The world has changed for the living and the undead alike. Mortimer Drake and his family have been forced underground in the wake of the Dark Revelation. Humankind has learned of the existence of vampires and society has crumbled into chaos. The centuries old conflict between True-born vampires and Cross-blood vampires has taken a backseat to a new war that has spread across the globe. HOPE, an organization determined to wipe out the vampire race, has risen to power under the absolute authority of the Director. HOPE promises to restore peace, safety, and security, but that promise has a price. Vampires have been forced from the security of the shadows. They can no longer hide behind the myths and legends. If Mortimer wants to survive, he will have to learn to trust new friends with supernatural secrets of their own. If he fails, the world will never be the same again.
Interview with Greg Wilkey
1.Justin:About your newest book covers, what are your thoughts on Ran Valerhon’s work (a fellow “Person of the Page” on Anne Rice’s FB page) on the cover-art for the first two Mortimer Drake novels?
**Greg: I could not be happier with the new covers for my series of books. I was introduced to the amazing talent of Ran Valerhon through Anne Rice’s FB page. I remember seeing his posts and his artwork and commenting on their beauty. As my books gained popularity, I started to look at making changes and upgrades to increase their appeal. I have no skill in the graphic art realm, so I started to research people who did. Then it hit me — Why not contact Ran? So, I reached out to him via Facebook and we worked out the details. I think that he has done an excellent job in capturing the feel for Mortimer’s world. I am very impressed and I will recommend his artwork to indie writer I know. He is truly helping me take Mortimer to the next level. Also, I have now hired a professional editor. Todd Barselow, also an Anne Rice FB friend, has helped me proof and edit all my books. Like Ran, Todd is professional and very skilled at what he does. I have been very impressed with both Ran and Todd. Mortimer Drake has had a complete facelift!
2.Justin: By the end of second installment of the Mortimer Drake books, your books have progressively gotten much darker. For a series targeted towards young-adult and middle-grade readers, I was humbly surprised by this unpredictable descent into darkness. Momentarily, I thought we were going to get the Mortimer Drake parallel of the Red-Wedding scene in the Game of Thrones books. Without spoiling anything for new readers to the series, did you foresee this inevitable change in the tone of the plot from the beginning?
**Greg: Oh yes, I knew from the beginning that Mortimer’s journey was not going to be a pleasant one. When I set out to create his world, I wanted him to struggle. We all know that growing up isn’t a pleasure cruise. I didn’t want my characters to get everything they wanted. I mean, I write fiction, but let’s be honest, life sucks (even for vampires.) In order for the last two books to work, I had to get Mortimer to a dark place. He had to go through some serious stuff. I think that YA books are the perfect place to explore the unfriendly side of life. YA readers of all ages can identify with hardships. I am not a neat and tidy ending kind of guy. I don’t do “happily ever after.”
3.Justin: On your Facebook fan page, you mentioned that you were starting another new series. Will the plot revolve around vampires again or a host of new supernatural characters?
**Greg: My new series will most definitely be a YA supernatural thriller. The hero of my new novels will face everyday and paranormal challenges, but there are no vampires in these books. My new series will take a fresh, dark, and adventurous look at the dearly departed.
4.Justin: Will Star Blood be the definitive end to the Mortimer Drake series? If Mortimer Drake fans beg enough for a new series, is there room in the plot for a sequel series?
**Greg: I have wrestled with this question for a while now, and to be honest, I still don’t have an answer. WillStar Blood be the definitive end? I’m not sure. It’s an ending, but maybe not the ending. I will have to wait and see if Mortimer still has more to tell. I guess we’ll all find out together 🙂
As with the last installment, the journey of Mortimer Drake progressively takes a very dark, gruesome turn in this installment. Rather than have these more morose sequences become overwrought or purely frivolous, Greg Wilkey utilizes the grim quality of these scenes, in order to effectively portray the twisted malevolence of the regime that has taken over Mortimer’s world, after human society finds definitive proof of the existence of vampires. Without spoiling any more specific details, the series even has an interesting scene that viscerally affected me towards the beginning of the novel. Fascinatingly, this scene and several other gut-wrenching sequences seem to pay homage to the Hunger Games, which most readers of my blog are well-aware happens to be one of the most popular YA series in recent years.
While the above discussion may seem wholly irrelevant to a vampire series targeted to middle-grade readers (though realistically for any type of reader), Hope Against Hope has become much more sophisticated in its construction. As Greg Wilkey continues to grow as a writer, he is beginning to unconsciously (or consciously) develop a story that has much more underlying meaning. As with the other books, this book is extremely entertaining, and that is something that Greg has always deftly accomplished. Starting with the end of the last book though, the series has become something deserving of closer inspection. The development of his first three stories of the Mortimer Drake series unwinds as seamlessly as Anne Rice’s own Vampire Chronicles. Again, this might seem presumptuous, but I really feel that the dark overtones of this series and the more challenging ethical questions raised in this third installment are some of the very same ethical questions that were beginning to become more fleshed out in Queen of the Damned, which was also another “threequel” that avoids the “threequel” curse.
Written with flourish and the keen eye of a very talented writer, Hope Against Hope is the novel that cements my feelings that Mortimer Drake is a comic book drama of the highest caliber. Like X-men, Watchmen, Batman,the plot plumbs interesting ethical depths that other series in the middle-grade genre stray away from discussing. Hope Against Hope is a very dark book, but the darkness of the this novel is the substantive type that is also balanced with moments of levity and genuine hope. The darkness of the series never becomes onerous or excessive to wade through. Different from the more superficial incarnations of stories loaded with action, all the books in the Mortimer Drake series invariably questions violence and debates ethics in a way that fantastically coheres with the heart-stopping action and well-orchestrated suspense that has made this entire series a true pleasure to read.
I really look forward to the final installment of the Mortimer Drake series, entitled Star Blood, that should be arriving right on the coattails of this review! Again, this entire series comes with my highest recommendation. While some readers may want more sophisticated prose, this is a series aimed for middle-grade readers, and I think the succinctness of Greg’s prose is truly a very hard thing for any writer to achieve. Of course, there were some minor editorial errors in some of his other books, but he has recently re-released newly edited versions of all his books with the help of Todd Barr (serving as his excellent editor). This has never taken away from my enjoyment of the series because I always saw an extremely engaging story, even in what some would term it’s “roughest form”. With that said, I’m really excited for Star Blood,which will be covered on this blog once it’s released later this summer.
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One Comment Add yours
Excellent review and interview, Justin!