Mitzi Szereto describes her latest novel this way:
What if Dorian Gray Faked His Death and Led a Secret Life?
Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mitzi Szereto’s The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray continues where Wilde left off, bringing Dorian Gray back from the dead in this Faustian tale of a man of eternal youth and great physical beauty who lives a life of corruption, decadence, and hedonism. The story begins in the bordellos of Jazz-Age Paris, moving to the opium dens of Marrakesh and the alluring anonymity of South America. In his pursuit of sensation and carnal thrills, Dorian’s desires turn increasingly extreme as he leaves behind yet more devastation and death. He ultimately settles in present-day New Orleans, joining forces with a group of like-minded beings known as the Night People. They inadvertently return to Dorian his humanity when he falls in love with a young woman he rescues from becoming their victim. Will she be his redemption? Or will she be his final curse?
Every year, December is a difficult, painful month for me. I go into a depressed state that can only be cured by the fireworks on January 1st at the stroke of midnight and its fresh, clean slate ready to be filled with all my future accomplishments. Unusual, yes, but I’ve never pretended to be normal. After a long talk with my mother tonight, she left me with something to think about these last cold days until 2014. Four little words. “Try to overachieve much?”
She’s right. I’m notorious. Whereas the rest of the population is thankful for all they’ve achieved the previous year, I fret over what I failed to accomplish. 95% of my New Year’s resolutions list, I made happen. (How many of you can say that?) I’ve taken more opportunities to be generous and helpful this year than I did the last. I switched shifts at my rent paying job to one I’m 1000 times more comfortable with and enjoy more than I can put into words. I’m two classes away from finishing my accredited writing program and I’m three chapters shy of finishing the rough draft for my very first novel. I also had four of my short stories see publication this year in various anthologies with two more sold to be included in next year’s bookstore shelf supply.
Why am I sad? I’m beating myself up because those last three chapters aren’t written — yet! I cried to my hotter-than-hot-boss, “But I only saw my stories in four books this year!” — “Only four books?” Insert thirty-something boy who signs my time cards sarcasm. “Oh, poor baby!”
There’s a legitimate point to this story.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I read Mitzi Szereto’s book The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray. I hesitate reading classical literature, most of it is way too slow and wordy and in desperate need of one of our 21st century editors. (No, I haven’t read the original The Picture of Dorian Gray, for that very reason, but after reading the new book, I’m adding it to my 2014 resolution list.) Szereto’s book has a classical feel, but it’s faster paced and colorful, filled with characters and morals I can connect with in so many ways.
And it made me ask the question, what would I do if I won the life lottery and achieved everlasting youth and beauty? Hopefully, I wouldn’t spend every December chalking up the list of things I didn’t get around to. Even if I did, I’d spend the other eleven months year after year after year gettn’ ‘er done!
Another great accomplishment for me during 2013? I interviewed the fascinating Mitzi Szereto:
1. I’m a writer, too. Holding your book in my hand, I can’t help but think of all the characters that inspired me growing up as a reader and a writer. What was it like bringing back to life a character that is already a staple of English-speaking classical literature?
Dorian Gray has been with me since childhood as well, since I first read the Oscar Wilde novel when I was ten years old. He’s always been lurking in my mind and I’ve made reference to him copious times over the years. I think maybe it was inevitable that I’d “meet” him again by continuing his story. I didn’t find it difficult at all to bring him back to life—particularly since, as I’ve mentioned, he’s always sort of been there anyway. I wanted to keep in the tone and language of Wilde’s work and craft a tale that was totally plausible, given the nature of Dorian Gray in the original work, and I feel confident that I’ve achieved that. In my novel Dorian descends into a hedonism totally removed from any sense of morality, his lust for sensation driving him to commit acts that most rational human beings would consider depraved. For Dorian it’s simply another new sensation to experience, a new thrill to taste—which is not to say that he is totally beyond redemption. You’ll need to read the book to find that out!
I realize there are always going to be those people who disapprove of taking classic literary characters and reinventing them, either in a literary reimagining or, as I have done, in a sequel. But the fact remains: these characters are enduring and our interest in them is a testimony to their creation by the original authors. I stirred up quite a bit of controversy for my sex parody Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, and I’m already seeing this repeating itself with The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, particularly regarding the violent content in my novel. For this I make no apologies—the book is intended for mature adult readers, not children, just as any work containing horror, violence and sex is intended for mature adult readers. If you find these things problematic in fictional works, then you should probably select more mild reading material. Remember, the Dorian Gray of Oscar Wilde’s creation was a hedonist, a sexual profligate and a murderer. I simply took this to the next level, since it wouldn’t have been very plausible for the character to suddenly become a Christian missionary and devote his life to feeding the poor! I have no doubt that had Wilde written his novel today, it would have raised even more hackles than it did when it was first published. Remember, he was forced to censor and revise his work to make it “suitable” for readers. I suspect had he been allowed free literary reign in today’s world, my sequel would be considered mild in comparison to what he might have produced.
2. If you had the chance to life eternally young and beautiful, would you take it? If so, how would you spend your days?
Well, I doubt I’d spend it quite the way Dorian has! As for whether I would take eternal life, youth and beauty, yes, I would. I don’t think anyone wants to accept the fact that they will grow old and die—and then wonder what the point of it all has been when it’s just going to end anyway—and not always in a nice way either. But without being morbid, being able to continue living without concern of aging or illness—who wouldn’t want that? I would probably keep writing, since I can’t be idle. I’m always complaining that there isn’t enough time and I have so many projects and things I wish to pursue that I simply can’t get to—this would certainly solve that problem. Just imagine not having to worry about time or running out of it. So yes, writing all the books I want to write, traveling to all the places I want to travel to, living in all the places I want to live in—these are the things that I’d do. I’d also set up a bunch of animal rescue homes, since I’ll be alive forever to keep them going. Of course I’d need to have the funds to finance all this as Dorian did or else it can end up a miserable existence. Having said that, there’s always that “Monkey’s Paw” possibility lurking in the shadows—i.e. you may get what you ask for, but not in the way you expected. That alone might scare me as to making any pacts with Mephistopheles!
3. What’s coming from you next?
Well, I’m currently working with my co-author and celebrity bear Teddy Tedaloo on the next installment in our quirky crime/cozy mystery series The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles to follow up on Normal For Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles). Hopefully we’ll have that out by late 2014. I also have a new Gothic-themed anthology scheduled for the fall of 2014—Darker Edge of Desire. It’s a follow-up to Red Velvet and Absinthe and has some really great stories in it! In 2015 you can look for my anthology Love, Lust and Zombies. This title will run the gamut, from apocalyptic to comedic to flat-out steamy. After this, who knows? But I’ve got plenty of ideas!
I’m going to spend the final days of 2013 reading Mitzi’s anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe. (Talk about fascinating, gasp out loud gothic). If you want to spend the beginning of 2014 reading her fascinating book, The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray. leave a comment below. Tell me your favorite New Year’s Resolution or what you’d like to accomplish, if like Dorian, you had eternal youth and vigor on your side. I’ll pick a random winner for a trade paperback copy of the book on Friday, December 27th. Good luck — and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!