Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Author Interview: Melissa de la Cruz on Blue Bloods

From Hyperion: "Melissa de la Cruz is the author of the bestselling The Au Pairs novels for teens and the coauthor of the adult title How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less (Ballantine, 2003). She writes regularly for Marie Claire, Gotham, Hamptons, and Lifetime magazines and has contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, Allure, and McSweeney's. She has spent time as a journalist covering the club scene in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Melissa de la Cruz is not a Blue Blood, but she knows people who are..." Visit Melissa at MySpace, and read her journal.

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I've always wanted to be a writer, ever since I can remember. But when I graduated from Columbia, I took a job as a computer consultant because it would allow me to live decently in New York, and I wrote my first novel while working at Bankers Trust. I would write it at work and on the weekends. I felt like I had to "write" my way out of the corporate world, and I felt a huge sense of desperation. I was good at programming computers, but the longer I stayed in the corporate environment, the more depressed I knew I was going to be.

I'd always wanted to write books, so it never really occurred to me to try to get a job in magazines or publishing. I wanted to write books, not edit them. I finished my first novel at 22, and I sent it out to about twenty agencies I found through the Writer's Market, following their query guidelines.

Three agents responded favorably, and I went with the agent who'd sold Auntie Mame some twenty years before! He was very supportive, but we were unable to sell the novel. But he did get it in the hands of Geoff Kloske, who was then a young editor at Little Brown (he discovered David Sedaris and Dave Eggers and is now the editor-in-chief of Riverhead). Geoff called me, said he was not buying my book, but he saw something in my writing, and wanted to talk to me about my career. I was floored--and extremely excited. He advised me to try to start writing for magazines, because it's very rare that publishers buy a book from a complete unknown.

I finally published my first essay in the New York Press in 1996, and covered the trendy, fashiony beat for them for years, then I sold my first novel--an adult book called Cat's Meow (2001), to Simon & Schuster in 1998.

By then. I was writing for a ton of women's magazines. I still held on to my day job though--I was at Morgan Stanley by then. I got laid off right before Cat's Meow was published in 2001, and I never looked back. I've been writing full-time since then. I published a non-fiction "chic-lit" book, How to become Famous in Two Weeks or Less, and during the book tour for that, I got a call from Simon & Schuster.

The YA market was exploding--and did I want to try my hand at doing a glamorous book for teens? I was a big fan of Gossip Girl, and I jumped on the opportunity. The Au Pairs published in 2004, and it was the book that changed my life.

Before then, my adult books sold okay, but the Au Pairs sold extremely well, and it opened up all these doors for me. Hyperion asked if I wanted to try my hand at horror, and I'd been kicking around and idea for a while to do a dark fantasy book, and Blue Bloods came to being. For S&S, I also have a new dark series set in LA, called Angels on Sunset Boulevard (excerpt), and a seventh-grade social-climbing saga, The Ashleys, and a jet-setting series called Social Life. And of course, more Blue Bloods books!

For those new to your body of work, could you highlight a few titles?

The most popular books I've written are The Au Pairs and The Blue Bloods series. The Au Pairs centers on three different girls who work as nannies in the Hamptons to a rich family, babysitting by day and partying at night. It's really fun and fast, and there's a lot of romance and drama and social satire. I own that series in conjunction with Alloy. The rest of my books are totally my own.

Blue Bloods is about a group of diverse New York city teens who discover their secret heritage--they are Blue Blood vampires, fallen angels who are doomed to live on earth.

Angels on Sunset Boulevard is my series in LA, about a group of teenagers in the city who are trying to fight an evil cult that uses the Internet to lure its members. It's also about rock and roll and fame with lots of sexy romance and drama.

The Ashleys is my newest series and very fun to write, about four girls, three of whom are named Ashley and who are the most popular girls in junior high, and one, Lauren, who's gone from geek to goddess and wants to destroy the reign of the Ashleys to make the seventh-grade a better place to be.

I also still have a foot in the adult world--my latest book is called Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys (Dutton, 2007), an essay collection co-edited with my good friend Tom Dolby, about the relationship between straight women and gay men. We have some stellar writers in it like Cindy Chupack, Simon Doonan, Gigi Grazer and Andrew Solomon among many other fabulous names.

Congratulations on the success of the Blue Bloods series (Hyperion, 2006-)! Could you fill us in on the global story?

Thanks very much! It's very rewarding that Blue Bloods found an audience. It's very close to my heart. The story centers around a group of teenagers: Schuyler Van Alen, from a once-great and grand New York family that has fallen on hard times; her best friend Oliver Hazard-Perry, a sweet boy who'd rather go to museums than hit the lacrosse fields; Mimi and Jack Force, the richest and most fabulous twins in Manhattan with a strange and secret bond; and Bliss Llewellyn, a Texan transplant who is experiencing strange episodes of deja vu and dread.

They are the newest generation of Blue Bloods, who trace their ancestry to the Mayflower and are perennially reincarnated fallen angels who were cast out of Heaven with Lucifer and are doomed to live on earth. Just as they are starting to discover their new powers, something or someone is hunting them. They have to figure who or what it is--are the dreaded Silver Bloods, vampires who feed on vampires, back to feed once more?

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I read on the Internet once about how all these prominent Americans, like the Roosevelts and the Bushes, and also famous people like Marilyn Monroe, and even Oprah, are descendants of the people who came over from the Mayflower. And I thought, what if all their power and influence is because they're immortal? They're vampires, of course! And of course, I'm a very literal writer (LOL) so the blue bloods actually HAVE blue blood.

For Blue Bloods (Hyperion, 2006). What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I believe it took a year between the idea and publication. It took about three months to write, but it took about six months to even think about it. I wrote all the outlines and mythology and character sketches before I wrote the book. The major event for me was discovering the Roanoke mystery--it fit so well with the story, I think I was halfway done writing Blue Bloods when I stumbled upon the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It was like a light bulb went on. From there it was a race to the finish! I couldn't write the story fast enough.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

In a way, it was really easy to write because it's a story that I've lived--my best friend Morgan (who is the inspiration for Oliver) and I used to go to this club called The Bank, so the first chapter is just based on all those times we would stand there in line. We used to go to numerous nightclubs, and there was always the "will-we-get-in" worry. So it's cool to have Schuyler use her vampire powers to gain entrance. Ha!

The research also fit in really well--a lot of people died in the Mayflower voyage and the first year, almost half of them were killed or died of disease. I had a pretty detailed outline, but like I said, it didn't really click until the Roanoke thing. That's when the book really came to life for me, when I felt like I was excavating a story instead of making it up.

Even the myth with the angels and Lucifer, it just all seemed so right, that it's weird to me that the myth that vampires are fallen angels doesn't exist anywhere but my books. It felt like I was just pulling from the air, like the story was there all along. That felt really awesome. I love Milton's Paradise Lost, and I love the story of Michael and the archangels and Lucifer. There's lots of good stuff in the Bible.

Did you always intend for the story to be a series? How did that aspect evolve?

Yes. Hyperion wanted a series, and they bought two books first, then after Blue Bloods pubbed, bought another two. I'd always intended for a nine-book series. (My editor said, let's hope we get to Blue Bloods 19!) Which I think is a little much. I'm planning to do three three-book arcs for now. There's tons of stuff in the Blue Bloods world, and I want to stay there for a while.

Where does Masquerade (Hyperion, 2007) take the story?

In Masquerade, we see the fabulous Four Hundred Ball, a vampires-only white tie affair, where Schuyler kisses a boy who's wearing a mask. She also travels to Venice to find her grandfather, who holds the key to defeating the Silver Bloods. We learn more about vampire powers, and why Jack and Mimi are awfully close for brother and sister! Also, there's a hot new boy in school who drives the girls crazy.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?

They're so enthusiastic! One of my fans started a Blue Bloods message board, and a site devoted to the book, breaking it down by character and chapter. It's amazing. I get a lot of fan art and fan fiction (which I can't and don't read), but which is just so cool. Teens are the best readers--they read closely, and they're not shy about telling you what they like. I feel like a teen myself, so really, I'm just writing for my peers.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I was pretty level-headed, practical and determined as a young writer. I don't think anything I could say now would really change what I did back then.

