Stephen Mark Rainey co-wrote the bestselling 1999 novel
Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark for HarperCollins. In a
Dark Shadows Journal interview from 1999, he discusses
the novel's conception.
you always want to be a horror writer?
I started writing short stories when I was in middle school,
and one of them was a Dark Shadows story, which I
turned in for English and got an A. I guess that inspired me
to write more things, all of them scary, since I've always
had a fondness for horror.
The horror market was booming in the early- to mid-1980s. I
began writing and submitting my stories to everything from
the biggest magazines to the weeniest of trash-mags. I
finally began to get my stuff accepted, at first mostly in
the little rags. Because I worked at a company that
manufactured typographic systems, and I had access to them,
I started up my own magazine, in the hopes of
producing something better than most of the crap floating
around in the marketplace. And thus
Deathrealm was born, which ended up lasting for over 10
years and featured everyone from aspiring first
timers to the most established professionals in the
In the last decade I've had over 80 published works of short
fiction. Some of the markets include Cemetery Dance
magazine, the online anthology Dark Whispers, Robert
Bloch's Psychos, The New Lovecraft Circle and numerous
Chaosium Cthulu Mythos anthologies.
How did Dreams of the Dark come about?
One day I'd been looking for something to read from amongst
my oldest books, and I happened upon the Marilyn Ross Dark
Shadows novels; I have a dozen or so that I've jealously
kept since their first printing. I ended up reading them all, lamenting the fact that there would
probably never be any more Dark Shadows novels
something that I had always wished I could write.
Then I received a call from Elizabeth Massie, a good friend
and writer I've known since the time I started Deathrealm.
She said HarperCollins was launching a new series of Dark
Shadows novels, and since I knew more about the show
than anyone she knew, would I be interested in collaborating
on a novel with her? You can guess how the rest of that
conversation went. Anyway, by the end of that evening, I'd
come up with a rough plot, characters, a bit of dialogue
you name it. HarperCollins liked the idea enough to request a more
detailed proposal. After a number of revisions, it was
approved, and Dreams of the Dark was given the go
ahead. Interestingly, the original title Dreams of the
Damned, which Beth coined, was deemed too 'heavy' by the
powers that be.
How did you and Elizabeth split the writing?
Since Beth and I had two main points of view
Rathburn, my original creation, and Victoria Winters
alternated points of view from chapter to chapter.
Beth wrote the Victoria chapters and I wrote the
chapters, at least for the most part. Beth had several
pressing deadlines, so I also wrote a few of Victoria's
chapters to take up the slack. Then we'd pass the chapters
back and forth so each could go in and do any necessary
tweaking. In the end, I probably ended up doing about 65 to
70 percent of the actual writing, which suited me fine
could have kept writing Dark Shadows
for longer than anyone would want to read it.
What does the novel's story concern?
I was always disappointed that the 1991 Dark Shadows
was cut off in midstream; it was just hitting its stride
when it was cancelled. My original idea was to write
something that would continue its storyline; however,
due to copyright and proprietary concerns, the new series
was off-limits. But since the climax of the 1991 show
closely paralleled the original series, we decided to work up
a story that took place not long after Victoria returned
from the 18th Century,
which could be inserted into the
original Dark Shadows storyline at the appropriate
point. The book bridges some of the disparate elements of
the television show and even the films –
with less conflict
in continuity than could be found even within the television
The plot concerns a vampire named Thomas
Rathburn, who was
'changed' during the Civil War and in recent days has begun
experiencing visions of people and places unfamiliar to him
– but which involve
events that relate his own past. He
follows clues from these visions, ends up in Collinsport,
and begins meeting people he recognises, including Victoria
Winters and Barnabas Collins. Needless to say, he is agreeably taken
with Victoria – a fact that does not sit well with Barnabas. An intense rivalry ensues and Barnabas makes a
number of attempts to rid Collinwood of this strange new
arrival. However, Rathburn is not quite the 'ordinary'
vampire, and things don't work out
the way Barnabas has
In the meantime, strange occurrences begin to plague members
of the household, Victoria in particular. As
these incidents become more threatening,
Rathburn realises that the only
way he will be able to learn the truth about the visions -
and to save Victoria
– is to form an alliance
with Barnabas. Easier said than done, however. And for more
than that, you'll have to read the book!
Were there any concepts that were vetoed?
In the beginning, we were going to tell the entire story
through the eyes of our vampire, Thomas
Rathburn. But the
editors and Dan Curtis productions wanted to have an
insider's view as well,
to give the show's fans a familiar
character to identify with. We chose Victoria and, in the
end, I'm very glad we went down this route.
