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Chloe Neill: Of Vampires, Chicago and More by Drew Bittner
Review by Drew Bittner
SFRevu *Interview  
Date: 22 June 2010

Links: Review: Twice Bitten / Chloe Neill's Website /

Chloe Neill may be (relatively) new to urban fantasy, but she's leaving her mark with her Chicagoland Vampires series. Socialite/grad student Merit has become a vampire (against her will) and must unlock her potential if she's going to have an "unlife." Now, in Twice Bitten, a gathering of werewolves poses some unusual challenges...

Chloe talked with SFRevu about her books, her characters and her views on urban fantasy in this interview.

Chloe, first, thanks for agreeing to do this interview!

Chloe: Thank you for having me!

SFRevu: Assume you met a reader who's interested in your books but hadn't read them yet. How would you describe the Chicagoland Vampires (CV) story to that reader?

Chloe:I'll give you the six word summary: "Smart girl becomes vampire warrior; adjusts." :)

And if you'd prefer something a bit more detailed: Merit, a graduate student-turned-vampire, is inducted into one of Chicago's Houses of very political vampires. The books consider her adjustment to this new world, and the adjustment of her friends and family--and the city of Chicago at large--to the realization that there are vampires in their midst.

SFRevu: She's also the daughter of a socially prominent family; she's pretty well known already, so she can't be anonymous as a vampire, either. Interesting situation for your heroine...

Dabbling in labels for a moment, would you say Twice Bitten is more urban fantasy or paranormal romance?

Chloe:Twice Bitten is definitely the most romantic of the CV series so far, but I'd generally call the series "urban fantasy with romantic tension." The crux of the series is Merit's growth as a vampire, but we also see the evolution of Merit's personal relationships, including her romantic ones.

SFRevu: In developing your world, what did you do to make your vampires (and now werewolves) different? (I notice your vampires aren't sparkling, for one thing... :)

Chloe: Nope--no sparkles here. :) I am very interested in the way people create rules to guide their own behavior and the fact that allegiances--to a country, a state, a team--are hugely important to us.

Thus, a Chicagoland Vampire's behavior is very much shaped by their House membership and the informal and formal rules that helped them assimilate for so much of their history. I try to imagine the vampires within their larger political context, because I don't think they could have stayed out of sight for so long (as they did in my world) without those rules.

SFRevu: Is it hard to find new things to say or new ways to portray supernatural predators like vampires and werewolves?

Chloe: Not any harder than it would be to find new things to say about humans, and folks have been doing that for millenia. :) Plus, writing paranormal novels allows you to create your own magical rules.

SFRevu: How did you get started writing? Was there a book or author that inspired you?

Chloe: I started writing in about 2005. There were two influences, I think: I went through a phase where I read every romance and urban fantasy series that I could get my hands on. This was before the Twilight craze, of course, so the selections were fewer.

Eventually, I ran out of quality series and decided it was time to write something of my own. I also loved some of the series with such abandon that I would imagine myself a character in those novels--complete with plots. That was a cue that it was time to create my own world instead of borrowing someone else's.

SFRevu: What is there about urban (or dark modern) fantasy that appeals to you?

Chloe: The world-building possibilities. I can create my own history, laws, cultural elements, etc. As long as the stew of these things make sense in context, the rules are pretty much limitless.

SFRevu: I get that, and enjoy how you've done your "world building" in this series. In that vein (so to speak), is there anything you would NOT have your vampires do? Are there lines as a writer that you would not cross?

Chloe: I have a pretty big allegiance to four elements of the vampire myth--no sunlight; must drink blood to survive; no stakes; and immortality. I try to respect those parts of the mythos when I write.

Additionally, I work from the assumption that vampires are not inherently evil because they're vampires, but because they are subject to the same prejudices as humans. Thus, evil behavior in my world can't be justified away by stating, "They're just vampires."

There must be a realistic motivation behind their actions, and my editor and I work together to ensure that's reflected in the novels.

SFRevu: Merit has been given big responsibilities and now a bit of destiny is on her as well. Without spoiling your works in progress, how might these elements play out in future novels?

Chloe: I think Twice Bitten will give a pretty good indication of where things are going. Although vampires in Chicago have enjoyed a brief period of relative peace, humans are becoming less enthralled with their fanged neighbors. That begins to put pressure on everyone--the Sentinel included.

SFRevu: We might point out for the new readers that Merit acts as the "Sentinel" of Cadogan House, with the responsibility of protecting its vampires from outside harm.

Back to the questions! Given the large and growing cast of the books, are there any characters you'd suggest readers keep an eye on?

Chloe: I think as Merit continues to grow as a vampire and stretch her vampiric powers, we'll definitely see her gang of friends become more integral to her problem-solving process. I've always considered these books to be vampire procedurals--colleagues working together to solve vampire-related problems.

SFRevu: Do you have a favorite character OR have any of your characters surprised you while you're writing them?

Chloe: They often surprise me, but my heroines--Merit in the CV series and Lily in my YA Dark Elite series--are easily my favorites. Merit wants to be better at her job, but her fears and prejudices don't make that an easy task. Lily, on the other hand, is incredibly brave, and will take on any adventure despite her fears.

SFRevu: Excellent! We've covered a fair amount of ground, but is there anything you'd like to say in parting?

I hope folks have a chance to check out Twice Bitten when its released on July 6, and if they have any more questions about my books, they can check out my website:

Thanks so much for having me today!!

Thank you, Chloe! Twice Bitten, the third of the Chicagoland Vampires series, is on sale July 6. Read the review here!

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