Local author’s soul-sucking vampires have earned her a million fans

Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 11:30pm
By Susannah Felts, chapter16.org

Before Americans were hooked on True Blood, before Twilight sank its teeth into millions of readers and moviegoers, Sherrilyn Kenyon was swiftly and quietly building her vampire-lit empire.

Kenyon, whom Publisher’s Weekly calls “the reigning queen of the wildly successful paranormal scene,” works almost as hard at nurturing a relationship with her readers as she does at creating the tales they love. Which is saying a lot: Kenyon, who lives in Spring Hill, churns out up to 40 pages a day, consistently tops the The New York Times best-seller list, and currently has more than 20 million books in print in over 30 countries.

“Kenyon’s writing is brisk, ironic and relentlessly imaginative,” notes The Boston Globe. “These are not your mother’s vampire novels.”

Kenyon’s enormous success can be credited at least in part to her savvy DIY marketing skills during the early years. Before the first book in her Dark-Hunter series ever hit shelves, she sparked buzz about it on her Web site and cultivated a community of dedicated readers who love discussing the books and role-playing as their favorite Dark-Hunter characters.

And Dark-Hunter is only one series she’s created: There’s also a League series, a Lords of Avalon series, a Brotherhood of the Sword series, a Nevermore series — the list goes on and on.

Today, her devotees, known as Kenyon Minions, number over a million, and her Web site gets more than 100 million hits a year. For the past four years, an annual fan convention celebrating her work, “K-Con,” has sold out within minutes.

In the irresistibly plotted, witty and steamy Dark-Hunter novels, Kenyon’s villains — the Daimons — are not vampires in the traditional sense: Instead of sucking their victims’ blood, they steal their souls. The latest title in the series, Bad Moon Rising, hit shelves in August, immediately following the release of the first manga version of a Dark-Hunter book. Since then, three more Kenyon titles — all from her “League” series — have appeared.

The most recent, Born of Ice, was released Dec. 1 and went to the top of The New York Times best-seller list a week later. Chapter 16 recently caught up with Kenyon, and the following are excerpts.

Q: Why vampires? Have they always held a fascination for you?

A: Yes … but they’re not the only thing I write. The Dark-Hunter series does have shapeshifters, demons, gods, goddesses, hellchasers and many other fantastical creatures in them.

Of course, my vampires are very different in mythos. The Dark-Hunters themselves aren’t vampires. They’re immortal guardians handpicked by Artemis from ancient warriors. It’s a fantasy series, and the Daimons [the vampirish soul-suckers] are just one tiny part of it.

Q: The Dark-Hunter world owes a debt to Greek mythology, too, it seems. True?

A: Absolutely. The ancient Greek and Sumerian myths provide the backbone of the series. This is what happens when you let your 8-year-old read The Theogony. (Thanks, Mom.)

Q: You were a vampire novelist long before vampires were cool. What sets the Dark-Hunter series apart from other popular bloodsucker tales?

A: The vampires are called Daimons and they don’t live on blood. They live on souls. More than that, they aren’t immortal. Because of a curse given to their race by the god Apollo, who created them, they die horribly on their 27th birthday. The only way for them to avoid that horrific death is to start taking human souls.

So long as the soul lives inside them, they live, but since human souls aren’t meant to be captive, they begin to die as soon as they’re taken.

Q: With your books’ sales these days, you’re any writer’s model of the pinnacle of success in a field where it’s outrageously tough to make a living. Were there struggles in your early years?

A: I always say there are two things you never want to ask me about: childbirth and publishing. Because I will scare you off both. Heck, both have really tried to kill me, but only one succeeded.

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