When we first started Claudia Gray’s Evernight we didn’t know what we were getting into. With the series getting stronger and more complex as it progressed, we found ourselves needing more of Bianca (not a vampire, but very close to them) and Lucas (part of a long line of vampire hunters). The books are engaging and got under our skin.
The final novel in the Evernight series hit shelves yesterday, and we can say you’ll be impressed. In our early, spoiler-free review this is how we summed up Afterlife: “Afterlife gives us just what we need: nonstop action, a realistic fight for love and lots of answers. We’re talking why Mrs. Bethany is the like that (oh, you’ll be shocked), why the wraiths wanted Bianca so badly and whether Lucas and Bianca will actually make it.”
In our interview, Gray talks about why Bianca and Lucas are right for each other, her love for Mrs. Bethany and assures us that the evil ending of Hourglass was worth it.
Vampire Book Club: You gave us a pretty cruel ending Hourglass (Evernight #3). Want to soothe readers by telling them it’ll all be worth it in Afterlife (Evernight #4)?
Claudia Gray: It’ll all be worth it! You’ll see. I feel like the series reaches a meaningful conclusion for the romance, the plot and the characters. Of course, I hope readers agree.
Vampire Book Club: We definitely did. There are some big surprises in Afterlife. Connections we didn’t see coming, big changes, lots of life-or-death – you know, the things we love from you. Did you know where the Lucas and Bianca’s story would go when you began Evernight?
Claudia Gray: So glad you enjoyed the surprises! For the most part, I knew where Lucas and Bianca’s story was headed from the get-go — not entirely when I began EVERNIGHT, but by the time I’d finished. There were definitely plot elements that came up to surprise me along the way, but they tended to have more to do with the supporting characters and the ways they influenced Lucas and Bianca’s lives and relationship, rather than the connection those two had with each other. I can actually very clearly remember explaining something about Lucas and Bianca to my friend Catherine in a New York coffee shop, and saying the words, “To him, she’s this perfect, normal girl,” and somehow they just crystallized for me then in a way that has always remained with me.
Vampire Book Club: Bianca and Lucas manage to survive after vicious problems are thrown at them repeatedly. Their mindsets are so different sometimes. What makes these two so right for one another?
Claudia Gray: I think the fact that they are so different is what makes their relationship work. When EVERNIGHT began, Bianca was shy, easily overwhelmed and far too passive about her life. Lucas, meanwhile, was far too aggressive, very suspicious, very edgy. During their romance, she’s grown braver, stronger and more independent, while he has become gentler, more thoughtful and more able to compromise. My goal was always to show that they helped each other to grow.
Vampire Book Club: Speaking of love. Were you ever surprised by the outpouring of Balthazar love?
Claudia Gray: No — I love him too!
Vampire Book Club: Will those swooning for the runner-up finally get to see him happy in the spin-off book?
Claudia Gray: Let’s just say Balthazar’s luck in love is overdue for a change.
Vampire Book Club: Outside of our complicated couple, which character is the most fun to write? (We’d guess Ranulf.)
Claudia Gray: Ranulf is indeed a blast, as are Balthazar, Vic and Patrice. But If I were going to pick just one as the most fun beyond Bianca and Lucas, I’d pick Mrs. Bethany. Her scenes have always been deeply enjoyable for me (and for you guys too, I hope).
Vampire Book Club: I really loved the history of the relationship between Black Cross and Evernight Academy that flowed through the series. How did you balance things out and, more importantly, did you ever pick sides?
Claudia Gray: I’m so glad you enjoyed that! The main goal there was to show that both the vampires and the vampire hunters were made up of all kinds. There are vampires as harmless and well-meaning as the Oliviers or Balthazar; there are vampires as destructive as Erich. There are vampire hunters who genuinely want to protect people and do good, like Lucas and Dana; there are vampire hunters who are zealots that stake first and ask questions later, like Eduardo. So you have people who have been trained to think that groups are good or bad, and then they have to realize that they must look at individuals, not groups. As for picking sides, I felt like each group had their moments. One interesting scene for me to write was the attack Mrs. Bethany led on the Black Cross HQ in Manhattan; on the one hand, Mrs. Bethany is so clearly taking a revenge she feels is justified, and she’s trying to give Bianca a chance to avoid the fate that befalls her later in HOURGLASS. On the other hand, it’s this totally frightening, brutal attack, and you see the human side of the Black Cross fighters in the aftermath. So finding that balance was always an enjoyable challenge.
Vampire Book Club: After going through so much with these characters, are you ready to let them go?
Claudia Gray: Not really! Well, in some ways — I mean, writing a book means putting your characters through some difficult things, so I like the idea of letting them have some rest and be happy for a while, you know? But I miss them. I kept thinking of great things for Ranulf to say in the last two books I wrote, neither of which he’s in. Alas.
Vampire Book Club: We knew Balthazar is on the horizon, but what else is on tap for Claudia Gray?
Claudia Gray: Well, coming September 2011 (in the US, anyway), I have FATEFUL, aka the book about the werewolves on the Titanic. (Yes, that situation could get EVEN WORSE.) It’s the story of Tess, a servant girl who’s spent the last several years of her life working hard for the wealthy, troubled Lisle family — who, if they lived in 2011 instead of 1912, would have several reality shows based on their secret dramas. Tess wants a new life for herself, so when this sea voyage they’re on ends (in New York, she thinks), she intends to quit and set out on her own in America. But on board she meets the mysterious Alec, who is haunted by a secret savage enough to destroy them both — and hunted by a force dark enough to follow them on sea and yet strike at their loved ones at home. The connection between Alec and Tess is dangerous, but it’s the least of the dangers they face along the way.
Then there’s BALTHAZAR in March 2012 and in early 2013, you’ll get the first book of the SPELLCASTER trilogy, which I’m due to start writing any day now! I hope you’ll enjoy them.
Vampire Book Club: A big thanks to Claudia Gray for stopping by VBC today. For more info on her latest works, check out ClaudiaGray.com. And you can order Afterlife from the Book Depository or Amazon.