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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Guest Post by Pete Johnson (Author of The Vampire Hunters)

You know how there’s one person in your class who is always making jokes and thinks he’s really funny.

Well that was me.

I was the class clown, who’d try and make people laugh, especially when they really shouldn’t. For instance, during assembly when the headmaster is telling everyone off, I’d have my mates helpless with hysterical laughter and terrified the headmaster would notice them. Brilliant!

I’m still trying to make people laugh today with my books like: ‘How to Train Your Parents,’ and ‘Help! I’m a Classroom Gambler.’ I’m known for my horror stories too, like: ‘The Ghost Dog,’ and ‘Eyes of the Alien.’ But a few funny moments even creep into those books.

But I’ve never tried writing a full-scale horror-comedy until now. So I decided to take a vampire story – and yeah, I know there are tons of them around now – but give it a very special twist.

So in my vampire stories ’The Vampire Blog’ and the newly launched sequel ‘The Vampire Hunters,’ the central character, Marcus, is the most reluctant half-vampire you’ve ever met. In fact, up to the night of his thirteenth birthday he thought he was as normal as you. But then his parents tell him, they’re half-vampires and he’s about to start changing into one too.

At first he thinks his parents have gone mad. Then he’s totally horrified. He doesn’t want to join the ‘We love Blood Gang.’ But soon he finds a white fang dangling inside his mouth. (The sign the changeover has begun) Shortly afterwards he has a blood craving at school and he ends up licking all the blood off his best mate’s hankie. Later he gets poisoned by a pizza, (it contained garlic sausage) and a vampire attacks him.

Oh yes, they exist too. But in real life its animal blood vampires like, not human (far too sour) There’s just one exception – the blood of half-vampires before they change over. This vampire has been tracking Marcus for some time and will certainly attack again. Even worse, it’s someone who he knows. And when he discovers who it is, Marcus gets the shock of his life...

Yet, through all this Marcus keeps making stupid jokes and acting silly, just as I did in all the lessons I really hated. It was my way of getting through the heavy stuff. And its Marcus’s way too.

But in ‘The Vampire Hunters’ the tension – and laughs – really build up. For now Marcus is in phase two of the changeover. This starts with his Dad handing him a bottle of blood. He says. ‘Now we’d like you to take this to school with you. I expect you’re wondering why.’

‘Is it to pour over my chips?’ asks Marcus

But Marcus’s dad doesn’t smile. Tragically, neither of his parents ever laugh at his jokes. Instead they tell him to carry the bottle of blood with him everywhere, as soon Marcus will have the first of two blood fever attacks. And when this happens a deep craving for blood will totally overwhelm him.

Marcus is hating the whole idea. But he can’t tell his parents that, so he just goes on saying silly jokes and, of course, getting his parents more and more annoyed.

Now what I’m going to tell you next may alarm you: there’s probably more of me in ‘The Vampire Hunters’ than anything else I’ve ever written. This isn’t to say, I hastily add, that I’m a secret half-vampire (not that I’d ever admit it, if I were) but some of the scenes have actually happened to me.

So a disastrous date at the cinema which still makes me shudder, is right there in ‘The Vampire Hunters’ – only with a vampire twist, of course. And my worst ever nightmare, that’s in the book too. Just wait until you see what it is …

So will ‘The Vampire Hunters’ scare you, as well as make you laugh? I think – I hope – the comedy strengthens and deepens the book’s horrifying moments.

Also, and most importantly, you have to care about the characters. Otherwise it’s just vampire bats swooping out of the air at people. So, before I even started writing ‘The Vampire Hunters’ I spent days and days thinking about Marcus and Tallulah – the other main character. And after a while – well just as I expect you can imagine your best mate’s voice in your head, and know the kind of things he’ll say – so I could hear Marcus and Tallulah’s voices.

They have a lot of arguments in this book (I love writing about rows) and sometimes they were chattering away so quickly in my head I could hardly keep up with them. And it felt as if I wasn’t writing the story at all. That’s a great moment for a writer.

Another is when you see the first-ever copies of your story. Of course you are mad keen to know what readers think of it. In fact, here’s a little tip if ever you want to gain a writer’s attention instantly – just start chatting to them about their latest book. Then watch their eyes fix on you and see how they listen intently to every word you say.
And that’s what I’m doing right now – eagerly awaiting your verdict on ‘The Vampire Hunters.’

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