I always had a single-minded goal: to become a commercial fiction writer. And now I am, and I don't think I could have gotten here without all the experiences I had in the past.

I was a big club kid, I spent a lot of time in nightclubs, I had tons of fabulous friends, we all had boy drama, and friendship drama. I covered Fashion Week, I went to fashion shoots, I worked at Conde Nast, I summered in the Hamptons, everything in my books is inspired by my life, but I also use my imagination to take it to another level.

I dated and kissed a lot of cute boys before I found my husband, and I don't regret any of them--even the ones who dumped me or never called after a one-night hookup. I feel like a lot of writers just want to write. But you know, you have to live so you have something to write about.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing horror/gothic fantasy?

I guess I write about what scares me. Even though Blue Bloods isn't very scary, or at least, it's not gory, I am Catholic, and even though I say that I am a "secular Catholic," the devil still scares me. Evil scares me, and in Angels on Sunset Boulevard, which is a deal-with-the-devil kind of thing, that scares me too. Like, what if you could have everything you want? Fame, Fortune, Rock and Roll Lifestyle, but you had to lose your soul to get it? I mean, would you say no? Or would you succumb to temptation? I mean, I would hope I would say no. But it's very tempting isn't it? So I write about it.

Which books would you suggest for study and why?

I got a lot of practice writing cliffhangers because I used to write a serial fiction novel for Gotham magazine, and at the end of every chapter I had to write a cliffhanger so people would 'tune in' for the next one. (I also have to add that for the Ashley and Au Pairs books I have all the fun chapter headings because I had to write 'heds' and 'deks' for magazines -you know, headlines like "Lash Attack" or whatever and that was good practice for that.)

I would suggest reading Michael Crichton's novels to understand how to write a page-turner. I can't put his books down! It's hard for me to say "study" books because when I can see the blueprint of the book it takes out the pleasure in reading it.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I am taking care of my nine-month-old baby, hanging out with my husband and my family (my parents and my sister's family live near us), going out to dinner, seeing friends, planning extravagant vacations (it's the only thing that gets me going to finish a book--knowing I get to have a fabulous vacation at the end of it like a reward), and spending way too much money on clothes, shoes and handbags.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

It's hard. That's the hardest actually. Because you can get really bogged down by doing all the PR work, and find you don't do any of the real work, which is the writing. I love doing the PR work because it's just part of procrastinating. I've hired publicists for some of my books (mostly my adult books) so that takes off some of the work. And I think the best promotion is really to write a good book. It gets the word out.

Of course, you need your publisher to put some backing behind you too--if they don't do anything, no one will even hear about your book so how can the word be spread? I'm very lucky to be with S&S and Hyperion, both houses have done an excellent job of promoting my books.

What can your fans look forward to next?

The Ashleys drops in late December/early January, and Blue Bloods: Revelations, is out next fall. The fourth book is tentatively called Apocalypse. And the next book in Angels on Sunset Boulevard is The Strip.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Missing Cyn?

It has been brought to my attention that I have been lax in posting the more daily details of my writing life, which apparently had more of a following than I had realized. My apologies. I will endeavor to correct that.

Today's highlight was lunch at El Arroyo with JW and EE. I very much enjoyed my chicken fajita salad. This afternoon, I'm working on my speech for the upcoming National Book Festival. In other news, GLS and I have been watching season two of "Bones" on DVD. My favorite episode of the season: "Aliens in a Spaceship."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Spooky News & Links

Congratulations to Arthur Slade on the upcoming release of Villainology: Fabulous Lives of the Big, the Bad, and the Wicked, illustrated by Derek Mah (Tundra, 2007). Listen to an audio author interview by the Headless Horseman. Note: it's not working on my computer, but perhaps you will have better luck. Read a Cynsations interview with Arthur on Monsterology.

Why Do Bloggers Blog? by Ilene S. Goldman from the Prairie Wind (newsletter of the SCBWI-Illinois chapter). Thanks to Erin Edwards for suggesting this link.

More Personally

The Faerie Drink Review says of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007): "From young hot werewolves to street bums with a Nosferatuian bite, Tantalize will have your mouth watering for more!" Read the whole review. See also my latest interview at Faerie Drink Review.

