I'm pleased to welcome Bethany Griffin to Death Books and Tea today! I really enjoyed Masque of the Red Death (review can be found here) and this is a great post on reimagining Eggy Ally's story for readers of today.
Creating the World of Masque for a Modern Audience
I love creepy gothic literature and I love modern YA literature, and I love doing what I can to combine the two. The world of Masque, (both mine and the Poe short story) is VERY dark. I don’t think anyone would want to live there, but there’s also a faded romantic beauty to it (I mean, once you get past the corpses in the street). I like accessible literature, so while I love Poe,I do think that sometimes modern audiences struggle with his work…and my goal was to expand his very short story, to add characters the reader could sympathize with and to make the story move fast and have some action and adventure.
In Masque I created a world that had not just been devastated by plague, but was still in the grips of it. Characters have to wear masks everywhere they go. Death is always a possibility. I tried to paint that bleak world as realistically as possible because history was bleak and this book is, at heart, speculative history.
A huge theme in Poe’s story was the division between the rich and the poor during a time of plague, the idea that the rich would try to escape from the horrors. In my story there is definitely a separation between the rich and the poor—they live in different parts of the city, the poor cannot afford the protective masks, and in book 2 the poor will not be invited to the great masked ball to forget about the ugliness outside. One of the main setting of the book is a gentleman’s club called the Debauchery Club. It’s been opened to girls since most of the original members died, but it’s that classic upper class club, very exclusive, but with teens who are trying to forget the horror of the outside world.
Masque’s setting is inherent to the story, they are completely inseparable, this story couldn’t take place anywhere else, so as I decided what type of story I wanted to tell the world was always in my mind. I think this sort of bleak world is fascinating to modern audiences. So many great stories focus on bleak futures…and I love reading those, but for this particular story I was captivated by the idea of creating a bleak alternative past.
I think it’s definitely a world with appeal to modern readers. At least I hope so :D