Vampire romance novels suck in readers

While the ‘Twilight’ series has sold millions of books and led to three movies, local booksellers and librarians point to alternatives

Published:

 
photoBecky Milner, co-owner, Vintage Books

Sink your teeth into Additional suggestions

For fans of vampire, paranormal, paranormal romance and fantasy stories, here are more recommendations from local book experts:

For young adults

The “Darkangel” trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce.

The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

The Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

“Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater.

“Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale” by Holly Black.

“The Uglies” series by Scott Westerfeld.

For adults

The “Alpha and Omega” series by Patricia Briggs.

The Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward.

The “Dark” series by Christine Feehan.

The Gardella Vampire Chronicles series by Colleen Gleason.

“I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson.

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

The Love at Stake series by Kerrelyn Sparks.

The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

“Sunshine” by Robin McKinley.

The Vampire Files series by P.N. Elrod.

For comedy fans

“Bloodsucking Fiends:

A Love Story” and “You Suck: A Love Story” by Christopher Moore.

“Carpe Jugulum” by Terry Pratchett.

For graphic novel and comic book fans

Dabel Brothers and Marvel’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series.

Dark Horse Comics’ “Hellboy” series.

Dark Horse Comics’ “B.P.R.D.” series, a “Hellboy” spinoff.

Image Comics’ “The Walking Dead” series.

Marvel’s “X-Men: Curse of the Mutants” series.

TokyoPop’s “Chibi Vampire” series.

Vertigo’s “American Vampire” series.

Vertigo’s “iZombie” series.

Love them or hate them, the “Twilight” books are trendsetters. They sparked a surge in interest in vampire and paranormal romance literature among youths and adults alike.

“My paranormal romance shelf, which is vampire and werewolf kinds of things, comes close to paying my rent every month,” said Mel Sanders, co-owner with her husband, Mike, of Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver’s Uptown Village.

The first “Twilight” book burst onto the literary scene in 2005, and three more novels followed to feed the fang frenzy. The series has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and led to a trio of blockbuster films. The most recent, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” is currently in theaters. “Breaking Dawn,” the last book in the series, will be split into two films.

For lovers of vampire lore who’ve read all of Stephenie Meyer’s books and are clamoring for more, and those seeking alternatives to Team Jacob and Team Edward, local librarians and booksellers point to a number of options.

Many of these books are better than the “Twilight” novels, not that that’s saying much, Sanders said. She said she dislikes Meyer’s writing and is bothered that “Twilight’s” main female character always needs a man to rescue her.

Sanders said she enjoys paranormal romance but prefers vampire stories with a feminist heroine such as Buffy Summers, the vampire-vanquishing protagonist from the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

One of Sanders’ favorite paranormal romance picks for young adults is the “Strange Angels” series by best-selling Vancouver writer Lilith Saintcrow. The third book in the series, “Jealousy,” came out Thursday.

The books, written under the name Lili St. Crow, center on teen Dru Anderson. She fights vampires, demons and other supernatural villains terrorizing her community while coming to terms with the fact that she’s not quite human herself.

“(Dru) isn’t looking for her true love to solve all her problems,” Sanders said.

That was a conscious choice on the part of Saintcrow.

“I tend to write very strong female characters. It’s very important to me,” Saintcrow said. “When I was younger, I loved books with female characters who didn’t sit around waiting to be rescued, who fought against limitations. Now that I’m a mother, I think it’s even more important for there to be strong female role models.

“I’m often asked, ‘Who is Dru going to end up with?’ And my reply is always, ‘Why does she have to end up with anyone?’ Is that really what we want to tell young girls — that the whole meaning of their lives is to end up with someone?”

The anti-‘Twilight’

Sanders said she considers the “Strange Angels” books to be a “‘Twilight’ antidote.”

In that vein, she also recommends the young adult “Vampire Academy” series, by Seattle author Richelle Mead, about two best friends at St. Vladimir’s Academy. Rose is half-human, half-vampire, and she is training to become a protector for her friend Lissa, a half-vampire princess.

Sanders said she also likes “The Vampire Dairies” by L.J. Smith. The series, which has become increasingly popular since it was adapted into a CW TV show last year, is about a love triangle between a beautiful girl and two vampire brothers.

