EIGHT YEARS AGO, Jonathan Maberry approached me and a handful of others with an invitation to contribute to a new shared world book he was creating that dealt with vampires. I still have the original e-mail – from May of 2011 – and of course I accepted the invite, but I never dreamed when the resulting book V-Wars was first published in 2012 that it would spawn three more prose volumes, a comic book series, and now, a Netflix series!
I was hooked on the V-Wars concept from the start. I’d published dozens of short stories and a handful of novels at that point, but I’d almost never written about vampires. The vampires Jonathan envisioned, however, were not the sparkly kind. V-Wars vampires were to be science-based creatures; vampirism was posited as a past genetic mutation that has lain dormant in junk DNA and is now reactivated in many thanks to a virus, causing lots of conflict — the V Wars.
Each of the contributing authors wrote independent stories for V-Wars, but tied them all in some way to Jonathan’s over-arching plot idea and core characters.
One interesting conceit we got to play with was that there are many different types of vampires, based on heritage. Every culture carries its own vampire myths, so in the world of V-Wars, that meant that if you were Indian or Asian or Russian, there are different attributes that have lain dormant in your DNA. If you were Japanese, the activated “junk” DNA would trigger you to become a different kind of vampire mutation than if you were from Romania.
The birth of Danika and Mila Dubov
For that debut volume of V-Wars, I decided to write about the Russian Wurdulac, a vampire that can only feed on those it loves. And that’s how the story of two sisters of Russian descent, Danika and Mila Dubov, was born, in a long novelette called “Love Less.”
In that original story, Danika is a selfish, hedonistic tabloid talk show host who turns Wurdulac and has to figure out what has happened to her and how to survive when, in fact, there are very few people she has ever given affection to (making it hard for a newly born Wurdulac to feed!)
A couple years after V-Wars was released, Jonathan invited me back to be part of the third book in the prose series, V-Wars: Night Terrors. I wrote a second story called “Love Lost” focused on Mila Dubov, now a vampire thanks to her sister. But Mila hates her condition, refuses to kill people, and instead has become a vigilante, hunting down vampires. When she rescues a fellow vampire vigilante who remains human, Mila begins a love story that is doomed from the start by her new nature.
V-Wars: Night Terrors came out at the start of 2016 and included “Love Lost.” There have not been any further opportunities for me to write about the Dubov sisters over the past four years, but they are two of my favorite characters that I’ve created.
So imagine my excitement when I looked at the cast list this past spring for the Netflix production of V Wars and saw the names Danika Dubov and Mila Dubov listed!
V Wars goes to Netflix
I knew the Netflix series was in production last fall, but originally it was thought that they would only be using Jonathan Maberry’s characters from the comic book series, so I didn’t think any of my contributions to the books would end up being filmed. But… this spring when I looked up the show to see when it would finally be on TV, there they were in the production cast list — Danika Dubov, played by Kimberly-Sue Murray (Shadowhunters) and Mila Dubov, played by Laura Vandervoort (Smallville, Bitten, Supergirl).
I was sitting in a bar after midnight in New Orleans, working on ideas for my 12th novel, Voodoo Heart, when I took a break and Googled V Wars since it had been a long while since I’d heard any updates about it. A minute later, it was all I could do not to grab the bartender, point at my laptop and yell “Look! Danika and Mila are going to be on TV! My girls have hit the big time!”
I restrained myself from grabbing the bartender, but it was not easy. I spent the next few months watching for the release date to be finalized for the show. When it finally debuted, on Dec. 5, I went immediately to the TV as soon as I got home from work and started binging!
It was pretty cool to get to the very end of the first episode and see this:
From author to viewer
I have to say, it was a very strange experience as one of the contributors to the V-Wars books to watch how the Netflix writers kept some elements of stories and characters the same, but changed and consolidated others. In the original books, there were “war” stories going on all across the country. Jonathan’s core stories with Dr. Luther Swann and Michael Fayne “Patient Zero”, were set in New York.
My stories were in Chicago, and Danika and Mila never actually met Swann or Fayne in the books. Yet in the first episode of the Netflix series, Danika is revealed as Fayne’s girlfriend and has changed from a talk show host in Chicago to a realtor in New York. Her basic nature, however, remains unchanged, and she does follow some of the plot points of my original story.
Nancy Holder’s story from V-Wars, featuring crazy biker Bobby, was set in the Southwest in the book, but in the series, those characters are also relocated to New York, and in fact, in one scene, Bobby carries out a brutal act that actually Mila performs in the book.
And speaking of “mix-and-match,” there’s also a touching scene in the Netflix series where Michael Fayne shows mercy on a woman sitting on a bench alone at night, waiting for a bus. He tells her how he has just “lost my brother” and then lets her go.
In the books… that’s actually a scene I wrote for Danika, where she meets a guy on a bench waiting for a bus at night, and her intent is to feed on him. Her nature (not kindness) forces her to let him go, but she bemoans that she has just “lost my sister.” Same scene, just transposed to another character!
There are a lot of merges and changes like that to create a tighter, film-able, story in the series with the characters more interconnected, but still, the kernels of the original stories remain. At one point in Episode Three, in the first scene where we see Danika and Mila together, I actually yelled out from my couch “YES! They kept the soup!” which was a plot point in my original story.
There are plot elements in the original stories that were, by necessity, left out of the series. I think the action sequences in Mila’s love story in “Love Lost” would have made great, edge-of-your-seat TV, but sadly, were not filmed. The gist of that story exists in the series, but is substantially truncated and consequently lacks the emotional punch of the original ending. But… who knows, maybe somehow they’ll use a part of it for Mila’s arc if the series goes on to Season Two.
Either way… characters that I created actually made it to television. Stories that I wrote were adapted and filmed.
That’s an amazing feeling, and something I’ve hoped for for years as a writer. The past few days, watching the reviews, interviews and social media posts about the series have certainly been a high point in my 25+ year writing career.
And Danika and Mila?
Well, I guess they’ve grown up. Kimberly-Sue Murray and Laura Vandervoort did a great job in bringing them to life on the screen. But other writers are working with Danika and Mila now, and I may not have the opportunity again. I hope that I will, but who knows? I’m like any father — I don’t want my kids to leave home, but I’m happy that they’re out in the world and successful now.
Where ever they go, I’ll always be proud of them!