Yes, that’s right; the charming, low-budget film comedy from the early eighties was my initial inspiration for a series of books about fangs, vampires and blood ghosts. Let me explain.
I watched ‘Gregory’s Girl’ first as an adolescent. And it spoke to me about all the rites of passage ahead. I still think it’s one of the wisest films ever made.
Gregory, as you may remember, is the gangling adolescent who falls for this aloof, mysterious, independent girl who also happens to be the star of the school (otherwise all male) football team. His unrequited love leads him into a whole new world.
Well, I wanted to write a comedy about an adolescent boy and all the rites of passage he faces today. And at the centre would be his relationship with the wilful, independent, maddening but fascinating Tallulah. But I magnified all the usual teen problems by giving Marcus an extra one. On his thirteenth birthday he discovers his family are half-vampires and he’s about to start transforming into one too. I chose a half-vampire because it’s nowhere near as cool as being a vampire – so funnier as well. And comedy was going to be a key element in my vampire stories. Vampire tales are not normally known for their humour. But I wanted this to be the stand-out element in mine.
Now, while Gregory in ‘Gregory’s Girl’ is geeky and gangly, Marcus seems much more confident. He’s lively and wise-cracking. I’m rather like that myself. In a social gathering I try and keep things funny and light and cheerful. So I know Marcus very well. But I also wanted to let the mask slip, especially in ‘The Vampire Hunters’ and ‘The Vampire Fighters’, where Marcus is challenged as never before.
He has problems which he cannot share with a single friend, as half-vampires must keep their identity secret from every single human being. Marcus writes how he feels ‘separate and odd and different to everyone else. It’s as if I’m permanently freaky. I can’t tell you how much I hate that.’ Marcus is still determined to be as human as possible. But sometimes the two parts of his life come crashing together.
So in ‘The Vampire Hunters,’ Marcus is told he must always carry a bottle of blood around with him for when he gets a blood craving, he doesn’t think, ‘Wow, how exciting?’ No he’s furious. What a total nuisance.
Then Marcus, (who’s temporarily given up on Tallulah) is on a blind date at a cinema – a stressful enough occasion anyway. But it’s here he gets his blood craving, and of course he’s forgotten his bottle of blood. This is, I think, one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever written and is quite possibly the most disastrous blind date ever!
In ‘The Vampire Hunters,’ I also introduce a third key character, a girl half-vampire – Gracie. She and Marcus become close. So when at the end of ‘The Vampire Hunters,’ he is forbidden from seeing Tallulah anymore – she’s come too close to discovering his secret identity – it seems only natural he should transfer his attention to Gracie. But events don’t turn out quite that way.
And instead in ‘The Vampire Fighters’ Marcus and Tallulah continue their bantering relationship. Marcus even asks her out – while they are on a ghost train. He picks that venue as he thinks she’ll feel really at home there. Some readers say they especially like the fast-paced dialogue exchanges between Marcus and Tallulah. They’re favourites of mine too. Oddly enough they are scenes in which I seem to do very little. They’re both talking away in my head and I’m just transcribing what they say.
I would say, the very best thing about writing a trilogy is you have more space to explore your characters. And although Marcus remains wise-cracking and quick-witted to the end, I believe the character at the end of ‘The Vampire Fighters,’ is different in many ways to the person at the start of ‘The Vampire Blog.’
But does he, like Gregory at the end of ‘Gregory’s Girl’ find a girlfriend? Does he exit the page with Tallulah or Gracie? Or neither? I couldn’t possibly tell you! I’ll just say I know the ending I wanted, but it didn’t feel right. I think – I hope – the ending of ‘The Vampire Fighters’ is the real one, and the true one.
It’s rather strange not writing about Marcus, Tallulah and Gracie anymore. I can still hear them in my head, eager to be brought to life once more. But although I’m not writing about them anymore, many other people are. I’ve visited schools and book groups in which children have written their own adventures for Marcus and company.
That’s the last and most humbling part of writing a book. There always comes a moment when the characters take flight and go off on their own journeys, leaving you – their creator – far behind.