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The Keys: A Gothic Re-Telling of Bluebeard with Zombies
Cover by Raven
I never liked zombie stories. Bodies of decaying flesh that want to eat you for lunch? Eew!
Because I don’t care for the genre, I was challenged to write a zombie story that would be defy the current conventions. I found a possible approach in the old films White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie in which the zombies were like glamorous sleepwalkers. Not only are these old films pushing 100 years old, they seem more authentic. Whether tasked with turning mill wheels or succumbing to the lusts of the voodoo high priest, these zombies are slaves in an era of slavery.
Ever since reading Angela Carter’s classic, The Bloody Chamber, I’ve wanted to write a Bluebeard story. Carter adds poetry to this tale of secret wife murder to theatrical effect. The young innocent girl, caught up in her own vanity, is rushed, and rushes, into marriage with a head full of romantic ideals. It ends in her worst nightmare: seduction, temptation, the unveiling of a mystery of unspeakable horror, and betrayal.
Adding zombies to Bluebeard and his cabinet of dead wives took me down the creepiest storytelling path I’ve ever followed. My Bluebeard, Armand Guy de Rais, concert pianist and ladies’ man, wants a Stepford wife. Poor Lissette, at sixteen she’s hardly lived. Now she must allow her soul to die—-for love.
Giles de Rais
The original Bluebeard, invented by Charles Perrault, was inspired by French general, Giles de Rais who fought alongside Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years War. Retiring to his chateau in Brittany, he fell into the practice of Black Magic and child abuse. Convicted of sacrificing hundreds of virgins to Lucifer, he was hanged in 1440.
In the The Keys, my villain, classical pianist Armand Guy de Rais, is a descendant of the infamous Giles. To avoid the bloodbath of the French Revolution, Armand flees to an island in the Caribbean, there to enact his terrible deeds.
Stories are like equations, it seems. I had no idea, when starting out, that zombies, plus Bluebeard, plus Giles de Rais, plus the French Revolution would add up to scariest story I’ve ever written.