Members of Tantalize Fans Unite!, a reader-created group at MySpace, have been creating new logos and banners of late. Highlighted below is an example of their efforts.

Thanks to the Tantalize readers who road-tripped to the Holiday Inn in Tucson to meet me while I was speaking at Wrangling with Writing last weekend. (Hi, Zack!) I was honored, and it was a delight visiting with y'all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Author Interview: Kathleen Duey on A Resurrection of Magic: Skin Hunger

Kathleen Duey on Kathleen Duey: "I don't like writing bios; it's is a self-conscious thing. I have always done it in third person. Everyone does, because that makes it easier to list your stuff and paint a small self-portrait. But it is also weird.

"This morning has so far contained puppy poo, ants in the pantry, and a phone message from an attorney about the HBO option. So it just feels like the right day to write my very first, first-person bio:

"I love and hate writing. We have no intention of splitting up, but there are rough days. I have written over 70 books for pre-readers through adults. I believe that literacy--the ability to pass on stories and facts through writing and reading-is a pillar of civilization.

"And so I am glad to live in interesting times. I am fascinated and excited as I watch media mix into wonderful new forms. I am terrified and excited to see the role of books and the existence of copyright--a relatively recent overlay--in flux worldwide. But the human need for story seems endless. That happy fact diminishes my chances of ever needing a day job."

Visit Kathleen's blog.

Could you describe your path to publication--any sprints or stumbles along the way?

Long, winding, bumpy, silly, ongoing. No MFA program, an odd life, a real love of books and story--it all adds up. It took me about three years to sell the first middle grade novel, with all of the typical detours along the way. I have always been adventurous and open to many different kinds of books and projects. I am sliding toward deeper, artful, hardcover work. But I am actively looking for other, less complicated things, too. So the road is going sideways just now, into audioscripts, book-based website development and other projects.

And the road seems to double back now and then, too. A Resurrection of Magic: Skin Hunger (Atheneum, 2007) is the very first novel idea I ever had, about 15 years ago. I wrote 300 pages of it--then got lost in the woods. I set it aside and started learning craft. I think I have the skill to pull it off now, as a trilogy. Oh, I hope so. I am very involved with the characters--some of them come talk to me in dreams. The intellectual/thematic core of the book is becoming clearer to me as I write--and is even more interesting that I thought it was.

Could you update us on your backlist, highlighting as you see fit?

Anyone who wants to see the whole backlist can look here:


Hoofbeats (Dutton/Puffin-11 titles): two sets of four books --one a pioneer story, the other set in medieval Ireland. Three single titles coming up 2007-2008. I grew up riding my horses, every day, in the Colorado foothills. We were true friends, and I love writing about that ancient bond between child and horse.

The Unicorn's Secret (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster-8 titles): These eight little books are one contiguous story. It's tightly based on dreams I had in the third and fourth grade. Every night I went to sleep here and woke up there--and the reverse. Two lives! It was wonderful. I am writing a book about that experience slowly, working on it now and then...

Congratulations on the release of A Resurrection of Magic: Skin Hunger (Atheneum, 2007)(see also)! Could you fill us in on the story?

This is the book I couldn't finish so long ago. Now it is a trilogy. There is an excerpt as well as the blurbs and reviews here. I am working on the second title in the trilogy now.

And...no, I can't tell you the story, because is changing as I go. I can tell you the premise. It is two stories, set about 200 years part, told in alternating chapters.

Story 1: In the seacoast city of Limori, three scarred and complicated young adults are trying to rediscover and re-assemble magic in a culture that doesn't believe in it. Driven by Somiss, a young man or royal descent, to open a school to teach magic. They face increasingly ruthless resistance from the few who know and fear what will happen if they succeed.

Story 2: Two boys are attending the Limori Academy that these three founders eventually manage to create. In 200 years, it has become a brutal place. Some characters are alive in both stories. The why and how of that is central to the tale.

I am having an astounding experience getting this one on paper (and by paper, I mean hard drive).

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I don't know where this one came from. It woke up with me one foggy morning. The basics came all at once, the setting, the characters, the fact that it was two stories. The details are endless and in still progress.

What were the challenges in bringing it to life?

Psychologically, it is the deepest and most personal thing I have ever written. It is the darkest story I have ever done, too, and I love the characters so much it hurts sometimes.

The complexity was what stumped me years ago. But my tangle-tolerance has been recallibrated since then.

Writing Dead Cat Bounce, a 500 page, huge cast, action/thriller/mystery/love story manuscript, with partner Traci (I am not sure which of her professional surnames she wants to use so I am leaving it out) re-set my complexity gauges forever. Having survived that book, this one wasn't so overwhelming.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?


Three favorites:

first: I left home at 17 and became self-supporting from the day I left. I believe that teens are just inexperienced adults who are often bored because they are (here in the US, and now, in this era) often too sheltered. When they love a book, they really love it. Books really matter to the unjustly restricted.

second: Young adults are in the middle of a fascinating time of life that defines much of what follows, for each of us. What I loved then, I mostly still love. Most of what I struggled with then, I struggle with now. Some battles are decided and over, and some of the joys are lost, but most are still in place.

third: There are a few books that I read as a YA that changed my life. I am in love with the idea that a book of mine might do that for someone.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Travel father and wider.

Take notes and journal more.

Get serious sooner.

And on that snowy night in Steamboat Springs, Colorado? Don't burn all the poems, who cares if he read them?

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing fantasy?

It's a roomy genre. Stretch.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I travel more and more--the farther the better. I read on airplanes, interview strangers, meet bazillions of people when I am talking about books and literacy at school visits, writing conferences, bookseller's events and educators' conferences (all of which I love).

At home, I play my guitar, garden, tend my fruit trees, turn compost heaps, listen to a broad range of music, dance, and avoid writing as long as I can.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

Barely. I just try to fit in everything I can, prioritizing school visits, both here in the US and at international schools. It's difficult to travel as much as I think I should and still get the books written. I always say I will write on the road, but I rarely get much done.

What can your fans look forward to next?

A Resurrection of Magic has two more titles coming, 2008, 2009.

I have just finished three new horse books. I intend now to write one a year as long as they will let me...

Another adult book.

A YA project called Free Rat--more on the website soon. It's another dark one, based on an historic event and set in the near future.

Thanks to everyone who reads my books. I am so grateful to have this job.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spooky News & Links

In its review of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), the International Reading Association's Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy writes: "Tantalize is a thinking reader's horror novel and an entertaining, empowering ride."

Read the whole two-plus-page extensive review (PDF file); scroll to pages 81 to 84 (pg. 7 to 10 of the file) for a Q&A author interview with me about the writing of Tantalize.

Reviews featured in this file also include Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar (First Second, 2006); The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion, 2007); How Ya Like Me Now by Brendan Halpin (FSG, 2007) and New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown, 2006)(author interview).

Attention Austinites: look for the page 1 story on the writing of Tantalize in the West Austin News.

The September giveaways at the Tantalize Fans Unite! group at MySpace will be Peeps (Razorbill, 2005), Pretties (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(excerpt), and Uglies (Simon & Schuster, 2001)(excerpt) by Scott Westerfeld. Scott's latest release is Extras (Simon & Schuster, 2007). Read a Q&A interview with Scott about Extras from Simon & Schuster. Read a Cynsations interview with Scott.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Author Feature: Darren Shan

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I started out writing books for adults, and published my first in the UK a year before Cirque Du Freak (February 1999). I'd been writing a lot since I was 16, 17, but started writing full-time when I was 23. I didn't make any money for a number of years, and then only very little money for a few more after that, but luckily I had very supportive parents who let me live at home with them.

I found an agent (Christopher Little) quite quickly after I started to write full-time, but it took longer to find a publisher.

When I sent Cirque Du Freak to him, he was very excited, but publishers were more wary--20 turned it down before HarperCollins in the UK took a chance on it! It took them nearly two and a half years to publish it (mainly because of an editorial change), and during that time their enthusiasm in-house grew, as it was passed around and read by people in different departments. Then, shortly before its release, Warner Brothers optioned the movie rights, which meant it exploded onto the scene on a wave of publicity which definitely helped get it noticed in the early days.

