Chosen Ones, Vampire Slayers, and a Return to the Buffyverse: An Interview with Kendare Blake

I often tell people that I taught myself to write novels by watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon’s cult TV show that premiered in 1997. BTVS won my heart from the first episode when it flipped every horror story trope on its head, added quippy humor, had the best library ever, and still managed to be a story about life, epic, star-crossed love, sacrifice, and the horrors of high school as metaphor for pretty much everything (and, of course, being chosen to save the world when you’d rather be doing anything else). Oh, and also vampire slaying. It was — and still is — my most passionate fandom. 

All of this to say, I am so thrilled that one of my favorite YA authors, Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood, the Three Dark Crowns series, All These Bodies), was tapped by Disney/Hyperion to put a new spin on the Buffyverse. Her story takes up where the series and its spin-off, Angel, left off, this time there's a new slayer. It's set where the original was set, in Sunnydale, California, where the high school (now rebuilt yet again) sits atop the Hellmouth. Of course I had to interview Kendare about all this and her new novel, In Every Generation, which everyone should read whether you’re a longtime fan or a newbie! Here’s what she had to say:

 

 

Joy Preble:   Not sure if you can tell us, but I’m always curious when an author gets to write a new iteration of an existing property or franchise: How did this book come about? Did Hyperion come to you? Did you come to Hyperion? Did you have to take a Buffy trivia quiz? Would love you to spill the tea.

Kendare Blake: I will spill all of the tea! Which in this case is not much tea, and a very well mannered, English type tea, very tame: One day my fabulous agent emailed and said the Buffy team had approached her and asked if I would like to write this series. I screamed WHAT THE WHAT and then cursed the timing because I had just signed contracts on my new projects, and had specifically padded my schedule so I would have time to cool down and switch gears from Three Dark Crowns. BUT OBVIOUSLY I had to do this. 

So, they sent over the proposal, which was a short synopsis laying out the concept, introducing Frankie, telling me who else would be in it, and about the attack on Slayerfest and Buffy and the other slayers presumed dead, and then I got on the phone with the editor (the absolutely amazing Jocelyn Davies) and we hashed out a way that would fit it into both of our schedules and hit deadlines, etc. 

I was still...trepidatious about whether I could do it in time (I only had a few months) and I was nervous as hell about dipping a toe into the Buffyverse because the Buffyverse is SACRED. And I'd never written for an Intellectual Property before, so I asked a lot of questions about what I could and couldn't do. 

Wait, that's not true. I wrote a story for the X-Files once. And they had stipulated that Fox Mulder couldn't swear, so you know, specific rules, and I wanted to make sure I didn't break any. I left Xander out of an entire draft because even though I needed him, I hadn't explicitly been told he could be in it. Like, at first I was very careful about coloring inside the lines.

Anyway, they gave me pretty free rein, though the original pitch synopsis did end with them having a very dramatic moment and then going out for pie, and I love pie, so I kept that part and the New Scoobies go for pie after they fight their Big Bad.

 

JP: You had to keep the pie. Pie is life. I love pie. And speaking of things that I love, I love, love that the new slayer is the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer series’ Willow Rosenberg’s daughter, Frankie. Avoiding spoilers here, but what a clever spin you put on how Frankie — seemingly unconnected to the Slayer line — gets activated as the new Slayer. Can you tell us some about how you made this creative choice?

KB: I needed a way for Frankie to believably be called as the next slayer, because otherwise it just felt too convenient, you know? I needed her to have some kind of link to the line, and Willow kind of reached out and touched the line when she did the spell to activate all the Potentials. Also I needed her to be the right age, so she needed to be born between a year or two after the show ended, and the mysticalness gave me some wiggle room. And, okay, having one side of Frankie's parentage literally be the essence of the original slayer opens up a lot of interesting storytelling possibilities for her (and for Willow). 

