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August 18, 2010

Kelly Creagh: On Writing NEVERMORE and Getting to Know Eddie Poe

Posted by jordana

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Poe enthusiasts and critics alike will be enthralled by Kelly Creagh's debut novel, NEVERMORE. But what inspired Creagh to use Poe's life and works in the book? Maybe it was his dashing moustache, or the macabre heartbeat from beneath the floorboards. Read on to learn how this this Gothic genius found his way from beyond into NEVERMORE.

Though my debut novel Nevermore is filled with mystery, modern-day romance, a dream world, poltergeists and demons, it is also a story soaked through its core in Poe lore. And because of this, I find that I get a lot of questions not only about my writing process and about the story itself, but about Poe, too. The top three being:

1.)    Hey, didn’t that guy marry his cousin?

2.)    He was crazy! Did you read that one story??

3.)    Why did you choose to write about Poe?

I’ll start with the last question first. At least that’s how I work my math problems—backwards!

(Now you see why I’m a writer and not an actuary.)

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Why Poe? The short answer is because there is so much out there that we don’t know about him, particularly concerning the events surrounding his mysterious disappearance and subsequent death in the fall of 1849. Now, as a fiction writer, I found that this wasn’t so much a problem as it was an opportunity, a golden chance to play Mad Libs with Poe’s life. But that, of course, wasn’t the only reason he found his way into Isobel and Varen’s story. Or even the main reason.  

Actually, Poe’s entrance into my initial draft of Nevermore (then titled something else) just sort of…happened. When I first paired a cheerleader and a goth together for an English project, my goth character was the one who chose Poe. And the reason he chose Poe was because he identified with him. So, in a round-about way, Poe found his way into my story because my character picked him—because teens pick him. For teens, goth or not, I have found that Poe seems to be a natural choice when it comes to old-school literature.

I remember when I was in high school, always leafing through my current English text book in search of Poe’s poetry, deciding to read Annabel Lee out loud in English class and performing Eldorado in Drama. And as many teens have and still do, I felt a distinct connection to this strange, dark and enigmatic man with the tidy moustache and soulful eyes. Indeed, you have to admit, there is something very magnetic, uncanny, alluring, seductive and delightfully appalling about so much of his writing --- otherworldly you might say. So I guess it’s no wonder that he has continued to inspire and capture the imagination of so many young readers.

Could it be Poe’s obsession with mortality and the realm beyond death? Perhaps it’s because of his status as a loner, of being misunderstood and shunned. Of being different. 

Maybe it has something to do with the raw, penetrating and sometimes shocking quality of Edgar’s tales.  Perhaps it’s because Poe was a revolutionary. He did what he wanted to do. He wrote what he wanted and he wasn’t shy about it. Poe expressed himself in his own way. And even when people shot him down, said he was weird, told him he was a hack and trashed his work, he still kept at it. He still kept expressing himself no matter what.

Maybe that’s why teens like him so much. Because, like Varen, they can relate.

And for the record, yeah, Eddie did marry his cousin (though there were some extenuating circumstances involved.)

And no, he wasn’t crazy, but I did read that one story of his.

And it was awesome, wasn’t it?

--- Kelly Creagh