Vampire-novel aficionados know best-selling author Richelle Mead is the writer to follow for zippy, romantic, action-packed novels about teenage vampires. No, the vampires in her "Vampire Academy" series don't sparkle in sunlight, but they do deal with a fascinating monarchy, complicated caste system, and the ongoing threat posed from a bloodthirsty group of killer vampires. Plus, her characters still deal with all of the usual body image, relationship and self-esteem issues adolescents – mortal or immortal -- deal with in high school (albeit a special academy for the vampire elite and their half-human, half-vampire bodyguards).
The Weinstein Co.
Mead's popular boarding school vampire series hits the big screen next year, starring Lucy Fry, Zoey Deutch, and Russian heartthrob Danila Kozlovsky; to get you caught up to the speed before the first installment hits theaters next year, we spoke with Mead about the transition from page to screen -- and have the exclusive cover reveal to "Silver Shadows," the next installment in the "Bloodlines" spin-off series.
Moviefone: Tell us about how your books made the transition from page to screen. What was the process like for you?
Richelle Mead: It moved pretty slowly at the beginning. It actually took a while to get any interest in the options, and I think it's because "Vampire Academy" came out during such a big heyday of vampires, especially with "Twilight" overshadowing everything. I think that made some people hesitant to get on board with that. Then in 2010, Mike Preger from Preger Entertainment was working with [producer] Don Murphy, who's famous for the "Transformers" movies, and they fell in love with the books and were tenacious about taking the books to studios... It took a couple of years -- because again, "Twilight" -- but they caught the interest of Daniel Waters, who wrote the screenplay for "Heathers," and Mark Waters his brother, who directed "Mean Girls."
How fitting is it that the director and screenwriter have this great pedigree with movies set in high schools?
I feel super lucky that they made the movie. I find sometimes that with book-to-movie adaptations there's so much focus on plot or action that you lose the characters. I think that's why a lot of these adaptations don't do so well. With my books, the characters are my goal. Of course the plot is too, but I'm trying to convey these emotions and these people to my readers. Both of them, Daniel and Mark, they both got that. Daniel wrote that into the script, the way the characters interact, their lines, their personalities really come through. That was what I loved about them doing the movie.
I know you didn't write with specific actors in mind, but does the cast match what you think the characters look like?
The leads are so spot-on with what I had in my head. Dimitri especially is a great choice; I love that they cast a Russian actor to play him. It's perfect; we're going to have a genuine accent. He's the real deal. He's so very handsome, but he's also so nice. It's easy to forget he turns into this hard, bad-ass warrior guy on screen, because when you're hanging out with him off-camera, he's so personable and sweet to everyone.
Do you have anything you want to say to your fan-base to prepare them for an adaptation of a book they love?
There's no huge, major addition or subtraction in the movie that would make me caution my readers that "Oh my God, they left out X, Y or Z that's pivotal!" and there are no bizarre subplots either. Will it be an exact match? No, but I've tried to tell readers that they can't expect a page-for-page book to movie. It just doesn't work. It's two different media and there are time constraints. There are little changes, and the fans may know them even more than I do. But there were no changes that made me feel the integrity of the story was damaged. Everything that they did change I think made a better, more visually interesting movie.
Any examples of those changes we can expect?
The opening when Rose and Dimitri first meet is not verbatim exactly what happens in the book. It's not radically different either -- like on top of a building and Dimitri all of a sudden parachutes in, or anything that weird or completely made up. It is visually more interesting than the book, and that's all I can say! It's little changes like that that will read better for the screen. I hope readers will agree with me.
In your books, the age difference between Rose and Dimitri is a pretty considerable one: she's 17 and he's 24 when they first meet. Did the movie change that at all?
The movie does bring it up, because it's pivotal to the plot. It's why they can't be together initially, because they have the teacher-student dynamic and the age difference. It is specifically brought out, so that's definitely the same.
What was the St. Vlad's campus like on set? Was it odd to see St. Vladimir's come to life after it had lived in your head for so many years?
You know, people ask me why I'm not more involved, but I just cannot think like a filmmaker. The sets they created and the locations they chose, the scale of it all was just amazing. For the classroom shots, they took over a local university: they used a lecture hall and some of the halls to stand in for St. Vladimir's. The chapel, which features prominently, was actually built on a set; and it was just beautiful. The way they took these ideas I had in the book and then created everything was absolutely breathtaking.
It seems like the scene your readers are more excited about is the "lust charm scene." Did you get to see how that romantic sequence turned out?
They were filming classrooms scenes when I was there, so I saw mostly the student teacher scenes. I did see some footage that they put together for us of various scenes, but the lust charm was not among them. I'm going to be just as surprised as everyone else for that scene.
So we know what the readers want to see -- kissing! -- but what scenes are you most excited to see come to life?
Well, all of them, obviously! Definitely the ending. The ending is really action-packed, and I'm just so excited to see when suddenly all of the puzzle pieces adding up throughout the story finally come together. It's like dominoes, and everything starts happening really quickly. I'm excited to see that play out. And again that opening scene: After seeing snippets of it, I'm so excited to see the way it kicks off the movie.
OK, so will your fans get to see you make a cameo -- like Stephenie Meyer -- or are you going the J.K. Rowling route and staying out of it completely? Or maybe it's a surprise?
I don't have a good answer for that! I don't know. I guess it will be obvious once you watch the movie.
Check out the cover to "Silver Shadows" below!
"Vampire Academy" arrives in theaters February 14, 2014. "The Fiery Heart," the latest book in the "VA" series arrives in stores on November 19, 2013. "Silver Shadows" arrives in stores on July 29, 2014.