Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lynn Cullen's "Mrs. Poe"

Lynn Cullen is the author of Reign of Madness, a 2011 Best of the South selection by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 2012 Townsend Prize finalist, and The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and an Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and an ALA Best Book of 2008.

Here Cullen dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Mrs. Poe:
If my novel, Mrs. Poe, rolls through your mind like a movie as you read it—thank you. My work is done. I would love for you to experience the same armrest-clutching thrill while reading the book as I had in writing it. As I pounded the keyboard, I was cheering with the good guys and booing the bad. I gasped when the action took a twist; I worried when my people got in a jam. If you cry at the end, know that I was sobbing into my Kleenex, too. When I finished the writing, I felt as haggard as a salmon that had swum up the Columbia. I don’t necessarily want you feeling like that.

From the start, the leading man in my mental movie was Ralph Fiennes as he appeared in the 1992 BBC Films version of Wuthering Heights. With his magic Fiennes touch, he made Heathcliff smolderingly sexy and dangerous, yet vulnerable underneath, just like my Edgar Allan Poe. Just like the real Poe, I might add. Honestly. The baggy-eyed ugly madman we know as Poe is a product of the vilest smear campaign in literary history. In a bizarre twist of fate, the man who despised Poe for not only getting his writing gigs but his girl was made Poe’s literary executor. Poe was hardly cold in his grave when this enemy, Rufus Griswold, set out to make Poe look bad. Griswold doctored Poe’s letters and wrote a libelous biography that is the basis of the image of Poe that we still hold today. I promise, Poe was not the crazed druggy you think. He should not be confused with the eerie characters in his tales. He wrote the dark stuff because it sold. The poor man (literally) needed the money.

Mrs. Poe tells Poe’s story during the year he wrote ‘The Raven,’ 1845. Poe was a sexy thang then and his literary success only turned on the ladies more. Since Mr. Fiennes has moved on to other roles, Robert Downey Jr. should feel free to step into the role. Johnny Depp, sans special make-up, would be a smokin’ Poe, too. Or, if Mark Ruffalo wanted to take on Poe’s magnetic persona, all he’d have to do was to comb back his hair and sizzle.

The object of Poe’s true love, both in life, I believe, and in Mrs. Poe, was the poet Frances Osgood. As the narrator of the book, she had hijacked my mind so I wasn’t always conscious of her exterior. Now that I have recovered from the writing, I can see that Kate Winslet is the perfect Frances. Oh, please, film gods, let the movie be made and with Kate Winslet in it! Bring on Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Virginia Poe and that would be a thriller. At least for me. Any other ideas, m’dears?
Learn more about the book and author at Lynn Cullen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue