You may know author Sarah Rees Brennan from her essay in A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls (“Women Who Love Vampires Who Eat Women – Gender Dynamics and Interspecies Dating in Mystic Falls”), her hilarious livetweets of The Vampire Diaries, or her Demon’s Lexicon trilogy of YA urban fantasy novels. Now she’s here to chat with us about her TVD fandom and her new vampire novel, Team Human (cowritten with Justine Larbalestier). Read on to hear about her adventures as a young L.J. Smith fan in Ireland, her hopes for Season 4, and why she wants you to give Team Human a chance.
Make sure you read all the way to the end for your chance to enter to win an autographed copy of Team Human!
We know you’re an L.J. Smith fan from way back. What attracted you to her books as a kid/teenager? Were they popular in Ireland, or did you have to find ways to import them yourself?
List to my tale. I was about thirteen when I found a second-hand copy of the fourth Vampire Diaries book [Dark Reunion], in Dublin. I read it and felt MYSTERIOUSLY COMPELLED by it, for reasons I didn’t fully understand at the time (Damon) even though obviously I wasn’t following everything that was going on (but I would have followed Damon anywhere he asked me to go. Book Damon had a Ferrari with ILLEGALLY TINTED WINDOWS. Such a bad boy! No vehicle was lawful around him).
But I was thirteen. Amazon hadn’t caught on. If a book wasn’t in bookshops, I didn’t know what to do.
The long years wore on!
Then I was sixteen, and my mother brought home L.J. Smith’s Secret Vampire, the first book in the Night World series about whether vampires and assorted other supernatural creatures could avoid the apocalypse in the year 2000. (At the time I was pretty concerned about that! The last book in the series hasn’t come out yet… one day!… but I feel less concerned about that particular apocalypse.)
What a good mum, am I right? She remembered L.J. Smith, and she knew I liked vampires! But it had a truly tragic cover, and I was stroppy at sixteen, so I thought everything my parents did was terrible.
‘THIS BOOK LOOKS TERRIBLE!’ I said. ‘I HATE YOU!’ (Other variants: ‘my day was terrible, I hate you, my hair looks awful, I hate you, the wind is blowing north-north-east, I hate you.’ I often wonder why I was not left in the woods to be eaten by werewolves.)
I threw it across a room.
I was pretty bored, so about fifteen minutes later I got up and fetched it. The next day I got my poor, long-suffering mother to drive me to the bookshop in town where she’d found Secret Vampire, and I purchased (Mum purchased, let’s be real) all seven or eight of the Night World books I could lay hands on.
Then I found L.J. Smith’s Forbidden Game series (Labyrinth meets Norse myth) in the library, after arduous searching.
Then came the hardest part. By then Amazon was a thing, but my parents were extremely dubious about it. Credit card details? ON THE INTERNET? But I begged and begged and made their lives artistically miserable.
It took several months for books to arrive from Amazon to Ireland back then. (I assume because people had to carry the books uphill in the snow or something…?) But eventually I had Dark Visions, The Secret Circle, and the first three Vampire Diaries books.
Let me tell you, the fourth one made a LOT MORE SENSE once I read them.
Myself and my best friend–she’s still my best friend, the friends who nerd-play together nerd-stay together–set up an L.J. Smith fan website called Maya and Hellewise’s Guide to the Books, the Bad and the Babes. (I was Maya, the bad witch who became a vampire. Of course I was Maya.) I belonged to an L.J. Smith fan list. I met an English girl on the list who became a good friend in real life! (My parents never ever knew that I met up with people from the Internet, because I am a terrible and irresponsible daughter who deserved to be kidnapped and sold. Nobody ever made any attempt to kidnap and sell me, though: possibly I was always clearly more trouble than I was worth.)
Being in a frenzy over L.J. Smith meant I totally understood Twilight frenzy when it happened. It was something all my friends knew about me. My friend Cassie Clare sent me an American version of Secret Vampire when I was living in England (and before either of us had books published). Its cover was also amazing, and it came with a FREE GLOW IN THE DARK sticker! What a good friend.
This is some HARDCORE NERDERY, is what I’m telling you. Knowing how much teen me loved LJ Smith is part of what inspired me to write YA.
What stuck with you about the Vampire Diaries books that made you want to watch the show?
Given all of that L.J. Smith nerdery, when The Vampire Diaries was announced I was all over it. I was determined: I was going to watch it, all my friends were going to watch it! I was at Comic Con in 2009 for the release of my first book (The Demon’s Lexicon) but I made sure to be there on the first day so I could see the pilot early.
I wasn’t super impressed. And yet I was certain that I wanted to watch it forever. Here is my account of watching the first few episodes, which I found hilarrible (hilariously terrible). And then the dry ice evaporated and the diaries became but a journally whisper, and I found that I was LOVING the show with all my heart. It is now my favourite show: no pacing is better. My sixteen year old self would expect nothing less.
What are your hopes for Season 4?
Well, the things I hope will happen I’ve already seen and wish to continue forevermore: Caroline remaining queen of the world and princess of my heart. The Salvatore boys remaining caught in a bad bromance, and slowly learning to be better to each other. If Stefan wants to go evil again, I’m here for him. I loved Evil Stefan and his strangely askew hair and his crazy eyes. Basically I think Klaus has him some fine taste in the ladies and the gents.
And for the new shiny, oh, vampire Elena. I hope for lots and lots of different ways to contrast and compare her with Katherine. I think it’s so fascinating that Katherine and Elena both sired themselves, in a way, both choosing death with no vampires actually intending to transform them, but also in such different ways–Katherine hanged herself, Elena chose to die in Matt’s place. Both of them are independent and fierce ladies, but Katherine went it alone and Elena chose her friend. I want to see how Elena will react to vampirism, whether she’ll become more or less like Katherine, and how she’ll interact differently with the world when weakness is no longer her greatest strength and keeping her human cannot be a primary aim.
And of course, I’d like to see her different reaction specifically to Damon. Does it make me a deviant if I say I hope Vampire Elena bangs Damon like a vampire door in a hurricane? (Whoops, devianted.)
What other vampire books/movies/shows are your favorites?
Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. ‘Oh I love that soulful dark-haired tormented vampi… No, tell me more about his blond reckless rock star frenemy, if you please.’ I also went to the movie Interview with the Vampire with oranges stuffed down my top to seem older. That… did not go well for me. That story has a sticky end.
Lost Souls. ‘The undead are chasing our two-man boyband and they are banging our girlfriends, ruining our lives and asking for our autographs!’
Dracula, of course. Bram Stoker was Irish, and it’s his centenary this year, so I just went to a reading of Dracula, with bonus red lights from hell, in St Patrick’s Cathedral. Sacrilicious! I read Dracula when I was about eight and my mum was convinced I’d have nightmares. So convinced SHE ended up having nightmares, while I slept peacefully on, dreaming of vampires and the train timetables that defeat them. (Nobody really mentions the trains in adaptations, but they are pretty important!)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Airing during my L.J. Smith phase… why wouldn’t I have loved it? I didn’t even realise when I was watching it how smart and subversive the show was, and how much it led me to expect humour with my horror.
We look forward to your tweets about each episode. How did you get started livetweeting? Is there anything in particular you hope TVD fans get out of your tweets? What does it add to the viewing experience for you?
Aw, thank you! I started livetweeting when I sat down some of my friends in America–writer friend Holly Black and her husband, a couple other people–in front of season one of TVD. I’m the worst house guest ever: I always insist that the vampires must be invited in with me. Since I’d seen it, I was commenting along, and then Holly started commenting with me, and I never like to watch TV or movies alone. If I’m alone, I read a book! So it’s a lot of fun for me to livetweet the show and have the fine people of Twitter as my friends to watch along with, and share my thoughts with!
I just hope that the people who see my tweets laugh and do not think I am totally daft.
