Biting into fiction with 'S'

May 13, 2007 (Herald-Tribune / Susan L. Rife) -- Author Susan Hubbard did not want to get boxed into a particular genre with her new novel, "The Society of S." So, she's quick to say, it's not a vampire novel.
"It's a story with vampires," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Orlando, where she teaches English at the University of Central Florida. "When I first started trying to tell friends (what the book was about), I didn't use the 'V' word."

She would rather describe the book as a coming-of-age story in which 13-year-old Ariella Montero, who lives with her father in a Victorian mansion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., comes to the somewhat surprising conclusion not only that her father is a vampire but that she is as well.

"He tells her he has lupus," said Hubbard. "Suddenly she realizes that maybe, just maybe, he's not all that he seems."

The book begins with a prologue about how Ariella's parents met, a scene that literally came to Hubbard in a dream.

"I've gotten several short stories in similar ways," she said, noting that it is not unusual for writers to have inspiration come during their dreaming hours.

"I never knew this until about a week ago, that Robert Louis Stevenson got 'The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' from a dream," she said.

She has trained herself to pay attention to her dreams while realizing that trying to capture a dream is like trying to catch mist.

"It's funny how the dream itself won't show up when I try to write it down. It's almost as if the dream is a spark."

Ariella's world begins to unravel when she makes her first friend, the daughter of the family's housekeeper. A murder sets her on the road south from New York in a search for her mother, whom she had believed dead. The search takes her to Sarasota, where her parents married, and secrets are uncovered.

Hubbard likes to incorporate into her work cities to which she has traveled rather than lived. Her daughter was a student at New College, so she had been here several times.

"I couldn't figure out Sarasota," she said. "Sarasota really shows a different face to me every time I come. It's rich and poor at the same time; it's old and new at the same time, beautiful and ugly. It's a real study in contrasts."

For Hubbard, the book came very easily.

"This book was a gift," she said. "You have images and they guide you and lead you to unexpected places."

Which is not to say that she would not get stuck now and then. Usually a run and a hot shower would get the story moving forward.

"The hot water and the experience of physical exercise have helped me get unstuck many times."

The book also touches on synesthesia and the ability to dream crossword puzzles.

Synesthesia is the ability to see letters and numbers as having colors and personalities.

"I have a kind of partial synesthesia at times," said Hubbard. "I do see certain letters. I can sometimes visualize whole words floating in the air. It's kind of fun. Better than watching TV."

For example, to Hubbard, the letter S is red. She is disappointed that the cover of "The Society of S" has the S in gold.

"I wish they would display it in bookstores with the lights you see in jewelers that make everything sparkle," she said ruefully.

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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