Author Re-imagines Poe Story as Steampunk Thriller

In Louisville author Bethany Griffin’s young adult novel “Masque of the Red Death,” a plague has ravished Araby Worth’s city. Her brother is dead, and she seeks escape from her grief in the seductive diversions of the Debauchery Club.

“She’s pretty suicidal because her twin brother died of the plague, and she’s trying to forget everything, and she meets people who are trying to change the world and finds a reason to live,” says Griffin.

Griffin’s steampunk thriller is a re-imagining of the classic Edgar Allan Poe story. Thanks to bookseller nominations, “Masque of the Red Death” has secured a coveted place on theteen reader edition of the spring IndieNext list, which bookstores use to make recommendations to patrons.

In Griffin’s post-apocalyptic Victorian dystopia, all the horses are dead, and only the wealthy can afford the masks that protect against the contagion.

“They’re riding through town and the corpse collectors are picking up bodies, and you get to see the disconnect between the rich kids and everybody else,” says Griffin.

It’s a familiar divide to young adult readers, who made dystopian novels like Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy into hits.

Griffin is the author of “Handcuffs,” a 2008 contemporary young adult novel about a middle child in romantic and family crisis. But for “Masque of the Red Death,” Griffin, who teaches English at Bullitt East High School, dug deep into the Poe stories she loved as a child for inspiration.

Poe died in 1849, but his gothic sensibility still resonates with young readers.

“I do think teens are somewhat trying to figure out life and death and are becoming more aware of their own mortality so I do think there is some psychological connections, but the stories are just really fun and descriptive and dark,” says Griffin.

Griffin will read from and sign copies of “Masque of the Red Death” at Carmichael’s Bookstore Friday at 7 p.m.

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