I've been very lucky--in children's books, it's hard to get noticed quickly, so authors normally have to plug away for many years, gradually building up their audience. I managed to make the breakthrough quite swiftly, so ever since Cirque was published, I haven't had to struggle the way many children's authors have to--I've been able to afford to write full-time.

The first of your books that I read was Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare, Book 1 in the Darren Shan Saga (Little Brown, 2001). There are eleven more in the series. Could you tell us about them?

The 12 book Cirque Du Freak series is about a boy called Darren Shan who becomes a vampire's assistant. My vampires are very different to the traditional stereotypes--they're not evil, they don't kill, they don't have fangs, they don't live forever. The stories explore Darren's life in the world of vampires, the struggles he faces to adapt to his new circumstances, the adventures he gets swept into.

Although it's published as a horror series, I think it's an adventure series more than anything else, which is why it appeals to such a wide range of readers, not just those who like horror. It has a strong horror edge in many books, yes, but also fantasy, science fiction and mystery elements.

Predominantly, though, it's about adventure. It also focuses strongly on family and friendship, and what happens when you lose people close to you, or are betrayed by someone you thought of as a friend. That's why I get far more letters and emails from readers saying they're cried reading my books than saying they've had nightmares!

What inspired you to create these books?

I just write books that I'd like to read. With Cirque Du Freak, I tried to remember what I was like when I was 12, 13, 14 years old, the books and movies I enjoyed. Then I wrote a books which would hopefully include the best of everything that I liked, which the teenage me would have loved to read. I never write a book for an audience or to fill a market niche. I just tell stories which interest me, then hope to hell that other people are interested in them too!

What was the timeline between initial spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I started writing the book a few days after having my initial idea. The first draft took 6 weeks to complete. My agent liked it and sent it out to 20 publishers, all of whom turned it down! Because it was different to everything else that was being published, and because it was so dark and not aimed at a specific age group of children, publishers were wary of it.

Then HarperCollins decided to publish it. It was meant to be published within 18 months, but because my editor left several months later, that got delayed. At the time that was very frustrating, of course, but instead of moping about it, I used that time to forge ahead with the series, to the extent that by the time the first book was published, I'd already written the first draft of book 8!

I release my books very quickly--at least 2 a year--but I spent an average of 2-3 years writing them, working on the editing process. That delay at the start of my career has meant I've always been way ahead of my publication schedule and have never had to worry about a deadline, so, looking back, I'd have to say that was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me!

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing the series to life?

The hardest part was letting the characters develop and change, without developing and changing so much that I started to lose the readers I'd attracted in the first place. The story of Cirque Du Freak spans almost 30 years. Darren only ages physically by 4 or 5 years during that time (because he's a vampire), but obviously mentally he undergoes many more changes. I wanted to show this change, but not have him age so much that children could no longer identify with him. It was a delicate juggling act which I think I just about pulled off!

You followed up this success by launching The Demonata series (Little Brown, 2005-). Could you describe these books?

"The Demonata" is a 10 book series about demons. It's very different than Cirque Du Freak in that there are three narrators, living in different time periods, who take it in turn to tell part of the overall story.

The first half of the series consists of stand-alone story arcs, and the characters and stories don't seem to be particularly connected. But everything comes together at the midway point (books 5 and 6) and the story power straight ahead from there. It was risky, writing a series that for a long time seems to be just a collection of randomly connected story ideas and characters, but I hoped my fans would trust me to pull everything together and create order out of chaos, and luckily most of them have! The books are somewhat bloodier than my vampire books, and I would describe this as a horror series, but the focus of family and friendship remains the same.

In terms of your writing process, did you go about framing this series any differently than the first one? If so, how?

It was very different. Cirque Du Freak was an ongoing storyline, with one main characters, so it was simply a case of me asking myself, 'What happens next?' The story had a natural rhythm and flow, and I simply had to decide what I wanted to add to the mix on a book-by-book basis.

"The Demonata" began life as a series of free-standing stories. I wrote the early books out of order, with no sense of assembling them into a carefully structured series. Because I was so far ahead of publication schedule, I had lots of time to play around with things. I didn't need to present my ideas to my publishers for a few years (I wrote the first draft of Lord Loss way back in 2001!), so I just experimented and went wherever the stories led me.

Fortunately, as I was working on the books, I had more ideas and started to see ways to link them up and mold them into something far more complex and interlinked than I'd originally intended. Through lots of re-writes and editing, The Demonata as we know it finally came together. But in the beginning there was no grand plan--indeed, no plan at all!

What about the children's book audience appeals to you?

Their enthusiasm. If a kid or teenager likes something, they really get excited about it and don't seek to contain that excitement. Adults are more reserved and will tell you politely how much they like your work. That's very nice, but as a big kid myself, I much prefer the open gasps and exclamations of my younger readers!

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

The advice that others writers gave in interviews that I read--write! There are no shortcuts. The more you write, the more you learn and the better you get.

Like most young writers, I hoped there was some sort of trick to it, that I could just be inspired by some magical force, then write the books in a whirlwind daze.

Luckily, I realized quickly that good writing is the result of hard work, so I knuckled down and threw myself into it.

It's frustrating when you're starting out, not being able to write the way you'd like to, not being able to do justice to the stories you have inside your head, having to learn through a process of trail and error, having to write lots of bad stories before you learn to write good ones. But if you accept the need to work hard, and put in the hard work, that struggle and learning curve is what makes everything worthwhile.

I think you can only truly enjoy success if you've had to work for it. If you had a muse and writing came easy, then what would you have done that you could be proud of? A muse could speak through anyone--if the words aren't yours, you can't take credit for them.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing horror?

It's fun!

How about on writing a book series?

It's hard work, but intriguing and stimulating. It's fascinating taking a group of characters on a long, multi-book journey. You get to do things you hadn't planned, go places with them that you never imagined.

I don't think a writer should force a book series--with both Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare and Lord Loss, I had no intention of writing a long series. Each was intended as a one-off book. But if characters grow on you, and you find yourself wondering what happens next with them, then you shouldn't be afraid to take them forward and write a follow-up.

A good story will always suck you in and force you to write it, and you shouldn't shy away from that just because you know some people will accuse you of cashing in and taking the easy option.

Gothic fantasy/horror is so popular with young readers. What do you think it at the heart of the appeal?

We've explored most of this world and it's hard to get really excited about most things now, since we know so much and have seen so much of this planet. But the darkness and the mysteries it holds...they're as enticing and unexplained as ever. People have always been drawn to the unknown and the unknowable, and I think they always will be.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I like to read. I watch lots of movies and TV shows (but only on DVD--I almost never watch a show when it's first airing--I prefer to wait, then watch all the episodes in a short span of time). I enjoy going to art galleries. I like to travel. I go to soccer matches in the UK.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

It's difficult. Success brings a whole new set of problems--fan mail to respond to, a web site to maintain, tours to promote your work, interviews.

When you're as prolific as I am, and published in so many countries, the problems are amplified. Some writers choose to bypass those problems--they only tour rarely, they hire someone to reply to fan mail or just ignore it, they don't give interviews, they ignore the web or leave the running of their site in the hands of others.

I prefer to meet the problems head-on--I tour every year, I've been all around the world promoting my books, I'm always happy to give an interview, I run my web site myself, I reply personally to every letter that I receive. And I fit my work in around all that. It's easy enough to do as long as you're focused and make the most of your time.

I probably won't always be able to keep so many balls up in the air at the same time, but for as long as I have the energy, I like fitting so much in.

My favorite ever quote was by film director Cecil B. DeMille's brother, who said, 'The problem with Cecil is he bites off more than he can chew--but then proceeds to chew it!'

I like setting the bar high and having a running at it. Life's easier if you settle for the things you can comfortably manage--but where's the fun in that?!?

What can your fans look forward to next?

The rest of The Demonata series (10 books, coming out every April and October). Then...something else! I'm already hard at work on my next project, but I can't talk about it yet.

