Welcome to VAMPS, an elite academy in the Swiss Alps for the children of the wealthiest and most powerful vampire families. Dillon is an outsider, a dhampir – half vampire, half human – sent to VAMPS to learn to nurture his vampire side. VAMPS: Fresh Blood has everything you want from a vampire novel — slick architecture, a completely unique induction and head of year choosing ceremony, a protagonist with a tortured conscience, and much more. We chatted with Nicole Arend on her story.
Can you please tell us when your interest in vampires first grew?
I didn’t really discover vampires until the Twilight Saga but I was completely seduced by the genre. I went on to devour books from ‘The Southern Vampire Chronicles, Vampire Dairies, Interview with a Vampire, Dracula and more recently, Vampire Academy.
Please describe VAMPS: Fresh Blood using 3 YA vampire books/characters.
VAMPS is a mix of Twilight Saga romance, bloodlust, desire and edginess from The Southern Vampire Chronicles and it is set in a ‘finishing school’ setting similar to Vampire Academy. Dillon, the main protagonist in VAMPS also has a tortured conscience like Louis in Interview with a Vampire and Edward Cullen in ‘Twilight’.
When there are so many versions of vampires in the media, how do you pick which rules, powers and myths your vampires follow?
It’s great fun to research and choose vampire powers, myths and rules. Many of the powers I selected such as flying, acute senses, echolocation and infrared radiation detection match real-life vampiric creatures like the vampire bat. Others suited the narrative or the plot best. One of the trickiest parts was working out the Vampire hierarchy in VAMPS and how it would work. I can’t give too much away about Dillon’s special blood but the inspiration for that came from finding out about the world’s rarest bloods – A blood called ‘Golden blood’ exists for real and less than fifty people in the entire world have it. Daringly(!), I also broke one of the cardinal vampire rules that states that a female vampire cannot have babies but the reason for that will become more apparent in books two and three…
And how do you ensure VAMPS: Fresh Blood has a unique take?
Although there are elements of VAMPS that resonate with other vampire literature, the induction ceremony and the head of year choosing ceremony are completely unique. Dillon is unusual in that he has no idea he is a half vampire until he is sent to VAMPS – his introduction to vampire life is like experiencing adolescent rites of passage multiplied a thousand times! As mentioned in the question before, I’m pretty sure he is also the first to have ‘special’ blood and a vampire mother.
Absolutely love reading about the architecture of the VAMPS academy. Did you have a mood board to guide you when you envisioned the academy?
Yes. I love futuristic buildings with lots of glass and light and particularly, those with oculus roofs. We wanted to move away from the traditional gloomy castle vampire setting and VAMPS architecture was inspired by buildings such as the Fulton Centre, the ‘World Trade Centre Transportation hub in New York, the Great Court at the British Museum and Jewel Changi airport in Singapore. The seemingly ‘windowless mirror-like exterior’ was influenced by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City – although neither of those is ‘fang’ shaped! The eerie Blood storage room in VAMPS was inspired by the real-life rare blood storage facility in Bristol, UK. I had to draw a design of the VAMPS building and stick it on the wall to work out where the pool, the labs, the ceremonial hall and the coffin floors would go.
The traditions at VAMPS, such as the induction ceremony and class rep selection, are very creative. How did you come up with these?
The brilliant initial concept for the induction ceremony and the class rep selection was dreamed up by Jo McGrath, the founder of the Writers’ Room. I had to embellish them and bring them to life which, again, was great fun. Those scenes are among my favourite as they are the most daring and edgy. I hope I managed to convey Dillon’s conflicting feelings of horror and involuntary desire.
The classes and the challenges are also very fascinating. Which course did you enjoy writing about the most?
Year One at VAMPS includes the most basic classes like learning to control basic vampire instincts, flying and self-defence. I enjoyed writing about the sensory challenge in Borzak’s self-defence class, the flying exercises with flying instructor, Chiro and Madame Dupledge’s control of bloodlust classes the most. The Ice Challenge was a literally a challenge for me too, but I particularly enjoyed writing about Dillon’s fear under the ice and the scene with Bram on the ice – I can’t say anymore! In year two and three the classes will become more sophisticated as the vampires start to develop their abilities. I’m particularly looking forward to more advanced mind control classes, transfiguration and ‘misting’.
The story is so fast-paced and fun to read and we can’t wait to read the next title! Can you spill any details about the rest of the trilogy?
I’m so pleased you found it fun to read and I hope the fast pace reflects the whirlwind of emotions Dillon experiences as he’s thrown, headfirst into life amongst the ‘best of the best’ teen vampires. There is no doubt that the target on Dillon’s back has grown and that the high powers wanting to protect the fragile order of the vampire world will be even more threatened by him. Madame Dupledge’s ‘hundred year’ tenure is also drawing to a close and that may or may not have serious repercussions for Dillon. Remember too that Nikolas Karayan still lusts after Dillon’s blood and that, if Eric Torstensson evades capture and convinces his daughter, Celeste to trust him again, Dillon might have some fearsome enemies.
The story will become darker, and more action will happen outside VAMPS as Dillon is forced, often against his will, to confront his enemies and make difficult decisions. The backstory of Dillon’s parents will start to develop as will the characters of Mahina and Zach de Courtenay (Cora’s brother.) As mentioned in the previous question, VAMPS classes and challenges will become more sophisticated and require increasing skill with more margin for error – as such, Dillon might find year two as tough as year one. On the romantic front, ‘Fresh blood’ ended with Cora choosing Bram over Dillon. Will Dillon finally get over her and realise that Sade harbours feelings for him or will his world be rocked by the vampire who takes Celeste’s place? You’ll have to wait and see!
Get your copy of VAMPS: Fresh Blood here.