Forever 51 The Menopausal Vampire
I ran across the new vampire novel Forever 51 The Menopausal Vampire in a list of newly published books online. I’ve now had hot flashes for a quarter of a century, so of course I was intrigued by the premise of a vampire in eternal menopause. What would a menopausal woman with superpowers be like? And why aren’t we all writing about her?
I was even more intrigued when I read the reader reviews for the new novel. Here are samples:
- “Veronica is [a] cruelty-free vamp who siphons her food at a hospice center in North Texas and often helps her patients in pain. But when she falls off the wagon again and leaves video evidence via a botched spray tan (such a great opening chapter), she needs to get out of town. What better destination than reconnecting with her teenage daughter, who was turned by a loathsome man when they all lived in 1800s Dakota?”
- “Forever 51 The Menopausal Vampire is a unique find: A story that combines superpower tropes with the trope of the invisible older woman to deliver a wild and humorous ride. If your hot flashes have dragged on for years and you suspect they’re eternal, if you have a lot more going on than people around you realize, this book is for you.”
- “Original, thought-provoking, and full of wit… Veronica is a great character, flawed and complex with plenty to root for. The banter and snarky humor were effortless and had me chuckling throughout. I loved the interactions among Veronica and the secondary characters and all of the situations they got themselves into during the story. By using vampirism as a metaphor for aging, addiction, and more, the author breaks new ground and tells an interesting story.”
After reading and thoroughly enjoying the book, I was thrilled at the chance to interview Pamela Skjolsvik, the writer who came up with this fascinating premise and executed it so well.
Stella: If we drew a Venn diagram of vampires and women past midlife, the two circles would overlap at invisibility. That theme comes up quite a bit in your book. Was that concept part of the inspiration for creating Veronica, your main character?
Pamela: Honestly, I didn’t give the idea of invisibility much thought at the beginning of this story, other than the fact that vampires, according to vampire lore, don’t reflect. It just came about organically. I just turned fifty this year. I have a 20-year-old daughter and when we are together, the male gaze is on her. I could be shoplifting right in front of most people and they wouldn’t even notice. This plays into Veronica being able to sneak into hospitals and blend in unnoticed.
Stella: What are your thoughts on Veronica’s relationship with her superpowers (and power in general)? How do you see her self-concept evolve over the course of the story?
Pamela: Veronica doesn’t view herself as particularly powerful. Unlike other vampires in popular fiction, she is not stronger or faster than the mortals she encounters. Her only power is regenerative. She can return to her former state if she’s been mortally injured or if she simply attempts to pluck that pesky chin hair that’s been irking her for a century. As the story evolves, she realizes how much power she has, but that power resides in standing in the truth of her words, not in her physical prowess.
Stella: Overall, how did writing a middle aged woman as a vampire free you up to explore issues of women in midlife?
Pamela: It was a lot of fun to explore middle-age through the lens of a vampire, who has been there, done that, and owns the t-shirt. I can tell you that as a woman going through peri-menopause, I remain hopeful that one day this hormonal roller coaster will end. If there was no end in sight to the hot flashes, insomnia and general irritability, it would really SUCK!
Stella: Well, Pamela, I’m 67 and I’m still wearing the t-shirt that says, “It’s Not a Hot Flash—It’s a Power Surge.” Maybe things calm down at seventy.
One of the great things about Veronica is she has a lot of sex. How did making Veronica a vampire liberate her sex life?
Pamela: There isn’t explicit sex in this book. It is merely implied that Veronica still enjoys having an intimate physical relationship with the many men she has chosen over the years.
Stella: Even the implication is pretty great. Do you predict a sequel for this book? If so, can you share a little bit about it?
Pamela: Yes, there is a sequel. It’s called Wasted on the Young, and it deals with the mistakes of youth. It features Jenny Ann Pearson, the foul-mouthed young companion on Veronica’s road trip to redemption.
Stella: Jenny is such a vivid character! Having raised my four kids currently ranging from teenager into adulthood, there were moments with Jenny that really rang true. In fact, as many reader reviews point out, your supporting characters are exceptionally strong.
Another strength of your book is the way you play with the vampire myth. Several of your vampire characters go out of their way to source cruelty-free blood. Were you thinking about guilty meat eaters when you wrote those passages?
Pamela: No, I thought that if the world was filled with vampires, how would they keep themselves satiated without killing off the population and/or calling attention to themselves.
Stella: Good point. And I love the idea of a vampire going to twelve step meetings. How did you come up with that?
Pamela: Personal experience.
Stella: Experience is a great teacher. And speaking of teachers, what writers inspire you? Whom did you turn to for inspiration (and the low-down on vampires) while writing this book?
Pamela: I have not read a lot of vampire books and I try to keep it that way. I think if I went out and read other people’s work, I might get influenced by their narrative. My aim was to write an original story that was more about achieving a good death than about vampires. As far as writers that inspire me, I am a huge fan of David Sedaris and Mary Roach. If a writer can make me laugh out loud, I’m hooked. I also love Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, which explores family and belonging in the guise of
Stella: Great recommendations! How can interested readers learn more?
Pamela: The 2020 Quarantine Book Club on Facebook, which I started in March of this year to assist debut authors affected by the pandemic, is reading Forever 51 The Menopausal Vampire in November. We will have a Live Q&A on December 2 in the Facebook group if you or your readers would like to attend a 2020 style author event.
Stella: That sounds terrific! We’ll check it out.
As you know I’m an advocate of women past midlife writing and telling their stories, so it’s always a pleasure to read an original, funny, well written book. To get to know the author a little better is always fun, especially one who writes well, comes up with intriguing superpowers for her characters and wows with her story.