“Fang”tastic Reviews
“I am learning that I was not alone living with a monster as a child. I felt so alone and never had anyone. I have such difficulty relating my experiences and it has forever kept me that girl who had to keep such sadness inside. I have laughed and cried reading It Started with Dracula. I think you have written a gift.” 
Elizabeth, former Social Worker

“I just finished reading your book and had to tell you I absolutely loved it! I can’t wait to tell my book club about it.” --Rebecca Cale Camhi, author of the novels Deepwater Mountain and Deadly Legacy
              “It Started with Dracula is told in a straightforward and truthful way, without the pretentious lecturing I have seen in other memoirs. The author’s voice—conversational, pure and honest--shines through.”—Gerald Mullins, retired teacher
“It Started with Dracula is one of the most entertaining travelogues I've ever read.”—Edwina Pendarvis, Book Editor, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine

“Your book is fascinating and very well written. Great prologue to draw the reader in. Great first chapter. Makes you want to keep turning pages. Perfect! This book should indeed please Dracula fans everywhere. Thanks again!” –C. Dean Andersson, author of I Am Dracula

Jane Congdon and a different kind of vampire book
April 12, 2011 by Greg Moore

When I started Sandy Wells’ Innerviews column on new author Jane Congdon and her memoir “It Started With Dracula: The Count, My Mother and Me,” my first thoughts were not charitable.
Listen, I love vampire stories. My admiration of “Dracula” is well documented. I have an autographed Anne Rice book, and I thought she was the coolest thing back in the day. Kim Newman, “Salem’s Lot,” Richard Matheson … I like it all.
At least I did, until vampire fiction became the default position for seemingly every author working today. I am, sad to say, about sick of it all.
But after reading Congdon’s story, I admit that her tale sounds pretty compelling. As Sandy writes:
During a dream trip to Dracula land, seeing her early life reflected in the look-alike landscape, she made the connection between the blood-sucking vampire and her emotionally draining life with an alcoholic mother.
Accepted by a California publisher specializing in memoirs, her book debuts Oct. 6. Reviewers call it “thrilling,” “elegant” and “electrifying.”
She calls it life-changing. The cathartic memoir healed her.
The part about the look-alike landscape is something I’ve heard before about the Balkans and the Appalachians, and Congdon offered some photographic proof.
It sounds like a different kind of vampire book — and today, that’s something to celebrate.

“I thoroughly enjoyed It Started with Dracula and plan to recommend it in the next issue of our newsletter, The Borgo Post.”—Dr. Elizabeth Miller, President, Transylvanian Society of Dracula, Canadian Chapter (www.blooferland.com)

“Your memoir has made a lasting impression on me. In my mind, it's already a

movie.”—Peggy Toney Horton, blogger (Peggy’s Ponderings, www.peggylu.com) and author of Somewhere in Heaven My Mother Is Smiling 

Twilight fans, step aside or take note! If you are a vampire or Dracula enthusiast, you’ll find a wealth of information in the memoir. Congdon knows her stuff, here, and has done her research. She is well-read and versed in many vampire-related topics, among them Bram Stoker’s archetypical Dracula, the Hammer Films Dracula movies, and the real prince named Dracula, Vlad the Impaler.
Courtesy of Amazon.com
“I'm LOVING your book. I’ve only read to page 78, and I am already thinking this needs to be made into a wonderful movie!”—Diane Kleinfelter, Pro Seniors, Cincinnati

“I just finished It Started with Dracula and absolutely loved it. I liked it on so many levels. As a traveler, I enjoyed the travelogue part and the information about Dracula. Then, of course, I was touched by the link between your trip and your family. Thanks for writing that treasure!”—Jane Dunshie

Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers Favorite

Author Jane Congdon is a devoted fan of the Christopher Lee Dracula movies. As a teenager in the 1950's she loved going to the movie theater in her West Virginia hometown to watch the tall, elegant actor play Count Dracula. It was a welcome escape to her as, at home, her mother was an abusive alcoholic, a monster who spewed out cruelties to Congdon and her brother, Joe, scaring and scarring them both. At age 59, having endured divorce and single motherhood, the author had saved her money and was able to afford a trip to Romania,

home to Count Vlad, the original Dracula, the medieval ruler who tortured sadistically endless numbers of citizens.

In It Started With Dracula, the author gives the reader an easy-to-follow tour throughout Romania as she visits one "Vlad" site after another with her guide, Lucian. At the beginning of each chapter, a chilling black and white illustration of a castle by moonlight gives ambiance as the author writes of visiting Vlad's castles, his supposed grave, and farms nestled in Transylvania. She also intersperses her travels to various Dracula sites with memories of her own monster, the alcoholic mother of her childhood.

