As well as being our geekess in residence, Fangirl Unleashed Tracey Sinclair is a published author – and her new novel Dark Dates, an urban fantasy book set in London, has just been released. After two ‘mainstream’ books, it’s her first venture into the supernatural; so, we asked, why the switch? And does the world really need yet another book about vampires?
“It all came about by accident, really!” Tracey explains. “I wrote a short story about vampires based on the idea of a speed dating service that matched them to their ‘victims’ – and it sort of grew from there. Before I knew it I was completely smitten with the characters and they took on a life of their own which just became enormous fun to write about. So I sort of became an accidental fantasy writer – but I love it!”
Aren’t we drowning in vampire stories now, though? Is there anything new to say? “Well, yes and no, I think. Certainly I got a lot of negative push back from agents saying that ‘urban fantasy’ is over. But the thing is – I still love reading those books. My friends do. We’re not ‘over’ them. How unusual can we be? I think there’s always an audience for good writing, whatever the topic. Plus while there are a lot – a lot – of urban fantasy books out there, hardly any are set in London, which is a shame because it has such a rich history, which makes it an ideal backdrop for a story about creatures that live for centuries. And I liked the idea of vampires living in the same world we do – ie, one that is currently infatuated with the idea of vampires. So that effects them – how they behave, what they think, how they interact with humans. I thought that would be an interesting angle to explore. The writers I love – Joss Whedon, Jim Butcher, the Supernatural crew – all manage to write larger than life characters that are tapped into pop culture, and somehow live in the same world that we do, and that’s definitely what I was aiming for. “
Above all, though, what she wanted was to create a likeable, believable heroine: “I spend so much of my time writing articles about the need for more strong women characters in fiction that I eventually thought, hell, just write your own! My heroine Cassandra Bick isn’t superhuman – she’s not Buffy, she gets worn out if she has to run up a flight of stairs – but she’s not some drippy girl sitting around waiting to be saved. Of course she has an impossibly hot, extremely dangerous love interest (or two!) – there were some tropes I wasn’t willing to abandon – but I didn’t want her to be Anita Blake at one end of the scale or Bella Swan at the other. She has some supernatural ability, but it’s fairly minor – really she’s just an ordinary, slightly geeky girl who gets caught up in a conflict between vampires that is spilling into the ‘normal’ world of London, and it’s about how she deals with that. I wanted to write someone that you’d enjoy going for a drink with! If I’ve managed that, I’ll be happy.”