Creating a world in which a story is set into can be a challenge. What things do you take into consideration when creating that world?
One of my favorite things about the Vamped series is that I get to take my readers to a new place each time. The series is set in our world, so I don’t have to make something up out of whole cloth, but I do have to make sure each locale is a place I know and have internalized to the point where I can convey the spirit of it, even when I change this shop name or tweak a location to fit the needs of the story. I want to write every setting like an intimate insider. My worldbuilding comes into play a lot more with the mythology. What kind of vampires do I want to use? What other magics populate the world? What are the rules, powers and limitations? For the Vamped series, I chose classic vampires but an unconventional heroine, one who’s neither angsty nor kick-ass…though she gets there in the end. My heroine Gina is, in fact, a teen fashionista who gets bitten at the after-prom party and soon after wakes up dead. She has to claw her way out of the grave, totally ruining her manicure, only to discover that while she’s gained eternal youth, she’s lost the opportunity to make the most of it…. No reflection, no way to fix her hair and make up—her own personal hell! It was a lot of fun to give something old a new spin. Of course, vampires might not be all that goes bump in the night, but you learn more about all that as the series goes on.
Who was the most difficult character (from one of your books) for you to write and why?
My most difficult character is my protagonist, Gina. You see, I’m a geek. Gina wouldn’t make any of the same pop culture references I would. She probably doesn’t know a thing about Harry Potter (unless there was a feature about him in Cosmo) or tried butterbeer (too many calories!). It was challenging to write a character who didn’t think about the same things in the same way I would. However, once I got the hang of her, she started to affect my thinking. I literally can’t shop without hearing her in my head. She’s even insisted on her own blog so that she can continue her work of helping the fashion-challenged with her “How Not to be a Hot Mess” posts.
If you could spend the afternoon with your favorite fictional character, who would it be and what would you do?
Oddly, I’m not sure my favorite fictional characters and I would have much in common. Maybe that’s why I love them. They have strengths I can only aspire to. They fight real battles and overcome important challenges. Take Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collin’s excellent Hunger Games series. After I ran out of praise, which she’d undoubtedly be terribly impatient with, what would I have to say that would be at all relevant to her world? I suppose I most read about people in difficult situations who do the extraordinary, whether it’s becoming one of the undead and facing a vampire vixen who wants to turn your classmates into her own undead army or instigating a revolution. I suppose that if I could meet any of my favorite fictional characters, I’d find out what I could do to help. Then I’d find out what I was made of.
Was there a book as a child that you read which inspired you to be a writer and what book was it? Or What were your favorite books to read as a child?
I was a horsey girl growing up. I mucked stalls, sniffling and snuffling from allergies and asthma the entire time, and babysat crazy hours to make the money for the lessons my parents discouraged because of those medical conditions. Thus, I read all the horse books out there. One of my most inspirational moments ever was writing to Jean Slaughter Doty, the author of The Monday Horses, and having her write back. A lovely, handwritten note that probably made my tween years. I don’t know that there was a particular book that inspired me to write, but I do know there were many, many books that inspired me to read. Among them: The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett, Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall, The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare…. I could go on forever!
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What is your most embarrassing/funny/scary Halloween experience or costume?
I wish I had one! I’m so boring. I’m the person who gives away far too much candy during Halloween. Maybe that’s scary: I’m willingly giving away chocolate!!! ;)
What was the most surprising thing that you discovered about one of your characters that you didn’t see coming?
Oh wow. That had to be when I was writing RAGE. I was getting ready to write the big battle scene by the end of the book…when I suddenly heard the voice of War. Now, you have to understand that the entire book is written in close third-person, past tense. But out of nowhere, I heard this booming voice—definitely an ALL CAPS sort of voice—declare: “The world is a wound, and I will cauterize it.” And I was like, WHAT THE HECK IS THAT??? It was the voice of War. And that’s why there’s one chapter in the book that suddenly switches to first-person present tense. A close second is I was surprised that it took me 22 drafts to get LOSS right. Oy!!!
If you could spend the afternoon with a favorite fictional character, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d hang out with the Doctor, from DOCTOR WHO. An afternoon can be an entire lifetime – and it can be eye-opening and enlightening and fun and dangerous and brilliant.
When authors create a world for a series there are rules they need to stick with for consistency, are there things you would change in your book world that you didn’t foresee being an issue initially?
There definitely are rules. If you don’t stick with the rules you create, you break the reader’s trust. There have to be rules, whether you’re writing a paranormal novel or a contemporary one. There must be established limits—otherwise, it’s all And Then The Hero Or Heroine Are Brilliant And Save Everyone Easily And At No Personal Peril, and it’s boring and un-fun. That’s not to say that authors don’t make mistakes. Sometimes, we don’t know until book three something that would have played out differently had we known it in book one. The trick is figuring out A) how to work that “mistake” into the overall series and B) how to fix it going forward. Entire subplots can be created to fix such mistakes. That happened to me in my first adult paranormal-romance series: I had to come up with a reason why one branch of Hell changed its name. Whoops!