Hello and welcome back to my Author Spotlight series! I’m so excited to announce that this interview features alumna Liz Kerin who graduated from the Rita and Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Liz Kerin is an author, award-winning playwright, screenwriter. Her whimsical family dramedy “Stop-Motion” was awarded the 2018 Parity Commission and received a production at Theater for the New City in NYC in 2021, and her work has received multiple honors from The Road Theatre, Theatricum Botanicum and the Kennedy Center. She lives in Southern California where you can find her working in her garden or hiking in the hills with her corgi Clementine.
Her novel, “Night’s Edge,” is a sun-drenched novel about the darkest secrets we hide and how monstrous we can be to the ones we love most. Having a mom like Izzy meant Mia had to grow up fast. No extracurriculars, no inviting friends over and definitely no dating. The most important rule: Tell no one of Izzy’s hunger – the kind only blood can satisfy.
But Mia is in her twenties now and longs for a life of her own. One where she doesn’t have to worry about anyone discovering their terrible secret, or breathing down her neck. When Mia meets rebellious musician Jade she dares to hope she’s found a way to leave her home – and her mom – behind. It just might be Mia’s only chance of getting out alive.
Why did you decide to have the mother be the bloodsucker rather than continue the trend of young adult vampires? What do you think this role reversal accomplishes in your book?
I think a lot of [young-adult] vampire tales romanticize what seems like a pretty monstrous existence, and I was craving a different perspective. Vampires typically stand in for themes about sex or being marginalized in society—themes that work really well for young characters and young audiences. But my book—geared toward adults and older teen readers—is about how childhood trauma, illness and addiction can affect family relationships over time. Time stands still when a person develops post-traumatic stress—much like time stands still for a vampire.
When we put our needs aside to take care of someone we love, we give up a piece of ourselves—like giving up one’s blood. I was also really intrigued by the idea of a coming-of-age story about a young woman who’s about to eclipse her mother in age. Mia’s mother can’t let her go, can’t imagine her aging. . . because she herself can’t age. There’s so much tension to mine from that weird situation. In general, I realized vampires were an incredible way to lens all the nuance of enmeshed families and trauma. There’s a reason we keep coming back to vampires in literature; there’s so much rich gray area to explore. So here we are again.
How do you think your experience as an NYU alumna as a screenwriter has helped you in the long run? How did this accomplishment intertwine with your identity as an author?
I came into this world as a fiction writer. When I was a little kid, my mom would type my “books” out for me and have me illustrate the pictures. As a teen, I branched out into playwriting and filmmaking, which is how I ended up at Dramatic Writing at NYU. It was my dream school. I applied twice when I didn’t get in right out of high school (I blame that C I got in math that one time). But I finally made it, and while I was there I learned the nuts and bolts of television and feature writing. Having narrative structure down to a science helped me in a huge way when I set out to write a novel. For me, personally, when I’m reading, I want it to feel effortless when I’m turning the pages. I love looking at the clock and realizing three hours have passed and I’m still in my reading chair. That comes down to pacing, which ultimately comes down to structure. I break each book like I would break a feature film before I start writing.
The community I found at NYU was also enormously important to me. I met so many brilliant, kind and supportive people during my time in New York. All these years later, we [still] read one another’s first drafts and put each other up for jobs. We hold space for each other’s pain in this really difficult industry. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am right now if it weren’t for the people I met in college. They’re the reason I keep going.
What made you decide to blend the supernatural genre with the realistic elements of abuse, addiction and toxic relationships?
The term “emotional vampire” has become a cultural fixture over the past few years, and it’s a really apt description of a person who habitually drains you. Mia’s in a situation where her emotional vampire is also a literal one. Feels obvious, but that parallel really lands for me. Whenever I write something with a supernatural twist, the first thing I ask myself is, “Okay, what is this about—and more importantly, what is this about?” So many aspects of vampirism (parasitic partnerships, that eternal thirst for blood, etc.) mirror the grief and terror of addiction, illness and the codependency that often comes with it. Izzy, the mother in this story, can’t help what she is. She was infected against her will. But her actions, because of her illness, are truly monstrous—and she hurts the person she loves most.
For those who aren’t super into vampires or horror, what would you tell them about your books that may persuade them to pick up your book?
Whenever I tell people what this book is, I say it’s about coming-of-age, codependency, mothers and daughters. . . and also vampires. I was inspired by some of my favorite memoirs when I was conceiving of this book. So if you lean more toward literary fiction, you might still find something to enjoy here.
“Night’s Edge” has only recently been published and since then, you’re already on track for the sequel to come out next spring. You’ve also announced last month that “Night’s Edge” is in the works at Freeform with WandaVision’s Jac Schaeffer. How are you feeling about all this as a debut author, and do you have any advice to those hoping to make it in the publishing or publicity world?
It’s definitely been a wild ride, and I’ve been delighted and shocked at every turn. I’ve met some incredible people I’ve admired for years, and I’m so honored to have the opportunity to continue Mia’s story in this way. It’s interesting, because this book isn’t actually my debut! I had a different book, a YA fantasy called “The Phantom Forest,” come out with a small press in 2019. So I’ve been knocking on this door for a long time.
My advice to anyone hoping to get published … is to remember that it’s a numbers game. Authors query for years before they sign with an agent, and a lot of people don’t even sell their first book when they do. If that happens, be ready with your next idea. Take a breath, lick your wounds, and start again. You will improve each and every time if you let the years and experience accumulate. I look back on my first book and say, “Wow, is that seriously the best word you could think of?” I also believe, strongly, that you need to chase your love of the process instead of chasing the “Yes.” That can feel impossible sometimes. But it’s the only way I’m able to sit back down at my desk after a rejection. Chase the high of crafting a scene you’re really excited about, or a character you can’t help but fall in love with. That’s what will keep you coming back, and that’s the key to winning a numbers game.
Thank you so much Liz for answering my questions! “Night’s Edge” has such an interesting take on what it means to be a vampire and how that can tie into realistic elements despite them being fictional creatures.
Many thanks to Elena Stokes from Wunderkind PR who extended this interview opportunity to me and sent me a digital copy of Liz’s book. If this interview piqued your interest, be sure to pre-order “First Light,” the sequel to “Night’s Edge.”