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Interview: April 23, 2010

April 23, 2010

Richelle Mead --- author of the bestselling YA Vampire Academy novels --- recently published SUCCUBUS SHADOWS, the fifth installment in her acclaimed series featuring “reluctant” female demon Georgina Kincaid. In this interview with’s Usha Reynolds, Mead explains what initially inspired the concept behind this paranormal urban fantasy, and elaborates on the books’ underlying messages regarding the ambiguity of good and evil. She also shares her thoughts on the concept of soulmates, recommends some of her favorite authors in the urban fantasy genre, and hints at what is next in store for Georgina. SUCCUBUS SHADOWS is the fifth installment in your Georgina Kincaid series. What inspired you to write these books?

Richelle Mead: I wanted to write a series with a paranormal protagonist, and at the time, I’d really only seen vampires out there. So, a succubus seemed like an unusual choice. I liked the challenge of making a character like her sympathetic and likable, and the limitations (and deadly side effects!) of sex with a succubus set the stage for a really complex love story.

BRC: Georgina has certain superpowers as a succubus; she certainly puts shape-shifting to interesting use several times in the story! Have you ever wished for a superpower, and if so, which one?

RM: I’ve never had any urgent desire for super powers, but I have to admit, shape-shifting would save me a lot of time on my hair in the morning!

BRC: The theme of eternal love --- love that lingers against all odds --- runs through Georgina’s story. Do you believe in the idea of a soulmate for each of us?

RM: I definitely believe there’s someone for everyone, but I think it’s naïve to believe there is only one person in the entire universe for us, period. We change throughout our lives and can love different people, though in the end, I hope everyone ends up with that special person with whom they truly connect.

BRC: In the modern world, we’ve come to take a somewhat blasé view of cheating. In Georgina’s world, cheating on a loved one --- as Seth did on Maddie --- leaves a blemish on one’s soul and dooms one to hell. Georgina herself has paid an eternal, and very steep, price for a misstep she took in love many ages ago. Do you think cheating is a serious moral failing, or do you see it as something that people can redeem themselves for?

RM: I don’t think there’s any easy answer to that, and certainly much depends on the circumstances. And judging from reactions to the books, many people don’t view it so casually! The books aren’t necessarily trying to push some agenda or message about infidelity so much as show that relationships are complicated. The path to true love isn’t easy, and often, the obstacles are more ordinary than we realize.

BRC: I found your descriptions of the demon Jerome and the angel Carter, as well as the rules that govern their actions and mutual interactions, to be fascinating. How did you come up with these characters and the idea of something akin to a friendship between such contrasting figures?

RM: Since the books aren’t trying to deliver any specific religious message, I decided to envision Heaven and Hell operating like business --- Jerome being the best example. However, one message --- kind of a spiritual one --- is that sometimes in this world, the lines between good and evil are blurred. The definitions aren’t always so obvious, and people we think are doing good may not be and vice versa. That’s where this friendship comes from. Jerome and Carter have an even greater, cosmic understanding of good and evil and how relative it can all be sometimes.

BRC: In the story, there is a very important ritual that is central to the plot. Did you write the description of this ritual out of your imagination, or did you consult any sources for it?

RM: A couple of the ritual’s steps are very, very loosely tied to Neo-Pagan and Wiccan practices, but the rest was my own invention.

BRC: How does your graduate degree in Comparative Religions inform your stories about paranormal phenomena and mythological creatures?

RM: My thesis was actually about heretical Christianity in the Roman Empire --- so it doesn’t come up a lot! Although, the time period I focused on is Georgina’s original one, so I did get that background research from my M.A. My knowledge of myth and whatnot is actually something I’ve acquired my whole life. I was reading about the Greek gods from childhood and continued to study stories from all over the world through high school and my undergrad years. I couldn’t even say for sure when I learned about succubi, probably high school. I feel like I’ve always known!

BRC: Are there any up-and-coming writers of paranormal and urban fantasy stories that you would recommend to our readers?

RM: These are authors that are already out there but who aren’t always as widely known as they should be: Anton Strout, Jeanne Stein, Mark Henry and Mario Acevedo.

BRC: Which fantasy authors have you been most influenced by?

RM: I never think of it in terms of influence, but my favorite books growing up were the Dragonlance novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It was a sword and sorcery series, but the writing was fantastic, and whenever I go back to reread them, I see certain stylistic elements that I now use.

BRC: Are there any other genres of books you enjoy reading outside of paranormal fantasy?

RM: I actually prefer to read outside of paranormal fantasy and only read it for business! For my own pleasure reading, I’ll pick up about anything: mainstream, historical, science fiction, etc.

BRC: SUCCUBUS SHADOWS ends with an intriguing cliffhanger. Without giving too much away, can you tell our readers a little about what awaits Georgina in the next book in the series? What other projects are you working on now?

RM: It’s hard not to give away too much, but we’ll learn the final pieces of Georgina’s backstory and what “true love” and “redemption” really entail. Alongside her series, I write another called Dark Swan, beginning with STORM BORN, about a freelance shaman who fights ghosts and fey…and then inadvertently finds herself deeply involved (romantically and otherwise) with the fey world, despite her better judgment! I also write a YA series called Vampire Academy about a half-vampire teenage girl learning to be a bodyguard. Between these three series, I’m pretty busy!

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