With the next instalment of his action-packed Department 19 series, Battle Lines , due early next year, SFX talks to author Will Hill about vampires of the non-sparkling variety, and the future of the series...
Is Department 19 a series that could go on indefinitely, or do you have a set number of books in mind?
It's going to take five books to finish the story I want to tell, of Jamie and his friends and the rise of Dracula. There are other stories I want to tell in the world of Department 19, that take place in the past and in other parts of the world, featuring characters that I would like to spend more time with. But for the immediate future, its going to be five books.
Department 19 is gloriously, unashamedly violent. Was it a conscious decision to reclaim vampires from the “supernatural romance” shelves?
I have no problem with sparkly vampires, I wasn’t trying to oppose them! There were just other things I was interested in exploring, and violence was (and is) one of them – the effect it has on people, the long-lasting damage it can do – while also trying to write action sequences that would be exciting and shocking. What convinced me to write Department 19 was the idea that my vampires are not automatically evil, they are still themselves as long as they feed quickly enough to avoid the hunger driving them mad. I’m interested in whether or not they could remain the good person they (hopefully) were before they were turned, whether they would find it hard to avoid doing bad things when the moral reasons not to have largely been removed.
The books feel very “boysy” - have you had much positive feedback from girls?
I was trying to write something my 15-year-old self would have liked but I was always hopeful that they might appeal to both genders. The girls (and women) who have got in touch seem to like Larissa. She’s extremely competent, she’s powerful, she’s a long way from being either helpless or a victim, even though she may not be exactly what she appears.
How do you pick and choose the bits of vampire mythology you want to adhere to?
I think this is key to why vampire stories have remained popular for so long – you can pick those aspects of vampirism and throw the rest out. Although I do think there are a few tropes that are absolutely necessary – they need to drink blood, the ability to be killed by puncturing the heart, the inability to go out in daylight. I wanted to use the bits of vampire lore that would make them compelling villains, but also might prove tempting to normal people, or more likely to corrupt – supernatural strength and speed, an extremely long life.
Are there any vampire tropes you really loathe?
Not that I loathe but I wanted the vampires in Department 19 and The Rising to be as scientifically plausible as possible, I wasn’t interested in religious aspects of the classic vampire myth. They can be used brilliantly, but they didn’t fit with the story I wanted to tell.
What have you got planned for book three, Battle Lines ?
Zero Hour is getting closer and closer, with it the prospect of Dracula’s return to full power. Department 19 are on the back foot, after a co-ordinated attacks brings one of the darkest moments of their secret history to light.
Do you have fun inventing tech for Department 19 ?
Absolutely! I try to keep the weapons and vehicles realistic, but the base and the vampire-specific weapons were where I really got to have fun. The T-Bone – the reusable stake gun that all Department 19 Operators carry – is one that audiences seem to respond to, but the Loop, the Department 19 base that is mostly underground and contains cells with walls of ultraviolet light, and the Mina II, the supersonic jet, are pure teenage wish-fulfilment.
What are your top five favourite horror films?
Halloween ¸ The Omen , The Evil Dead II , Wolf Creek and The Exorcist .
Department 19 and Department 19: The Rising are out now from HarperCollins.
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