Speaking with anyone you are unfamiliar with on the telephone can be a scary proposition. Toss in the fact that it is an interview of a best selling YA author, the interviewer is newly awakened and inevitable American/Australian accent issues and you can imagine what a ball of nerves this blogger was. Despite the nerves, my interview with Richelle Mead was an enjoyable experience. She’s bright, bubbly and thoughtful. She’s the perfect kind of subject to interview as she can give you a serious, detailed answer and then switch it up with an amusing, self-deprecating quip.
Mead is coming to Australia next month in celebration of the release of her fourth title in the Vampire Academy series, Blood Promise. You can detect a certain nervousness in her discussion of the book. It’s a departure from the previous three titles. Ironically, not much of the action happens in the Academy and the tight bonds of the Rose/Lissa relationship are tested with physical distance. Throw in a worldwide simultaneous release, considerably hype and some very expectant fans and you can imagine the pressure Mead is feeling but she need not worry. Fans will receive considerably more character development in their protagonist, learn more about Dimitri’s decent into the Strigoi world and see the negative effects Rose’s departure will have on Lissa’s wellbeing.
Blood Promise is much more of a character study than the previous titles but it shares the same snappy dialogue, smouldering interplay and my favourite character of questionable moral integrity, Adrian. Rose finds her own strong opinions challenged and she experiences an alternative way of living for the first time in her life. Rose has choices to make, good and bad. Watching her navigate the treacherous waters of human/supernatural politics, a Moroi Mafioso and Dimitri’s family is like piggybacking Rose’s journey and evolution as a character.
Richelle Mead says that she is very excited to come to Australia. The support she has received from Aussie fans has been extremely enthusiastic will countless communications via email, Facebook and Twitter . Their most pressing question? How the series ends, of course.
Touring Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in the week following September 14th, Mead is eager to meet her antipodean fans, despite the long and daunting flight ahead of her. Blood Promise is released (August 24th) just prior to her visit and while she is finds the enthusiasm "rewarding, touching, overwhelming and humbling", she admits that it is a trifle "scary" in terms of the fan's expectations.
The Vampire Academy series has taken off strongly since its 2007 debut. It's remarkable to think that this woman is responsible for simultaneously releasing three series. It is difficult to contemplate how one can be so prolific. When asked how often she writes, her answer surprised me "a draft every three months, two at the moment though". With all this hurried writing I wondered if any character or plot point surprised her as she was writing. Instead Mead reveals that she has adhered mostly to her original outline, sketching it from its first intended trilogy to the currently anticipated six-title series. Listening to Mead detail her writing schedule boggles the brain. She pulls no punches when she states it’s a job; it’s not as glamorous as people would like to think. She’s more productive when she’s under the gun of a deadline, used to write more in the evenings but now finds herself writing throughout the day. Mead considers two thousand words in four hours to be disappointing and this Sunday’s effort of six thousand in three hours to be productive. It makes one wonder how she is able to juggle the multiple deadlines and releases without developing a drug habit. She laughs when I suggest it and jokes “maybe I do and it’s not public”. Instead her productivity comes down to “me sitting at a computer, procrastinating, caffeine. It’s hard!”
Not much has surprised her as the series has unfurled, with the exception to the burgeoning popularity of Adrian. She does state that he is “incredibly fun to write” and will continue to be a part of the series. Mead was generous too, when I stated Adrian’s similar feel to another Lothario, Chuck Bass (from the CW's Gossip Girl television series). She giggles and states “I knew you were going to say that” but she also sees Christian Bale’s depiction of a desolate and angry Laurie in the Little Woman movie (after Jo’s turned him down) in everyone’s favourite bad boy. Her other characters will continue to evolve. Rose‘s focus is becoming more and more clear (read Blood Promise for more details) but she will continue to try and keep Lissa sane. What about some of the more peripheral characters? Christian will continue on along the same path of page time, retaining some hope that the tide will change in terms of him being kept at arms length from the Moroi society.
In many ways the Vampire Academy series is about finding your own family. Lissa and Rose have both been orphaned by death or dedication and I wondered if Richelle’s upbringing might have been equally traumatic. Not the case, she tells me, her family was “fairly ordinary” but she likes to espouse the truth that there is “no perfect family”. For Rose and Lissa though, it’s the family they have made with one another, and other characters, that has provided them with the most stability. The power of friendship is unquestionable.
The many twists and turns of the interview revealed some other interesting facts: she’s a Smallville fan, is terrible anxious to begin the Vampire Academy spin-off series and agrees that Jo really should have chosen Laurie, not Professor Bhaer. Is that not proof of her considerable intelligence and common sense? Richelle Mead is a wonderfully warm and humble individual not entirely comfortable with her considerable success. It’s a job to her and the most important facet of her writing is to satisfy her eager hoard of fans. I don’t think she has to worry.
The second part of this interview, including some spoilers will be posted within the fortnight. Thank you to Richelle Mead for taking the time to talk to me at length and to F. for making all the arrangements.