When Zoey Redbird, the central character of the House of Night YA series, penned by mother-daughter duo P.C. and Kristin Cast, made Entertainment Weekly‘s list of the 20 greatest vampires in pop culture, it was because the Casts’ universe, which includes a vampire finishing school, is female-centric, involves higher-than-Hogwarts hormone levels, and teaches the power of free will, friendship, and the joy of having a gay man in your circle. It’s fitting then that the eighth book in the series, Awakened (on shelves today), is dedicated to LGBT teens. “It’s meant a lot to us to include teenagers of all different kinds of beliefs, and that includes different sexual orientations, from the very beginning of the series. But it just so happened as we were finishing up the book that all the tragedies with the gay kids committing suicide happened,” P.C. tells EW. “A bunch of our fans emailed us about the It Gets Better Project, so I posted on that, and from that, I just thought, ‘Let me go ahead and do this acknowledgment officially.’ Once you read Awakened, you know there’s also some tragedy that has to do with our gay characters, so I thought that was particularly important to add.”
Without spoiling the plot, nefarious High Priestess Neferet has sworn vengeance on Zoey, and will do whatever it takes to get her to come back to Tulsa from the Isle of Skye, where Zoey’s found sanctuary after returning from the Otherworld with the help of her warrior, Stark. “It’s happening a little bit different than it happened for J.K. Rowling and her fans, because [the Harry Potter characters] started so much younger, and [the books] covered longer periods of time. But the same phenomenon happens in the House of Night,” P.C. says. “Our kids are maturing, and because they’re maturing, they’re able to deal with more serious and darker events. They’re having a lot of hard things happen to them back-to-back.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The House of Night books are getting more twisted and increasingly bloody. Do you ever have to hold back writing for teens?
P.C. CAST: I don’t think about that. I just sit down and write the story, and Kristin serves as my teen editor, even though Kristin’s not a teen anymore.
KRISTIN CAST: There was a lot of stuff in this one that got cut.
PCC: Yes. [Laughs]
KC: It’s way toned down from what it was before. If she had her way, she’d just write it for adults.
PCC: I don’t see them as teens; I see them as characters. There’s a plot, and bad things happen. It’s kind of like when you watch Buffy — Buffy was a teenager, but when you look over the series, Buffy dealt with all this adult stuff. I think it’s the same way with my series. I don’t just look at them as 16, 17, 18, 19-year-olds. I look at them as real human beings who are dealing with very hard issues. I don’t use a gauge. I send it to Kristin, and then she writes stuff in the columns like, “No, Phyllis. Just, no.” [Laughs] There was lots of that in this book, especially when you get to the scenes with the White Bull [Darkness personified] and Neferet. You wouldn’t believe all the stuff that was cut out of there. READ FULL STORY