Please welcome Jackson Marsh with
The Stoker Connection
A Gay YA Mystery/Thriller
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:
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.'
How would you describe your writing style/genre?
I would describe it as 'flow of thoughts' or 'stream of consciousness' but, after the initial draft, it is then honed and clarified. Let me explain using 'The Stoker Connection' as an example. This novel is written in the first person and from three points of view. It's mainly Dexter Mitchell and Morgan Davis writing their diaries, but there are also some voice recordings and a third character, Tim Hunt, who only speaks into a recorder.
This format gives a great opportunity for stream of consciousness thought that is balanced against structure, plot, development, so it doesn't wander aimlessly. The neat thing about writing a novel this way was that I could slip into character before I started to write. 'Who's writing this part of the story? Ah, it's Dexter. That means it's going to be exactly as he would speak, humorous, flippant, honest and keen.' 'Today, I must write a chapter by Morgan, so that's got to be more staid, thought-out, more creative and old-fashioned.' Switching from one to the other during a writing day was a challenge, but after a while the change became easy.
When I write a novel, I sit down and tell myself a story. That's the first draft. I then edit and rewrite where necessary to ensure there is logic and pace. In the second or more drafts, I tell the story to the reader.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I am a full-time writer, and it's so good to be able to say that. However, bills must be paid and so I also write for other people; blog posts, reviews of websites, content for gay websites, even business plans for theatre companies. I make a living out of writing, which can be precarious financially, and sometimes dull, but on these occasions, I remind myself I am being paid for doing what I love doing: putting words in the right order.
What it does mean, though, is that I usually have my mornings filled with 'making money' writing, and my afternoons free for my own creative writing, which does, I am pleased to say, bring in an income. The 'day job' tops it up as and when necessary. As I tend to be more alert in the mornings, the afternoons are sometimes a struggle. I write for others in the morning, but, come the afternoon, I am writing for my readers and me, and writing what I want to write. That's enough to see me through a four-hour afternoon session every day.
On some days, I have written 10,000 words, five-thousands for clients, and five for me. That kind of day would take me about eight hours. The best days are when I have no paid work and can write for myself all day.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part of writing 'The Stoker Connection' was making it believable. What I have attempted to create is a fact/fiction novel. One presented by the characters in their own voices, who are telling us their facts. I had to remember that pace and logic were also vital. Not everyone who keeps a diary does so logically, and I couldn't write everything an eighteen-year-old (as the two central characters are) would write. I mean, shopping lists and notes for school, daily details that have nothing to do with the story.
The other hard part was making sure that when I referenced 'Dracula', I was correct. I couldn't assume that everyone has read that novel or knows it as well as Dexter and Morgan do. I also had to make sure that I didn't confuse the reader with too many details. If anyone who reads 'The Stoker Connection' wants to check the 'clues' that Stoker left in his manuscript against what my characters say and find, they can, and they will find them. I had to make sure that accuracy was there, the references made sense and were correct, but without beating the reader about the head with too many details. It was a case of 'don't tell the reader what to think, let the reader imagine - and research for themselves if they want to.
What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell us about him or her.
Ion 'The Stoker connection', cute and flippant Dexter has a best friend, Tim. He lives across the field from Dex, and they have known each other since their first day at school. They are close, but even so, Dexter has not come out to Tim. Tim, however, knows that Dex is gay and that's not a problem for him - he's straight, but like most teenagers, has been curious and played around a bit, even jerking off with Dexter when they were younger.
Tim is a farmer's son, not academic but trying, a school sports jock and loyal buddy. He is one of those helpful, loving friends who often get things wrong. He does this when he throws a coming out party for Dex thinking it will help him. What it actually does is rob Dex of any choice and causes a rift in their friendship.
I'd like to write a story from Tim's point of view, and maybe I will. What's it like to be a straight teen with a best mate who you platonically love so much it makes you doubt your own sexuality? How would Tim deal with sexual exploration with another boy? And how could I tell that in one of my two genres? As an MM Romance, or as a coming out/mystery/thriller?
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When we were fifteen, our school careers officer made us all take a questionnaire. I remember it because it was the first time it had been done using a computer. (We're talking 1978 here.) At that time, I wanted to be a stage manager in a theatre, and that's exactly what my questionnaire came back suggesting I do as a career. I did, for a while, but was unable to get into stage management school. At one point I wanted to be an actor and then realised what I really wanted to be was a director of musicals (and I've also done that). What I ended up being was a social worker, a housing manager, cabaret artist, shop salesman on a Greek island and finally, a full-time writer.
What other artistic pursuits (if any) do you indulge in apart from writing?
When I am not writing novels, I also write screenplays on commission. That's very time consuming, but great practice for structure and characterisation. In fact (and here's a tip for other writers), writing your novel as a screenplay first helps you hone down the structure and pace. Writing a screenplay concentrates your mind on two things: Structure - telling a story in an entertaining order, visually with show not tell as the golden rule - and character. Within that is character development through an arc to get him/her to progress from A to Z.
I also play the piano and work with amateur singers to improve their performances (see, still directing musicals).
What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I'm toying with another of my 'The Mentor of…' novels which are older/younger gay romances. At the same time, I am toying with another mystery/thriller/coming of age style novel, like 'The Stoker Connection.'
Actually, since you asked the question about which secondary character I'd like to explore, I might start with that and have a follow-on to 'Stoker' staring straight (or is he?) Tim Hunt. Whatever I decide to start on next, I will probably have started it by the time you read this.
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.
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