Alice Hemming on The Thirteenth Vampire and historical books for tweens and teens

The Thirteenth Vampire by Alice Hemming. Book cover and author photo.
This month our Macaw readers are diving into a mysterious historical novel that had us completely gripped. The Thirteenth Vampire is eerie and atmospheric, with an incredible setting that is beautifully depicted. The characters are intriguing and the story itself is packed with mysterious twists and turns. We loved it!  Here author Alice Hemming answers our questions about the inspiration behind the book and her favourite historical thrillers for teens and tweens.

What inspired you to write The Thirteenth Vampire?

I had just finished my Dark Unicorns series and wanted to write another book of a similar length, with twists and turns, but on a different subject: something a little spookier. I settled on vampires, but I knew I didn’t want my book to feature modern vampires.  Instead, my starting point was Gothic fiction. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, of course, but also The Pale Lady by Alexander Dumas and Victorian penny dreadfuls. I knew I wanted to have a travelling coach approaching a mysterious castle by the light of the moon!

I began, as I so often do, with the title. I liked the sound of The Thirteenth Vampire and it raised a number of questions in my mind. If I was writing about a thirteenth vampire, then what had happened to the other twelve? The plot developed naturally from there.

Are any of the characters or elements of the story based on real people or events?

None of the characters are based on real people, although they become real to me. The idea of the countess came from the famous Count Dracula. I thought it would be interesting to take a familiar character and play with it. Making the countess female was my starting point. I did the same with the coach driver. I’d never read or seen anything featuring a female coach driver and thought it might be interesting. Vivi’s name means ‘life’ and I wanted her character to be full of life in every way to contrast with the vampires.

Although the story takes place in a made-up town in an unspecified country, I wanted it to feel real, and did a lot of research.  Everything from Victorian laundries to sunflower fields to the best way to pick a pear!

We love the setting! Castle Bezna is described so vividly. What inspired it?

Thank you. I loved writing it. The castle is such an important part of the book, almost like another character, and I wanted it to feel real. As well as reading about spooky castles and watching vampire films, I also took an online tour of a Romanian castle.

Then, about halfway through writing the book, I couldn’t keep track of where everything was, so I drew out a very detailed map. Map-drawing isn’t a skill which comes easily to me, so it took me ages. I did the same with the castle grounds and pinned them up on a notice board behind my computer. I also had reference pictures of crumbling fountains, mazes and crypts.

How do you think you would have coped in Vivi’s position? What would you have done?

Hahaha! Great question. The honest answer is that if I’d have been in Vivi’s position I would never have applied for the position at the castle. I’d have been quite happy to stay in Valesti, working at the laundry and eating fluffy plum dumplings. But then who knows what would have happened. Thank goodness that Vivi is brave enough to take a few foolish risks! As an author it can be great fun to write about things that you would never do yourself.

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Vivi and Castel Bezna?

Hmmm. I don’t want to give any spoilers for those that haven’t yet read the book, but I will say that I was happy with where Vivi ended up at the end. There are some unanswered questions, though. We never do find out exactly what happened to a couple of the characters. . .


Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I love writing books for this age group because I can go into more depth than I might with younger fiction, and include humour that (I hope) the readers will appreciate. Saying that, I enjoy writing books for children of all ages. Sometimes, when I’ve written a few picture books, I’m itching to write a longer book, and vice versa.


Do you have a favourite place to write?

I am lucky enough to have a little writing shed at the top of my garden and it’s my favourite place to work. I like to go out and find inspiration too, though, and I sometimes write on trains and in cafés.

Which other historical thrillers for tweens and teens would you recommend our subscribers read next?

If you like feisty female protagonists and mysteries with attention to historical detail, then you’ll probably enjoy The Clockwork Sparrow and the rest of The Sinclair’s Mysteries by Katherine Woodfine. Also, Black Powder by Ally Sherrick is set at the time of Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot. Perfect for this time of year!

Copies of our The Thirteenth Vampire pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!



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