Hello everybody! Today, I’m delighted to welcome Alex Foulkes, the debut author of Rules for Vampires, for an interview. Onto the post!
Hi Alex, thank you so much for being here!
Hi Amy, thank you for having me!
First of all, can you please describe Rules for Vampires in 5 words for us?
Rules for Vampires: (a) spooky, funny, weird, gothic rollercoaster.
This is your debut novel, so congratulations are in order there! What has your journey to publication been like? Do you have a favourite moment of your career as an author so far?
Thank you so much! I’ve had my ups and downs, but it has been an actual dream come true. I’ve loved every minute and I’ve also cried a lot. My book deal with Simon and Schuster was signed during the Covid-19 pandemic – I think the timing of this definitely added to the craziness! It’s been like venturing into a whole other world. The best moment for me was telling the library regulars in my school. They are SO EXCITED and they can’t wait to read Vampires! After all, it was written for them.
One of the reasons I was so excited to read the book is that it’s about vampires, and I’m loving that there seems to be a kind of resurgence of vampires going on at the moment. What made you want to write about them? And what are some stories about vampires that you love, whether those are books or from TV or film?
I think the popularity of vampires is something that will definitely keep resurging (or rising from its coffin?) There’s something about vampire lore that’s very appealing to me – having a creature that is so powerful but also has limitations and can be defeated… I had a lot of fun picking and choosing between the different elements of lore and deciding what I did and didn’t want to include in my world. A lot of the RULES in Rules for Vampires come from traditional vampire depictions as far back as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu and so on… though I’m sure that real vampire fans would look further!
There are some wonderful vampire heroes for kids. Isadora Moon springs to mind, and so does the wonderful Amelia Fang. Growing up, I loved Mona the Vampire and I’d watch her all the time on the telly! I loved how brave she was. As a grown-up, I still love these stories. My fave grown-up vampire show now is What We Do in the Shadows; I really like the combo of scares and laughs. The book also features ghosts, and is definitely very much a sort of supernatural fantasy. Are you a believer in the supernatural in real life? Which would you rather be, a ghost or a vampire? I definitely believe in ghosts and I would love to live in a haunted house! Only if it was haunted by NICE ghosts, though. Bonus points if they would like to do some chores for me. I would probably choose to become a vampire, despite the blood-drinking. The cool powers you get are too tempting!
Something else I loved was Leo’s family, which is full of eccentric members, and the cast in general was so much fun too. Who was your favourite person to write? Which one would you say you’re the most like in personality?
Ahhh thank you very much! I really enjoyed writing all of them. My favourite part is probably when Leo and Minna meet Leo’s older sister, Emmeline, in the castle kitchens. Emmeline was made into a vampire before Leo, however she still has the body of a toddler and has all this pent-up frustration. I had a lot of fun writing her evil temper tantrum! My grubby fingerprints are all over this story. The characters are a mish-mash of both myself and people I know. The family member I am most like is probably Leo herself, thinking back to when I was eleven-years-old and quite insecure and lonely, on the brink of being a teenager and feeling a little bit like a monstrous creature! I also worry a lot, just like Rodrigo. I fuss like Marged. I love the library like Lord Dietmar, and I drink the blood of my enemies like Lady Sieglinde.
The villain, the Orphanmaster, was absolutely terrifying. What inspired him? Who are some of your favourite fictional villains?
I like my villains to be REALLY, REALLY HORRIBLE. As horrible as possible! When I was writing the Orphanmaster, I had in my head a ghostly Bill Sykes figure in striped pyjamas. I wanted to write someone who hadn’t always been bad, but had become that way over years and years, like something slowly turning rotten and evil, until all the good was gone. One of my all-time fave villains is Lemony Snicket’s Count Olaf. I like that he’s greedy and ruthless, and also has this way of seeming like a right fool but also scarily dangerous at the same time. His mad disguises always seem to trick everyone except the Baudelaires. As a kid, having adults fail to listen to you hits close to home, I think.
Something I really emphasized in my review was how spooky this was, and what a perfect book it would be to pick up at Halloween. What tips would you give to other writers trying to create a spooky atmosphere in their work?
I’m hoping that lots of readers might enjoy reading Rules for Vampires on Halloween, maybe even by torchlight! One of my favourite ways to create a creepy atmosphere is to give a hint of something spooky, but to delay finding out exactly what it is. Put it off as long as possible! Maybe you catch a glimpse of scuttling legs. Or you hear the sound of scratching – but you turn your head, and there’s nothing there. Maybe something brushes against your ankle… then… Arrrrrgh! Okay, it’s just Rodrigo the Spider. He wants to know when you are going to add more socks to the drawer, because he is getting cold.
Also on the theme of your writing, what is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
I type quicker than I can write with a pen. I also quite often have sore hands – BUT there’s nothing like having a beautiful notebook that you are excited to write in! Some days, I jump right in with my laptop. Other days, I find it easier to start on paper and just let the ideas flow until my hand hurts. I like to go a bit crazy with the content in my first draft and let it be as weird as possible, and then wind it in a bit later. I also have to fend off my dog, Mac the scruffy Jack Russell. He likes to put his nose on my wrists when I’m trying to write.
Finally, I got the sense from the ending that this may not be the last we see of Leo, Minna and their world. Can you tell us anything about a potential sequel, or whatever you’re working on right now if I’ve totally misread the situation?
Yes! Amy, I’m so excited to be working on a BRAND NEW Leo the Vampire adventure! In her next escapade, Leo will be finding out exactly what it’s like for her best friend, Minna, who has recently become a ghost. I’m really looking forward to showing readers a new, GHOSTLY side to the Dreadwald. Muahahahaha!
Going to be super mean to start off, Marged or Rodri? That is so difficult! But… I have to say Marged. I just have to.
Favourite kind of biscuit? Anything with LOTS of choc!
Your favourite thing about Halloween/Halloween activity? It HAS to be curling up and watching my favourite spooky 90s films. With snacks.
Top 3 books of 2021 so far? Katie and Kevin Tsang’s epic DRAGON LEGEND. The sparkling RUMAYSA by Radiya Hafiza, (devoured in one go yesterday!) THE INCREDIBLE TALKING MACHINE by the incredible Jenni Spangler.
3 books that aren’t out yet you’re most anticipating? At the time of writing this, I am waiting (and waiting and waiting!) on my preorders for: THE PECULIAR TALE OF TENTACLE BOY by Richard Pickard, HOW TO SURVIVE WITHOUT GROWN-UPS by Larry Hayes, and WISHYOUWAS: THE TINY GUARDIAN OF LOST LETTERS by Alexandra Page.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read this, or are you planning to add it to your TBR? Do you prefer ghosts or vampires? I’d love to hear in the comments!