September 24

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Creating a World by Maria Tureaud

When a sudden, mandatory two-week vacation turned into a worldwide lockdown that sent so many into a spiral of despair, I had a thought. It was born from a bored re-watch of the 1994 movie Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. I looked at the character of Claudia—the unfortunate child-turned-vampire—and wondered if she could contract COVID-19, or if she would starve to death because everyone was locked inside their homes. Then I realized that was silly, because she could just break in … right? But then what about those new-fangled alarm systems hooked up to apps? That led to the question: how would this three-hundred-year-old being fit into a world of social media and technology? If Claudia were real, she’d likely be stuck in her ways and would be very reluctant—if not frightened—to learn new things. But what if she was forced to learn and integrate? Who would she be? How would she behave? And what would require her to “get with the program” of a modern society? And thus, the world of The Last Hope in Hopetown sprouted.

It became a world where vampires “walked into the light,” where they lived side-by-side, out in the open, with their human counterparts (modeled after the vampire-like folk figure that strolls the rolling wilds of my native Ireland—the Ábhartach). A world where that three-hundred-year-old child would likely be adopted by a human family, and be required to go to school and make friends. Where she would spend her allowance on collectibles and K-pop like everyone else. A world where a strange illness turns peace-loving vampires violent (there’s that COVID-19 influence) and threatens everyone’s safety.

The Last Hope in Hopetown became a refuge for me during those dark days of lockdown. It was my outlet, my little ray of sunshine. But never in a million years did I think it would be my debut. I began writing at the age of fifteen and had fought for twenty years to find a literary agent. My unpublished manuscripts are vast and varied, from Adult Historical Fiction to Young Adult Fantasy and everything in between. In fact, The Last Hope in Hopetown focused on the one thing the publishing industry claimed was—excuse the pun— “dead,” and that one thing was vampires. Traditional, sparkly, fresh, new—none of it mattered. Publishing said vampires were “over,” and it didn’t want them. So, I wrote with no expectations. For the first time in years, I pieced together a book that didn’t carry the weight of all my hopes and dreams. It was just my main character—a human child, Sophie—and I, coupled with the ability to bleed my worries onto the page, inject humor and hope into every nook and cranny, and the book took shape very quickly.

I utilized my love of history to bring the cast to life. Sophie’s adoptive parents are both vampires from different eras, and creating their backstories solidified their on-page personalities. The Duke was once a fierce Viking shield-maiden, and Mama was the (real-life) confidante of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Their pairing brings a household filled with steadfast strength frilled with love-lined lace that creates a harmonious home environment for the human daughter they cherish.

Sophie’s greatest is ally is Delphine, her three-hundred-year-old best friend. And like Claudia in Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Delphine hails from 1700’s New Orleans. Her character was the most difficult to nail, and required long brainstorming sessions that served as a welcome respite from the doom and gloom of global news. When I first sat down to write I decided this book would be Middle Grade. But something didn’t sit right: a twelve-year-old Sophie hanging out with the centuries-old Delphine, who looked like a kid on the outside. I had to ask myself: why would a twelve-year-old befriend this vampire? The answers, when they came, made everything click. Unlike Claudia from Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Delphine was not an “adult mind” stuck in a child’s body. In my world, when a child is turned, they retain their immaturity and innocence…which then added another layer of heartache. What would it be like to know you could never grow up? Delphine is required to attend middle school…but she’s been in middle school since that law was created, long before she met Sophie. What would it be like to know you would never graduate? What if you could never experience things like high school and first crushes and college and the drudgery of adulthood? With that question, the eventual separation of Sophie and Delphine darkly loomed in the distance. Because Sophie is human, Sophie will go on to high school. Sophie will become an adult. And no matter how solid their camaraderie, they will eventually grow apart.

To that end, their friendship became a fast focus of the book, and their worries became symbiotic. Both fear what this strange illness will do to their families, both fear the future, and both realize that unless they take charge of the situation, their lives will forever be altered…and not necessarily for the better. In essence, they cling to the now, and the duo truly becomes the last hope in the ill-fated city of Hopetown.

Like most breakthrough moments in life, fate threw a lifeline in the shape of the release of Stephanie Meyer’s long-awaited Twilight companion novel, Midnight Sun. My book, and the world I created, was nothing like it, but publishing professionals with Twilight nostalgia suddenly wanted new vampire stories, and my timing was perfect.

Now everyone gets to read my collection of thought bunnies wrapped in a tale of found family, friendship, and love so strong that two twelve-year-old besties take on the government to expose their misdeeds, help vampires everywhere, and face the depths of their very souls to save the families who love them. And I hope readers everywhere will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

MariaTureaudHeadshotMaria Tureaud hails from the Wild Atlantic Way on the west coast of Ireland. A Developmental Editor of fourteen years, Maria serves on the Revise & Resub (#RevPit on Twitter) Board, an organization dedicated to uplifting the writing community. When she’s not writing books, or sprinkling magic into client manuscripts, you can find her drinking tea in New Jersey with her husband and son, as she dreams of moving home to her beloved County Clare.