needed to do a fair amount of research.
I think it’s fair to say that research for ‘The Stoker Connection’ started when I was 11, although I didn’t know it at the time, and that was many years ago. I first read ‘Dracula’ at that age and have read it many times since. It remains one of my favourite novels because of the way it is compiled. Stoker used diaries and journals, newspaper articles and letters to give his novel a reality feel, and I had often wanted to do that same. To tell a story written by the main characters. Over the years, I absorbed the story and discovered facts about its writing and Stoker’s inspiration and all of that subliminal research came in handy when I hit on the idea for ‘The Stoker Connection.’ A lot of what is mentioned in the book was already in my head.
I did need to double check some facts, however, to make sure I had remembered things correctly, things such as: Who was the original publisher? Where did Stoker write ‘Dracula’? And then more up-to-date information was also needed. For example, I hadn’t been to Whitby Abbey for many years and was not in a position to visit again. This meant that online research was vital and with the internet giving me up to date photos and plans, the history and other details, it was easy to research. I did the same with New Slains Castle, and the scene set in London and elsewhere. By the way, the ruin on the front cover is Whitby Abbey, where Mina Murray sat and talked to the old sea captain, Mr Swales, in ‘Dracula’ and where one of my main characters, Dexter Mitchell, waits for the mysterious man who has kidnapped… Well, I can’t say too much.
The point is, both Whitby and Slains feature in ‘The Stoker Connection’ because Whitby features in ‘Dracula’ and Slains Castle was Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. Other locations I used took less research. The theatre where Morgan and Dexter first meet exists, though it is no longer a theatre. I worked there, at The Leas Pavilion theatre, in Folkestone, when I was 17/18 and although that was a while ago, it made such an impression on me the images of it remained. (Sadly, it’s now closed.)
Also, Dexter lives on ‘Moremarsh’, and although that’s not a real place, it is based on the Romney Marshes in Kent, UK, where I grew up.
Similarly, the character research was done a long time ago; I absorbed it as I grew up on the marsh and carried it with me. What I mean is, the feelings of isolation and insecurity Dexter faces when he is 17/187, knowing he is gay but not being able to talk about, well, that was all me. Some of his friends in the story are based on my memories of friends from my teens. In the other direction, Morgan (the other main character in the love story) lives in a Wiltshire town I use to know. His mother is based on a friend of mine, who was a sex therapist and talked exactly as Mrs Davis, Morgan’s mother, does.
What needed more work than just using bulit-in experience and knowledge, was making sure I could cross reference two of Stoker’s novels with my own plot to ensure that things tied up. Without giving anything away, when Dexter and Morgan decide to pursue their theory, that ‘Dracula’ was made up of real diaries written by real victims at the time, I then had to find the clues in ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Jewel Of Seven Stars’ to fit with my plot. That was easy. You can, with some imagination, open either book to any page and choose what you want, then find a way to link that to the story you are trying to tell.
In my case, something really spooky happened. I wanted a major clue, allegedly left by Stoker in his manuscript for ‘Dracula.’ I thought, wouldn’t it be good to find a logical clue, but what is that clue? How about Dexter and Morgan meet on their 18th birthdays (they were both born on the same day), and what if that was 2017, the year in which I’d decided to set the story? I realised that 2017 was 170 years after Stoker’s birth. So, what happens on page 170 of ‘Dracula’? Before I went to look, I also wondered what was on lines eight and eleven of page 170 – because Stoker, Dex and Morgan were all born on 8th November (8/11 in the British way of dating). I wasn’t expecting to find anything but…
I have a replica of the original first edition of ‘Dracula’ which is paginated, set out and printed exactly like the original, with the same font and page size etc. On page 170, lines eight and 11, I found, entirely by chance, a reference to being left a riddle, “a new mystery”, and then the name of a solicitor… The rest of the story grew from that incredible coincidence.
That’s the action story, I mean. The love story and coming out, coming to terms with being a gay teen and the coming of age story, was already formed in my head and took very little research as I’d been through all that – and so have many friends and people I know, so that was easy.
So, the primary research for me was achieved in two ways. One, it was in-built experience, and I simply adjusted that to suit my characters. Two, I had to look into ‘Dracula’ to find clues to use for my story, locations to use and pay tribute to, and had to go back to some original documents in case there was anything I could use. I now have, for example, a copy of Stoker’s contract with his publishers.
It was fun, and I hope it’s as much fun for you to read as it was for me to write. You know, if you do your own research and follow what Dex and Morgan do, you might, like me, start to wonder if in fact they might be right—perhaps ‘Dracula’ was a true story.
Dexter Mitchel’s Diary
8 November (written on 9th). — Continued. And then there was his face, and his build, his clothes and something else that started to nag at my lust-muscles, whatever they are.
I knew I had to say something. He was looking expectantly at me, and to ignore him would be rude. I stuck out my hand on impulse.
‘Great questions,’ I said, my throat dry.
He took my hand, damp with sweat, and shook it.
‘What a let-down,’ he said, jerking his head towards the stage.
‘Hell, yes. Not what I wanted to hear.’
‘I know the play wasn’t about Arnold’s theory, but she must have looked into it.’
We were still shaking hands.
‘You’ve read the book?’ he asked.
‘Loads of times. You?’
He nodded. ‘You’re the only person I’ve met who’s even heard of it.’
‘Ditto. You believe it? His theory?’
Hands still being shaken, voices enthusiastic, my lust-muscles now in hopeful overdrive.
‘I do, but I have one of my own.’
I grinned. ‘Me too.’
I was aware that my palm was wet, and I glanced down. It was a bit embarrassing to still be holding hands now, so I opened my fingers to release him. He didn’t open his. OMG, was that a signal of some sort? He was gorgeous. A moment of social ‘What do I do?’ and I gripped his hand again, sending my own signal.
‘Sorry you didn’t get to ask anything,’ he said as if it was his fault.
‘I didn’t need to. You did it for me.’
He looked surprised and then impressed. We were the same height, more or less, so I was able to look right into his eyes. I saw something there. Something that I couldn’t quite grasp at first.
‘Would you…? No, forget it,’ he said, and let go of my hand.
‘What?’ I continued to grip his.
‘Just a thought.’ He pulled his hand away.
That was that, then.
‘Dexter, are you ready?’
Mum was at the door. I don’t know how long she’d been there, but she would have been there long enough to see us holding hands.
‘You have to go,’ he said, a matter of fact rather than a disappointed enquiry. ‘Yeah.’ He received a disappointed reply. ‘Birthday dinner with family.’ ‘Dexter?’ Mum insisted.
I told her I would be there in five minutes and she made it clear it had to be two, which made me feel ten years old, but at least she left us alone.
‘Look,’ he said, as soon as she had gone. ‘I’d like to talk more, about Arnold’s theory, and about my own. If you’re interested?’
‘Yes please,’ I blurted, sounding lame. I recovered. ‘Dexter Mitchel.’ Except I tapped my chest like I was Tarzan when I said it.
‘Me Morgan Davis.’ He did the same, with a Tarzan voice, and I knew then that we were going to hit it off.
The question was, to what extent?
Actually, the pressing question was when? I fumbled for my notebook and tore out a page. ‘My email,’ I said, trying to write neatly (a gift I have yet to receive). I must have looked like a flustered waiter who’s just been torn off a strip. I handed it to him so hurriedly I dropped my notebook.
‘My card,’ he said, coolly offering a white business card and taking my scrap of paper.
His name and email were all that were on it.
‘I’ll message you,’ I said, picking up my book and noticing mum back at the door.
Upright again, I added, ‘I’d invite you, but it’s on the uncle and aunt.’
‘You would invite me?’ he said, eyebrows raised. ‘How kind.’
Who says ‘How kind’ like that? Morgan, obviously. Perhaps he was much older than he looked.
‘Yes, I would, but I can’t. Let’s talk, yeah?’ I had to move away from him, I had to go. I was desperate to stay and learn more. I mean, who else out there has even read this book, let alone had a theory about it?
‘I’ll write,’ he said. ‘Email me.’
A sudden thought attacked out of left field, and I don’t know why I did it, but I took back the scrap of paper and wrote, ‘I’m gay,’ before handing it back and saying, ‘Don’t let that put you off. It’s not why I want to write to you.’
‘Dexter.’ The last warning from mum.
‘Tomorrow,’ I said, suddenly sick inside. What the fuck had I just done? And why? Too late to worry now, I’d done it. ‘I’ll email you tomorrow…’ I was heading for the gents so I could change, bright red and trembling.
‘I won’t, Dexter,’ he called after me. ‘And have a birthday drink for me too.’
It stopped me in my tracks. Sod the Adams family currently gathering at the Metropole. They could fester for another minute. I spun around to find him facing me. We were both grinning.
‘For you?’ Did he mean it was also his birthday?
‘Today.’ He made a small bow.
‘Mum?’ I pleaded towards the exit. She shook her head. Even randomly meeting a stranger who shares the same obscure interest and birthday was not enough to get him an invite.
‘How old?’ Morgan asked, and I didn’t find it intrusive.
‘Eighteen. You?’ It was easy to ask.
He did that friendly wink again. ‘Would you believe eighteen?’
No fucking way. ‘Today?’ I glared at mum again. We had to invite him.
‘We would invite you,’ she told him. ‘But it’s not up to me.’
‘No, no, of course not, don’t worry,’ he said, all smiles and thanks. ‘I have a journal to write up in any case.’
‘Fuck off!’ That was out of my mouth before I knew it. ‘I do that too.’
We stared at each other until he said, ‘These coincidences are a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner.’ An altered quote from the end of chapter two (‘Dracula’ obviously). He nodded to me. ‘I’m away from my email until tomorrow night, but I’ll be waiting to hear from you.’
‘I’ll write,’ I stammered back.
He waved my piece of paper at me as he left. ‘I do hope so.’
Hi. Jackson was born in 2017 as the penname for me (James) so that I could publish my new gay fiction independently from my other writing work. I was born on the south coast of England during a blizzard, but now like to warm thing up with MM romance novels, gay mysteries and some occasional erotica. In 2007 I was awarded and EGPA award for my erotic short stories, and in 2018 I won a Best Screenplay award for one of my films. I am a diverse writer with thrillers, comedies and horror stories under my James belt, and now romance and mystery under my Jackson belt.
At the moment I am concentrating on two genres: older/younger MM romance, and youth mysteries with early 20s main characters and a love story included.
I live on a Greek island with my husband. My interests outside of writing and reading are outdoor pursuits, traveling, piano and genealogy. That’s probably why my books tend to involve characters who are musicians, writers, mystery-solvers and rock climbers; there’s a bit of me in every one.
Author Website: http://www.jacksonmarsh.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002130420544
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jacksonmarshauthor/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/46195347-james-collins
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jackson-Marsh/e/B077LDT5ZL/
Thank you, Jackson Marsh and Other Worlds Ink for letting Stories With Pride be part of your tour!