Sunday, January 30, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Cyn in sunglasses - love it
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of ETERNAL and TANTALIZE (both Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include HOLLER LOUDLY, JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins). She is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column. In January 2011, Cynthia is celebrating the release of BLESSED, the third novel in the TANTALIZE series. Kirkus Reviews calls it: "Wild and ultimately fascinating"…"..the pages fairly smolder in describing their [Quincie and Kieren] attraction to one another." The Horn Book cheers: "A hearty meal for the thinking vampire reader."
And now our q & a:
Joy: Your publisher’s blurb describes Blessed (the latest installment of the Tantalize series, combining characters from Tantalize and Eternal) as “a wink and a nod to Bram Stoker.” Can you explain your homage to Stoker’s Dracula in this series? Do readers need a working knowledge of that classic to best read Blessed?
Cyn: Dracula was the inspiration novel for the series. In doing my homework, I read the preceding YA Gothics like Vivian Vande Velde’s Companions of the Night and M.T. Anderson’s Thirsty.
(This was back in late 2001/early 2002 before the paranormal craze kicked off.)
Then I turned to horror and paranormal romance novels published for grownups, going all the way back to the classics and the ancient oral stories that inspired those.
I found myself obsessing over Stoker’s Dracula, the quintessential vampire novel. So many of his themes—gender dominance, the “dark” foreigner, religion, plague, conquest, orientation—are still very much in play today.
I took note of the fact that, in Stoker’s mythology, vampires could take the form of wolves, and I thought it might 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.
From there, I gender flipped Quincey P. Morris, a Texan who was one of Van Helsing’s original vampire hunters, and brought the mythology “home” to Texas.
Each of my books inches closer to Stoker’s classic, and a fourth (still untitled) novel—in progress now—draws on the Count’s back story.
That said, no, you don’t have to have read Dracula for my series to make sense, though it’s perhaps an even more fun read for those who have. I made every effort to provide sparing connective tissue to the classic where necessary.
Joy: Why do you think vampire stories have continued as an ongoing presence in literature, particularly pop culture?
Cyn: A good “vampire” story is a good story—period, one that resonates in our own real world. It’s all about the metaphors—the other, the outsider, addiction, dominance, passion, fear, friendship, love…. What happens when we die? What would happen if we didn’t? And perhaps most of all, what does God have to do with it?
Joy: I know that you and I share a love of all things Joss Whedon and therefore Buffy, but beyond – and including – BTVS, what are your favorite vampire stories – books, movies, television - and why? Favorite fictional vampire?
Cyn: Buffy, yes! Whedon’s “Buffy” TV series to be specific. Beyond that, I have a particular affection for “Lost Boys” and “Fright Night.” My inner 1980s adolescent may be showing, but I think horror works best when juxtaposed against humor.
You need some light to appreciate the darkness.
Joy: And since the above question has touched on it – favorite Buffy episodes?
Cyn: I’m fond of “The Zeppo,” which is framed from Xander’s point of view. I especially enjoyed the melodramatically filmed Buffy/Angel love scenes from his perspective. Very funny.
Beyond that, “Hush” was fantastic, authentically scary, and “The Body” quite affecting. I also adored any Willow-centered episode. If Willow cried, I cried.
Joy: Tell us a little bit about your vampires. What’s uniquely Cyn Leitich Smith about the vamp mythos you’ve created for this series?
Cyn: I should probably start off with the caveat that I see my books as set in a multi-creature verse rather than as vampire novels per se. Main characters also include angels, ghosts, and a wide variety of shapeshifters. You'll even find a pesky human or two.
That said, one of the reasons that I began writing them in the first place was to nod to, but also talk back to Bram Stoker. I’ve always had a problem with the long-time supposition that someone attacked by a vampire—penetrated (by fang) against their will—was automatically considered a monster and literally damned.
It reminded me too much of the way rape victims are still too-often viewed and treated today. Though, it’s subtle and handled through metaphor, I address that traditional view in Blessed.
Beyond that, there are a number of smaller, contextual tweaks. I’ve created a vampire society with its own history, political structure, and system of laws as well as, say, architectural predispositions. The undead, for example, are big fans of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Joy: How does your use of a restaurant setting mesh with a vampire tale?
Cyn: Restaurants are tremendous stages for drama. You have thematic décor, menus, costumes, people bursting into song. It’s like entering another world. And sure, folks tend to think of vampires as more drinkers than diners, but I thought that would generate some of the fresh blood I wanted to infuse in my series.
Joy: Van Helsing vs. Buffy?
