Author Justin Somper:
It certainly feels strange bringing my six-book sequence VAMPIRATES to a close. Some ten years ago, I had a flash of inspiration when the word “Vampirate” arrived, Eureka-like, in my head. It took me a while to get the idea for the books together and then to sit down and write the first one. DEMONS OF THE OCEAN was published in the UK, where I’m based, in 2005 and in the US in 2006. It’s been quite a voyage as I’ve combined writing a book a year with touring, blogging and a parallel career in public relations. Working on the VAMPIRATES books has proved enormously rewarding in ways I could never have anticipated. When I had that first flash of inspiration, little did I know that the books would be published in 35 countries and 25 languages, or that I’d have a wonderfully vocal online audience airing their views on characters and plotlines at vampirates.co.uk and via twitter and facebook, or that there would be a stage version of the books touring around theatres and schools.
I have learned a LOT as I’ve worked on these books and it’s clear to me that the latter three books in the sequence are more sharply plotted than the first three. It was gratifying to see a recent online review at bittenbybooks.com comment that “this sixth and final book in the Vampirates series is by far the best. Filled with non-stop action and edge-of-your-seat excitement, Justin Somper does not disappoint.” All thanks to the chapter grid system – involving large sheets of graph paper and a truck-load of coloured post-it notes - I evolved as I moved along! I think the latter books are probably a bit nastier but also somewhat funnier – I have discovered, like others before me, that horror and comedy are rather good companions, though I still primarily see these books as adventure stories.
I’m often asked who is my favourite amongst my many characters. It’s tempting to nominate my arch villains, Sidorio and Lady Lola. The bad guys do indeed get the best lines and it’s been deliciously fun to live in their crazy heads for a time. But, over the sequence as a whole, I’d pick Jez Stukeley as my favourite character – not least because he has grown so far from my initial concept of him. I brought him into Book 2 – TIDE OF TERROR – to make a quick impact, to be loved by the characters in the story (and hopefully readers too) and then be killed in a pirate duel early on. So far, so good. But, after Jez’s rather moving funeral and his coffin being slung in the ocean, he floats away to a beach where he lands at the feet of Sidorio, who brings the mariner “back from the dead” and appoints him his second in command. So Stukeley moves from the pirate world to the Vampirate realm but it’s clear that he has attachments to both. I think the fact that he is torn between his two lives, gives Stukeley more depth and pathos than the other characters. One of my favourite scenes in the sequence as a whole is in Book 3 – BLOOD CAPTAIN – when he returns to the pirate haunt, Ma Kettle’s Tavern, but can’t connect with his old friends now he is a Vampirate. I won’t spoil the scene, in case you haven’t read it, but suffice to say it doesn’t end well.
The hardest book for me to write was definitely Book 6 - IMMORTAL WAR – perhaps because a big part of me didn’t want to let go of these characters or the world of this story, which I have inhabited for eight years or more. At the end of the book, you’ll find that I have left a few threads hanging. This gives me the opportunity to go back in, at some point in the future, and pick up my business with the Vampirates. But, even if I don’t ever return, I wanted to give the sense that the characters will be going about their business, whether I’m there or not. They have their own destinies and it’s time for me embark on a new journey with a whole new cast of characters. I’m excited to see where my next idea will take me.
Nancy here: I am glad to know that authors feel attached to their characters, too. I like a tidy ending but with the idea that life goes on. In my mind, Sam Malone is still serving drinks at Cheers in Boston with daily Cliff Clavin little known facts, a bar yelling, "Norm!" and Carla is still popping out babies and getting more cantankerous.
Meanwhile, Vampirates is waiting for you! It's a great escape, easy and fun read, action packed with characters you will LOVE! As much as Norm, Cliff, and Sam? I don't know. But the world is just a better place with great characters (even imaginary) occupying space.
If you are ready to launch into this great book (and I know you are), you can buy the book at a local bookstore, or go to Amazon or enter to win a copy right HERE, thanks to awesome publicist at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers