1. Richelle got the idea for the Vampire Academy series in college.
How did you get the idea for this story, and what was the inspiration?
Richelle Mead: There’s no one real source for it, it was kind of a coming together of a lot of different elements. I had taken Eastern European mythology classes in college and there were a lot of great Russian/Romanian vampire stories. That was kind of where I found the Moroi and Strigoi story and then I turned that into my own world. That was one element of it. Another is that I had just really wanted to write a young heroine like Rose who was so funky and in your face and fearless. Sometimes too fearless, but who had the potential to transform throughout the series. So I’ve always wanted to tell a story like that, and when I decided to pick up on the Romanian vampire myth, it just seemed like a natural idea to merge the two and make that the backdrop of the story.
2. Rose wasn’t based off anyone Richelle knows.
Where did the character Rose come from? Was she based on anyone?
RM: Nope, she was just someone I wanted to write. You know, people say, “Oh, are you like Rose?” and if anything, I’m the opposite of Rose; I’m a much more cautious thinking person. Whereas Rose, you know, she’ll act first, ask questions later, and I just really wanted to write someone like that who was so spunky and bold and brave and follow her transformation. Despite her being so outgoing and fearless, it can sometimes get her into trouble and so throughout the series she needs to learn how to temper that and mature, and that’s a fun journey to do.
How about Lissa? Is she based on anyone?
RM: Nope. I don’t base my characters off of anyone, I’m pretty sure you’ll lose friends that way because they’re never going to be happy with what you do to their characters. Lissa is from my head as well, she’s kind of a counterbalance to Rose, a calming influence, and I was really fascinated by the whole bodyguard thing combined with the bond and how it can enhance their friendship, and that helps me create their characters.
3. The ending scene is her favorite part of the book and the movie.
What was your favorite scene to write about in the first book?
RM: Probably the whole ending sequence, which is a series of scenes, is my favorite. The endings are always my favorite when I’m writing a book. That’s what everything is building towards, all the clues, all the momentum, and so when I get to write that it’s really gratifying and it usually goes really fast, especially in comparison to the rest of the book.
Is that what you’re looking forward to most in the movie? Also, have you seen the movie?
RM: Yes, I’ve seen a nearly finished version of it, not the final, but pretty close. The ending was what I was definitely looking forward to, and I love what they did with that. They helped resolve all the main action points, they tweaked a few things, which made it better on the screen and more fun to watch. So overall, I’m really excited about that.
4. Richelle was on set for Rose and Dimitri’s first confrontation.
Were you on set for the movie at all?
RM: I was on set for about two days. They filmed it in London and I live in Seattle with small children, so I couldn’t spend a lot of time over there, but I did go for a couple of days and see some scenes with the cast and it was definitely a lot of fun.
What scenes did you see?
RM: I saw Christian using fire magic in class, although of course there was no fire because they add that with CGI after, but it was a lot of fun to see the person he set on fire pretending to be on fire when there was no actual flames. The other scene I saw was an early scene where Rose and Dimitri have their first confrontation, so that was a big action sub-sequence I actually got to witness, which was pretty cool. They were in full stunt mode with harnesses and gear and all kinds of things there.
That must be so fun to watch everything come to life.
RM: Yeah, definitely. They do so many takes and there’s so much detail into it when they’re filming, and it’s amazing to see what took three hours of filming pushed down into one minute of a scene, but that’s what it takes — you have to put a lot of time into it.
5. Lucy Fry and Zoey Deutch practically live their roles.
Who’s chemistry did you love the most on set? Did you see enough of it [to judge]?
RM: I think most of what I saw was just the cast in general as a group, but they had really great chemistry and they all got along and they would go out together afterwards and they still keep in touch now after filming. You could just get that vibe from them when you were around them on set and you can tell they really like each other and they joke with each other, and I think that translated really well onto the screen, that camaraderie they had. I just loved that they had fun doing the filming! I would hate to have an amazing movie that everyone hated to make, but they loved what they were doing and it really shows.
We actually just had Lucy and Zoey in the other day and they seem like best friends; they’re really cute together.
RM: Yeah, they are! It’s so funny, they practically live their roles. They have that same dynamic, it’s cool.
Yeah, and I can totally see Zoey portraying Rose’s personality of like, this sassy and bold character.