But the biggest thing, I suppose, was that in the beginning,
Beth came up with a background for Rathburn that tied into
[Lara Parker's preceding novel] Angelique's Descent.
However, we were told not to use Lara's book as a resource
or attempt continuity with it; our book needed to be
I think this is because Angelique's Descent had not been
completed at the time, so any changes made to Lara's book would
end up affecting ours if we tried to tie them together. As
it is, I'm more satisfied with the end result than if we'd
made that connection.
The only really difficult hurdle was that at the beginning of
the project we were given precious little information
what we could and couldn't do. We'd do the work, then find
out that certain changes needed to be made.
We would do that,
and then have to change a few more things, and so on.
An awful lot of the changes should have been suggested
when we turned in the first draft of the outline, rather
than the third and fourth. All in all, though, it was a positive experience, and I think the book is stronger for
the work we did to it prior to the actual writing.
As I said, my original idea was to continue the story of the
1991 series, since it was left open-ended. However,
we would have run into copyright problems,
so we had to make the novel
consistent with the original
television series. Still, I
felt it would be neat to fit Dreams of the Dark into
the original storyline that paralleled the end of the 1991
show. As it is, I preferred working with the original
universe, with few exceptions. Our Victoria is modeled
after [1991 actress] Joanna Going rather than
Alexandra Moltke. Barnabas' character is more akin to his
darker version seen in House of Dark Shadows.
Dark Shadows movies do seem to have been an
Without giving too much away, the description of the grounds
of Collinwood is based entirely on [film location]
Lyndhurst, since I went there during the writing of the
book, and a few aspects of Angelique's character are
directly from Night of Dark Shadows;
but I made a point to do this without
conflicting with the
television series' origin of
Barnabas. The mansion itself is based on the sets and
exteriors from the television show,
except in the case of interiors that we never saw in the
television series – for those, I described some actual Lyndhurst interiors.
As the novels are an alternative medium for the show, how
necessary do you think it is to reinvent it for a modern
Not everyone who reads a Dark Shadows novel is going
to be a devoted fan of the original series, so you want the
characters and situations to be relevant to someone
exploring Collinwood for the first time. Perhaps the most
important point is that Dark Shadows is largely an
established world in and of itself. The key is to draw the
reader into that world, regardless of the time period.
Dreams of the Dark we've written the piece with only
suggestions of a specific timeframe; there's nothing like in
Lara's book, where it flatly states that the year is 1971.
Dreams of the Dark is written as if it is happening
now – whenever that 'now' happens to be. The insinuation is
that the events are taking place in 1999, or what have you,
yet they fit into the storyline of 1968. Our view is that
Dark Shadows is timeless. The attitudes and
personalities are as close to the original as we can make
them, and they react to the world they live in as
those people, irrespective of
any set year. To
a large extent,
Dark Shadows has a zeitgeist independent of the world
Do you think there's a danger of tie-in books becoming
I don't think so, at least not in the right hands. In
Dreams of the Dark,
we've taken the world of the show
into places the series never ventured, while remaining true
to its spirit.
Angelique's Descent was certainly no pastiche, and
given Lara's creative prowess, I suspect that if she
contributes more to the series, she would continue to delve successfully
into uncharted waters.
Most of the material in the original series was derived from
other sources. In the novels, one can make a reverent nod to
those sources, without necessarily falling back on
clichéd formulas. With new talent and imagination,
combined with the 'old' foundation, there are endless roads
that can be traveled in Collinsport.
do you think Dreams of the Dark adds to the Dark
Life! With only reruns, the movies, and a newer series
to keep the flame alive, there's a finite limit to the
Dark Shadows entity. Experiencing the show was a very
personal thing to its fans. It has inspired
countless journeys into the imagination. The Collins family
became a living, breathing group of people to
the show's devotees.
Look at the proliferation of fan fiction Dark Shadows
inspired – perhaps more than any other media property besides
Star Trek. That's because fans want the Collins family
to continue to thrive in their own imaginations.
Our book will hopefully provide a new 'official' episode in
a saga that was relegated to fan fiction for years, until
Angelique's Descent. It introduces a strong character
from outside the Dark Shadows world
– one who at first
provides an outsider's view of the microcosm, then becomes a
living part of it. I think that's how we, as viewers and
readers, interact with the world of Dark Shadows.
We're outside looking in, until that crucial moment when we
are drawn in, becoming part of a wonderful world. Most
importantly, hopefully, Dreams of the Dark will be an
exciting and satisfying enough journey to Collinwood to make
readers want to come back for more.
Dreams of the Dark from Amazon.com