Let’s go back to 2008 when a friend convinced me to pick up the first Vampire Academy book. It was in the middle of my heyday as a Twilight fan, and I was looking for a paranormal read that wasn’t like the others I had been slowing picking off the Borders’ YA shelf. From that first book to nine books later, well into a Vampire Academy spin-off, I became completely enraptured by Richelle Mead’s story and world.
Clearly, I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to interview Richelle Mead about the upcoming film based off her internationally best-selling book series. Being both a film buff and avid YA reader, the main question I wanted answered was if she saw the movie and if it was good.
“I have seen it, and I am in love with it,” Mead answered. What more could I really ask for?
For those who aren’t familiar with Vampire Academy, the story follows two best friends, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). They are students at the prestigious St. Vladmir’s Academy, a school set in the secret world of both Moroi (good) and Strigoi (evil) vampires and their half-human/half-vampire counterparts, dhampirs. Rose is a dhampir, who has sworn to protect her best friend, since Lissa is the last of her royal family’s line. Not only is there a fierce loyalty between the two, but they have magical, one-way mind connection of sorts. Rose can read and experience Lissa’s feelings and actions. Of course, the ability does come with some major disadvantages.
When a threat against Lissa arises, Rose is dedicated to solving the mystery of who is behind the threat. All the while, we see Rose as she weaves through romantic entanglements, friendships, mean girl confrontations with the badass attitude that fans have come to love and respect. So does that reflect tin the movie? Mead admits that she feels like she’s “in the middle of a big lovefest” by endlessly praising the cast and their performances in the film. Her highest praise goes to Zoey Deutch:
“My agent and I were talking about her, and when we saw the movie, Zoey was so effortlessly Rose. You don’t even realize it, like I couldn’t believe it. She has that attitude, and she brings it on camera. Off camera, she’s just so spunky; when she’s in the room, people know it. She’s not just spunk and humor, but she’s also a super caring and compassionate young woman. I fondly remember being on set, and she was worried about me being under the lights, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s really hot being on set. It was a long day on set for her, and she was worried about me, making sure I had enough water and I was comfortable. It’s funny because her caring reflects how Rose treats Lissa, and she has that fun attitude that we love, so Zoey was able to play both types well.”
With such a wonderful response, I followed up with a question from a Twitter follower asking if the movie and the whole experience have made her cry. Mead laughs, wondering why everyone wants to know if she cried during the movie or at writing a key scene in Shadow Kissed.
“You know, I didn’t cry. That’s not to say I wasn’t emotional or wasn’t floored by all of it, but I did not cry. I was a little sad when I met Cameron Monaghan, who plays Mason. We all know his fate, well those who have read the book, when you actually put a face to him and meet him and see him play Mason that kind of messed with my head and made me feel guilty. So I felt sad around him. That’s the closest, but I didn’t break down.”
While nothing made her break down and cry, I wondered if she can pick out any scenes that really struck her as being perfectly translated from the book to the film. There were a number of scenes that Mead enjoyed, she recalled the ending as being a ton of fun and singled out the scene where the character, Christian, uses his fire magic in class as a favorite. (You can actually watch it below.)
“…It was just so close to how I imagined it. And I actually got to see that scene filmed in person. So that was even better. I love all the stuff with Christian and Lissa. They had very good chemistry with Dominic and Lucy. So that was very fun.”
I had asked Mead earlier about her thoughts on the script and screenwriter Dan Waters (Heathers). There’s no doubt that Vampire Academy’s strongest attribute would be its unique tone, which balances comedy and drama, along with a ton of other tones. Like myself, Richelle also felt “relieved” with the studio’s choice of picking Dan Waters to pen the script.
“[Getting the right screenwriter] was very important to me, and I didn’t know if they were going to get a screenwriter who was so deeply melodramatic that none of Rose’s attitude would carry through. Well, I just loved the script. I was especially relieved because he gets what I did with the book and fully realizes it. The comedy is there, and I know some people are worried about that based on the advertising, but it’s still with the tone of the book. The seriousness is still there. He was very conscientious about that. He understood what I was trying to do, and what I was doing was trying to balance a bunch of different tones. And you know, he carried that through to the script.”
I personally never understood some fans’ outrage of the comedy-heavy marketing surrounding the film. If anything, that really sets the film apart from the other serious, dramatic YA adaptations that have made their way into theaters the past few years. Mead adamantly agreed, saying “to see that edge and humor, it’s done a great job of pulling in new people.”
Of course, I couldn’t interview one of my favorite authors without asking her a bit about her upcoming books and writing aspirations. She left us hanging with the latest book in the Bloodlines series, The Fiery Heart. What she has done with the Vampire Academy world and characters is astounding. And honestly, if you are a VA fan and haven’t picked up Bloodlines yet, you are completely missing out on some of Mead’s best work yet. Anyway, Mead was awesome enough to share a bit of what to expect in the Silver Shadows, the next Bloodlines book.
“Silver Shadows is an interesting book. It’s not like the previous books in the Bloodlines series, which have a ton of subplots sort of intermingled with each other. This one has a more.. straight, action plot. This book is pretty dark which is understandable, considering how The Fiery Heart ended. And I think the ending will definitely knock a lot of people over, and I don’t mean that in a good way or a bad way. People always assumes the worst when I say that, like ‘Oh my gosh! Someone dies!’ Not necessarily.”
You know my reaction. (We are all still traumatized by the ending of Shadow Kissed.)
“Don’t worry about it. I think everyone is going to be pleased with it. Shocking things do happen, but a lot of good things happen too. It’s a pretty romantic book too. Fiery Heart was more of a hot book, and there’s a difference. Silver Shadows has a more romantic theme. Hopefully, people will love that.”
Besides the fact that this makes the wait for Silver Shadows even harder, I’m happy and excited to find out what these “shocking things” are that she refers to. I can’t even begin to imagine what they could be; the sheer unpredictability of it should sell you alone on how awesome of a writer Mead is. …Which led me to ask whether she’d ever consider writing a different genre, other than paranormal.
“I always have ideas kicking around, and it’s about having time to try out something like that. But it’s also hard to switch genres because publishers want you to stay where your fanbase is. You’ve got to be pretty big to start something in a different genre, like Stephen King, John Grisham. I’m a reader of different genres, and I’d love to write for a different genre and I’m hoping to have the chance where there are people who want to read that. “
Thanks to my fellow TYF writer, Bri, the age-old VA/Bloodlines question had to be asked: Does Richelle Mead think she’s more like Rose, Lissa or Sydney?
“I am more of a Sydney type. I’m not as smart as her, but I have that more methodical approach to life…. Whereas Rose is very in your face, she punches first, ask questions later.”
Finally, Mead shares some advice for Vampire Academy fans, and even non-fans, before we all head to see the movie this weekend.
“Just be prepared for everything. Each time I see an ad or something, I think maybe it will be an action ad or a funny ad or something else. That’s what I love about the book; there’s not one tone to it. It has that wonderful balance of darkness and humor and action and romance. It has something for everyone. It has a diverse tone and a smart script. Tell your friends to go out and see it.”
You heard the lady!
Thanks again to Richelle Mead to taking the time to talk to us. Stay tuned for our film review of Vampire Academy later this week. In meantime, here are our book reviews of the Vampire Academy series, Bloodlines, The Golden Lily, The Indigo Spell and The Fiery Heart.