Choc Lit author Berni Stevens is joining me this week on my blog.
Originally Berni wanted to go to dance college, but that idea was firmly vetoed by her father. He wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about art college either, but Berni won that ‘round’ and trained in graphic design. It seemed her father was worried she might fall for a ‘long-haired type’ at art college and marry him – which of course she did. They are happily living in a small, ancient cottage with a black cat, four goldfish and their son when he comes home for some TLC.
Berni has been designing book covers for more than twenty-five years, having worked for most of the big UK publishing houses in London at some point in her career. She now works as a freelance designer, and enjoys designing both for publishing houses and directly for authors who like to self publish.
Books, art and dance remain her passion, and her love of the paranormal began after reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula when she was fourteen. She is on the committee and book panel of the Dracula Society, a literary society for fans of the Gothic genre in books, film, theatre and TV.
Berni has had several short stories published, and her first novel, Dance Until Dawn, was published by Choc Lit in 2014. The sequel, Revenge is Sweet was published by Choc Lit in July 2016. A third book is almost finished!
I asked Berni some questions:-
What fascinates you about vampires?
Initially it was a love of Stoker’s Dracula, which inspired me to read as many vampire books as I could find. At first, I always preferred the Gothic tales from Dracula’s era and before – and then along came Buffy!
I think the fascination with vampires began with the attractive idea of immortality, coupled with the whole ‘bad guy’ theme. I have always felt the bad guys were so much more interesting than the squeaky clean heroes. Of course immortality has a lot of pitfalls – watching loved ones die for a start. I wanted my own hero to have a certain vulnerability, which even Dracula has.
The whole ‘creature of the night’ idea has fascinated me from the age of fourteen. I’ve always loved ghost stories and I think vampires are an additional piece of captivating folklore.
A friend sent me a quote once (allegedly) by Angelina Jolie: ‘When all my friends wanted to be ballerinas, I wanted to be a vampire.’
Kind of sums it up.
Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?
I try to incorporate the traditional paranormal into today’s world. I know several authors have already written similar ideas, not least Joss Whedon with Buffy, but nearly all of the books, film and TV are set in the US. Buffy, True Blood, Vampire Diaries etc. Most books in the paranormal romance genre are also set in the US. It wasn’t until Toby Whithouse’s Being Human that a TV series with vampires and werewolves was set in the UK (Bristol). I met Toby once and thanked him – and also thanked him for casting a young Aidan Turner as Mitchell the vampire. Inspired casting! Of course the US remade Being Human and set it in Boston! (I always thought that was like the UK doing a version of True Blood and setting it in Cornwall).
But I really wanted to write about a North London paranormal community, so that was my starting point. I am a North Londoner, and we only live thirteen miles from the centre of London, so walking the streets of Highgate and Hampstead is easy for me if I want to get the ‘feel.’ I loved the idea of vampires travelling on the tube. One reviewer of Dance Until Dawn said if she ever saw really good-looking people on the Northern Line, she immediately thought they were vampires and it was all my fault!
A lot of my inspiration came from the fabulously Gothic Highgate Cemetery. It’s such an incredible place. If you don’t believe in ghosts, a visit to Highgate might convince you otherwise. http://highgatecemetery.org/
You are the cover designer for most of Choc Lit’s titles. How do you combine writing with this other career?
My cover work has to come first, so if I’m very busy, the writing takes a back seat. When I’m working on edits, I’ll do them in the evenings or over a weekend whilst keeping the days free for cover work. If ever the time comes when my writing makes more money than the covers then I might change it around, but I think we need a new surge of interest in the paranormal genre before that happens.
Sometimes I get on a roll with writing, and as everyone knows it’s difficult to stop when that happens, so I tend to work on covers until 6pm, and then switch to writing.
Although if my husband wants to watch football in the evenings, or play his drums, I’ll sneak off to write. The bad news is, the room where his drum kit lives is right above my office …
Thank you, Berni. Lovely to have you on my blog.
Blurb for Revenge is Sweet:
Hell hath no fury like a vampire seeking revenge …
Life hasn’t been exactly normal for Ellie since she became a vampire. Although joining the legion of the undead was always going to take some getting used to, even if you are the partner of Will Austen, the Elder of London.
But when Daniel, a fifteen year old fledgling vampire, unexpectedly turns up at Ellie’s and Will’s Highgate home, things start getting very strange – and more than a little scary.
Events take a devastating turn as a mystery troublemaker leaves behind a trail of carnage – and it soon becomes clear they will stop at nothing to get the Elder’s attention, even if it involves hurting the person he cherishes most .
When it comes to Ellie, Will Austen is the wrong vampire to mess with.
You can catch up with Berni on the following links:-