Jane Congdon has written a wonderful travel guide to the entirety of Romania as she writes of how her girlhood fascination with all things Dracula saved her from the horrors of an out-of-control alcoholic mother. It Started with Dracula is well-written and brilliantly organized into chapters with a book discussion section offered at the conclusion. Congdon's dedication to "kids who have to come home to monsters" is poignant. She is fortunate that her fascination with Dracula saved her the fate faced by many children of alcoholics.

If you like to travel, and I do, you'll appreciate Jane Congdon's approach to touring Romania. She had thought about and wanted to visit that country for decades so that she could chase the Dracula she came to know via movies from the 50s and 60s. 

If you knew the author, and I do, you could hear her voice and see her facial and body expressions throughout this book. If you don't know the author, you'll have someone you know in mind as you read, and you'll hear that person's voice because this is writing that speaks to us.

What a magnificent book Jane has written. I've always known she was talented and she's certainly made me laugh over the years. Now she has made me think, laugh, and cry. If you're thinking aw, this reviewer is just prejudiced on behalf of her friend, you'd be half right. I certainly was pre-disposed to like It Started With Dracula. Fortunately I found myself pleased because I loved it on many levels based on the author's skill, not her friendship. I wouldn't have dared write this review if I didn't find the book to be such a treasure. I'd have simply mumbled "liked the book" to Jane, and moved on. 

It can't have been easy, but once Jane started she put much of herself and of her mother out there for all of us to read. What a gift. It serves to remind that we seldom know all that is going on within the lives of the people closest to us. 

READ THIS BOOK and learn about Christopher Lee and his Dracula. READ IT and learn about Vlad the Impaler. READ IT and learn about Romania. READ IT and learn what a woman traveling in a foreign country learned about her own life and family. READ IT, learn, enjoy, and rejoice at the end. And if there is a similar story within you, don't be afraid to write that story. This book may inspire you to do just that.     
                                                                                    -Lil Iodine
To begin, the comments and readers' reviews on this page for It Started with Dracula were right on target. The observations are so eloquent and precise that I cannot top any of the comments re the book or the praise for Jane Congdon, the author. I can tell you this, as an avid reader of many diverse topics, this book was compelling, riveting and revealing. As I read, I felt my best friend had confided in me, exposing her innermost secrets she'd hidden (even from herself) for many years. I couldn't put the book down, and I would not hesitate to say, "read this book." --Cary Reader

“...I am drawn to headlines and references that speak to the personal narrative, and to the process of standing in the ashes. Just this past weekend in my local paper there was a profile of Jane Congdon, whose book, It Started With Dracula: The Count, My Mother and Me explores the author’s decades-long fascination with vampires.

Only on a trip to Romania, where the landscape of rivers and mountains triggered her childhood memories in Glen Ferris, West Virginia, did she make a life-changing connection to her mother’s alcoholism.

‘All I wanted to do was see the land of Dracula and write about it, like a travel essay. I wasn’t going to write about my mother. I had opened my mind, and when I did, all those memories came back.

‘I made the connection that some people are monsters. I couldn’t have told you why I liked Dracula, but the resemblance started to come to me — the mother with an unending thirst and a vampire with an unending thirst, and mountains and rivers. It just started to jell. It’s interesting how it started out to be a simple travel issue and turned out to be a parallel of my life with something I never connected to it. I loved Dracula, and all this was going on with Mom.’

You can write as an observer without being willing to embrace the human experience. I think you can write excellent technical manuals, website content, textbooks or even some pieces of journalism. But literature requires a process with levels of vulnerability and complexity that is different and often scorned, and we should support those who are willing to engage that process if we don’t want to lose an entire generation of readers and writers to self-help books...”—West Virginia writer Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher in a post titled “Ashes to Ashes, Pen to Paper: Embracing Grief for the Good of Your Writing” in the blog, Esse Diem (http://essediemblog.com)

“My son, Lee, just finished reading a Nicholas Sparks book called
Three Weeks With My Brother.  He said, "It reminds me of Jane's book, but
hers is better."

I thought you'd enjoy being compared to a writer who has sold over 77
million copies of his books.” --Blogger Peggy Horton Toney (www.peggylu.com)"

"A lifelong crush on evil's dignified face can lead to a unique sort of soul searching. "It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and Me" is a unique memoir from Jane Congdon as she explores her childhood memories of being fascinated with Count Dracula, that led her to a trip to Hungary and the supposed location of these films. In her trip, she begins to reflect on her childhood for what it really is, and comes to terms with the problems she never addressed. "It Started with Dracula" is a humorous and touching memoir, very much recommended."--Midwest Book Review, April 2012

