Author Interview: Youngblood by Sasha Laurens
Last week we talked about the gorgeous cover for Youngblood by Sasha Laurens and today we are back today for an interview with Sasha! Check out a little about the MCs, how Youngblood mirrors our world, and what inspired Sasha. Youngblood is releasing this July 19th, just in time to fill that First Kill hole in your life. There is plenty of time to get your preorders in for some awesome character art and signed bookplates – see the embedded tweet below!
Youngbloodby Sasha Laurens
Published by: Razorbill
on July 19, 2022
Genres: LGBTQIA+, Paranormal, Young Adult
For fans of Vampire Diaries and dark academia, two queer teen bloodsuckers at an elite vampire-only boarding school must go up against all of Vampirdom when they uncover a frightening conspiracy on campus.
Kat Finn and her mother can barely make ends meet living among humans. Like all vampires, they must drink Hema, an expensive synthetic blood substitute, to survive, as nearly all of humanity has been infected by a virus that’s fatal to vampires. Kat isn’t looking forward to an immortal life of barely scraping by, but when she learns she’s been accepted to the Harcote School, a prestigious prep school that’s secretly vampires-only, she knows her fortune is about to change.
Taylor Sanger has grown up in the wealthy vampire world, but she’s tired of its backward, conservative values—especially when it comes to sexuality, since she’s an out-and-proud lesbian. She only has to suffer through a two more years of Harcote before she’s free. But when she discovers her new roommate is Kat Finn, she’s horrified. Because she and Kat used to be best friends, a long time ago, and it didn’t end well.
When Taylor stumbles upon the dead body of a vampire, and Kat makes a shocking discovery in the school’s archives, the two realize that there are deep secrets at Harcote—secrets that link them to the most powerful figures in Vampirdom and to the synthetic blood they all rely on.
Interview with Sasha Laurens
Tell us about Kat and Taylor. Where would they shop in a mall?
I laughed at this question because although I don’t know much about malls these days, I actually wrote scenes that got cut where Kat and Taylor each go to the mall. They actually do reflect a lot about their personalities.
Kat is an independent spirit at heart, but she’s burdened by her family’s precarious financial situation—especially considering that she’s going to live forever. She’s desperate for some stability, so she always tries to make the most responsible choice, even if it’s not what she really wants. When she gets a scholarship funded by an unknown benefactor to go to Harcote – an elite, vampire-only boarding school – she knows she’ll do anything to excel there. That means wearing whatever vampiric fashions her benefactor has provided her, along with the Harcote uniform. In Kat’s cut mall trip, she tries buy clothes she thinks will please the benefactor, which leaves her in a Macy’s struggling to explain to her human friends why she wants to start dressing like a goth librarian.
When Kat gets to Harcote, she discovers she’ll be rooming with her ex-best friend, Taylor. Taylor is the only out queer student at Harcote (the school is a monument to vampirism, not progressive values). A lot of how Taylor sees the world is affected by a desire to be herself at any cost, but at the same time, hide what she really cares about so she doesn’t get hurt. (Awww!) For example, she’d rather die than admit her years-long crush on Kat. Taylor’s cut mall scene occurred after Kat convinces her to go to the school formal—a dance that Taylor had promised herself she’d never go to again, because she felt so awkward wearing a dress. On an emergency trip to the boys’ section of a department store, she finds a suit she can wear instead.
Youngblood is marketed as TVD meets dark academia but it’s also clearly a look at class and power dynamics. What was it like to research a paranormal novel that explores contemporary issues?
I haven’t read TVD so I can’t comment on that, but the elite educational institutions where dark academia stories are set are inherently about class and power. These are places that are fundamentally exclusive and have traditionally only been accessible to the wealthy and powerful. One of the most important books to my research was Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School by Shamus Khan. He points out that for much of the history of elite boarding schools in the US, that exclusion wasn’t a secret: everyone knew that was how it worked. In the last 50 years, as social change made it less acceptable, the mythos of these schools evolved. Now, they’re much more about the idea that the students are exceptionally smart and talented, and they’ve earned their places on merit—and it’s just a coincidence that all these exceptional 14 year-olds are the same type of student the schools have always catered to. At Harcote, many of the students think they’re exceptional, but in reality they simply have privilege that has never been acknowledged.
I thought vampires were the perfect way to explore that tension between adapting to modern social pressures while fighting to preserve fundamentally conservative and traditional institutions. Another example of this from the book are the travs. In reality, that heyday neverexisted and their idea of it comes from movies. This group was inspired by contemporary white supremacists who have created a vision of the past that is largely historically inaccurate. In vampire stories—and especially vampire romances—we kind of sweep aside the fact that anyone over 100 years old probably has some seriously problematic and retrograde beliefs. Even when these stories acknowledge that a vampire character has participated in troubling historical events, we’re supposed to believe they’ve learned and grown beyond it. In reality, I don’t people do not learn and grow so easily—especially the older they are. But given current social pressures, they may learn to hide those beliefs or adapt power structures in other ways. A lot of the worldbuilding in Youngblood was based around that process.
What other stories inspired Youngblood (or, alternatively, you as a writer)?
I read a lot of sapphic books while I was working on this, but the most important was Gideon the Ninth. GtN was the first novel I’d read that really adopted a lesbian gaze—I think Tamsyn Muir has described that as “the lesbian goggles are glued to your face”. I had never read something like that before, where a lesbian or queer way of seeing the world was saturated into the narration. For Kat that became really important because she spends a lot of the book thinking she’s straight, but I still wanted her to see the world in a queer way that the reader would recognize. I also tried to give Taylor some of that Gideon-esque snark.
Pride Month Giveaway
All month, we are hosting a giveaway on Instagram with 4 winners! Win a stack of 4 queer books by entering on the post below!