March 1, 2007
Any romance lover who goes into a bookstore can tell at a glance that
vampires are hot. There are vampire anthologies, humorous vampire stories,
traditional vampire stories and more. Out of all these vampires, one has made a
very big impression - J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Unlike the suave, European vampire that Bela Lugosi made famous, Ward's vampires are gritty and urban. They don't wear tuxedoes and capes and they don't live in a castle. (Actually I don't think they'd fit in a tux.) Ward's vamps wear jeans and motorcycle boots, they drive Escalades and they spend a lot of time in hip-hop clubs.
Ward's concept of modern vampires just seems so right and her characters are so vivid that they leap off the page. This series is a big hit with fans This series is a big hit with fans - check out the results in our just-posted annual reader poll! - and they (and I count myself as one) eagerly await each new book in the series.
Where did you come up with the idea of vampires as urban
It's just what was in my head when I started planning the series: along with the Brothers' names and what they looked like and the parameters of their world was the urban sensibility of the setting and the vernacular. I'm sure it's rooted in my own affection for that kind of thing, but I also think it plays well with who the Brothers are. I also like the idea that vampires can be relevant in a contemporary sense.
All right - the names. Wherever did you get those names? I'll admit that at first, I thought they were a bit over the top, but darned if they don't seem to fit the characters.
Certainly, the names have struck some people that way. Again, when the series came into my head, that was what the Brothers were called. I like the names and agree, they fit.
Your vampire society is very male-centric. Some of the commentators on the boards have said they think that the women are kind of marginalized in your vampire world. Also, the custom of having upper-class vampire females like Bella from Lover Awakened live almost in purdah is, for me, cringe-worthy. Can you address this?
The society is very male-centric by tradition and that stems from the ongoing war with the lessers and survival issues within the species. One of the things that will happen over the course of the books is a loosening of these strictures- they will be challenged and resolved in different ways. This creates conflict between people and conflict makes for a good read, in my opinion. It's like, if the world were perfect on all levels when the series started out, how could I show change and improvement?
Can you tell us a bit about how you handle the delicate,
fragile flower that is Marissa in the upcoming book? There's been some buzz -
even from those who love your books - that she may be a challenge for readers as
Marissa is not a delicate flower- she just thinks she is. Events prove her strength over the course of the book. I think she's one of my favorite heroines actually.
The Brotherhood enjoys lots of the trappings of the hip-hop culture - the cars, the clubs, the music... Yet, for me I see them as white guys. Do you see the brothers as Caucasians, or are they something beyond belonging to any one race?
They aren't human so I don't associate them with any particular race of humans. They have their own race and culture that doesn't fall into human definitions.
Zsadist was such a compelling character! He was presented as dangerous and thoroughly unlikable in the first several books, but he was rehabilitated without being tamed. Can you comment on him?
He's my favorite hero. He really is. It's the depth of misery and alienation he's been in for so long that got to me. While writing Lover Awakened, I really wanted him to end up in love and safe and healthy - but I'm not into the whole love makes you magically okay stuff. He's not all Hallmark happy just because Bella's with him. Is he better off? Absolutely! Is his future brighter? Without a doubt. But there are still going to be issues for him. I think his book is going to be one of the best ones I ever write in terms of a love story. I just don't think I'll be able to top it just because there won't be another one like him for me.
Well, that kind of begs the question as to where you do plan to go in upcoming books. Could you - without giving anything too big away - outline for us where you're going over the next few books?
I can't say much, I'm afraid! LOL I will tell you that Phury is after Vishous and then it's Rehvenge. After that, I'm not sure. John Matthew, Tohrment, and Payne all get books, I just don't know the order yet. Then I'd like to write about Qhuinn and Blaylock.
Laurie Gold, our publisher, previously unversed in the BDB, read an advance copy of the new book and indicates that it is "Burning", very, very sexual. Given that the previous books have earned sensuality ratings from us of Warm and Hot, she wonders whether you're ramping up the sexuality from here on out? Along those lines, if the sexuality varies in a series, does that present any problems for an author - i.e., readers or a publisher expecting the same level throughout?
I don't feel the level of sexuality varies to an extreme degree. Butch's book is a little hotter and Vishous's Lover Unbound is at about that same level, but I think all the stories have had strong sexual relationships between the heroes and heroines.
Getting back to the male-centric vampire society. Some readers detect some homoerotic elements in the BDB. Back in the past, warrior societies like the samurai, or the Spartans had some homoerotic elements among their members. Can you comment?
I think men can be close without it being sexual. That being said, bisexuality or homosexuality is not something that makes me uncomfortable. What counts to me is that relationships, no matter whether they are between comrades in arms, friends, family members or lovers, are based on mutual love and respect.
Fair enough. It seemed to some as though you were dodging the issue in a few online discussions, so we're glad you're on the record here. You seem to be one of the authors who take good advantage of the Internet in building excitement for your books. How important do you think the online buzz was in establishing you as an author to be watched?
Very important. Folks on the net got the word out about Dark Lover and the series took off based on those recommendations. I'm eternally grateful for the kindness of the Black Dagger Brotherhood readers.
Publishing, as readers and authors know, is a cyclical business. Do you think paranormal-themed books will continue to be popular or do you think we may be hitting the crest of the popularity wave right now?
I think good stories sell no matter the genre. That being said, I think the incredible explosion in popularity for paranormals has probably leveled off a little. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't room for more good books in the field. Again, great characters and moving conflicts and fabulous line by line writing will generally get peoples' attention.
Lastly, we always like to ask guest authors what books they enjoy reading. Are there any books - or any authors - you'd care to recommend?
Anything by Suzanne Brockmann, Elizabeth Lowell, Marjorie M. Liu. if you like hot books then I'd recommend Angela Knight and Lora Leigh. For historicals? Galen Foley. There are so many good people out there it's hard to single folks out, you know?
||J.R. Ward's comments in our annual reader poll results column
||Comment on this interview on our Potpourri Forum