From the United Kingdom:
Title: It started with Dracula: the Count, my mother, and me (n.p.: Bettie Youngs Books, 2011) 
Author: Jane Congdon
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Why'd I buy it? I get a kick out of books devoted to vampire fandom. This book relates Congdon's interest in Dracula after watching Horror of Dracula (1958) and wraps it up in a personal journey. It's probably the only book of this nature that I've seen billed 'Self-Help/Inspiration'. It's also the first book out of this lot that I've started reading. As of this writing, I'm up to the twelfth chapter. I'm impressed by Congdon's candidness, comparable to Barbara Green's in Secrets o. It'sf the grave (2001) certainly an interesting ride.
I read Jane Congdon’s new book: 
It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and Me at every opportunity, drawn in by the author’s prose and fascinating story. This memoir is uniquely engaging because of the author’s ability to make the reader feel present. She took me with her on her trip and also back to her childhood. I felt her feelings, and that is rare and amazing.
Jane Congdon’s book “It Started With Dracula”, takes us on a trip to Romania that is fascinating and eye-opening. Jane’s detailed information about the country, people, and her guide leave a painting in the mind of the reader of what she saw and experienced, as if the reader was traveling with her.
Her journey through her childhood memories of a disfunctional family as she travels through Romania show us the hurt she experienced growing up. Letting the reader live through these unsettling times of childhood bring us closer to her.
Jane’s travels and mind-journey have brought her to a good place in her life today. This is a book I didn’t want to put down. -- James Cordroy
This book is compelling. Before I had finished the first page, I was hooked! The story begins nearly a half a century ago in the small town of Glen Ferris, located in the mountains of West Virginia. The author, Jane Congdon, sits with her best friend in the near-darkness of the Gauley Theater, mesmerized by a 1950′s movie, Horror of Dracula. The movie tells the story of a vampire, Count Dracula, of Transylvania and those who seek to destroy him. The starring role is played by Christopher Lee, with whom young Jane is at once fascinated.
Jane didn’t know then that Transylvania was a real place among the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, nor did she understand why it called to her. But, from the moment she discovered it was indeed real, she wanted to see it for herself–every aspect! She was only fourteen years old, but vowed she would make the trip one day.
Forty-five years later, she planned that trip.
Although Jane suffered an intense fear of flying, her lifelong desire to make this trip was more powerful than that fear, and in due time, she found herself landing at the Bucharest airport where she was met by a handsome guide from the travel agency she’d hired to manage her trip. Lucian deposited her luggage into a small blue sedan and off they went. The land of Dracula beckoned.
From this point on, I began to see this book as a movie–visualizing Jane’s character sitting in the front seat of the blue sedan beside Lucian, relishing every sight and sound she possibly could as they zipped over the curvy roads of the Romanian countryside; sharing her breathlessness as she and Lucian climbed the steps to the Poenari Citadel, one of two edifices known as Dracula’s castle in Romania, and experiencing the shakiness of her legs after she descended those 1480 concrete steps. From her first cup of coffee each morning until she went to bed at night already looking forward to the next day’s adventure, I was with her.
But the part of the book that had the most profound effect on me was the way the author artfully merged the description of her sometimes painful childhood into the fabric of the main story – the legend of Dracula. It was difficult not to feel her anguish as she recalled still tender experiences that she and her brother, Joe, endured while growing up with an alcoholic mother.
In the end, she forgave her mother. I suspect the writing of this book provided the cathartic effect needed to facilitate that forgiveness.
At one fell swoop, the author accomplished two important things: she fulfilled her lifelong dream of seeing the land of Dracula and walking in the very steps where her movie idol, Christopher Lee, might have walked; and she purged herself of many years worth of agonizing memories.
Moreover, she wrote about it masterfully! --Pegylu

Ms Congdon’s first book about self discovery and acceptance is extremely well written. She has a wonderful way with words. Her parallels between Dracula’s movies and her younger years growing up are definitely page turners. You will not be disappointed if you give It Started With Dracula a chance.
Every family has its “ghost in the closet.” From her years as a young, insecure teen through her travels to Dracula-land, Jane Congdon shares a heartfelt experience about her journey through life. Growing up with a mother who seemed to spend more time with “the bottle” than on caring and nurturing her children, Congdon learned some difficult lessons early in life. The parallels drawn paint a vivid picture–from her childhood days in the hills of Glenn Farris, West Virginia to an extended trip through the Romanian countryside, Congdon’s memoir keeps you highly engaged and entertained. Family secrets or not, you’ll relate and enjoy the journey! --Natalina Odus
"...They are people who like writing--whether it's 'something for my grandchildren' or a full-blown, well-crafted, published book--like my student Jane Congdon's brave coming-of-age memoir, It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and Me (Betty Youngs Books, 2011)                                       -Catherine Watson, award-winning travel writer and teacher, speaking about her students in the blog, A Woman's Paris"