All I'll say is, there's still a lot more to come. I'm nowhere near to easing up yet!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fantasy Genre Web-based Seminar: Learn How to Tame Dragons, Negotiate with Wizards and Attract More Kids and Teens to the Library

From Jeanette Larson (author interview)(recommendation) and Raab Associates:

The fantasy genre captivates people of all ages, especially children and teens. Whether you're a devoted fantasy reader or wish you knew more about the genre, get the inside scoop on fantasy in our culture by joining us on Sept. 28, when the Authors as Experts Web Seminar Series presents "A Practical Guide to Fantasy" with Nina Hess. Author of A Practical Guide to Monsters (Mirrorstone, 2007), Hess is an experienced guide to this literary world. She will teach participants how to keep monsters at bay, tame dragons and negotiate with wizards.

Hess is also a senior editor at Mirrorstone Books, a company that is totally immersed in the genre. In this Web-based seminar, Hess will discuss the popularity of fantasy for all kids and its value in encouraging reluctant readers--particularly boys, to feel at home in the library. She will also talk about incorporating role-playing, costume parties, and fantasy script-writing into library programs for children and teens.

These one-hour web seminars provide continuing education courses for public and school librarians. They can also be adapted for teacher groups upon request.

Seminar Details At-A-Glance

Seminar: A Practical Guide to Fantasy

Date: September 28, 2007

Time: 11 a.m. Eastern Time [10 a.m. CT, 9 a.m. MT, 8 a.m. PT]

Format: This is a Web-based seminar. Registered participants will receive participation instructions, log-on information and a toll-free number to dial in for the audio portion of the seminar upon payment of the registration fee. Seminars run for one hour.

Cost: $50 per person

Discounts are available for group registration. To Register: send name and contact information to: info@raabassociates.com. You may either email or call in your credit card information at 914-241-2117.

About the Authors as Experts Web Seminar Series

This Web Seminar is part of a series of programs produced by Raab Associates Inc., marketing consultants specializing in children's books, in cooperation with Library Services Consultant Jeanette Larson, the former Youth Services Manager at Austin Public Library.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Spooky News & Links

Children's and Young Adult Author Sheri Sinykin: official author site features first chapter of current book, biography, bibliography, author visit information, teacher guides, peer editing guide, links, etc. Sinykin launches a "second writing career after a lengthy period of writer's block" with Giving Up The Ghost (Peachtree, 2007)(excerpt)(teacher's guide) and her first picture book, Zayde Comes to Live (Peachtree, TBA). She was lead author of the Magic Attic Club series and the author of nine other books for young readers in the 1990s.

Cherry Books is a new independent bookstore in in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Guerilla Marketing and Other Secrets of the Trade: Book Marketing for Independent Publishers by Jessica Powers from NewPages. Jessica is the author of The Confessional (Knopf, 2007).

August 2007 reviews at TeensReadToo include: Blood Brothers by S.A. Harazin (Delacorte, 2007); The Confessional by J.L. Powers (Knopf, 2007); Daemon Hall by Andrew Nance (Henry Holt, 2007)(author interview); Head Case by Sarah Aronson (Roaring Brook, 2007); and Scary Beautiful by Niki Burnham (Simon Pulse, 2007)(author interview). In addition, this month's giveaways include two copies of my novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). See the complete list.

Has a Mythical Beast Turned Up in Texas? Texas Town Abuzz Over Reports That Mythical, Bloodsucking 'Chupacabras' Are in Their Midst from ABC News. Source: Hit Those Keys.

Author Brian Yansky will be signing Wonders of the World (Flux, 2007)(author interview) at the Barnes & Noble Round Rock at 2 p.m. Sept. 15.

More Personally

Listening Library/Random House has purchased audio rights to Tantalize. I'll keep you posted on the release date and reader.

The Candlewick Press website debuts audio of a brief reading by me of Tantalize as well as additional thoughts on the novel. Click here and see the sidebar.

I look forward to presenting both this novel and my recent picture book, Santa Knows, co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006), at the upcoming Kansas Book Festival in Wichita Oct. 5 and Oct. 6. Featured authors also include: J.B. Cheaney (author interview); L.D. Harkrader (author inteview); Kimberly Willis Holt (author interview); Greg Leitich Smith (author interview); and Dian Curtis Regan (author interview). Note: I am a fellow of the Kansas Center for the Book.

Love and best wishes to my husband and sometimes co-author, Greg Leitich Smith, as today is our 13th wedding anniversary!