If you’ve been following my recent misadventures, you know I’ve been writing about Dante’s Inferno. For the third book in the Klaereon Scroll series, I found myself feeling this book might end up very much like the last two if I wasn’t careful. The first book introduced all the family drama, and explained the original contract. The second book expanded the parameters of the Klaereon world, and took us on a spin to see the other magical families. As cool as all that is, I needed a way to make this book distinct from the other two, and I also needed a way to expand the personalities of the characters in this book, twisting them in interesting ways. What was a Gothic writer to do?
Well, this writer decided to send her characters to Dantes’ Inferno. Well, why not? We knew the Egyptian pantheon had been banished to a place called the Abyss. We know from Book 1, when Carlo was pulled into the shadows, he ended up in a very Dante like version of Hell. Couldn’t Hell, the Abyss, and the Inferno be the same place? Sure, sure they could.
This meant a lot of things. I was know in great need of a read through and annotation of Dante’s Inferno. Thanks to Danielle DeLisle, a member of a horror group I joined, I got a line on a great translation–so good, in fact, that I will follow up my reading with Purgatorio and Paradisio by the same translator (Robert M. Durling, for those of you interested.) With the original text in Italian, an excellent English translation, and a ton of explanatory foot notes, I was on my way!
Now, you may think, writing a story in someone else’s world is easy. I have to admit to some practice from my Harry Potter fan fiction days in the early 2Ks. Translating your characters into another author’s world, while trying to retain the mood of both your own fiction and their setting, on the other hand, is a bit of a challenge. Whenever I am working on my manuscript, I have a notebook full of notes by Canto, the actual text, and my murder board of the actual plot I’ve planned all within easy vision.
Of course, characters always have their own ideas about how things are going to go, and as soon as this preliminary draft is done, yes, there will be a lot of shifting around.
A lot of classic literature is in the public domain. You might remember such mashups as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from some time back. I know there have been sequels and prequels to Moby Dick. Sherlock Holmes’ sister Enola has her own series of middle grade adventures. Using the classics as your starting point is both harder and easier than you’d imagine. I look forward to sharing the end result with you next year.
Catherine Schaff-Stump is the author of the Klaereon Scroll series and the Abigail Rath Versus series. She authors the Substack column The Crone You can find out more about her at her website.