Justin Cronin takes on vampires, with best-selling results

Justin Cronin used to write literary fiction until he turned his talents to the horror genre.

The way author Justin Cronin sees it, we have four main types of boogeymen.

“They come down to werewolves, monsters, zombies and vampires. They are the big four,” says the engaging author from his home in Texas, where he is a distinguished faculty fellow at Rice University. “Of the four of them, the vampire story is the one with the best stuff.”

So much “stuff” that Cronin was able to develop a highly regarded — not to mention highly profitable — trilogy based on the mythological beings. The series began in 2010 with “The Passage,” a 784-page  best-seller, and continues on this month with the publication of his massive follow-up, “The Twelve.”

In Cronin’s futuristic dystopia, his vampires are known as virals; vicious, almost unstoppable monsters created by a government experiment gone horribly wrong who almost end all of humanity. In “The Passage” and now “The Twelve,” Cronin delves into two worlds: The time when the vampire plague was unleashed upon society and a hundred years into the future. His cast of characters numbers into the hundreds; locations not only span coasts but decades and lifetimes; his word count is epic. How does he keep it all straight?

“That was something I had to learn how to do,”?he says. “When I was writing the first book, I discovered my brain can naturally hold up to 800 pages of manuscript; at page 801, the top of my head flies off and I can’t remember how to use the coffeemaker. I had to grow a couple hat sizes to be able to do this.”

Virals: The real meat of the story

The addition of the virals make the series into a horror thriller, but for Cronin the beasts are a way to get to the real meat of his tale: How does the human race survive when civilization ends? “I use the vampire story as a way to get to a postapocalyptic story,” he says, simply. Cronin was a child of the Cold War, a time that informs his writing. “I really believed as a kid we’d all get incinerated; at that time it really looked like things would end,” he says. “That’s probably the deepest fear in me.”


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