Q: What inspired you to write Vampire Vacation, and how did you create your character Fang?
A: I got the idea for Vampire Vacation after reading a blog post about characters with inherent conflict. I started brainstorming characters that would be in obvious peril if placed in a particular situation, and a vampire going to a sunshine-y beach came to mind.
In terms of creating Fang as a character, I loved spooky stories as a kid and I’ve always wanted to write a book about a vampire or a witch.
Originally, I focused on the logistics of how vampires could visit a beach, so I had Fang running science experiments in an attempt to create a strong enough sunscreen to make his beach vacay safe. You’ll still see that “SPF 5,000” in the book, but as I explored the story further, it became less about how a vampire family could go to the beach, and more about Fang’s strong, almost desperate desire for a beach vacation—something I had experienced myself as a kid.
I grew up in upstate New York, where the winters are long, dark, and freezing! I’m personally not a fan of the cold and snow. I joke that I got my dad’s southern side of the family’s tolerance for cold—or lack thereof—and not the Vermonter genes from my mom’s side.
At some point, I became obsessed with the idea of visiting a southern California beach. Like Fang, I even had my room decked out in a tropical theme. Ultimately, Fang’s desire to go to the beach was inspired by my own fondness for palm trees, sand, and surf.
Q: What do you think Micah Player's illustrations add to the story?
A: I truly cannot gush enough about what Micah did with this story. First of all, that cover! I was thrilled to see such vibrant colors. The sunset in the background is divine.
Micah also added so many fun details in the illustrations—it’s like an Easter egg hunt trying to find them all. For example, on the cover, you’ll see that Fang has a book titled Gone Ghoul and the author is listed as Tamar Opal. That’s a little nod to our editor and art director at Viking.
There are so many other fun details inside the book—like the album covers featured in Papa Vampire’s “Man Cave”—but I’ll let readers go on the hunt to find them.
Micah captured the juxtaposition between this dark, brooding vampire family and tropical-themed swimwear so perfectly and hilariously. It was amazing to see Fang and family come to life on the page. Many readers have told me they’ve picked out a “favorite” vampire sibling—especially in the spread where they’re all decked out in beachy attire.
Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, “The characters may be undead, but this telling is jovially slice-of-life.” What do you think of that description?
A: My immediate thought upon reading the Publishers Weekly review was, What a great last line! It speaks to the juxtaposition Micah highlighted in the art: we have these undead, dark characters, but the story feels very lively. Everything in the beach scenes is bright, cheerful, and full of joy. That sentence really sums up the story perfectly.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I hope kids take a few things away from the book. The first takeaway is to be true to yourself, even if you feel different from others around you. If you want to wear a tropical-print cape and that’s your jam, go for it!
Second, trying new things can be fun! Sometimes, it can feel scary to do something you haven’t done before; but in my experience, it can be very rewarding to push yourself to embark on new adventures.
Lastly, I hope kids giggle when reading Fang’s story. Laughter is a powerful thing. With every story I write, I’m trying to make kids laugh. That’s my number one goal, always.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have two more books that are in the works right now. Monster Baker, illustrated by Vanessa Morales, will be out from Roaring Brook Press in spring 2023.
It’s the story of a little monster who idolizes a French pastry chef named Pierre du Monstère—which is probably my favorite character name ever. When “Grandmonster’s” birthday rolls around, the little monster decides to bake a birthday cake all by herself. The results are pretty wild!
In summer 2024, my third book, Duck, Duck, Taco Truck, illustrated by Teresa Martinez, will be out from Doubleday Books for Young Readers. It’s a beachside, ducks vs. geese food truck showdown that’s going to be super fun! I’m extra excited for this story because it will be my first book written in rhyme.
Beyond these stories, I currently have a few works in progress. I have two young kids, so it often feels like fun ideas are smacking me in the face just going about my daily life.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I love connecting with people who enjoy my books! (And people who enjoy books in general!) If you’d like to connect with me and stay on top of news about my upcoming titles, you can find me on my website: lauralavoieauthor.com, or visit me on Twitter or Instagram: @llavoieauthor
--Interview with Deborah Kalb