Please welcome Sarah Jane Stratford to the blog today! Sarah Jane is the author of the awesome Millenial series (The Midnight Guardian and The Moonlight Brigade), and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions! Also up for grabs are 3 copies of The Midnight Guardian (Book ONE) to 3 lucky winners, so be sure to check out those deets at the end of the post!
Sarah Jane, I read that you wanted to be a theatre actress growing up. What made you decide that writing was a better fit?
Well, recognizing I didn’t have an overabundance of acting talent was my first tip that I was heading in the wrong direction. But mostly, I was just so enamored with (and addicted to) telling stories, rather than acting them, that it became natural – and necessary – to steer my energies behind the scenes. I especially wanted to create strong, multi-faceted female characters, rather than attempt to embody them.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Millennial series?
Millennials are vampires over 1000 years old. They are stronger and harder to kill, which makes them perfect candidates to conduct a stealth mission in 1938, attempting to infiltrate and destroy the Nazi party. They have some personal reasons for wanting to accomplish this – the Nazis assembled a crack team of vampire hunters called the Nachtspeere, and they managed to decimate much of Europe’s vampire population. The first book, The Midnight Guardian, focuses on Brigit and uses three interweaving timelines to tell the story of the British millennial mission from 1938 to 1940; Brigit’s long past and romance with her partner, Eamon; and her tense escape from Berlin in 1940, with contraband cargo in tow.
The second book, The Moonlight Brigade, brings one of the secondary characters from The Midnight Guardian into the spotlight. This is Mors, a sexy, bad boy vampire who was a general in the Roman republic when he was a human. He still knows his way around a battle (he never let being undead stop him from participating in interesting conflicts) and it’s he who was at the forefront of the millennial mission. Now, in 1941, he’s out for vengeance as he searches for his missing friend, Cleland. The search leads him to his first home, Rome. That’s where he devises a new strategy: team up with human partisans and train them into an underground fighting force to assist the Allies from within enemy territory. That the leader of the partisans is an attractive woman, Giulia, doesn’t hurt.
Overall, I was interested in exploring the nature of evil and what it really means to be human. This is the result, thus far.
Your newest novel, The Moonlight Brigade, just came out. Do you have plans for more in the series?
I intend on finishing out the war in the next book. I’ve already written a few sequences and they are shaping nicely. After that, it would be fun to go further back in time, perhaps to the War of the Roses. Or go the other direction and see what the millennials think of the Beatles.
What were some of your favorite writers growing up?
I fell in love with the classics early on, so I was reading Jane Austen long before I really understood her. Anything that was literary, funny, or theatrical was read over and over – Alice in Wonderland and the Noel Streatfeild “Shoes” books, for example. And Judy Blume, of course. In my teens I got into Kurt Vonnegut and some of the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries. I also loved reading plays and musical librettos – especially those for Stephen Sondheim shows.
Do you have any contemporary favorites?
I always love Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. I’m also a fan of Jhumpa Lahiri, Sebastian Barry, Fannie Flagg, and JK Rowling. On the theatre side, I adore (among others) Tom Stoppard, Alan Ayckbourn, and, although he’s sadly not contemporary anymore, Harold Pinter.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I recently finished Summer Loving by Allie Spencer and am now alternating Jeremy Brown’s Suckerpunch with AS Byatt’s Morpho Eugenia. I like to shake it up a bit.
What are some of your favorite stage productions?
Er, how much space do we have here? Okay, a few things I’ve seen over the last five years that thrilled me down to the bone (understand these are only a few even from that category) include: The History Boys (Alan Bennett), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Martin McDonagh), Sweeney Todd (Sondheim), Sunday in the Park With George (Sondheim), The Norman Conquests (Ayckbourn), The Winter’s Tale (starring Simon Russell Beale), The Coast of Utopia (Stoppard), Red (John Logan), Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Alex Timbers & Michael Friedman), The Temperamentals (Jon Marans), Passing Strange (Stew & Heidi Rodewald)…okay, I’d best stop there.
I read that you spent some time in the UK. If someone were to visit for the first time, where would you tell them to go first, and what do you love most about the UK?
No, seriously, how much space do we have? Most people go to London first, which stands to reason as Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world. And although it’s losing a lot of its historical beauty, London is still amazing. It also has fantastic theatre.
But for a different, very rich experience. I always recommend York. I went there for my master’s degree and just fell in love with it. It’s a remarkably well-preserved walled medieval city. It still has some snatches of its Roman and Viking past, cobbled streets, breathtaking architecture, an incredible Norman cathedral, and wonderful food and drink. It’s a very beautiful, inspiring place and as a small city, you can feel like you know it within a few days. It’s also called the most haunted city in Europe, which just adds to the charm.
It’s hard to say what I love most about the UK, because there’s just so much. The people, of course. The “green and pleasant land” aspect. And the history. Mile after mile of it. When I’m there, I feel like I’m walking through stories. And always discovering something new. It makes me ridiculously happy.
If you could travel back in time, and meet anyone you wanted, what time period would you visit, and who would you most want to meet?
Ack, do I have to narrow it down? I want to visit any number of time periods – and hopefully keep the clothes. And I’d love to meet a whole host of dead people. Perhaps first I’d choose Richard III to apologize for the way history’s mistreated him.
When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Well, I do like to go to the theatre (you’re astounded, I know). I’m also a serious student of yoga, which keeps me calm when I’m indulging my inner political junkie. I love to read, of course, and take long walks and bike rides. Most of all, I love spending time with my many fantastic friends. And if there’s good food and green tea in the mix, so much the better.
Is there any news of upcoming events or projects that you’d like to share?
In addition to the next Millennial book, I’m working on two new plays which I’m cautiously excited about. One is a jolly comedy about censorship and sedition and the other is a thriller about the Black Death. The above-mentioned Allie Spencer and I are also planning to collaborate on a comic venture or two. Finally, I’m working on a novel that has nothing to do with vampires and is instead a feminist tale within a medieval setting. With a ghost or two, though.
1. Giveaway is for 3 copies of The Midnight Guardian (Book ONE) to 3 winners.
2. To enter, leave a question or comment for Sarah Jane, along with your email address. Following the blog is not necessary, but much appreciated. If you do, tell me how for ONE extra entry, and leave me a SEPARATE COMMENT!
3. Giveaway is open to US/Canadian addresses only
4. Giveaway ENDS 9/26/11
5. Giveaway books generously provided by St. Martins Press
About The Midnight Guardian:
It’s 1938, and Hitler’s tentacles have commenced their stranglehold on Europe. The Nazi empire will soon be purged of all “tainted” bloodlines…including vampires.
London’s ancient tribunal of vampires is aghast at the destruction taking place on the Continent and resolves to send its five most formidable vampires— immensely powerful “millennials” who have lived more than a thousand years— to infiltrate and destroy the Nazis. Brilliant and beautiful millennial Brigit is loath to go, for it means leaving behind her vampire lover Eamon, whom she made eight centuries ago. But go she must; her powers are needed if the mission is to have any chance of success.
As the millennials attempt to penetrate and sabotage Hitler’s armies, they discover that the Nazis are more capable and more monstrous than they’d ever imagined. Forced to take bolder, more dangerous steps, they soon attract the attention of specially trained vampire hunters loyal to Hitler and his vision of a vampire-free world. Exposed, deep inside enemy territory, with vicious Nazi officers and hunters at her heels, Brigit must attempt a daring escape from the Continent, guarding precious cargo that marks the only hope of salvaging their mission.