RM: She does! She’s got that same fiery attitude. I always say people know when she’s in the room because she has that kind of magnet to her.
6. Mark Waters would ask Richelle if any changes made would affect a future book of hers.
Did anyone reach out to you to get more info and fact-check for the movie?
RM: Yeah, Mark Waters, the director, would fact check with me. If he needed more clarification about somebody in the world he would ask me. Also occasionally there would be a question like, if they did “x, y, or z,” would that affect some future book I wrote, and that was a nice courtesy for them to do that and check in with things. For the most part, though, they did their movie; I didn’t screen write or produce or anything like that, which is totally fine by me. It’s a daunting business, so I would just let them do it.
7. There will be some on-screen changes, but the movie is pretty true to the book.
Are there any big changes, or is it pretty true to the book?
RM: I think it’s pretty true to the book. There are changes, of course, which happens with book/film transition because they’re different mediums. And also, when you’re trying to make a story that will read well on screen to new viewers, you have to change some things. So yeah, they changed some things, but there was nothing major. They didn’t alter a critical plotline or something that people are expecting to happen from the books that isn’t going to happen; all the big points are there, and every change they did make was smart and they had a reason. It wasn’t just like, “Let’s mess with this story.” There was always a reason for why they changed something, and I really appreciated that.
8. This movie will NOT be Mean Girls with vampires.
Vampire Academy seems to have a pretty dedicated fan base, but looking through internet comments about the trailer, it seems like people are pretty split on the comedy angle and worried that it’s just a Mean Girls with vampires. Do you feel it’s like that? Do you think it’s still serious?
RM: Yeah, it’s just like the books as far as being mostly serious with a good, healthy sense of humor. I’ve tried to reassure people that it’s not a comedy, it’s not a parody, but I know people are still worried. It was a marketing decision to play up the humor because there’s a lot of very serious paranormal YA books that have not done well, and if those weren’t pulling in a new audience there wouldn’t be a reason to think we would as well, and so this was their approach to get people outside of the readership. I mean, the books themselves have more humor than some of our other series that are out there in this genre, and so they really played that up in the previews. Also, they certainly cited the Waters brothers’ credits a lot to try and draw in their fan base. It actually worked, and it scares the fans because they know it’s a serious story, and they’re worried — but they shouldn’t, and it’s pulled in new viewers and I think that’s great. So I think when fans get to the theaters to see it, they’ll understand that it was just a marketing angle; they [the trailers] were highly edited commercials and previews and there’s still plenty serious and plenty dark and they don’t need to worry.
*If you have not read all six books, stop reading right now. There are spoilers.*
9. Richelle doesn’t regret killing Mason, or any other characters.
Is there a character you wish you had or hadn’t killed?
RM: No, I stand by all my decisions. I think there’s a lot of readers who want me to have a lot of remorse for some of the characters, or they want me to cry. They ask me a lot, “Did you cry over that?” and I’m just like, “No, I really didn’t,” and they’re like, “Ah, you’re so heartless.” But you know, I don’t kill people arbitrarily; there’s a reason. It moves the series along or affects someone’s character development, so, for that reason I don’t feel so bad if it’s serving a greater good and wasn’t put there to traumatize fans. I feel bad more for the fans actually than I do the characters. I get a lot of fan emails from people, especially when they read Frostbite and Shadow Kiss. So to them, I am sorry, but hopefully they felt better by the end of the series.
Yeah, I was really torn about Mason, but I eventually understood and came to terms with it.
RM: Yeah, it’s tough. It was really hard meeting Cameron Monaghan knowing what happens to Mason. Cameron is such a nice guy, and so the whole time I was on set ,I kept thinking, Oh, poor Cameron.
Does he know?
RM: Yeah, he knows.
Is there anything you would change about any of the books?
RM: No, I’m happy with the characters and plot. I think as a writer there’s always a part of me that’s like, I could have revised that or hammered out the writing a little, and things like that, but there’s no choice or storyline I wish I had altered; I like how it all turned out.
10. Dimitri was destined to be a Strigoi since the beginning.
So in the first book, there’s a scene where Rose and Dimitri are in the car and he explains that if he were turned Strigoi, he would want to be killed. Did you always have his fate in mind for Shadow Kiss?
