The Big Idea: Liz Kerin
Full disclosure: I never set out to write a vampire book. But here we are, and it feels right. I began tinkering with the characters of Mia and her mother Izzy nearly a decade ago, while I was unpacking some complex truths about my own childhood and my relationship with my mother. Mia’s mom Izzy is a vampire (in the world of Night’s Edge, she is what we call a Sara—an individual suffering from an incurable disease called Saratov’s Syndrome). Obviously, my mother is not a vampire, and the emotional nuances of my upbringing can’t be distilled with that kind of simplicity. Nobody’s can. But that’s what makes genre so amazing and cathartic: these tropes create a buffer to help us feel safe exploring life’s more monstrous moments. Writing this book was incredibly therapeutic for me, and I hope that Mia’s complicated love for her mom resonates with readers and helps them feel seen.
While I had the emotional mechanics of Night’s Edge figured out, the challenge for me, when writing this, was to pinpoint a new way “in” when it comes to vampire stories. Most famous vampire tales are allegories about sex or being marginalized in society. I realized, while writing my first draft, that I was using vampires to talk about codependent families. That was a different approach. I didn’t have a roadmap, aside from my own emotional truth. Since she was ten years old, Mia has been giving Izzy her blood every night to keep her from hunting and harming their community, but it comes at the expense of her childhood and personal growth.
Now twenty-three, Mia’s given up years of her life to protect her mom, and her blood represents all that lost youth and vitality. That felt very honest and grounded to me, so the goal was to make the rest of the world feel just as realistic and tangible. I wanted readers to feel like this could have happened to their neighbor, or an old friend. This was not going to be a gothic, bloodsoaked tale featuring tall, dark strangers wearing capes (though there’s nothing wrong with that, and I do adore a tall, dark stranger in a cape). I started and stopped writing the first draft two different times, struggling to capture that realism—that is, until the pandemic hit.
All that isolation, fear, and misinformation on the internet helped me bridge the gap between our world and the one Mia was living in. Mia and Izzy have a secret Facebook group they consult for information about the disease. Rumors fly about controversial treatments and the danger of hospitals. False prophets flood social media with dangerous platitudes—particularly Izzy’s ex-boyfriend, Devon, who infected her with the disease and starts an “advocacy initiative” for Saras who want to “live authentically” (i.e. hunt).
My goal was to make sure the worldbuilding in Night’s Edge felt as authentic as the characters’ emotions. Living through the pandemic helped me do that—despite the fact that it was a surreal and miserable two years. Writing this book helped me survive it. That being said, I do not consider this to be a “pandemic book,” and I actually think calling any book a pandemic book is really limiting. The pandemic is something we all lived through. It was a shared human experience that changed the shape of our culture. In my opinion, there’s nothing niche about something like that!
While Night’s Edge is not my first book, it’s the book I needed to write the most. Nobody asked for another vampire book—least of all me! But Mia and Izzy have always been a part of my heart, and now I can finally share them with readers. The biggest surprise in all of this was that Tor Nightfire wanted me to write a sequel. I had intended Night’s Edge to be a standalone, and the manuscript I sold was written to reflect that. I didn’t even realize there was a way to continue the story until I discovered I’d left a particular dark doorway open, and it was begging me to walk through.
Mia will be back in First Light, which hits shelves April 2024. We’re also in the early stages of developing a television series, and I’ve written a pilot script. There’s just so much more to be mined from these characters than I ever imagined, and I can’t wait for readers to meet them this summer! I have had an unforgettable creative experience writing this story, in spite of all the difficult moments that inspired it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.