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Wednesday, June 6,2012

'Golden' girls: The next generation

Kalamazoo native Richelle Mead parlays geekdom into a solid writing career

by Bill Castanier

“New blood,” “taking a bite,” “sucking you in”: It’s easy to fall back on clichés when writing about the vampire genre. Even though we’ve moved past the garlic cloves, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Buffy and even George Hamilton, you can still expect to see a pale, inviting neck on the dust jackets of most vampire books. 

The books by Kalamazoo native Richelle Mead are no different in their outside appearance, but inside you will find at least one remarkable variation: Vampires and humans don’t get it on. Yes, there is no love and no love lost in the tremendously successful vampire franchise created by Mead, who lives in Seattle.

Mead’s young-adult-oriented six-book “Vampire Academy” series is a phenom in the overcrowded world of supernatural literature, selling more than 3.5 million books in 30 languages.

Last year, Mead launched a spinoff series called “Bloodlines,” which included many of the same characters from “Vampire Academy.” Her second book in the series, “The Golden Lily,” arrives Tuesday.

Using a technique as old as literature itself Mead transplants the minor character Sydney Sage from her previous series and puts her front and center in the battle of good and evil vampires. She has also moved the setting from Montana to the more hospitable climate of Palm Springs, where Moroi vampire princess Jill Dragomir attends high school under the protection of Sydney, an alchemist pledged to safeguard the Moroi from the Strigoi, a group of nasty blood-drinkers.

Mead is one of the few vampire authors (or is it authors who write about vampires?) who can make the claim that she has had classical training in mythology, folklore and comparative religion, which she studied at the University of Michigan and Western Michigan University.

“My books are rooted in Romanian mythology,” she said. “I grew up as a big fantasy and sci-fi reader. I guess ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Flash Gordon’ rubbed off on me. None of my friends were in to that, and I used to hide the fact that I watched ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’”

Mead no longer conceals her geekdom. She is looking forward to her book tour, which starts Tuesday at Schuler Books & Music in the Eastwood Towne Center. In the world of vampires Mead is a rock star: Fans line up early, often sporting homemade t-shirts and gold tattoos. In the books, Sydney uses her tattoos, which are partially mixed with vampire blood, to awaken superhuman powers.

Mead’s “Vampire Academy” series is in development as a movie, and a graphic novel adaptation was published last year. She is also working on a new adult series (she already has a racy paranormal series) that will mix sci-fi with social media networking in the extreme.

She does not read within her own genre and when she was writing the “Vampire Academy” series she said that she wrote in a vacuum, free of the “Twilight” hoopla.

“If I’d known what was going to happen (to the genre), I’m not sure if I would’ve kept writing,” she said. “It might have scared me away.”

She said she’s not a fan of “fan fiction,” in which readers create their own sequels and spin-offs for such books as “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.” “It’s too weird for me. I don’t read any of it,” she said. 

However, Mead is careful not to write down to her fan base. Her books take mature looks at sex, drugs and interpersonal rivalries, with a little romance and kick-butt action thrown in. Often, her book themes center on old cultures and ideas butting up against new world attitudes, a concept that should sound familiar to those who love mythology. 


Richelle Mead

7 p.m. Tuesday, June 12

Schuler Books & Music

2820 Towne Center Blvd, Lansing

The event is ticketed.Books and tickets may be reserved over the phone by calling (517) 316-7495.

www.schulerbooks.com

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