Inside The 'Vampire Academy' Movie With Author Richelle Mead
September 6th, 2013 4:09pm EDT
Have you ever wondered what it takes to launch a film franchise? Richelle Mead's popular Vampire Academy book series is becoming a movie next spring with Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, starring Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, and Danila Kozlovsky. BFTV sat down with Richelle to ask how you translate hugely successful novels to the big screen and what it's like to be in the same genre as phenomenons like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries.
Could she have ever envisioned that there would be an adaptation? "No, and I didn't believe it even when it was first talked about a couple of years ago," she laughed. "There's a lot of talk in Hollywood, a lot of books are optioned and nothing ever happens. It has just been kind of mind-blowing. They've actually got such a dream team for me - Mark Waters, the director and Daniel Waters, the writer, who are big favorites of mine. I'm just thrilled."
It's more than she expected when she said 'yes' to the project. "Authors, it's a sad fact, we have a very small role in this," she explained. "When you sign away your rights, you really do sign away your rights. The best you can hope for is that you trust the people you're getting into business with to do a good job.
"The production company [Preger Entertainment], they got involved with Vampire Academy out of love. They read the books and were just captivated. And that's reassuring to me as an author. It wasn't someone who took it simply as a business deal. Even though no one ever has to talk to me again as the author, they do, which is great. Mark would email me about 'Is XYZ okay for costumes? What about this?' The fact that they were concerned with my input is just another great sign that they do care about the story."
Richelle visited the set of Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters recently, and told us how the film compares with what she envisioned on paper years earlier. "i had a real quick, two-day trip there. It was all impressive," she said. "What surprised me is how they took the story I came up with and made it ten times bigger."
She cited the filming of a classroom scene as an example. "To see a room that I had maybe described in a brief paragraph fleshed out and brought to life to the tiniest detail...They had gone to so much trouble just to put everything in that room. The students had handouts for their assignments on their desks. I don't think those are even going to show up in the film. Everything is just so meticulous, so planned. They wanted to bring this world to life."
If you haven't seen the teaser trailer for Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, look below.
While the Vampire Academy books have a passionate fan following, if you haven't read them, Richelle gave us plenty of reasons why you'll still enjoy the movie. "I think it isn't something people have seen before," she said. "There's certainly very serious heart-pounding action moments, but it's got attitude too. There's snark, there's humor. There's very complex character growth."
"If that appeals to you, going to the books is just going to give you the full background in all of that," she added. "The movie really is just kind of a sampling. Everything that they touch on, go back to the books and you'll see all that spelled out even more."
And if you're one of those folks who just read the word 'vampire' and assumed that you're about to see another Twilight or something similar, Richelle addressed that issue, too. Asked about writing in the emerging 'teen paranormal romance' genre, she reflected, "It actually hadn't exploded when I started writing it which was a very lucky thing. When I was writing Vampire Academy, which was I think 2006, I'm not even sure if the second Twilight book had come out. It was not the phenomenon that it is now.
"I wrote in a vacuum. I just had a story I wanted to write that was based on these Romanian myths of vampires that I studied in school. And I feel very lucky for that," she continued. "A couple books into the series, the genre exploded and I think that would've been very intimidating to enter in. Having already entered before that happened, I've been able to just go forward with my own story."
When it comes to being compared to Twilight, Vampire Diaries, or anything else, "Even now, I just try not to overthink it," she added. "Similarities will inevitably pop up. And then wonderful differences pop up. They're so just different in voice, in tone and in their thoughts. Everyone's really kind of gone their own way."
Richelle believes that the landscape of young adult novels has become richer over the last few years. "Definitely. And I think that's why we're seeing the genre explode," she told us. "It's not dumbed down. When I write, I don't think how to write to a teen. I write with as much complexity as I would for adults. Plenty of adults read it and find just as much fulfillment as reading an adult book. As far as the kind of issues and impact, I don't pull any punches. It's what I would do for my adult audience and I don't think I'm alone in that."
Why does she think Vampire Academy has resonated with its many fans? "it is a very complex story," she observed. "I think it is interesting that it has so many different elements into it. You can't say it's drama, it's comedy, it's romance. I think it makes for a rich world. Also that it's written for young adults, as well as adults. It pulls in a double audience. I hope it's the integrity of the story and the characters. I hope people love them and get attached to them."
Although the Vampire Academy series ended with the publication of the sixth book in December 2010, the universe is still alive and well in the spin-off series, Bloodlines. "People who do love the Vampire Academy series lament to me, 'Oh, I'm so sad it's over,'" Richelle told us. "It's not really over, with the spinoff series. And a lot of people have not discovered Bloodlines, which is sad because it's a really interesting and complex series as well. That's still going on and a lot of the same characters are still there."
In fact, the next Bloodlines book comes out next month, and she helpfully hinted at what you can expect from it. "The new book is The Fiery Heart and that's the fourth book in the series," she teased. "It's a very dark book. It deals with some issues of mental health. Insanity is a theme that's run through both series and this book kind of looks at what does that mean? It's got a lot of things for fans. It's got a big ending - they're going to need to steel themselves." You've been warned.
What it all adds up to for Richelle is any writer's dream: not only a book series popular enough that it's spawned a whole second line of novels, but someone making a huge, major motion picture out of one of them, with ostensibly the possibility of several more. Surely, that makes pursuing a writing career more than worth it, right? "I've always been glad I've done it, even way before the books were successful," Richelle reflected. "It's a rewarding career and I'm glad I have the luxury of doing that. I don't know if I'm ever going to feel secure. This is a tricky business and you can be the hottest thing one moment and not the next. I'm just trying to write what I love and hope that people keep loving it too. I've just been very lucky and very blessed."
Which brings us back around to the movie. Vampire Academy fans can breathe easy, because she believes you're going to love what you see when Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters premieres next year. "I know a lot of fans have mixed reactions over the movie. Some people are just chomping at the bit for it and others are nervous, because book to movie adaptations are hit and miss," Richelle said. "I think the team behind this is doing such a great job and I think we're going to see more of that as we ramp up toward the movie. Fans need to hang in there and I think they're going to be very pleased with what I see. I certainly am. The movie's just turned out so wonderfully."
Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters is scheduled to hit theaters on Valentine's Day 2014.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Sullivan & Partners