Last week saw the release of House of Night #1, the first Dark Horse comic book adapting New York Times bestselling author P.C. Cast's House of Night books; a saga of teen vampires set in Cast's home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cast and her daughter Kristin (pictured above) collaborate on the novels, which – unlike that other teen vampire series – have met with favorable reviews from critics, as well as five million copies sold. The series also doesn't shy away from sex and violence. I spoke with Cast recently about her plans for the future of House of Night, including the comic and the newly announced movie, as well as her plans for a comic adaptation of her novel Goddess of the Rose. Read our conversation after the jump.
What will the House of Night comic offer longtime fans of the books, and what will it offer newcomers?
First, Dark Horse is just awesome. I have been a longtime Dark Horse fan. And it's such a pleasure to work with them. Their team is as talented and intuitive and supportive as rumors have it. That's always so nice to report. Longtime fans are going to be able to get a glimpse of what I think is a different layer to the House of Night. They get the story – the story's familiar; the world is familiar – but my adapter, Kent Dalian, and I have managed to weave the Dark Horse stories between very early novels. So new readers will be introduced to the world and hopefully understand the world and want to get more of it, longtime fans will see familiar things and themes, but they'll get to see scenes and little stories that weren't included in the novels. I think that part is awesome. Plus, they're absolutely beautiful comics. They're just a piece of art, and I love them so much.
Can you talk about the long-term plan for the comic book?
Well, we have these five comics, and they are woven early in the series, and each of them has a historical vampire story that meshes with something that's going on with modern-day House of Night. After that, we have plans that are super-secret, but we have plans that will go beyond book 12 of the books that I'm writing for St. Martin's, book 12 of the House of Night world I can't really divulge yet, but Scott Allie and Kent and I have gotten together… Well, Scott and I got together over scotch and we were… Well, we were shitfaced. [Laughs.] And we came up with a great idea, and then we brought Kent in and we were all like, "Yeah!" But we haven't announced it yet. After these five comics, Kent is going to be adapting my retelling of Beauty and the Beast – Goddess of the Rose. It'll be dark and sexy. It's not YA, let me tell you. It's awesome. Then, from there, he's going to leap back into House of Night. So he'll stay in P.C. Cast world. [Laughs.] The poor guy.
A lot of contemporary vampire fiction is met with less than favorable reviews from critics. But yours has found favor. What's the secret to writing critically acclaimed vampires?
Oh God… I think the secret might be "Don't read reviews," okay? What I do is, every book I write, I write it as the book I most want to read. And I don't really look at House of Night as a vampire series. I look at it as a series about teens, about kids. Then I add paranormal elements into them. The thing that's most important to me about this series is what's important to me about all of my series: that it's empowering, especially for young women. I think if you empower the women in a society, you empower everyone in that society. And that is the difference between my vampires and others – my society's matriarchal.
I also have a very strong biology base in my family – my dad's a biologist, my brother's a chemistry teacher. I'm very comfortable with that. So physiologically they're very different than other vampires, because it's a biological event that happens within them. But if critics like them, maybe it's because the kids are real. I taught high school for fifteen years. My dad's a teacher, my brother's a teacher, my uncle's a teacher – we get teenagers. I think it's important that you get teenagers if you're writing for them. So that might be it.
I must say, I don't read reviews because that kind of stuff makes me crazy. I just do my best with each book, and that's it. And I try not to break my own rules too. I don't break my world rules. I don't break them, which gives me a headache. Because why didn't I write bigger world rules? [Laughs.] But I'm trying to be careful about that too.
As real as its teenagers are, there is of course a layer of fantasy to the series. What fantasy novels did you read when you were growing up?
My father gave me the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was nine. I read that and I grew up reading everything. But what I liked best was always fantasy and the paranormal. I read lots of comics too; I was a big comic book fan. But I remember distinctly, when I was thirteen, I read Anne McCaffrey's first three Pern books. And I remember saying to myself two things – "Wow, a woman can write fantasy and… star in it!" I was like, "Yeah!" Anne McCaffrey totally influenced me into thinking I could do it myself; and of course the first book I wrote was a fantasy. I wrote fantasy before I wrote anything else. I just added sex to it so they called it paranormal romance – but I looked at it as fantasy. Fantasy – and science fiction – has influenced me from a very young age, because I had a really smart dad who said, "Here, read this. And read everything."
As a comics fan, did you take quickly to working on the House of Night comic?
