Rich’s vampire romance jumps off the digital page in this delightfully terrifying animated book app.
Nothing about award-winning author Helen Rich is conventional, and she likes it that way. She’s the CEO of Medallion Press and Crixeo and the author of nine books. When she’s not typing, she devotes her time to rescuing animals through her nonprofit On the Wings of Angels, teaching poetry to underserved youth through Triple Threat Mentoring, and training and showing carriage driving horses and ponies. “I’m the only person who fields four-in-hand of horses and the four-in-hand of ponies at the same show,” she proudly admits. Oh, and she’s a Wrigley heiress, but that’s a story for another day.
Her motto? “If there’s a formula, I’m going to defy it. If there’s a rule, I’m going to break it.” It’s no surprise, then, that she deviated from the norm with her vampire romance novella, Angelique, which she wrote exclusively for iPad as an animated book app.
Rich, who was new to the animated book app format, said going digital allowed her to take more creative liberties. Most notably, it allowed her to breathe new life into one of her favorite poems, published in Arabesque, her book of poetry by the same name.
“I had the skeleton; I just had to hang more meat on it,” she told me in an interview for Crixeo.
Angelique tells the story of two lovers, Angelique and Vincent, whose lives are forever changed one harrowing night when a vampire whisks the fair-skinned beauty away and seals her fate as a member of the undead. Now, decades later, they still pine for one another, imagining a world in which they can still be together. If you think you know where this is going, take a seat, because much like its author, Angelique is anything but predictable. Rich’s animated book app takes readers on a dark and twisted ride through the perils of unconditional love.
With the help of gorgeous animated illustrations by Cherif Fortin and Lynn Sanders, Rich’s compelling prose takes readers to a dreary night in Paris with nothing but the glow of the street lights, the occasional click-clack of shoes on cobblestones, and the clinking of glasses in bars to keep the townspeople occupied. (They live around the Belle Époque period on the brink of a scientific revolution, so Netflix, unfortunately, isn’t yet around to keep them busy.) But something sinister lingers in this otherwise tranquil evening: recently, someone has been murdering young men, all of whom have striking physical similarities to one another. Stranger yet is that the killer somehow managed to drain all the blood from each victim.
While the authorities struggle to identify the killer, Vincent, who left the Parisian home he once shared with his gorgeous wife and now studies botany and potions in England, knows the moment he reads the news that Angelique has returned and that he, not these innocent pedestrians, is her true intended victim. He also knows he must make the most difficult decision of his life. Is his desire to be with his beloved more potent than his will to live? And if so, is he willing to return to Paris to do what needs to be done, despite the eternal, irreversible cost?
Though a romance at its core (some scenes are so steamy they could make even the most pallid member of the undead blush), Angelique veers far from the traditional tropes found in vampire love stories, such as the Twilight series, in which a human and a vampire dance around the subject of immortality and scheme to make their relationship last forever. Instead, the story reads much more like a Shakespearean tragedy, one in which the feelings of longing are stronger than lust, and the conclusion is equal parts heartbreaking and beautiful.
With each turn (or rather, swipe) of the page in this animated book app, Rich takes audiences on a visual and auditory journey, guiding them into the pits of sensuality and despair by pairing narration (courtesy of the author herself) with a haunting original score and stunning illustrations. But, according to Rich, the bulk of the interaction took place behind the scenes.
“Everything was planned to the nth degree,” she said.
She wasn’t exaggerating. Though Fortin had worked with Rich before, he said creating art for an animated book app was unlike anything he’d ever experienced. “This book was a departure for me and Lynn [Sanders] in a big way because it was the first project we produced 100% digitally,” Fortin told me.
“In our illustrations, [we’ve always] had our foot in both [mediums] where we would do most of our work digitally, and then we would output it. Then, we would get it on canvas and give it our artistic looseness with the oil paint to tie it all together,” he continued. “This time we didn’t do any traditional work. We kept it digital the whole time. It was really fun and exciting but also a little bit scary because we were really confident in the way we always worked. So this was like stretching ourselves a little bit.”
To get things right, Fortin said he and Rich, along with a team of others, spent hours poring over every last detail. They gathered props and constructed sets, scoured the aisles at costume shops for the perfect, period-appropriate attire, and met with dozens of actors before meticulously selecting two models to portray the main characters, Vincent and Angelique. Then they staged and photographed the scenes, capturing the most visually enticing and important moments from the story line. From there, Fortin and Sanders created one to five digital paintings and sent them to an animation team, who added finishing touches, such as a swirl of leaves or an ominous downpour of rain. The end result, Fortin said, was unlike anything he had imagined.
One of his favorite scenes opens in the dead of night, the mist in the desolate alley illuminated by a single gas lamp. Slowly, a cloaked figure emerges under the warmth of the light she can no longer feel. Though unsettling, there’s something alluring about the being’s nature. It doesn’t take long to see why. As soon as the mist clears, we see Angelique with her “doomed, dark stare and skin so lily-white.” Her piercing eyes almost entrance her onlookers and leave readers wondering if we, too, are the ones she’s hunting. It’s as chilling as it is entrancing.
The experience the animated book app provides is so fun that even those who live and die by print will find themselves unable to pull away from their devices until they’ve completed the last page. Luckily for them, it doesn’t take more than an afternoon to journey through the book’s 12 chapters; yes, Angelique is a perfect summer read.
The animated book app is available for iPad on the App Store.
You can keep up with author Helen Rich on social media: Facebook @HelenRich.