In August of 2004 I got a bright idea. I asked my wife, Elvira what she wanted for Christmas, figuring I had a good four months lead time to shop around. To my surprise she said she wanted, me to write her a, “Gothic fairy Tale with pictures.” I figured I’d write a short story, ten maybe twelve pages long, do a few doodles to make it look pretty. It’d take two, maybe three weekends (a month, tops), plus it would give me an excuse to fiddle around with Adobe InDesign, which I’d wanted to tinker with for a while. I could print it at home. It’d be a fun project and a personal gift. What could be better?
So I started flipping through my notebook, looking for ideas. I found a page-long summery of a dream I ‘d had a few nights before, about an undead king who kept his family up at night, murmuring into the pipes. I remembered that dream vividly, which is a fairly rare occurrence. It had a very Guy Maddin feel to it, weird, a little silly and kind of surreal.1 I could see the flicker of the silent era cinematography, sepia toned with German Expressionistic sets, like something out of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. It was decidedly Gothic.
I was still in Grad School at the time, working on my Masters Degree in Library Science, so naturally I had all the time in the world to write and illustrate a Gothic Fairy Tale. Thanksgiving rolled around and I hadn’t written more than four pages. They were (and still are) the first four pages (mostly), so it was a start but I knew there was no hope of me finishing it before Christmas. So I applied for an extension, promising Elvira the story for her birthday.2 That way, I had until July and I would be done with Grad School in early May, so I had plenty of time.