We have a brilliant guest blog from author Jo Simmons about her spooky books, The Reluctant Vampire Queen and The Reluctant Vampire Queen Bites Back.
My recent teen books, The Reluctant Vampire Queen and The Reluctant Vampire Queen Bites Back, published in 2022 and 2023, sit firmly in spooky territory. I mean, obviously! They feature vampires, after all, doing genuinely vampiric things – attacking humans, using psychokinesis powers, bragging about ripping people’s heads off – but my vampires are also flawed, annoying and petty. They squabble with each other, reminisce about the good old ‘human’ days, and live in fear of vampire hunters picking them off.
Why choose vampires at all though? The idea came after my husband, who teaches English at a state secondary school for girls, described how his year seven and eight students loved writing stories that contained classic horror elements – blood, gore, darkness, girls marooned up towers… A picture formed in my mind of a potential reader, pre- or just-teen, who might enjoy stories that tilted towards the edgy and grim, but with lots of humour and a fast-paced plot. ‘Funny-scary’ became the shorthand for what I was attempting to do.
I settled on vampires, not least because they are the gift that keeps on giving – artistically, anyway. The vampire myth is so familiar that it is very easy to reinterpret and play with. Most people know the basics – vampires feed on human blood, cannot survive sunlight, are immortal – so it’s then possible to layer on other details; to make them weirder, funnier or even more pedestrian. The What We Do In The Shadows film and TV series proved vampires could be hilarious, showing them bickering over the washing up. Similarly, my vampires enjoy wearing Lycra and doing Tai Chi and amateur dramatics. They are online now, too, and hold regular Zoom meetings to share news and participate in group mindfulness exercises.
The stories have a hero, of course, and she is fifteen-year-old school girl Mo, informed by an ancient vampire Bogdan that she is destined to be the Vampire Queen of Great Britain. As a young feminist with big ambitions for her future career, she is interested in the leadership part, but less so in the becoming a vampire bit (she’s a vegetarian, after all). I loved the idea of giving a slightly geeky, super-organised teenager the job of leading a small, traumatised group of vampires hiding out in Great Britain. I worked in some (admittedly very idealised) romance, too, in the form of Bogdan’s familiar Luca. Mo falls hard for him, and wrestles with new emotions that sweep through her. So, a classic Chosen One narrative gets some coming-of-age angst. Sprinkle in a few murders – of both humans and vampires – some stakes, fangs and lots of nocturnal activity, and you have funny-scary stories, fit for a teen.
The Reluctant Vampire Queen and The Reluctant Vampire Queen Bites Back are written by Jo Simmons and published by Hot Key Books.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.