Some samples of said tweets:
@sarahreesbrenna: Damon: I’m in ur town bitin ur ladies. Stefan: What ladies? Damon: ALL THE LADIES. #vampirediaries
KOL AND FINN: *wake from centuries of sleep!* KOL: Someone explain electricity. FINN: Go further back. Someone explain fire. #vampirediaries
ELENA: Putting vervain in the water, fine plan! DAMON: You want me to never take a shower again? The ratings would plummet! #vampirediaries
Tyler: I can’t do it. You saw the video! Hours of pain! Your body is not your own! SOMETIMES THE WEREPIDURAL DOESN’T WORK! #vampirediaries
Elena: Dude, I know Damon cruelly deceived and slaughtered your one true love, but you can’t kill him. He’s my RIDE HOME. #vampirediaries
MAYOR: The Salvatores got what you need. By which of course I mean wood. REBEKAH:… MAYOR: By which of course I mean lumber #vampirediaries
SAGE: Sex? DAMON: Madam, I must stay chaste in memory of my beloved & the happy days when she was doing me & my brother. #vampirediaries
JEREMY: As the bro this dude killed, I think he shouldn’t date my sister. ROSE: As the lady this dude banged, I disagree! #vampirediaries
STEFAN: I asked the florist what corsage said ‘Sorry I Killed Everyone Plz Don’t Shag My Brother.’ He said go with orchids. #vampirediaries
ELENA: I’m so alone! STEFAN: That’s silly. You have TWO vampire boyfriends. Way more vampire boyfriends than most people. #vampirediaries
STEFAN: Why you tryin to save me? DAMON: Because I lo-I because I l-BECAUSE I’M LIKE TOO HANDSOME TO EXPRESS PROPER FEELINGS #vampirediaries
… They’re deep, is what I’m telling you.
What made you decide it was time to write a vampire book of your own?
The timing felt psychologically right! I like nothing more than subverting a trope, and Justine and I saw what we wanted to subvert. The movie New Moon had just come out, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries were both going gangbusters… so were books like Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, and L.J. Smith had got her richly deserved reprints… and I really felt, walking around seeing posters of artfully blood-stained mouths (and holy Lord, I love the Vampire Diaries‘s advertising campaign, and I have a Tumblr post to prove it!) everywhere… I felt that it would be cool to look at a world where vampires are real, but still a phenomenon: where vampires are like celebrities, who are yearned over but who can also actually be accessed. What happens when you date Leonardo diVamprio?
Can you tell us a little about the vampire mythology you’ve chosen for Team Human? Does it follow a specific model or did you take bits and pieces from other mythologies? What are some things that are the same as or different from the way vampires work on TVD?
Well, I like that the vampires of TVD burn up in the sun. Images that have stayed with me from TVD Season 2 are Caroline, with the sunlight not letting her kiss her boyfriend, and not letting her open a door: creatures who are forbidden from and hurt by the light of day! Creatures of the night are much scarier, and much scarier to be, than creatures of 4 p.m.
We wanted our vampires to seem as grounded in reality as we could make them, and we don’t have any witches or werewolves or general magic, so the slightly more mystical stuff like, magic rings protect you from the sun or a vampire has to be invited in aren’t in Team Human. (Though our vampire main character, Francis, is Far Too Much A Gentleman to ever Intrude Upon Another Person (Particularly a Lady!)’s Dwelling.)
That said, though we don’t have rings, we do have one way a vampire can protect themselves from the sun. It’s just a bit undignified. ;) (You can read this opening chapter of Team Human to see how we did it!)
We also do some messing around with vampire emotions: vampire emotions are much subdued compared to human emotions, like the much-debated ‘switch’ in TVD. Our vampires don’t choose to turn them off and can’t choose to turn them on again… but they are now incapable of laughter and tears, seeing the world in a different way. It’s a sacrifice you make for immortality!
Of course, to our wisecracking heroine, this seems a fate worse than death.
Is there anything you’d like to tell us about Team Human that you’d like TVD fans, specifically, to hear?
Are you dying to see Vampire Elena? Can anyone hook me up with some spoilers?
… No, wait, that’s not about Team Human… I think I’d like them to know that I do, seriously, love vampires, and I do seriously love comedy, and that both those things exist in Team Human, but just like with The Vampire Diaries, being hilarious isn’t all there is to it. The sly allusions in The Vampire Diaries, like when Elena watches Stefan sleep, and he protests… they work on a lot of levels. Justine and I tried to do the same with our book. And we had a lot of fun trying. ;)
I’m the worst at promotion! But I know people will agree with me on Vampire Elena at least…
And/or enter our giveaway below for a chance at a copy of Team Human, signed by Sarah Rees Brennan! (Open to international fans, too. Deadline for entries is Wednesday, July 18th! One entry per person, please.)
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