 

JP: It definitely does! And it makes the story your own for sure! Speaking of which, you’re writing a wonderful new take on something iconic and beloved. How much work did you have to do as you brought the original characters to life again with your new ones? Did you do a rewatch of the series? Ponder the Spike vs. Angel debate? Did you read any of the previous novelizations? (The Nancy Holder ones come to mind. I always felt she did such a marvelous job getting just the right tone).

KB: I did rewatch the series! All of the episodes, plus all of the Buffy-related episodes of Angel. Because I will take any excuse for a rewatch, and this was the best excuse I'd come up with so far. Also, I had a friend who had never seen it, so I couldn't let that stand. 

What I discovered is that I have layers of Buffy knowledge imprinted on my brain that I didn't even know were there. In the first section of the book I reference The Journey of Natty Gann, randomly. I haven't even seen that movie. And then a few episodes later in my rewatch I noticed that one of the guest stars was the lead in, you guessed it, The Journey of Natty Gann

As for the Angel vs Spike debate, that has been settled in my mind for a long time, but I'll never go into details because whoa, those waters run deep.

And besides Kiersten White's Slayer series I didn't read any novelizations. It would have messed with my head, I think. And my head was already plenty messed with. I do love Nancy Holder, though. Brilliant.

 

JP: Yes, everyone also needs to read Kiersten White’s Slayer series. And speaking of those old episodes, do you have any favorites that have stuck with you over the years? Did any of those inform your imagination and plotting and re-imagining of the original characters such as Oz and Spike as you wrote In Every Generation?

KB: I love them all. And the moments that stay with me are myriad. From Giles turning into a horny teenager in 'Band Candy' and ordering Buffy to kick Ethan Rayne's ass, to the bitchin' choreography of the final Faith fight, to Jonathan's magic bone. Those were the kinds of moments I was trying to channel into the New Scoobies, and the elements that informed their characters. For instance, I wanted that comedic element in Frankie's fighting style. It had to differ from Buffy's, because, Buffy is Buffy and unlike other slayers who came before her, Frankie has seen first hand what she has to live up to. Frankie's fighting style is much more Sailor Moon-esque: starts out with some badass quipping and then quickly devolves into terror and near death. But she fights her way through it to come out on top. I would love to see Frankie's fighting style choreographed on screen, nudge nudge, wink wink, if any TV execs are watching.

 

JP: Well, we certainly hope those TV execs are watching, reading, and sending you a Netflix contract! For both long-time fans as well as newby Scoobies, what is it about BTVS that speaks to you? What made you want to return to the world of the series and its characters and carve something new?

KB: It's the characters. It's the heart. That show was perfectly written and perfectly acted by a perfect cast. So when I wrote In Every Generation I wasn't trying to necessarily carve something new: I was trying to mine something old. Because that's what I wanted. MORE BUFFY. I wanted to incorporate the things I loved most about Sunnydale: meetings in the library, quipping in the graveyard, zany, twisted big bads, cool magic, and of course, a hot, broody demon. I wanted the classic humor, the Watcher in tweed. 

Some might say, well, if it was so perfect then why are you TOUCHING IT WITH YOUR GRUBBY HANDS?!! And I know. I get it. But it can be done so well, introducing a new generation of adventures while still honoring the old, and hitting the right notes of nostalgia. I'm heartened by updates to beloved properties like Cobra Kai, and recently felt the same thing watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Also, I wrote it during the first summer of the pandemic so I just wanted to have fun. Holy crap, fun was needed.

 

JP:  Yes, fun was definitely needed. And let me add that reading In Every Generation is a blast! That said, what’s coming next for Kendare Blake? 

KB: More Buffy of course! The second book in the trilogy should come out in early 2023! And then I have a new fantasy coming in Fall 2023. No official title yet but I call it Amazon Jedis, which should give you an idea of the overall vibe. It's about a girl on a quest to join an order of mystical women warriors.

 

JP: I can hardly wait! Thank you, Kendare, for both this new take on the Buffyverse and for this rockin’ interview!

 

In Every Generation Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781368075022
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Disney-Hyperion - January 4th, 2022

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