Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series has been a hit since the first book was released in 2007. The fifth and latest installment, Spirit Bound, comes out May 18. We have an exclusive first look at the book’s trailer, which will air during Thursday night’s season finale of the Vampire Diaries and as a preview before this summer’s highly anticipated movie Eclipse.
Mead spoke with EW.com about the trailer, what fans can expect from her new book, and she’s doing next.
What can you tell us about Spirit Bound?
Spirit Bound takes place almost entirely outside of the school that gives the series its name, so that’s kind of ironic and funny. The characters are sort of on their own now, so we get to see what they do when they’re not within the confines of teachers and school rules. It’s less of a tearjerker; the other ones had these big sudden shockers that tended to leave people crying, so I would get email for weeks after the books came out that with people telling me how I left them sobbing. I don’t think there will be quite as much as that, but I can’t always tell that. This is going to be more twists in the story of the ‘Oh my God’ variety. People will still be surprised, and there’s still a cliffhanger, buy I think it will be less emotionally traumatic.
How did you create the series?
I’d been writing adult books sort of in the same genre, the paranormal urban fantasy realm, before that. I had two series, one about demons and one about fairies, and at the time I had extra time on my hands and I wanted to try something for young adults. I was kind of running out of paranormal creatures, so I thought, ‘Well, let’s do vampires,’ little knowing what I was getting into at the time with teen vampires. I had no idea it was about to become a phenomenon unto itself.
Is it hard to deal with the fact that there are so many other vampire books out there and people are going to compare your books to those? Does that get annoying?
No, not at all. There’s always a sort of idea that authors are terrible rivals and hate each other. The Twilight phenomenon if anything has helped me. Teens are so voracious; these books come out that they’ve been waiting nine months for and they read them in four hours. Then they’re looking for the next vampire book. To have so many out there, we just feed each other. Someone finishes one series and jumps to the other. It’s great to have so much interest and so many other series. I know a lot of these authors, and they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. The biggest thing is probably just when people mix up the series; they come up to me and say, ‘I love The Vampire Diaries.’ I’m like, ‘Me too, but I didn’t write that!’ [laughs]
What’s the process like while writing the Vampire Academy books? Do you know what’s going to go into each book?
I plan out all of my series. I have to know how many books it’s going to take to tell the story and what the big plots are going to be in each book and the series as a whole. I know a lot of authors who are so brilliant they can make it up as they go; not me, I need to know my direction, I need to know what my end point is, so most of them are very planned out. I outline everything. There are always things that pop up along the way, subplots you hadn’t thought of that kind of organically rise up, but all the big things haven’t changed; they’ve been there from the beginning.
I read on your website that this series is supposed to end with the sixth book. Is this still the plan?
It is and it isn’t. This arc with this character and this storyline will end at book six, and that comes out in December. Then I’m going to start — I keep calling it a spin-off for lack of a better word — a new series with a new arc, but it’s going to be the same world. We’ll have new characters in the forefront that are taking the place as protagonists of the characters we’ve already met. It’ll be a new story. It’s a way for me to keep myself fresh and start something new. I certainly don’t want to beat a story into the ground when it should end. At the same time, it’s going to give readers who are in love with this world a chance to stay with it.
Why do you think this has been such a popular series? Did the success surprise you?
It was very much a surprise to me. I was working on adult stuff, and if anything this was the side project. Because I didn’t fully realize what Twilight was becoming, and because it hadn’t quite become that anyway, I didn’t expect it. It was kind of a surprise. A few months after the first Vampire Academy came out it won some honors from the American Library Association. It was a very gradual climb. Our sales numbers were creeping up each week, I was getting more and more email from it, people anticipating the next book. The second book came out and it made the New York Times list, and it was like, ‘Where did these readers come from?’ I didn’t expect it; it’s still sort of a surreal thing for me.
The exclusive trailer we have on our website will air Thursday night during the CW’s Vampire Diaries and in movie theaters before Eclipse. How do you feel about having a trailer based on your books to air on TV and in front of one of the biggest movies of the summer?
It’s kind of unreal. I haven’t reached a point where I can take any of this in stride yet. Each thing is still kind of astonishing and miraculous to me. It’s daunting, a little bit, to think of so many people seeing that. I’m a little nervous to see it as well. It’s strange to see anyone do something with your work. Whenever I listed to the audio versions of my books, it’s like, ‘Wow, someone took that and did something with it.’ I have no idea what to expect with this; I understand they actually had a cast and did real filming. I want the books to reach as many people as possible, and Penguin is just so wonderful with promotion, to think of these things. I’m grateful and excited.
There are fans who have made their own trailers by putting together footage from movies and television shows and posting them on YouTube. What do you think about that?
That’s going back to that kind of weird reaction I have to see someone else…it’s so close to me, and then you see someone else’s interpretation, and the cast of Gossip Girl is playing my characters in these clips. It’s strange. I can’t watch a lot of them; it’s kind of funny at the same time and just weird. It’s amazing to think that I could have created something that has such a profound affect that people will splice together the clips to make this because they’re so excited about it. It’s kind of a wake up call for how these reach people; it’s not always as obvious until you see something like that.
You’re embarking soon on a two-week book tour. What are those like?
I do a lot of outreach with fans. I travel quite a bit to see then, and this year they’re sending me to smaller places, like Mobile, Alabama and Albuquerque. We’re trying really hard to get out there to connect with those readers. I think what’s really great with this series is there really is so much interaction between me and them; along with the travel there’s a very active online presence. I interact with them through all the assorted social networking sites. I read all the comments and respond when I can, which isn’t always so easy.
The second day of release, I can assume that everyone who’s at a signing has read the book. Even sometimes that first day, they got it that morning and I see them at 7 p.m. and they’re ready with questions. It’s amazing.