Oh hell no! I could not do this without Kent. [Laughs.] He is the guy who is comfortable with that. He and I brainstorm about the plot, and outline that, and then he writes the first draft of each comic. Then he sends the draft to the editorial team at Dark Horse and to me. The editorial team goes through and makes editor comments, like, "Maybe we should begin with more action." Editor stuff. I go through line by line and take what Kent has written and make sure that I tweak it and change it and add to it if need be. Kent though is really, really good at doing P.C. Cast. So I don't have to make big changes. But I couldn't do this without him and the support of the team at Dark Horse. My skill is writing novels, not comics. I'm working with the team on this.
Can you share the latest news on the House of Night film?
Oh boy. If you go to my blog, I have the latest press release there. Davis Films has optioned us. It'll be a whole franchise. I just spoke to my producer, Samuel Hadida, he actually just left the set of the latest Resident Evil to talk to me before I did the live stream event for the launch of Destined. And we are all so excited. Davis Films is excited. My team is excited. They'll be here in the next couple of months working with me on it. I'll have big creative input; and Davis Films is asking for input from fans. We want to give fans what they want. So it's gonna be so awesome. We're thrilled about it.
So work hasn't begun on the script just yet?
We just optioned. Right now I'm beginning that whole process.
For this first film, are we looking at an adaptation of the first book?
Samuel and I have talked about maybe merging two books into one film. It's kind of early for that. We haven't made that decision yet, and we need a screenwriter on board for that. But we have talked about staying as true to the series as possible, when you adapt to that medium. They feel very strongly about staying true to the world and what's taken place. But I would imagine that we would at least merge two books together, for each [film] probably.
Your collaboration with your daughter is pretty unique, and obviously quite successful. How do the two of you work together?
Well, I taught high school for fifteen years, and come from a family of teachers. What happens is I write the manuscripts and Kristin doesn't see them as I'm writing them. She actually prefers not to know what's going to happen. Because she wants to read them as completely fresh. I send a finished manuscript to her before I send it to my editorial team at St. Martin's. Kristin goes through them and fills in pop culture references and just makes sure that the characters aren't sounding too old. She doesn't have to do very much of that any more, because they're not really teen characters to me anymore. They're who they are. They talk the way they talk. I don't need a lot of help with that. She's basically my first-line editor, and she always has been. That lets me write whatever I want to write, without worrying about how young or old the characters sound.
I put in a lot of stuff that Kristin takes out, because I write at a violence and a sexuality level that I'm not filtering for young adults. Kristin does that; she takes that through the filter and washes out what she needs to. Then sometimes she'll just say, "I love this. Don't cut this. Leave this in here." We work very well and very easily together.
Vampire fiction is interesting in how it's so often regional – Anne Rice's most famous work is set in New Orleans, and Charlaine Harris sets her Sookie Stackhouse novels in the deep south. But we haven't seen a vampire saga set in the heartland blow out in quite the way yours has. What is it about Oklahoma that inspires your work?
Tulsa's my home town, and Kristin and I love Oklahoma. If you know Oklahoma, you know that there's a very deep-rooted earth magic here. It's very native and it's a beautiful, beautiful state. There's a lot of different cultures that mix together here. It has a depth that outsiders don't know about. And Tulsa in particular is a very magical, beautiful city. When I was talking to Samuel for the first time, my Davis Films producer, he was in the middle of reading Betrayed, the second book. He said to me, "Okay, it's correct, right? These are real places that you're setting this action in? In Tulsa?" I said, "Yeah." He's like, "Wow. This is really cool." (I'm paraphrasing him: he's French, so he said that with a French accent, and probably some French words in there.) He was so amazed. It's just that it's a lot cooler than people think it is.
As a matter of fact, I was just in Moody's Jewelry Store, which is mentioned in the books. It's a locally owned jewelry store. Of course, if you know me, you'll know why I was a in jewelry store recently. The manager there laughed when I walked in, and said, "You just missed three teenagers and their mom here. They took their vacation and they're going to the real places in Tulsa from House of Night. They literally just walked out twenty minutes ago, and they left their phone number and their name, because we told them you come in here a lot." I said, "Hand me the store phone." I called them on the store phone and said, "Hey. Hi. Guess who this is?" [Laughs.] Once you visit Tulsa, you'll know that vampires could actually live here.
[Laughs.] That's a great story. Thank you, P.C.
You're welcome! Thank you so much. I appreciate you guys.