The Vampires Of: Jeri Smith-Ready
By Jean Marie Ward
© Buzzy Multimedia
Rock-n-roll will never die-at least not at WVMP, the Maryland radio station staffed by vampire disc jockeys. Bring On The Night, Jeri Smith-Ready’s third novel in her WVMP Radio series, (ahem) saw the light of day in August 2010.
Buzzy: What was the origin of your vampire disc jockeys?
Jeri Smith-Ready: The WVMP radio series? I was driving down the road, I-795 outside of Baltimore, to be exact, around the Owens Mills area. I was listening to the classic rock station, and I heard the song “Bad Company” by Bad Company, off of the album Bad Company. I thought that would be a really cool title for a book. What if I had a whole series of books with titles beginning with “Bad“-“Bad to the Bone“, “Bad Medicine“, “Bad Reputation“? Then I thought, what would I go with? Because I already did paranormal [novels], I thought, “Okay, it’ll be some kind of paranormal creature, and the main character will be bad in some way.
I was still driving to work and formulating my ideas, and I’m still listening to the classic rock radio station, and I started thinking about how some people are kind of stuck in time. We all know somebody who’s stuck in the Sixties or stuck in the Eighties and they all think nothing worthwhile has been invented or released-especially when it comes to music-since the time that they were, maybe, thirty. I thought it would be really cool to have a group of people who were stuck in time.
The obvious choice as a paranormal writer is vampires, because only vampires die, then are born again and go on living. Because I was listening to the radio station, I thought of vampire DJs. This is all over the course of maybe twenty minutes, half an hour. I thought, maybe a vampire radio station where there would be everything from the Forties’ blues guy all the way up to a Nineties’ grunge DJ. There’d be a punk rock DJ and there’d be a hippie DJ and rockabilly DJ. For the Seventies there’d be a reggae guy, because I didn’t want to disco-it’s already been done. There’s a disco vampire somewhere along the line.
Buzzy: That’s a scary thought.
Jeri Smith-Ready: Yeah.
I figured out that the main character would be bad in some way, but she would be human. It took me a couple of weeks to decide she would be a con artist, because that’s a certain kind of criminal which people, for whatever reason, consider very very cool. Because of Ocean’s Eleven and The Sting. Because they use their brains, and they’re very charming.
That’s basically how the concept was built. Ironically, even though the title of the song “Bad Company” gave me the original idea, when it came time to do the cover for the book, my editor said, “We don’t think ‘Bad Company‘ is a very strong title. So could you come up with another idea?”
I definitely wanted to do the song title theme, so I came up with Wicked Game, which stuck and which I think is a much better title than “Bad Company“. I did get to keep Bad to the Bone for the second novel, and I was very happy about that.
Buzzy: Why make them obsessive/compulsive?
When I started to do research into vampires and vampire lore, [I discovered] there’s an Eastern European legend that says vampires are what we would call obsessive compulsive. There’s a myth in what is now Poland that says if you want to keep vampires away from your doorstep you scatter rice grains all over it before you go to bed, because the vampire will actually have to stop and count every grain of rice. Hopefully, by the time he finishes, the sun will come up and that will solve your vampire problem.
I don’t know if that’s where Jim Henson got the idea for the Count from Sesame Street, who obsessively counts everything. If I could go back in time and ask one person who’s no longer living one question that would be it. Maybe it’s just a play on the word “count”, but I find that fascinating.
By Jean Marie Ward