Q&A with Jay Kristoff

What was your inspiration for this series?

I’ve loved vampires since I was far too young to be reading about them. I was the 11-year-old kid in the library hiding his copy of Salem’s Lot in the cover of an encyclopedia so the librarian couldn’t see what he was getting up to. Every vampire book and film I’ve ever read or seen played a role in the creation of Empire, one way or another.

My main goal in writing the series was to make vampires evil again. They’ve been interpreted a hundred ways over the years, become brooding anti-heroes and love interests, which is all fine — the wonderful thing about them is they can be different things to different people. But I wanted to bring them back to the days when they were monsters to be feared. Evil to be fought. A cautionary tale about the price tag of Forever.

Did you have any books you were reading or any particular songs you listened to while writing?

The three books I really studied before diving into writing were Interview with the Vampire by the amazing Anne Rice, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. I hadn’t seen many texts that dropped vampires into an epic fantasy setting, but they were the foundational texts in terms of structure and scope.

“I’ve loved vampires since I was far too young to be reading about them.”

Jay Kristoff

I listen to music that most people find obnoxious, so I tend not to talk about it. But anything with lyrics tends to get in the way of my own words, so while writing, I’m usually listening to orchestral or classical. Type the words “dark cello” into Youtube and you’re there.

What was your favourite scene to write (without giving away any spoilers!)?

The father/daughter relationship between Gabriel and Dior is a great dynamic to explore. They’re the heart and soul of the books, and oftentimes, the scenes where they’re just talking feel magical to me. But my favourite scenes are the dark moments before the dawn in Act 3, which are of course, enormously spoilery to talk about. I’m a tragedy fan at heart, so the chapters where everything goes horribly wrong are incredibly fun (and bloody).

Apologies for the impending trauma.

What was the biggest difference for you between Empire of the Vampire and Empire of the Damned?

It’s a sequel, and the middle of a trilogy, so they’re always an interesting needle to thread. You have to provide enough story and meta-structure to keep readers entertained, without actually being able to finally resolve anything—that’s the job of book 3, after all.

The introduction of a second narrator was the biggest shift from book 1. Vampire is Gabriel’s book, but in Damned, we learn there’s another prisoner in the same tower as our hero, and they often have a different take on events. The shift in perspective and antagonistic dynamic between the two of them was great fun to write.

What is your favourite piece of vampire lore?

In Eastern European myth, vampires could be outwitted by throwing handfuls of seeds on the floor. The hapless fiend would be forced to stop and count the seeds, delaying them until the sun came up.

And thus, the Count on Sesame Street was born.

Find out more about the highly anticipated sequel to the Sunday Times bestselling EMPIRE OF THE VAMPIRE here:


Gabriel de León has saved the Holy Grail from death, but his chance to end the endless night is lost.

After turning his back on his silversaint brothers once and for all, Gabriel and the Grail set out to learn the truth of how Daysdeath might finally be undone.

But the last silversaint faces peril, within and without. Pursued by children of the Forever King, drawn into wars and webs centuries in the weaving, and ravaged by his own rising bloodlust, Gabriel may not survive to see the truth of the Grail revealed.

A truth that may be too awful for any to imagine.

Out 29 Feb 2024


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