We are celebrating Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday with a new short story anthology! Last year Jane Haertel, aka Sadie Hartwell (aka Susannah Hardy), asked the Wickeds if we’d be interested in doing a short story anthology based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories — only these stories would have a twist — a cozy take on his original stories. The result is the ebook Edgar Allan Cozy. Here’s how we chose our stories:
Edith: At a young age I was haunted – haunted, I tell you! – by the “The Tell-Tale Heart.”And by young I mean nine or ten. When the light went out in my room at night, I knew I could hear that heart beating under the floor. I didn’t know anything about sanity or insanity. I didn’t know what a rheumy eye was. But I could feel that story. I’m not sure my mother was entirely sane letting her third daughter read Poe and the tales of Sherlock Holmes in the fourth grade. Read them I did, though, over and over, and that reading started me on the path to where I have ended up: writing mystery, heart-stopping suspense, and even a bit of horror now and then. I tried to craft “An Intolerable Intrusion” after the manner of “The Tell-Tale Heart” — only with a modern twist.
Sadie/Susannah/Jane: My story, “Within These Walls,” about a Shriner clown’s wife who inherits a brooding mansion set high on a bluff in Raven Harbor, Maine, is based on Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado.” While I love all the Poe stories and poems, this is the one that sticks with me. Our narrator gets his friend Fortunato drunk on Amontillado, a rare wine, then proceeds to wall him up–alive!–in his ancient house. I’m not in the least claustrophobic, but whenever I think of poor Fortunato dying, alone and desperate, in his dank, dark, sealed-up prison, I feel a little short of breath. A little palpitate-y. And it’s always driven me a bit mad that we never find out exactly what Fortunato did to his frenemy Montresor that motivated Montresor to get his revenge in this dreadful way. We’ll never know. But not to worry.. I gave the characters in my tribute story some specific motivations, so you won’t have to spend a lot of years wondering.
Sherry: A strange thing happened on the way to picking a Poe story for the anthology — I stopped to read the poem Annabel Lee because I hadn’t read it in years. And as soon as I finished reading it the story of Anna, Belle, and Lee popped into my head. It was one of those glorious moments in writing when something really flows. But because the poem is short, I needed to write a story too. I kept sorting through them and good heavens a lot of those stories are grim!
Then I came across the partially finished story of The Lighthouse which is a diary with only three entries. It in itself is a mystery. Why isn’t it finished? Or is it finished? No one really knows and I liked that. In my story I write about a relative who tries to find out what happened to her missing great-great-great grandfather using his diary entries. But she has some problems of her own.
Barb: We’ve all been transported by the rhythms, internal rhymes, and relentless story-telling of “The Raven.” But I’ve always wondered–what if the poem was moved to modern times? And what if the narrator was driven mad, not by a bird, but by the haranguing of a telemarketer? To answer these questions, I offer my updated version.
Sheila: While I had read most of Poe’s short stories years ago, I wanted to find something I wasn’t familiar with, and discovered the 1883 story “MS. Found in a Bottle.” The narrator is a sailor who encounters some rather extreme circumstances during a voyage on a cargo ship at sea. Or does he? Some early readers have asked if Poe meant this as a satire, or a parody of some contemporary sea stories—although they never quite agreed on which author Poe was poking fun at. Still, the editor who published the story called it “distinguished by a wild, vigorous and poetical imagination.” I thought it might be interesting to see what would happen if I recast the story with the sailor telling his story to a modern audience, and whether he would be believed under different conditions.
Readers: Do you have a favorite Poe story?