Monday, October 29, 2007

Author Interview: Marta Acosta on Happy Hour at Casa Dracula and Midnight Brunch

Marta Acosta received a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Stanford University and "is a frequent contributor of humor, gardening and design columns to The San Francisco Chronicle and The Contra Costa Newspapers." She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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

My path to publication was like going into the Great Mall of America, intending to buy a pair of Hello Kitty socks, and getting detoured, lost, confused, and distracted for an excessively long time. I was lucky enough to eventually get out with the socks.

My first detour was having the delusion that selling a screenplay was easier than selling a novel. It isn't, and, as a friend of mine once informed me, "It's who you know, and you don't know anyone." My second detour was writing a rather cynical (okay, a really cynical) noir thriller. Editors thought it was well written and original, but not marketable. I'd always written humor to entertain my friends and myself, and it occurred to me that I should write a funny novel.

Congratulations on the rave reception to both Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (Pocket, 2006)(excerpt) and Midnight Brunch (Pocket, 2007) from the Casa Dracula series! Could you give us a brief overview of the books?

My heroine, Milagro, has a degree in writing from a Fancy University (F.U.), but she can't seem to make a decent living. She's a funny, good-natured, smart young woman who likes having a good time and is serious about her writing. She worries that she's too frivolous and wants a serious relationship and to be seen as a serious person. She meets "a fabulous man" and accidentally becomes infected with his family's condition. The "condition" would generally be called "vampirism."

When the vampires' enemies discover that Milagro is infected, they pursue her and she's forced to hide out with the wealthy, accomplished vampires at their country estate. She thinks they're snobs, and they think she's a tacky skank. The vamp enemies track them down, capture them, and endanger the whole family. Milagro uses her wits, wiles, and courage when she goes to save the vamps. The vamp family comes to appreciate Milagro and she finds a home with them. The second in the series, Midnight Brunch, follows her further adventures with nuts, extremists, and egoists.

What was your initial inspiration for creating this series?

I love screwball comedies, comedies of manners, comic romances, all that stuff. So I wanted to write a story with an impoverished, independent young woman trying to make her way in the world. I also wanted to spoof the vampire conventions of these angsty, supernatural creatures. My vamps know how to throw a party, laugh, and fall in love.

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

I had the idea, but wrote sporadically. I was working full time, busy with my family life, and writing other projects, too. So the book took me two years to complete, on the occasional weekend and evening. It took about six months to get an agent, a few months to do a rewrite and for her to sell it in a two-book deal. And once the sale was made, it was at least a year before publication. Things happened faster later.

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

The challenge is fight self-doubt and discouragement. The publishing business makes no sense to me. I think it shouldn't even be called a business. It should be called a whimsy, or maybe a caprice. Some people will like your writing; others will hate it. You can't take it personally.

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

The advice I would offer is no longer applicable since newspapers are vanishing, but it would be to establish oneself as a writer by writing newspaper columns and articles. It teaches one to write on deadline, to write to an audience, to accept editing, and to do research. Also, getting paid for your writing is fab.

Any advice for series writers specifically?

I'd written Happy Hour at Casa Dracula as a single-title, and I was pleasantly surprised when my editor asked for another. You must find your characters interesting enough that you want to stay with them and follow them.

How do you balance writing with your responsibilities (promotion, contracts, travel) as an author?

I don't. I find myself back in that damn mall, being lured into stores that don't have socks and thinking that a ride on the roller coaster would be fun.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I just handed in the manuscript to my third novel, The Bride of Casa Dracula, which will be published in September 2008. Alas, I am once again throwing poor Milagro into dangerous situations, but that's her fate. I'm also writing a Gothic young adult novel that I'm excited about. It's set at an exclusive, all-girls school with a dark secret. Dark secrets are the best kind, and I love Gothic fiction.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Yes, I'm always happy to hear from readers. My email is, and my website is I'm also on MySpace and trying to figure out FaceBook.

Spooky Notes

This interview is half of a discussion that the two of us are having vamp to vamp, blog to blog. See her brand new interview with me, and leave a comment to win a prize. A winner will be chosen on Friday! Likewise, leave a comment with me at Cynsations LJ!