Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy


Richelle Mead’s beloved, shelf-disappearing “Vampire Academy” series is headed to the silver screen – and by all indications, it’s packin’ the bite.
The first flick of the proposed celluloid franchise, “Vampire Academy”, has quite a few creative cats working it like a scratch pile – “Mean Girls” director Mark Waters is helming, his brother and “Batman Returns” scribe Daniel Waters wrote the script, and amongst the producers, IM Global’s Stuart Ford, whose due for a big hit this holiday season with the “Walking with Dinosaurs” flick. If the cool-ass posters haven’t sold you, and that fun teaser trailer hasn’t spurred interest, then Meads’ words just might.

Most important question : How involved in the ”Vampire Academy” film are you?
My role is mostly advisory, which is completely normal for authors in book-to-movie adaptations (despite many rumors to the contrary). The movie makers make movies, I make books, and I’m totally okay with that division of labor! That being said, they’ve been really great about asking my opinion and getting my input. I was allowed to read the script and offer feedback, which was used in revisions. During production, Mark Waters asked me questions about costumes and creatures, as well as if certain choices he made would affect future books. This is actually more involvement than many authors gets, so I’m super-flattered both to have that part and that they’ve been so conscious and detail-oriented about the choices made.

How good a job have they done of condensing the book into a film? Did you have any say in that?
I’m very pleased with the adaptation. It is an adaptation, of course, so some things are trimmed or modified for the big screen, but I feel like the decisions were smart ones. They were done either because there wasn’t time or because some things which seem fascinating on the written page actually come out boring on the big screen. I was able to offer feedback after the script was written but actually only had a few comments to make. Overall, I thought they did a sound job and was particularly pleased to see that all of the big plots and subplots stayed in.

Casting-wise, who are you the most happiest with? Did you ever have anyone in mind for the roles when you were writing the book?
It’s hard to pick a favorite. I never did any mental casting while writing the books, partially because movies weren’t on my mind then but also because I didn’t want to be disappointed with any choices made later. As a result, I’m actually really thrilled with the casting. They look the part, and even more amazingly, they completely have the characters’ personalities down. Zoey [Deutch]’s been a particular stand-out. She’s got all the energy, humor, and fierceness of her character as part of her normal personality—so much so, that you almost want to call her “Rose” sometimes!

“‘Mortal Instruments” and ”The Host” haven’t done well at the box office, but similar-themed movies like ”Hunger Games” and ”Twilight” have. Why do you think that is? Do you believe ”Vampire Academy” will fare better than MI etc?
Hollywood is such an unpredictable business that it’s hard to really say for sure what makes one movie fail or another succeed. The Hunger Games and Twilight already had massive readerships before hitting the theaters, which definitely helped with both ticket sales and word of mouth. They have more readers than any other YA adaptation that’s come out since Harry Potter, far more than Vampire Academy. If every VA reader comes out to see the movie, but no one new does, the movie still won’t be financially successful, which makes pulling in new viewers so critical. I suspect some of the other franchises that haven’t done as well recently were in similar positions and simply weren’t able to extend beyond their readership. If that’s the case, marketing becomes a key issue, and it too is a tricky business. I know right now that the VA advertising is focusing heavily on its humorous and edgy sides because that’s definitely what makes VA stand out among some of its peers. The hope is that dark humor will appeal to those who might normally think supernatural stories are too melodramatic. Whether that works to attract new viewers remains to be seen, but we’re certainly crossing our fingers!

The press spiel for the book and upcoming film said it’s more ‘Buffy than Bella’. Do you agree?
Rose, Buffy, and Bella are each unique characters. Rose and Buffy do share a similarly sharp sense of humor, and they’re certainly both fighters. Zoey Deutch got a pretty big compliment recently when Sarah Michelle Gellar saw the Vampire Academy trailer at a theatre and tweeted to Zoey: “That’s my girl- you show them how it’s done.”

What was the inspiration behind the “Age of X” series?
Really, it was a culmination of things. I grew up reading epic, incredibly complex fantasy and sci-fi series. I always thought I’d write in that genre, and it was a little bit of a surprise when I ended up in paranormal and urban fantasy (though I’m a big fan of that too). The Age of X series hearkens back to that old love of complex and epic worldbuilding but also blends some of the lighter and humorous elements I’ve come to adore in the rest of my series. And of course, it’s full of mythology, which has always been a lifelong passion for me.

How did you feel about writing the characters Justin and Mae the way that you did?
In many ways, they don’t feel that different from the characters in my other series, either adult or young adult. Justin and Mae are highly flawed, like everyone I write, though they certainly have some darker vices. I try very hard to give all my characters imperfections, so that they can grow throughout the series and fight battles within themselves, just as they do outside themselves. I also try very hard to make my characters feel real to readers and put a strong emotional component into them. I certainly hope that carried through with Justin and Mae!

How many books does you plan on writing for the Age of X series?
That’s still a mystery. At the moment, I’m tentatively thinking it’ll be a four-book series, but that may change after the next book.

Do you remember what you brought with your first big check resulting from “Vampire Academy” book sales?
Ha, I don’t know how many authors you ask this to, but most of us don’t get “big checks” from our early book sales! There were no splurges with my VA advance, especially since I’d quit my day job recently. It all went into savings!