Cyn: Buffy + Giles would trump Van Helsing. But the doctor knows his spooky stuff.
Joy: Chicago vs. Austin?
Cyn: Austin winter, Chicago summer.
Joy: The perfect meal to accompany a reading of Blessed?
Cyn: Wasabi deviled eggs, West Texas rattlesnake ravioli, three little javelina chops with lamb’s liver, followed by kumquat sherbet with frozen eyes of newt, garnished by a newt-shaped butter cookie!
Joy: Is there anything you'd like to add?
Cyn: Tantalize: Kieren's Story, a graphic novel to be illustrated by Ming Doyle, will be released by Candlewick Press in August 2011.
Want to meet Cyn? Check out her Blessed tour schedule here:
Til next time...
Sunday, January 23, 2011
- Come to the kick off event of my Haunted mini tour - my launch party/signing at The Woodlands Barnes and Noble in The Woodlands TX on Saturday 2/5 from 2-4 PM.
I'll put up my finalized travel schedule soon (waiting on Publicist Paul to give me all the final details about some stuff) but you can expect to see me:
2/26 - Changing Hands in Tempe AZ, 4 PM (more events to come soon)
3/5 - Borders in The Woodlands TX, 2 PM
- 3/15 - School visit at Pilgrim School in LA
- 3/15 - Barnes and Noble, Glendale, CA, 6:30 PM (more events to come)
- 3/26 - Champions Forest Barnes and Noble, Houston Tx - book fair w/Banff School (time TBA, but probably 1PM)
- 4/1- Barnes and Noble, Layton, UT, (have to find out time)
- 3/31- 4/2 - various events in Salt Lake City, UT - to be announced soon
- 4/9 - Houston Teen Book Con at Alief Taylor High School from 10-4 Check out their website. I am so excited to be appearing with the likes of Rachel Hawkins, Lauren Myracle, Deb Caletti, Ellen Hopkins, Gail Giles and many others!! http://www.teenbookcon.org/
- 4/14 - 4/17 (exact dates to be announced) TLA in Austin (two different signing events)
Let me emphasize here that as I was just beginning my thyroid cancer journey last year at this time, I am beyond grateful and thrilled to be here typing all these dates for you. When my box of author copies of Haunted came a couple of days ago, I surprised myself by bursting into tears.
Am also doing my very first Skype visit this coming week - from my classroom to 100 jr. high kids in FL!! This will either be very fun or very weird. I will let you know. (We practiced on Friday - just me here in TX and the teacher and media center guy in FL. "Can you see me?" "Can you hear me" "Look, it's Joy Preble eating a banana in her classroom and grading Hamlet essays"
Will be blog touring as well.... and doing some contests... and did you check out my book trailer (link on previous post) I lOVE my book trailer. I LOVE Marianne Nowicki of NoWicki Productions.
And writing Again and Again so I can tell you how it all turns out.
Up this week on the blog: a wonderful interview/conversation with my friend and mentor and really cool Texas writer, Cynthia Leitich Smith. Cyn's third book in the Tantalize series, Blessed, is out Tuesday 1/25. She stopped by virtually to chat vampires and other really cool stuff. It's a great post, so don't miss it!! Until then, stop by Cyn's main Cynsations blog: http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/
And of course the Kiss Me Kill Me Blog Tour with Sarwat Chadda continues at: http://sarwatchadda.blogspot.com/
Til next time!!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Check out Billi on the cover of Dark Goddess - all that badass red in her outfit
Sarwat: Years ago I read a series of books by Peter Morwood, the first called Prince Ivan. They took old Russian fairy tales and wrote them as staright prose adventures. I was a huge fantasy fan at that point but getting bored with the usual ‘elves and dragons’ north European settings that seemed to dominate the genre.
Russia is mysterious and old. I love the architecture, the mix of East and West, the size of it and the vast, romantic range of it. Deep forests, wide empty steppes, the ice lands of Siberia. It feels the myths of the past still lie just below the surface. It’s a land of extremes and that makes it the perfect setting for supernatural adventure.
Joy : As you know, I use Baba Yaga extensively in the Dreaming Anastasia series. One of my favorite things about this witch is that she is unpredictable. She might kill you; she might help you, depending on her mood. And either way, you won’t leave her forest unchanged. How about you? Why Baba Yaga? And why did you choose to include her in Dark Goddess?
