I’m very excited about this week’s Inheritance Books because they are from none other than fellow Choc Lit writer Berni Stevens. Berni is not only a talented author, but she also designs fabulous covers (examples here).
Hi Berni, welcome to Inheritance Books. Grab a chair and pull up a biscuit. Please, tell us about yourself.
I’ve always loved anything spooky and supernatural. My Grandmother used to tell me she was a witch – her birthday was on Halloween – so of course, as a child, I believed her! I’m convinced it’s where my interest in the paranormal began.
I love to dance – have always loved to dance – since the age of six, when I joined a small stage school in North London. I was nearly eleven when my parents decided to move to a small village in Sussex and it broke my heart to leave. I joined various ballet schools in Sussex, but there was nothing comparable – until I discovered horses!
I used to write stories as a child, and even (badly) illustrate the stories, so it is no surprise to anyone who knows me well, that I have continued to write for pleasure. To have a book published this year by fabulous Choc Lit has helped me to achieve my dream.
I met my husband at art college, and we moved to London together after we graduated. Then a friend told me about Pineapple Studios, and my dance obsession began all over again.
On leaving art college, I worked as a designer in publishing. Over the years, I’ve worked for most of the big houses, HarperCollins, Penguin, Little, Brown, Transworld etc. Every publisher works differently, so I learned more with every job. I’ve been freelance for ten years now, which works well with my dance obsession, because I can nip out to a lunch-time dance class if I want to!
I’m also on the Committee and Book Panel of the London-based Dracula Society, which is a literary society for fans of the Gothic.
Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?
I inherited a copy of A Christmas Carol from my Great Aunt – which is actually two generations above – when I was about ten years old. My Great Aunt bought me my very first book when I was three, so she definitely started my love affair with books.
I also inherited her set of Shakespeare plays, but it was A Christmas Carol that I enjoyed the most. This edition isn’t dated, but according to Google, it was originally published by Ballantyne Press, around 1925. It has thirteen colour plates by Ethel F. Everett, which certainly look to be in the style of that era. Some of the illustrations are quite faded now, but I would love to have seen the originals; the artist’s style is beautiful. I wonder what became of Ballantyne Press too? Swallowed up by a larger publisher no doubt. Some things never change!
A Christmas Carol is a brilliant ghost story, with a moral attached. At Christmas I watch every version I can find on TV. (There are usually quite a few.) One of my favourites is the Alastair Sim version with George Cole playing the young Scrooge. But I have a sneaking regard for The Muppets Christmas Carol too!
Coincidentally, it was my Great Aunt’s Shakespeare books that helped me through my English Lit GCE – one of the books is an annotated Shakespeare and was invaluable at the time!
I’ve found that whenever I watch any version of A Christmas Carol, I can’t help thinking of the muppet version (Marley and Marley…wooo….)
Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
I would like to leave one of my many copies of Bram Stoker’s Dracula for future generations. It’s my favourite book, and since its publication in 1897, it’s never been out of print. The writing is exceptional and the book still gains new fans decades after its publication. The brooding Gothic atmosphere seeps deeper into the imagination with every page that’s read.
To write from more than one person’s point of view can be difficult, but Stoker writes from no less than five characters’ points of view. Stoker’s Count is depicted as ruthless, predatory and a cold-blooded killer – yet at other times he comes across as vulnerable and lonely. There are many good reasons why Count Dracula has become one of our most popular fictional characters.
I collect editions of Dracula, although I’m neither rich enough nor lucky enough to own a first edition. But I do have a 1928 edition published by Rider – with the original dust jacket – in very good condition. My husband bought it for me and it’s a prized possession – and valuable too. Constable published a numbered limited edition to coincide with the centenary of Stoker’s death in 2012. They published it with the original yellow and red cover, so of course I had to buy one!
I could wax lyrical about Dracula for pages, but there isn’t room, so I’ll just say I would hate for this amazing book to ever disappear from our shelves and our lives, although somehow I don’t think it will.
I don’t think it will either… he IS immortal, after all. Thank you for sharing your favourite books with us, Berni. Good luck with your book. Don’t forget your daily garlic.
Berni’s latest book Dance Until Dawn is available of Choc Lit. You can find out more about Berni from her website, or read her thoughts on Dracula on her blog, see her design work on her other website. You can chat to her on Twitter (@circleoflebanon) or Facebook.