Today Bernie Stevens, author of Dance Until Dawn answers a few of my questions
Your debut novel Dance until Dawn was published on 7th April. What’s it about?
Dance Until Dawn is a paranormal romance. It features the new and fragile relationship between the powerful Vampire Elder of London and a new fledgling vampire.
Will has yearned for a love that will last for eternity, and in Ellie, he thinks he has found it. But as with any new relationship, there are many pitfalls, including Ellie’s fear of the dark and aversion to blood. She isn’t exactly enamoured with Will either, because she believes he murdered her for reasons of his own. All in all, things don’t get off to a very good start. When an old flame of Will’s comes to town with her bloodthirsty followers, things really begin to get ugly.
Did you find there was pressure to write a vampire novel in a new way given their increase in popularity and the obvious if unfair comparisons that will be made with popular vampire novels that have already been published, and why do you think vampire stories have held their appeal for so long?
The most famous vampire novel of all time, is of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Since it was published in 1897, it has never been out of print. To me, that says everything about the lure and popularity of vampire fiction.
Paranormal romances burst onto the scene in the 1990s, long before Twilight became popular. Although I think it was really Joss Whedon’s first Buffy TV series in 1997, that set the ball rolling. I know I watched the first episode (Welcome to the Hellmouth) and was instantly addicted. Sharp, witty writing, fabulous storylines – and in the second series – Spike – what’s not to like?
There’s always pressure to be different and there will always be the danger of unfavourable comparisons with whoever had the first success. It’s inevitable.
But my book is for grown-ups, there’s no high school or prom parties, and no sparkling in sunlight. I am quite a purist when it comes to vampire folklore, and I like the whole creatures of the night legend. Fantasy can be written however any author wants to write it, but for me, I like keeping to the ‘rules!’
Vampire legends have been told and retold since the time of the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Egyptians, so the legends have been around for hundreds of years and not just since the Victorian era. I think part of the appeal is the thought of eternal life, and never aging. Eternity, however, is a very long time, and I have no doubt, could become very lonely.
Vampires dip in and out of popularity all the time. They may disappear from our screens sometimes, but they always come back with a new spin on the genre. TV and film producers are forever coming up with the definitive Dracula – or so they think – yet the only version that has been close to Stoker’s book, is the BBC’s version in 1977. (All the latter versions have shoe-horned in romance.)
How long did it take you to write Dance until Dawn and how long did it take you to secure a publishing deal?
Dance Until Dawn started ‘life’ as a short story about ten years ago. It was published in an anthology for the Dracula Society. One of the editors said it sounded like the beginning of a novel, so I started to write more. I was commuting to the West End and working full-time at the time, so I used to write on the tube and in any ‘spare time’. It was shelved several times, rewritten a lot, and eventually uploaded to the Authonomy website in 2008. In 2011, it was published as an eBook and print-on-demand by a small American press. When the rights reverted to me last year, I was thrilled to be offered a contract by Choc Lit. To be published here in the UK was always my ultimate dream.
Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress?
The first draft of the sequel is finished. It is more of Will and Ellie’s story, but slightly darker and with even more problems. Although I can tell you there is a wedding too. I am working on the third in the series, which features a werewolf as the main character, although Will and Ellie play a big part in the story too.
Do you have any advice for anyone writing their first novel?
The best advice I was given was to keep reading and never stop writing. It’s hard work, there is no easy route. But don’t give up. If you believe in yourself and your work, it will happen.
You must answer a lot of these questions. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been, and what’s the answer?
That’s really hard 🙂 As a cover designer, obviously I have worked in the publishing industry for quite a few years. I always wonder why nobody ever asks me if I had a ‘way in’ to get published quicker or easier.
The answer is, that by working on the ‘inside’ I always saw just how difficult it is to get published. It used to be that no publishers would even look at unsolicited work, so all manuscripts went via an agent to the publishers. At one point it was more difficult to get an agent than a publisher. It is slightly easier now, especially with self-publishing and eBooks. A lot of editors look at the authors who are doing well by self-publishing and some get a publishing contract that way. (Apparently Stephen King’s first novel was self-published.)
A big plus I did have, was being able to run the idea for my first book past a few very experienced editors. In fact, one of my best friends who works as an editor in New York, went through the first (not so good) draft meticulously – then sent it back covered in red pen! One of my proudest moments was after I had sent her a copy of the first eBook. She sent me a congratulations card, which simply said inside, ‘Berni, it rocks!’
Dance Until Dawn is published by Choc Lit and is out now. http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/dance-until-dawn/
About the Author:
Berni Stevens lives in a four-hundred-year-old cottage in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, son and black cat. She trained in graphic design and has worked as a book cover designer for more than twenty years.
Books and art remain her passion, and her love of the paranormal began when she first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, aged fourteen. She is now on both the committee and the book panel of the Dracula Society, a society for fans of gothic literature and film.
Berni has had several short stories published, and her first novel, Fledgling, – a paranormal romance – was published in the US. Dance Until Dawn is Berni’s debut novel with Choc Lit and the first in a series of three.
About the book:
“Do you Believe in Love After Life?
At twenty-five, West-End dancer, Ellie Wakefield should be having the time of her life. The only problem is, since waking up in a three-hundred-year-old vampire’s leaky cellar, Ellie’s been very much dead. And to make matters worse, she’s found that an aversion to blood and a fear of the dark aren’t very helpful – especially when you’re a fledgling vampire.
William James Austen has fallen hard. He’s spent the last year loving Ellie from afar and now he’s finally able to be truthful about who and what he is. As the most powerful vampire in London, he’s used to getting what he wants. But this time, Will might just have bitten off more than he can chew.”