Sunday, October 11, 2009

Author Interview: Cynthia Leititch Smith

1) How did you come up with the idea for TANTALIZE?
I'd known for a long time that I wanted to write a spooky story. I was a huge Stephen King fan in middle and high school, and later, as an adult, I'd adored Joss Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for its humor, intelligence, girl power, romance, and occasionally really creepy episode.
So I did my homework. I looked hard at the Gothic YA books that preceded my attempt to write one-my favorite being BLOOD & CHOCOLATE by Annette Curtis Klause. (This was 2001-2002, so there actually weren't very many). I studied Gothics written for adults, and I traced that tradition all the way back to Abraham Stoker and the tales that had come before him, including folktales from around the world.
While studying Stoker, it occurred to me that Dracula could take the form of a man and a wolf (among others), and I thought it would be interesting to write a murder mystery in which the central question was whether the murderer was a werewolf or a vampire in wolf form.
Beyond that, I drew on the romantic tradition of Gothics-see Lucy and Mina's letters from Dracula, as examples-and injected my modern gender sensibilities, devotion to diverse casts, and some humor.
2) Quincie seems to be going through a lot of personal problems through the course of the novel, did you take any of these experiences from your own life? Do you think you would've handled them the same way she did?
Quincie is battling quite a few foes-personal loss, some puppet masters, the impending departure of her best friend and first love among them. We've all had our heart aches, but it wasn't until I was writing Tantalize that I suffered close personal losses. Four members of my family-including my dad and grandma--died during the early stages of the series. So while the facts are different, I'm sure much of the emotion on the page came from me.
Quincie and I are alike in some ways-we're both hyper organized and ambitious, we both love deeply but are sometimes reluctant to admit vulnerability. That said, my adolescence was considerably calmer than hers.
When you're looking at the character, though, it's important to remember that the end of TANTALIZE isn't the end of Quincie's story. She'll be back in BLESSED, which I sent to my editor just last month.
3)What was the most challenging part about writing this book? What was the easiest?
The hardest thing was not protecting Quincie. Great heroes have to face great challenges. But of course authors also love their heroes, and it can be hard to see them suffer. I know that may sound a little out of the box. After all, we're talking about fictional people. But if I don't believe in my characters, who will?
The restaurant setting came easiest. I'd worked as a waitress after high school and in college to help pay for my educational expenses. I love how restaurants are such stages for drama. Think about it: you have thematic d├ęcor, food, music, staff in costumes. Occasionally, people burst into song.
Also, readers tend to think of vampires as more drinkers than diners, so that added some fresh blood to the mythology.
4) Is there any snack you HAVE TO HAVE while you're writing? Any kind of music, object, etc. you can't write without?
I'm fond of the music of Eartha Kitt, but really I'm pretty flexible. I do like pecans as a treat, though, and it certainly helps if one or more of my four kitties is there to help.
5) What comes first for you--the characters or the plot?
With TANTALIZE, I had the general framework of the murder mystery, but I had to build out the characters, and that took time. I went old-school with it, tearing pictures of models out of magazines, writing letters to and from the characters, interviewing them, picking out wardrobes for them at local boutiques.
However, I usually start with character, asking myself what that person wants most and what's in his or her way.
6)What's up for you next? Are you working on another novel?
ETERNAL, which set in the same universe as TANTALIZE, was released this year. I'm working on BLESSED now, and that story crosses over the two casts, picking up where we left off with Quincie at Sanguini's. There's also a TANTALIZE graphic novel adaptation in the works. It's told from the point of view of Kieren, the hybrid werewolf. He's off-stage a lot during the prose novel, so there are a lot of new scenes.
You can also find a couple of my related short stories in IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, edited by P.C. Cast, and SIDESHOW: TEN ORIGINAL TALES OF FREAKS, ILLUSIONISTS, AND OTHER MATTERS ODD AND MAGICAL, edited by Deborah Noyes.
On the realistic fiction front, I have another new short story out, co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, in GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci.
So, yes, I'm definitely keeping busy, and there's much more to come!

Be sure to check out Cynthia's website! She's really an outstanding author and I'd like to thank her for doing the first author interview for my blog.YAY =)

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