'Hobbit' Director Guillermo Del Toro Talks Vampire Novel 'The Strain'

'There was a lot of freedom in the writing, but brutality in the editing,' the director said of collaborating with writer Chuck Hogan.

Anyone who has paid attention to the career of [movieperson id="142455"]Guillermo Del Toro[/movieperson] knows he has a thing for vampires. From his early film "Chronos" to his Wesley Snipes vehicle "Blade II" to his flirtation with helming "I Am Legend," the Mexican-born director has mined the mythology of various blood-sucking, flesh-eating undead for years. But as del Toro revealed when he stopped by the MTV News offices to discuss his new vampire novel, "The Strain," his connection to the supernatural beings go far back into the past.

"I was a very strange child," he said. At age 7, after discovering a Mexican paperback that dealt with Eastern European occult folklore, Del Toro began to seek out obscure 18th- and 19th-century manuscripts in translation and generally consumed everything he could get his hands on about dark, mythical themes.

"I became obsessed with vampire fact," he said.

But it was not until another obsession entered his life that he decided to co-write — along with novelist Chuck Hogan — a trilogy of vampire books. "Originally, I was fascinated by 'The Wire,' " del Toro said. "And I started thinking to do a procedural drama in limited-series format, because I love the cable stuff like 'Deadwood' or 'The Wire' or 'The Sopranos' that ends when it needs to end and not when the ratings tells you it has to end."

Drawing on knowledge gleaned from his films, Del Toro started writing a so-called "bible" that contained the arc for an entire series about vampires. He then brought the material to a TV network at which he had a development deal.

"I went there, presented my bible very dutifully and they said, 'Oh, we like vampires, but could you make it a comedy?' " he said. "And I just went out, validated my parking and left rapidly."

With the TV series idea dead, Del Toro began to think of other formats to which he could convert his vampire material. A practiced screenwriter and a lifelong short-story writer, he eventually settled on the idea of writing novels.

That's where Hogan, who has written thrillers like "The Standoff" and "Prince of Thieves," came into the picture. After the director sent him the "bible" — "Two pages in, he was hooked," Del Toro said — they started writing separately and e-mailing each other chapters.

"There was a lot of freedom in the writing, but brutality in the editing," Del Toro said.

"The Strain," which hit bookshelves at the beginning of June, tells the story of a vampiric virus that infects New York City and the doctor with the Centers for Disease Control who must find a way to contain the pathogen before the entire globe is affected.

Del Toro and Hogan already have plans for two more books that will investigate vampire mythology and spirituality. Might Del Toro then return to the idea of bringing his vampire fiction to the small screen? The director, who was about to fly off to New Zealand to begin work on his big-screen adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," was doubtful.

"I want to finish the three books," he said. "I want to see how they evolve and then we'll think about it."