Colorado vampire author Jeanne Stein on her latest Anna Strong novel and the future of the series
Forget Edward Cullen and his sparkly friends: If you want a modern take on vampires with a dash of romance and some real bite, check out Jeanne Stein's Anna Strong vampire series. Stein's heroine has starred in eight books since 2006, starting with The Becoming in 2006 through the brand-new Haunted, the most intense to date, featuring a high-stakes fight against Mexican drug cartels and a race to rescue a missing girl. To celebrate the release of her latest vampire epic, Stein will appear at the Highlands Ranch Tattered Cover to read and sign the book on Tuesday, August 28.
In anticipation of that event, we chatted with Stein about her undead heroine's backstory and why you don't have to read the whole series to enjoy Haunted, and also teased out a few hints out about the future of the series.
- Event: Jeanne Stein Haunted release
- Books: Mucho Mojo: Spicy Passages
Westword: You published the first book featuring Anna Strong in 2006, right? And she's a vampire bounty hunter?
Jeanne Stein Exactly. Actually, she was a bounty hunter; that was her day job before she became a vampire. Sometimes people get confused about that. They think she is a vampire bounty hunter -- well, that's true. She's a vampire and her day job is bounty hunting, which she was as a human and that's continued. It's not that she hunts other vampires. It's that she has a business, with a partner, and that's what she did as a human, which of course meant that she's no shrinking violet. She was a tough cookie to begin with, which is exactly what I wanted. I didn't want a "soccer mom turns vampire" kind of a thing. I wanted a woman who had an unusual occupation and was tough to begin with. It was in the course of hunting down a skip that she gets attacked and turns into a vampire.
As tough as she was before, I assume being turned into a vampire hasn't hurt her bounty-hunting business?
Well, because she's so strong and fast, one of the problems with that is hiding the fact that she's become a vampire from her business partner and her family. This is unknown to them. They don't know what happened to her, or that she's a vampire. That's one of the threads that goes through the entire series. All of the books take place in a very short span of time. I'm finishing the ninth book now, and it's just about up to the two-year anniversary of her becoming a vampire. These all take place in a short time period, her transition from a mortal existence to that of her becoming a vampire.
Run us through the rules for vampires in your universe.
Well, they do need human blood to survive. I thought that was an important element. This idea of being able to exist on animal blood or killing rats, I just couldn't deal with that, so she does need human blood to survive. Vampires have adapted to the centuries. She can walk in sunlight. I kept some of the traditional mythos, [like] no reflection in the mirror, which is something I wish I'd never done. In my vampire universe, vampires still have their souls -- they're not soulless creatures. They're the same type of person that they were as a human as a vampire. It's just other things, of course, have changed, like needing blood to survive and not being able to eat food, that kind of thing.
I didn't want to make her a predator, so I came up with the idea of a place in Mexico where vampires go to feed from humans who are paid -- they donate their blood, they're hosts. So that's how she gets her fix when she need it, she goes to this little bar in Mexico and drinks from paid hosts. When she has human relationships with males -- which she often does -- part of the erotic pleasure of having sex with a vampire is if you allow them to feed from you, then that just heightens the experience. That's another way that she can get blood. [Laughs.]
Based on the piece of the Haunted I read, it seems like she occasionally gets opportunities to feed in the course of performing her bounty-hunting duties, as well.
Yes, Haunted is much more violent in that respect that other books have been. There's a reason for it, because obviously she's battling Mexican drug cartels and they're not nice people. They have done terrible things to her friends and people that she's come to care about, so when the vampire takes over, when she's trying to save her friends, she gets to unleash the beast, so to speak. She doesn't mind it. She has kind of some fun with it.
It seems like from what I read that there's almost a split personality thing, where her human side and vampire side coexist within her head, with the vampire side being predatory and almost animalistic. Is that right?
Yes, and as time has gone on, the vampire has become stronger in Anna. That's one thing, in Crossroads, the book previous to this, that Anna had become concerned about, that the vampire is becoming stronger. There's a bloodlust there that's becoming stronger. The human is still in control, so when the human Anna is back, she's back. She does control what the vampire does, and she can reassert herself at any time that's needed. But they are becoming almost two distinct personalities. When the vampire takes over, when she's allowed to take over, then she pretty much reacts as you might think a typical vampire would. She'll go after her enemies and she likes to smash heads together and lick the brains off her fingers.