Stumbling into Inspiration

I’m still working on MONSTER number three, my Edgar Allan Poe-inspired novella, but I’m also in that very exciting RESEARCH phase for Candy’s Monster number four — my updated and completely original take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic about what it means to be human: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Stevenson wrote about the dual nature of individuals at a time before Freud, Jung, Skinner and Prozac. His good doctor Jekyll knows that he harbors a dark side — or at least some relatively dark inclinations — and believes that if he can split them off, jettison and contain them in an alternative personality, he can express his darker desires without endangering his good half.

It seems like a completely ridiculous idea, but… it’s tempting. It’s a pseudo-scientific description of a magical transformation that would create a perfect divided soul. Good on one side and Evil on the other. The Good is the human half and the Bad is the MONSTER.

It’s hard not to make fun of Dr. Jekyll’s naïve notion.

But the desires behind it linger. Conflating ANIMAL and MONSTER to express the superiority of humanity is pervasive. People are still arguing about evolution long after the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. The discomfort with the “Animal” nature of humans is not entirely religious, as many people today still want to draw a clear line between animals and humans to protect our special value and place in the universe.

Back in the late 19th century, there was no doubt about the superiority of human nature. Western civilizations mistrusted the wisdom of the east and eastern dismissed the bias of the west, but looking for answers in our commonality with animals wasn’t high on anyone’s agenda.

The 20th century was a renaissance of psychological theories. Not too many of them have survived in practice, but many persist in popular culture and in fiction. No one blames Autism on “cold” mothers anymore, but mommy dearest does take a beating in a lot of movies, TV shows and novels. If you want to be shocked and appalled, get a hold of some old psychology dictionaries (or text books) and you’ll see enough discredited theories and wacky diagnostic criteria to write a dozen horror stories. Scary outcomes with the best of intentions — sounds good and sounds like Dr. Jekyll’s plan!

Neurobiology is moving fast. All sorts of diagnoses that would have been considered psychological in the 20th century and “moral weakness” in 19th are now considered neurological in origin, i.e. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I’m all over the place right now, looking for the threads of theory and science and magic that will knit together into my fourth Monster. Back to my research!


  1. Metan

    Good luck with your searchings, in my trawls through the archives I find many articles referring to incidents with people that I can see would be handled very differently these days. Back then these unfortunates were just an ‘idiot’ or ‘insane’ and probably unlikely to recieve the help they needed.

    Lucky we live in more enlightened times, but I wonder what future people will think of our current ways of dealing with mental or neurological problems?

    • Candy

      I think our stumbling will be derided. For years I’ve done freelance writing for the Tourette Syndrome Association and during my time with them, there have been treatment changes. As no drug has ever been developed for TS, when drugs for other conditions have been found to suppress tics, they’ve become the drugs used for TS (high blood pressure meds, etc.) Habit reversal therapies that aim not to suppress the tics (like suppressing a sneeze) but to enhance awareness of the preemptory sensations before a tic and to help people divert it, has become a new treatment. My guess is that in as little as 10 years, there will be more effective cognitive therapies that help people stay off medications for tics.

      I say all of this, because not too long ago TS was thought of in psychiatric terms and before that, as “demonic possession” and other crazy things. Now, we know it’s genetic and neurological and that no one treatment seems to work for everyone. Where it really gets tricky, and interesting, is that it is often diagnosed with other conditions — attention disorders, obsessive disorders and anxiety disorders — all neurological. All of these were misunderstood for very long.

      That’s one of the attractions of Jekyll & Hyde for me — this idea that what was once considered a moral lesson of good versus evil is now so much more complex and fuzzy!

  2. What a fascinating blog Candy… and I love the idea of a book based on Jekyll and Hyde. My own book, The Water Doctor’s Daughters, looks at the tragic results of Victorian era wrong thinking about female sexuality.

    • Candy

      You book’s concept sounds fascinating. I’ve been mining classic horror for inspirations. My first Candy’s Monster — The Mary Shelley Game, a suspense/mystery novella inspired by Frankenstein and the second — Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet, a dark comedy inspired by Dracula.

      In the arena of Victorians and their legacy of confused female sexuality, Dracula is prime example. The metaphors are all too obvious to a 21st century reader, but at the time a young lady had a dangerous propensity, a hidden sexuality that was a mysterious threat to men. Boy oh, boy… those Victorians! Best of luck with The Water Doctor’s Daughters. Will look for it on Amazon.

      • Just received the cover design for the WDD, which will be launched next Feb. it’s the middle of the night here in Australia but am too excited to sleep!
        Warmest wishes to you and best of luck with your work.

        • Candy

          Another Australian! I meet the nicest people from Australia during my ebook/internet journeys. Not ’till February. Well, I’ll wait. In the meantime, you can take a comic trip to New York City in Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet. My other friends from the other hemisphere have found the descriptions of life in NYC to be a hoot!

          Isn’t seeing the cover for the first time just too cool for words?

          • I adore NY! It’s my dream to spend a Christmas there! Maybe I’ll come again on a book tour..that would be great. Will check out Bram! Seeing my cover was even more exciting that receiving the page proofs..the real birth of the book.

          • Candy

            Christmastime in NYC is special! I’m seriously considering placing one of the upcoming Monsters during that time frame. Lots of things happening in the city and there’s a certain kind of energy in the air.

            Ah page proofs!

            One of the downsides of ebooks is that you miss out on a few stages. The upside is that it’s a much faster process. Oh, well…

          • Oh, Candy …your book set in NYC at Christmas would be magical.
            Don’t worry, it will all be ebooks before long! And yes, going the traditonal path is certainly a drawn out process, especially for a narrative non-fiction book which I have just had to INDEX (Oh my hat, what a job!)

            PS – One of my favourite books, which I reviewed on my website, is Helene Hanff’s quirky Apple Of My Eye. Happened to be in NY when they were making the movie of her book 84 Charing Cross Road starring Anne Bancroft and watched Bancroft in a scene being shot in Maddison Avenue.

          • Candy

            Great Anne Bancroft anecdote!

            I think every city has certain times of the year when they shine. NYC has the period from Thanksgiving through New Years. It’s hyper energy, shop windows and cold but not usually as cold as it gets in January. September, right now, is NYC at its prettiest. Perfect blue skies, warm days, cool nights…. I sound like I’m working for the city tourist bureau. LOL

          • Was there for my 50th birthday (a few years ago!) in mid January. It had snowied heavily a few days earlier but was brilliantly sunny on my big day. My partner Rob and I had a memorable lunch at the River Cafe by Brookyn Bridge and went for a carriage ride through the snow in Central park etc. My best birthday ever. NYC doesn’t need anyone to talk it up. lol. Mind you, Sydney can look pretty special, specially on New Year’s Eve, but doesn’t have the energy of your city.

  3. Wow, you’re really getting stuck into the research aren’t you? I have a feeling that no.4 is going to be the most challenging and interesting of all your monsters. You always give the monster theme an unexpected twist or approach it from an unexpected direction so I’m really looking forward to seeing where you take Dr Jekyll. 😀

    • Candy

      I know it’s going to be one that drifts off from the original in some fundamental ways. The Poe novella (being explored by Beta tester readers right now) has a lot of Poe touches and a serious Poe feeling. I think that I will have to jettison a lot of Stevenson’s style for my version. I want to get to the heart of the story, but not imitate the storyline.