RM: Yeah, I had the series planned out when I wrote the first book. I knew that was going to happen and how things were going to resolve, so that was definitely seeded early on.
Was it the same for Sonya Karp? Did you always know she would be turned back [to a Moroi]?
RM: Yep, I knew we would revisit Sonya a lot.
11. Writing Strigoi Dimitri was one of the most difficult parts of building the series.
Was it fun to write Dimitri’s evil demeanor in Blood Promise?
RM: It was hard, actually! It was one of the most difficult writing paths, I’d say, having to write evil Dimitri. And he has quite a following — like, there are people who wish he stayed evil, which surprises me. But yeah, that was especially difficult because I needed him to still be compelling and eventually be likable when he was restored. It was a really tricky balancing act to do that to someone, and to show that side of them.
Besides writing about Dimitri’s Strigoi phase, was there any scene or book that was particularly hard to write?
The first book in any series is difficult to write because you have to get to know a new character, so I think as far as the next most difficult thing that I had to write, [it] was Bloodlines, the first book in the spin-off series of Vampire Academy, just because it was a transition for me to be writing about the same world but to be writing from a different character’s point of view — because I was so used to doing Rose’s voice when talking about Moroi and Strigoi, and so that required a whole new mind-set for me, and you really have to get to know that new character in that book. By the second book it was easy again since we were in our groove, but that was probably my next most challenging thing.
12. Dimitri and Rose travel back to Russia to see his family.
Does Dimitri end up reconnecting with his family later on?
RM: That is a question I’m asked so much. And I’m surprised because I never thought that much about it, I guess, when I finished the series, but people are so excited to know if he did. There is actually just a short story out in an anthology called Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction and it’s got a bunch of stories by a bunch of different authors and I have one in there called Homecoming and it actually is about Dimitri and Rose going back to Russia after Last Sacrifice and seeing his family.
13. Breaking the bond between Lissa and Rose was a relief for Richelle.
So toward the end of Last Sacrifice, Rose and Lissa discover they are no longer bonded. Was that a hard thing for you to write [emotionally]?
RM: It was actually kind of a relief because I think it would be easier on them in the long run, to be free of each other in that way. They needed to go on and try to live their own lives, and their friendship would still endure even without that, so I was OK doing it.
And Lissa’s darkness will remain and possibly worsen?
RM: Yeah, she has to fight it on her own now; all spirit users do, they have to carry that burden. She’s still got it.
Can anyone take it from her by using the spirit power? Like the couple in Russia in Blood Promise?
RM: It can certainly help to lighten it, but as long as she’s a spirit user, it’s always going to start creeping back. But yeah, there are definitely ways to try and mitigate it without the spirit power and also with her choices and how she uses it.
14. There are secret things about the characters beyond Last Sacrifice that we may never know.
Is there anything else you can tell us that happens to the characters beyond the books? Like things you imagined?
RM: No, I can’t tell you because maybe I’ll write some more books about them! I have to keep that under wraps, but I’ve definitely thought about what would happen to the characters after the fact. And then in Bloodlines we touch base with them, we find out what’s going on with Rose and Lissa and all that, so we don’t quite leave them as it is, but I’ve definitely thought about other things in the world.
15. Richelle doesn’t have a dream cast in mind for Adrian Ivashkov.
So for the other books, should they continue being adapted to film, whose character are you most excited to see on screen?
RM: Adrian, since he’s the next big one that’s introduced. I’m looking forward to that but I’m sure it will be controversial no matter who’s picked because that’s how it goes. People will always have their favorites and they may or may not get chosen, but I’m excited to see what happens with that.
Do you have a dream casting for him?
RM: Nope, I’ve never had a cast in mind and I think it makes it easier on me, and I’m pretty flexible on who ends up there.
16. And finally, Richelle recommends Falling Kingdoms and Beautiful Creatures for YA fans.
Are there any other YA books you recommend?
RM: I’ve been reading Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series, which is more fantasy than paranormal, and I like that quite a bit. I’m a fan of the Beautiful Creatures series and of Rachel King’s young adult vampire series, I like that a lot too.
Is there another series you would want to write outside of vampires/the VA world?
RM: Well, we’ve got lots of other ideas and it’s even different genres, but it’s mostly about finding the time to fit all of it in, so we’ll have to see, but I would definitely like to write some other things.