It s love at first bite
Claudia Gray is expanding ideas of YA literature. Picture: Keith Claunch.

In these post-Twilight days, vampires are so ubiquitous that it's hard to believe they were once confined to a dark corner of the horror genre. Yet with entire sections of bookshops dedicated exclusively to the next big teen paranormal romance, many critics and readers alike have come to criticise the genre as having grown obsolete and shallow.

Yet as young adult paranormal romance author Claudia Gray attests, modern publishing and marketing methods are gradually changing the perceptions of these works on both a local and general level.

"As long as there's a market for it, authors will keep writing about vampires," Gray says while on a recent visit to Perth. "A lot of people are enjoying it at the moment and that's reflected in the titles that line bookshelves."

"The popularity of this stuff waxes and wanes - and it has been doing that ever since (Bram) Stoker published Dracula back in 1897. Yet even when it was a much more niche genre, there have always been vampire novels, short stories and movies.

"If you asked me whether I thought that in 10 years it would be as big as it is now, I would have to honestly say no, probably not. But will there still be books about vampires, in some form or another? Absolutely."

Gray burst on to the young adult literary scene back in 2008 with her first novel Evernight, a young adult human/vampire love story set in an eerie Gothic boarding school. Although her novels drew comparisons to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series - which was, by this point, gaining momentum - Gray notes that she started penning the first drafts of Evernight at the end of 2005, mere weeks before the world would be swept up in Bella Swan's crush on sparkle-skinned vampire Edward Cullen.

"It was very true that in the beginning my books drew a lot of comparisons to the Twilight series but it's less so now," she says.

"Paranormal romance novels are a huge part of the market right now and books are being recognised in their own right. Not every story is immediately typecast as 'cashing in on the trend' and that's a wonderful thing."

In the four years that have passed, Gray has published three more books about the strange goings-on at Evernight Academy, each of which have sharpened over the years into New York Times bestsellers. The line expands this month with the publication of Gray's newest book, Balthazar, a continuation of the series focusing on the trials and tribulations of the titular Balthazar, an older vampire who played a secondary role in the previous novels.

"I wanted to write a novel about Balthazar because I felt that not all of his story could come out without disrupting the flow of the previous books," she says.

"Also, Balthazar is one of the oldest vampires in my series and so I loved the idea of linking his story to history. One of the great things about creating vampire characters is the way you can incorporate historical elements - for example, they can have lived through world wars.

"We are all, to some extent, defined by our past. We end up looking back at things and making decisions based on our past experiences, both positive and negative. Now imagine how much more powerful that emotion can be when you've been around for 400 years or more."

Although her novels are marketed to teens and tweens, Gray says her books, like many other modern-day YA novels, are expanding upon readers' ideas of YA literature and proving that this genre is relevant to a larger audience.

"The current YA market didn't exist 10 years ago but I'm so glad we've reached a point where everyone from 10 and 11-year-olds, readers in their late teens and adults alike are embracing this genre. I think that stories that take in that time of our lives are so relatable. We were all 16 at one time.

"If you're the sort of reader that likes adventures, vampires and stories of star-crossed lovers, you know this about yourself, you know it to be true. It's what compels you to go back to the same section of the bookstore time and time again."

"As long as there's a market for it, authors will keep writing about vampires. A lot of people are enjoying it at the moment and that's reflected in the titles that line bookshelves." <div class="endnote">

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The West Australian

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