Thanks to the awesomeness that is Twitter I landed an interview with one of my favorite authors – Justin Somper! This is the brilliant man behind the widely popular and innovative Vampirates series. If you love vampires, pirates and adventure-packed books that keep you on the edge of your seat, then read on!
Can you tell those new to the Vampirates series a little about it?
It’s set 500 or so years into the future when the oceans have risen and there’s a new dawn of piracy. Teenage twins Grace and Connor Tempest are shipwrecked off the coast of Australia and almost drown. He’s rescued by a passing pirate ship and she’s “rescued” by a ship of vampire pirates or Vampirates. From this point on, the twins’ lives will never be the same. They will meet many unforgettable characters on the voyage ahead.
Mixing vampires and pirates in such a unique way isn’t something anyone has come across before. Where did you get such an awesome idea?
It was a completely random flash of inspiration. The word “Vampirates” just landed in my head one day. Immediately, I knew this was the idea I’d been waiting on as a writer but my excitement swiftly turned to trepidation as I knew very little about vampires and next to nothing about pirates.
One of the things I love about the series is that you not only created your own vampire mythos, but that you also incorporated old folktales and legends into the mix. What made you decide to take that route?
Having gotten the idea in this random way, I decided not to immerse myself in other Vampire fiction – indeed I consciously steered clear of it – but instead turned to the ancient vampire myths and also pirate history, looking especially at ways to fuse the two together. That’s why my vampire characters feast on the thorax. Obviously, Lola’s blood bath is an homage to Countess Elizabeth Bathory. And all the stuff in BLACK HEART about “How to Kill a Vampire” was extensively researched!
Why did you choose to set the story in the future?
Partly because I thought it would surprise people. Partly because I wanted to depict strong female pirates standing squarely alongside their male counterparts. And partly because I thought it would put me more in control of the story. In some ways, it has proved a challenging choice but, all things considered, the right one I think.
I’m sure every fan knows the Vampirates shanty by heart (I’ll admit, I even sing it aloud as I read it), do you have an actual tune set to it?
Kind of but I am pretty much tone deaf so I would only ever sing it in my bath. That said, I do declaim it at almost all my events. And you can hear it sung on the wonderful audiobooks published by W F Howes, but it isn’t sung by me!
Another fantastic thing about the series is that it not only appeals to all ages, but to boys and girls. Did you plan for that, or was it something that just happened?
I suppose I did intend to reach both male and female readers and that’s why I opted for two young heroes rather than one. I’ve been surprised but delighted at the wide age-range of my readers. I think the books have probably got a bit more sophisticated as the sequence develops but that’s been an unconscious evolution and a development in my writing style.
Ok, here’s a question I ask all folks I interview: I’ve noticed that most of the authors I follow on Twitter talk about the music they’re currently writing to. What kind of setting/atmosphere do you find most conducive to your writing?
I never ever write with music in the background! I just can’t. But I am putting together a Vampirates playlist for another blog site so keep your eyes out for that soon ;-)
Who’s your favorite fictitious vampire (other than your own)?
I’m going to opt for Eric Northman in the TV show TRUE BLOOD.
What is your favorite vampire book/movie/show?
That would have to be TRUE BLOOD, though I haven’t read the books yet, but I love the TV show. As I said before, for the longest time, I steered clear of anything else Vampire-related because I wanted to do my own thing with the source material and the idea and not be influenced by others. I finally relaxed by the time the fourth book, BLACK HEART, was out to watch TRUE BLOOD. And I’m glad I did. It’s fun to see that there are points of similarity where we have often been working out a way to tackle the theme – e.g. sophisticated vampires drinking blood like wine, problematic siring or the creation of a vampire assassination squad. I also appreciate the way TRUE BLOOD comments on our own society which I think I’m doing to a degree in VAMPIRATES.
Tell our readers why they should check out your series – in 3 words: (bwahaha)
VAMPIRES. PIRATES. HUMOUR.
And finally, what other projects are you currently working on? Any goodies we should watch out for?
Well, I’m just putting the sixth and final (for now) book to bed. Then I have another big idea I want to get my teeth into. It’s not got vampires or pirates in it but I think my existing readers should enjoy it. It will be hard for me to let go of this world and characters that has immersed me for the past few years but exhilarating I think to begin working up a new one.
If you are new to the series you can find the reading order here. I highly suggest checking out Vampirates, it is hands down the most unique vampire series I have ever read and one of my all-time favorites. It may be a young adult series, but as I said above, it can be enjoyed by any age. You’re never too old for magical adventures on pirate ships!