This interview first appeared in Voices From the Vaults, the newsletter of The Dracula Society, in August 2011. The interview was conducted by DS Committee Member, Tracy Lee.
Fledgling was inspired by your short story. Where did you find the idea for that story?
Over the years I’ve designed a lot of paranormal romance book covers for the UK market, and I’ve read a lot of them too. I became a little tired of the vampire/human relationships which flooded the market a few years ago. I decided I wanted to write a story which opened where the female MC had already been turned against her will (no pun intended.) But there had to be a very good reason for her being turned, otherwise she would really never like my male MC. The short story didn’t actually cover the reason, but Fledgling does.
Does the finished novel bear much similarity to the original short story?
Other than the names Will and Ellie, and the London setting – not really. The short story had less substance – and if I’m honest – is a bit naïve, but Fledgling is darker. Ellie is much more feisty and keeps Will at arm’s length for far longer. Also, I hope after all the hard work – it’s better!
What kind of vampire is the protagonist Will?
He’s a three-hundred-year-old former Duke. Full of confidence – bordering on arrogant – very wealthy, and a bit of a control freak, but he adores Ellie. He doesn’t suffer fools ... at all, although he does have a dark sense of humour – which Ellie doesn’t always appreciate – and of course he’s mouth-wateringly gorgeous. A literary agent said to me last year, ‘Tall, dark handsome vampires don’t sell.’ I said, ‘Er, actually they do.’ Then I remembered he was the agent who turned down Interview With The Vampire for the UK market. Clearly he isn’t a vampire fan.
Your heroine Elinor is a dancer – why?
A piece of advice I was given years ago, was ‘write about something you know’ and as I’ve danced since I was seven, although never professionally, I decided to make her a dancer. I still go to dance classes every week, and have quite a few friends who are dancers, so it made sense at the time. Vampires are supposed to be lithe and graceful, so I thought a former professional dancer would make an amazing vampire.
Originally I started the book when Ellie was human – and working in the theatre – but I changed it to give the beginning more of an impact. I will be writing a prequel (eventually) so there will be more of the theatre aspect in that.
Is your novel different to other paranormal romance books?
The main difference is that it’s set in North London – England! All the others seem to be American, set in New Orleans, St Louis, Seattle, Washington State etc., but never London. Tanya Huff has used the bastard son of Henry VIII as her vampire – yet he still lives near Seattle!
I wanted my main characters to be quintessentially English, and to speak English – although I had trouble persuading my (American) editor not to substitute ‘gotten’ for ‘got.’ In the end I rewrote several paragraphs so I could lose the word altogether.
The areas of North London which I know best, provide a colourful background for Fledgling. I wanted to make my vampires who live there seem ‘real.’ It would be amazing if people walked around Highgate trying to find Will’s Georgian house. I often wandered around there myself until I found the perfect house for him, so it really does exist. (I just hope it isn’t Sting’s house!)
Ultimately I think it was the ‘Englishness’ of the book which attracted the American publishers.
Do you feel this book will bring new fans to the vampire genre?
It’s difficult to answer that question. I can only say I hope so. Both my editor and copy editor are fans of Will, and that makes me really proud – and hopeful.
Renegades is book two of the series. When will that be published and can you tell us what it’s about?
The publishers are undecided about Renegades at the moment. They aren’t keen on series of books, so that’s a problem. Also they are predominantly a romance publisher and Renegades is not so much of a romance as Fledgling. It has torture and heaps of bodies. Added to the body count, there are child vampires, which a lot of US publishers really don’t like.
Contractually, I can’t show it to another publisher until they definitely say ‘no.’ But I think it will depend on how well Fledgling does to be honest.
Renegades features more of Will and Ellie, with two extremely evil enemies added. It features the ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ of all vampires, who descend on London to try and usurp Will’s authority as Elder, generally cause mayhem, and commit grisly murders. They want Londoners to be aware of the existence of vampires, and Will is extremely keen for that not to happen.
It’s in Renegades that Ellie discovers more about Will’s past too, and there’s a lovely vamp wedding at the end. So it does have its romantic moments ... just not as many as Fledgling.
I think US publishers differ from the UK, and rarely offer a ‘three-book deal.’ But I have to show my publishers everything I write for the next three years – thus giving them first ‘dibs.’
Did you always intend to write a series?
No, not at all. Renegades almost started writing itself. An idea came and I started writing, then before I knew what had happened, I had twenty-two chapters. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t finished it yet because I keep getting side-tracked by other things. Although the book is all plotted out, and recently I rewrote the first chapter which is something I often do. But I really do need to set myself a deadline to finish Renegades.
What are your writing plans beyond that?
I’ve got two other books in the pipeline. The first is another paranormal romance, called Alpha, starring one of the more minor characters from Fledgling. (A werewolf.) Told from the point-of-view of a female rock singer who has no idea her new man turns furry once a month.
The second book, which I started last year, is a fallen angel story, called Fallen From Grace, although I think angels have actually fallen out of favour already :) It’s a fast-moving genre.
Eventually I hope to get going on Obsession, which is Will’s story, and starts in the 17th Century. I’m looking forward to writing something historical. The book spans three centuries and the second half details Will’s first sightings of, and ultimate obsession with Ellie, ending with her accident – which is the beginning of Fledgling. Full circle!
I’m also editing an anthology of vampire stories for teens, called Fangtales, which will be published by Wyvern Publications in October 2011. I didn’t have time to even think of a story for it myself, but I am designing the cover! (I wasn’t allowed to design the cover for Fledgling.)
Fledgling is published in Black Rose by The Wild Rose Press on 23rd September 2011
Follow Berni on Twitter: @circleoflebanon
Visit the Black Rose blog http://twrpblackrose.blogspot.com/ featuring different writing topics every month written by the Black Rose authors.