As Tamara Zeegers and I sit down to begin our chat, I hand her a coffee, writes Roosa Herranen. Extra, extra sweet is how she likes it, which could I suppose be seen as a bit of a funny contradiction considering her line of work. Zeegers is the author of Vampire Chronicles; a series of horror genre books with a dash of historical timelines and erotica. Her books have gained fans and popularity over the years, creating a community from all over the world.
Zeegers herself, an author and artist, is originally from Holland. Curious about what made her leave the Netherlands, I ask what it was that made her make the big move and most importantly, how did she end up in Brighton and Hove?
“Since I was two years old, my parents and I went to Scotland for summer holidays because my dad had a friend there. I loved it. Holland for me has always been boring. I never really fit in with the Dutch. When I was 16 years old, I went to London for my holidays, then via Scotland, London and a short stint back in Holland, ended up in Brighton.”
Well, Hove, actually.
Zeegers has a deep love and appreciation for Brighton and Hove, to the point where the first of the Vampire Chronicles, Love Reborn is actually partly set in Hove with one of her characters living on Brunswick Square. She also returns to Brighton later in the series. But what is it about the city that the author so loves?
She says she considers herself “an oddball” which I’m sure a lot of us who have found a home in Brighton and Hove can relate to: "Brighton to me is like what Amsterdam, where I was born and raised, used to be. Colourful and accepting.” She also compares living here to living in a small village in Scotland, where blending in can be harder. As an avid vintage clothes and jewellery collector, the author can sometimes draw attention with her looks, even on the streets of our home town. However according to her, Brighton generally lacks in judgement, and if there’s any comments on her outfits, they’re all nice compliments.
"You have all these wonderful, colourful people here in beautiful costumes. I think if vampires were real, they would fit in very well in this town. You have a lot of people that live at night time, you have all these great, atmospheric buildings. I could see if you were from an old world, the kind of mindset this place has would feel comforting. It’s a great place to get inspiration from as well.”
When asked if she’s always written, she said: “I’ve written since I was young. I always used to write short stories, song lyrics and poems. I started my first story in 2000, though I never seriously thought that I could write a book until I encouraged a friend of mine to write one herself.” Encouraged by her friend’s success in writing, Zeegers decided to give it a go herself. She continues: "That turned into a book, which turned into two, then three and four and five. Now I’m writing number six.”
And did she always know what she wanted to write about? Does it just come as she goes?
“I've always had a thing for vampires. They were my main horror genre. I've never liked zombies. But vampires and werewolves I have always had a thing for.” She reminds me she grew up with 'the greats' such as the old Dracula with Christopher Lee and the Hammer House of Horror, where her fascination with vampires began.
Zeegers says it didn’t sit well with her how the vampire lore was mainly making them out to be these bad, evil creatures, always the villains. She wanted to change that and create a different narrative. She made them into the protectors of mankind. Though by no means angels, they are vampires after all.
When it comes to the author’s writing routine and planning stories beforehand, that can be tricky: “I usually have a rough idea of where to go. However, unfortunately, my characters sometimes disagree with that,” she says laughing. “They can turn it all around into a completely different direction while I'm writing.”
She says she will always have a rough idea of what time settings to use because her books are also influenced by history, another love of hers. Whilst the whole horror genre itself is a big inspiration to Zeegers, history and ancient cultures play a big part in her stories too. She’s enthusiastic about both the creative side of things as well as educating people with facts sprinkled into fiction.
Her biggest historical inspirations are around the ancient Sumerian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Mesoamerican cultures. Some of her books are also set during the Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution and other major historical events that crash into her stories. “I think there's a lot of people that don't really know a lot about ancient cultures,” she says, “and so it's a part of me wanting to educate people.”
As I wonder about her writing routine, she says:
“I know people who are very disciplined, and they will write so much each day. Unfortunately, due to my 9-5 job, that is not really an option for me. And so usually what I do when I finish one book, I will very quickly write the first 150 pages of the next one. And then it will be, say, five months where I don't look at it at all.”
See, Zeegers is not only a writer but also an artist. In the free time that she has, she works on drawings and paintings and miniatures and everything else under the sun apart from writing. Then it’ll be her fans complaining about a new book which will make her go, “I really should work on that.” I ask if she leaves her books on cliffhangers, she enthusiastically says, “of course!” Apparently any good book series has them.
Other than the Vampire Chronicles, is she working on anything else?
“There are some other fantasy stories I’ve started working on. I also did some experimental script writing for a TV series once. I even handed it down to the BBC and got the main writer to respond to me, which I was quite surprised that he did, that they took the time to do so. That was kind of cool.“
So what kind of person would Zeegers recommend her books to? The obvious answer lies in the name of the series, those who are into the vampire genre would probably be into her books, for one. Fantasy and history lovers as well as those who like action for another. However she doesn’t recommend her books to people with a narrow mind, as they do contain erotica, though it’s not the sole component it is included. Her books are also inclusive with some LGBTQ+ themes. “I don't discriminate,” she says. “As we are talking about fantasy books, I think they can be a form of escapism for a lot of people. It's not necessarily about age or gender. It’s pure escapism, it's a completely different world.”
Zeegers firmly believes that the beauty of writing is that everybody sees something different in it. She herself knows what her characters look like. Which is why she likes to do paintings of them to bring them just that little bit more into life. Her readers might have a different view of the characters originally, but it’s always a wonder for them to see the author’s point of view. To help her bring a face to her characters, Zeegers often finds inspiration from public figures to help her construct their faces.
“I will wait until I find an actual human being I can base it on because it's easier if you have someone that you can look at when making a portrait. Sometimes I'll spend a day just Googling images to flood my brain with.”
When it comes to painting, Zeegers is self-taught, having always loved drawing ever since she was very little. A completely different process to writing, she says. To her, it’s another form of escapism, her own little bubble. When asked which of her art forms is the dearest, she confidently says, “I wouldn't choose between the three: miniatures, painting or writing. They are all special to me in different ways. I can't compare the three.”
Writing for her however will most likely always be there.
“I hope so. I mean, I do have a goal. I've always said I would love to be able to write at least 21 novels. Because my lucky number is seven, that will be three times seven and three is the Trinity, (which is tied to her religion; Zeegers is an Anunnakian and pagan to the core). So that would be 21. For that reason only, I would like to write 21. I would like to at least be getting into double digits,” she says firmly, “I have no intention of stopping but obviously, I don't know if in 10 years time I’ll still have ideas!” Fingers crossed.
To find out more about Tamara, click here.