Photo: Erin Judd
Anne Merino grew up in Arizona, devoted to horses, hounds, and books. The daughter of an American classical philosopher and a Welsh mother who loved to tell her eerie tales of ghosts, elemental beings and mortals who built bonfires to Ceres, it is, perhaps, unsurprising that story and theater became her passion.
Anne went on to become a professional ballerina and choreographer for notable companies in the U.S. and abroad. Now happily retired from the stage, she writes novels and plays. Married to a filmmaker, she also has two fascinating sons and a retired working dog named Hector.
Hawkesmoor: A Novel of Vampire and Faerie
written by Anne Merino
Hawkesmoor: A Novel of Vampire and Faerie is a paranormal mystery in which a vampire – Robin Dashwood – has been hiding from his past and really, himself in New York. He’s poured himself into his work as a history professor at NYU. Since his painful transition into a vampire, he has avoided the place of his 18th-century human birth, Hawkesmoor Castle in Yorkshire, England.
However, a twist of fate brings Robin to a Manhattan exhibition of Hawkesmoor Castle’s most valuable treasures. While combating waves of bittersweet nostalgia, he meets Lady Caroline DeBarry, whose family now resides at the castle. Robin learns that someone from his human past suffered a brutal death at the castle. He decides to return to Hawkesmoor to uncover what he suspects was an 18th century murder and to pursue Lady Caroline, who has captured his heart.
This episode features the first two chapters of the novel and an interview with the author.
Read by Anne Merino
Q&A with Anne
Tell us about Hawkesmoor.
Hawkesmoor is a unique and refreshing take on the vampire novel, and is the first book in a trilogy. Book one begins in present day Manhattan — happily, a non-Coronavirus afflicted present— and shifts to the wild beauty of Yorkshire in the U.K.
Vampire Robin Dashwood has been hiding from his past and really — himself — in New York. He’s poured himself into his work as a history professor at NYU. Since his painful transition into a vampire, he has avoided the place of his 18th-century human birth, Hawkesmoor Castle in Yorkshire, England.
However, a twist of fate brings Robin to a Manhattan exhibition of Hawkesmoor Castle’s most valuable treasures. While combating waves of bittersweet nostalgia, he meets Lady Caroline DeBarry, whose family now resides at the castle. Robin learns that someone from his human past suffered a brutal death at the castle.
He decides to return to Hawkesmoor to uncover what he suspects was an 18th century murder and to pursue Lady Caroline, who has captured his heart.
Why did you write Hawkesmoor?
Funnily enough, it all began very casually over dinner at an Indian restaurant in Los Angeles. A friend of mine said he was thinking of writing a vampire story. Normally a nonfiction writer, he thought it might be a fun exercise. I nodded sagely and ate some curry, thinking… Hey, I bet I could write a vampire novel. Something with lots of history and heaps of eerie stuff!
So I had a good think – how could a vampire bring together his past, present, and future into one place? It had to be a storied, historic place that hadn’t changed all that much over the centuries. Once I had devised Hawkesmoor Castle as that place, I was off and running!
My friend never did write his vampire novel. Still, the conversation produced Hawkesmoor – an excellent turning point in life’s little interactions!
What draws you to the paranormal genre?
Hawkesmoor was born of the things that I absorbed as a child. I grew up with parents who were both fascinated by all things paranormal. Their library had a large collection of books about ghosts, cryptozoology and all things speculative.
My Welsh mother, from the time she was quite young, was fascinated by Celtic mythology and all manner of things eerie. As I was growing up, she enjoyed telling me all about the secret world of Anglesey in Wales and the ancient legends of Celtic elementals such as the Moon goddess, Ceridwen, the horse goddess, Rhiannon and the Tylwyth Teg – elemental spirits who guarded inter-dimensional portals in Wales. All of this rich background is woven into my writing in Hawkesmoor.
That was the foundation of my interest. I just grew up with the paranormal – not as an experiencer of genuine phenomena or anything like that, but with the ideas all around me, in one form or another.
As a writer, it’s a thrill to pull back the veil and allow the reader a look into these hidden realms. And it was great fun to create a character who has unearthly powers like Robin Dashwood!
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I was thirteen years old. For a long time it was purely for pleasure and to fill time between ballet rehearsals. Other dancers liked to knit or crochet legwarmers while waiting, but I was utterly hopeless at that.
All the short stories and novel fragments I wrote betwen rehearsals taught me a lot about writing and helping me to find my own style. I published serious theatre criticism for Salem Press and that emboldened me to write some plays that were produced on Los Angeles stages.
Hawkesmoor is my first published novel. I’ve found the process of moving from wannabe author to published author absolutely thrilling – the culmination of a dream.
Tell us about your life as a professional ballerina. Was there anything about dancing that made you want to become an author?
In addition to writing, I am the artistic director of a regional ballet company. With some luck, I will still be the artistic director after the Coronavirus is over! The company has taken a serious hit after cancelling our spring season and our fingers are crossed that we can bounce back in time for the annual perfomance of “Nutcracker.”
In the course of my ballet career I danced for various American companies, but I also continued to write between rehearsals. Many dancers knit or crocheted between our endless rehearsals, but I’d plop down in a corner to write.
When I finally retired from the stage I become a choreographer and formed my own ballet company in Los Angeles. I gathered together a small group of retired professionals like myself, and we built a company that was completely unique at the time. In those days, the only new ballets deemed “artistically valid” were contemporary abstracts in which dancers moved to music, without any story. But I wanted to create ballets about people who had fascinating stories and challenges to overcome. So we created completely original ballets featuring fresh stories and characters, and set them to music never before used for ballets.
Over the next 25 years, we would tell all sorts of stories from giddy 1920s comedies to Medieval tragedies and Edwardian murder mysteries. We developed a cult following in Los Angeles and audiences loved the vivid characters, soaring music and beautiful period settings.
After creating so many of these ballet stories, I eventually came to realize I had been writing all along! And shortly after our final performance I picked up a notebook and started the first pages of what would become Hawkesmoor.
What fact about yourself would really surprise people?
I once punched Johnny Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) in the mouth at a nightclub. This was absolutely ages ago – back in the 1980s when I sang in various bands in all sorts of nightclubs. Chalk it up to the general swagger and obnoxiousness of youth!
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