One stand-alone young adult novel Sanders said she likes is “The Silver Kiss” by Annette Curtis Klause. It tells the story of Zoe, a teen whose mother is dying of cancer. Zoe falls in love with a vampire trying to avenge the death, three centuries earlier, of his own mother.

For male teenage readers, Sanders said she likes the Scott Westerfeld book “Peeps,” which treats vampirism as a parasite. The main character, 19-year-old Cal, contracts the vampirism disease during a one-night stand. He’s then recruited by a secret society to capture others of his kind.

“Peeps” and other young-adult books often deal with sexuality and other coming-of-age issues and might contain strong language. Sanders recommends these books for those 14 and older. She also encourages parents to read books before giving them to their children to make sure they’re comfortable with the content.

A recurring trend

Though “Twilight” is popular now, vampire literature goes back to the 18th century. Gothic literature was a hallmark of the Victorian era. Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 vampire tale “Carmilla” influenced Bram Stoker’s famous 1897 vampire novel “Dracula.”

The vampire genre gained momentum with Anne Rice’s 1976 book “Interview With the Vampire,” the beginning of her Vampire Chronicles series. Now, with “Twilight,” vampire books are back in the forefront.

“There has always been an appeal for dark literature,” said Becky Milner, who owns Vintage Books in Vancouver with her husband, Alec. “Maybe it’s a safe way to examine something you’d never want to examine in real life.”

For young adults wanting to ride the “Twilight” wave, Milner recommends Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. The books center on Clary, a teenage girl who discovers she can detect supernatural beings and is drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters, a group of teens who kill demons and monsters.

Jennifer Studebaker, young-adult services coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, recommends P.C. and Kristin Cast's House of Night series. In these books, some teenagers become vampires when they hit puberty — and others don’t. Those who are transformed attend the House of Night school, where they learn to battle evil.

Not just for kids

Vampire and paranormal romance stories are popular not just with young adults but with people of all ages.

For more mature readers, Cover to Cover Books’ Sanders has several suggestions, including Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian,” which focuses on the search for Dracula.

“That, to me, is more what we should be exploring. The legend of the vampire,” Sanders said.

For the bravest readers, Sanders suggests Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot,” a horror novel about vampires taking over a small Maine town.

“That scared me so badly (that) I didn’t keep the windows open for weeks,” Sanders said.

Also popular are Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries books. They feature a telepathic young woman named Sookie Stackhouse in a Louisiana community where some vampires are trying to assimilate. They drink synthetic blood rather than feed on humans.

The first Sookie Stackhouse novel came out in 2001, but the books started flying off the shelves after they were adapted into the HBO TV series “True Blood.”

Adult shoppers at Vintage Books also often choose the Mercedes Thompson series by Washington author Patricia Briggs, said Debbie Buck, a bookseller there. The series follows Tri-Cities auto mechanic-shapeshifter Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson, and her interactions with the local vampires and werewolves.

For those who enjoy less text and more visuals, a number of comic books and graphic novels deal with vampires, said Gaabriel Gavin, manager of Amazing Stories in Vancouver.

The first volume of “Twilight: The Graphic Novel” came out in March. Another vampire series, which Gavin cautions is not for youngsters or the faint of heart, is “30 Days of Night.” These comic books take place in a city in northern Alaska where the sun doesn’t rise for 30 days. Vampires take advantage of the prolonged darkness to feed on the city’s inhabitants.

“Vampires are not sweet in this universe,” Gavin said. “They really do just want to kill you and suck your blood.”

Spinning classics

In addition to spawning comics, books, movies and TV series, vampires and other nonhuman creatures are working their way into literary mash-ups. These books combine classic literature or historical nonfiction with paranormal activity, as in last year’s popular “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” Seth Grahame-Smith’s new take on the 1813 Jane Austen novel.

Grahame-Smith has a new book out, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Other vampire-related mash-ups include “Little Vampire Women,” Lynn Messina’s twist on the Louisa May Alcott classic; and “Vampire Darcy’s Desire,” a “Pride and Prejudice” adaptation by Regina Jeffers in which Mr. Darcy is half human, half vampire.

These mash-ups are very popular, said Jan Johnston, collection development coordinator for Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.

“I think there’s just something about taking a classic and turning it on its head,” she said.

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.