Sarwat: Baba Yaga is wise, generous to those that deserve it but a harsh judge. I wanted her to be someone who deserved awe, the closet thing you could get to a living divinity, but one who’s lost patience for mankind. She’s seen civilizations rise and fall and hoped mankind would get better, wiser. He’s been given his chance and frankly, he blew it. Baba Yaga symbolises the judgement above humanity. We treat the planet and its resources as those it’s ours, forgetting we share it with many others. Baba Yaga is inhuman, she represents those species other than mankind. And the question is, have any of those other species prospered under mankind’s rule? I think not. I neede someone ancient, wise and with nature’s cruelty and generosity. That could only be Baba Yaga.
Joy: So when you began your research into Russian mythology/folklore, any interesting generalities that stood out to you?
Then you’ve the dark underbelly. Everyone knows about the Russian Mafia and I find that contrast, a world of extreme violence with the deep religious dedication, a perfect match for the world of my books.
Joy: Billi is a fascinating and definitely badass heroine. But then again, so is Baba Yaga. Strengths and weaknesses? (I'd definitely love to see a cross-over where we pair Billi with my character, Anne. No bad guys would survive that mash up!)
Sarwat: Billi’s biggest strength is her determination. She will never give up. Her other strength is her doubt. She is not some blind follower who just does what she’s told. She realises her responsibility, as a warrior and as someone capable and duty-bound to take life, but weighs up each action carefully.
Baba Yaga deals with the same sort of judgement. She’s striving for balance in a world seriously out of whack. Billi’s encounter with Baba Yaga is all about Baba Yaga recognising their similarities and tempting her to join her. Billi understands Baba Yaga’s cause, even though she can’t agree with it. There is great mutual respect, even between enemies.
Billi’s weakness is her sense of loneliness. She wants to belong and will make mistakes because of that. She had no love during her upbringing so lacks that central understanding of what it is to be loved. That means she can be cold and heartless. Her treatment of Vasilisa, a young girl, is a case in point.
Joy: In Haunted, I will be introducing another Russian folkloric creature – the rusalka, which is basically a mermaid only really malevolent and tragic. No Disney-ized Ariel, that’s for sure. I see that in Dark Goddess you introduce the Bogatyrs and the Polenitzy. Tell us about them.
Sarwat: A lot of the old Russian fairy tales deal with the Bogatyrs, a group of Christian knights. I thought they’d make a perfect match for the Templars, their cause is the same. However I wanted them to be a dark, corrupted version, a sort fo what might happen to the Templars if they’re not careful.
The Polenitsy are another thing entirely. Russian legends mention a group of Amazons, called the Polenitsy. Dark Goddess is very much inspired by Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarrisa Pinkola Smith and Angela Carter’s Company of Wolves. Both deal with female mythology and have been very influential in Billi’s creation.
I wanted Baba Yaga’s followers to be a homage to these two writers, an all-female tribe of powerful werewolves, the last of their kind. Then I discovered that the original legends about the Amazons came from Southern Russia and burial sites had been found with tall, armour clad women buried within. So the legends turned out to be true and in an instant I had the sisterhood who have followed Baba Yaga throughout history.
They are another counterpart to the Templars. Billi’s surrounded by men so it was exciting to present her with an equally powerful, equally dedicated, female order. The sisters she never had.
Joy: Of course, we both use Anastasia Romanov in a fantasy/alternate history capacity. Tell us about this great -grandson of Anastasia in Dark Goddess. Very intriguing!
Sarwat: How could I not include Anastasia? Most of the fun I have in writing is mixing up legends, history and myths to create Billi’s world. It was inevitable that, if I was going to set the book in Russia, the Romanovs would be a part of it. Tsarevich Ivan Alexeivich Romanov is the great-grand son of the princess. In my version of history she was rescued by the Bogatyrs. Since then her descendents have been leaders of the Bogatyr knights.
I’m also somewhat tired by the rebel bad-boy cliché. Ivan’s bad, mad and exceedingly dangerous to know. But he’s rich, elegant, cultured and royalty. That mix of nobility and lethality makes him a unique character, and someone who can match Billi.
Joy: And finally, in Dark Goddess you also introduce the character of Koschei the Deathless, whom I allude to in HAUNTED and use extensively in Again and Again, the third in my trilogy. (May 2012) Tell us about Koschei (or Koschey as you spell it) and what fascinates you about to him.
Sarwat: Dark Goddess includes Koshchey, Prince Ivan, Vasilisa and Baba Yaga. These four are the biggest characters in Russian fairy tales. I wanted them to remain iconic, so if you’re familiar with Russian tales, you’ll recognise them, but give them each a modern twist.
Koshchey is the current leader of the Bogatyrs. He’s called the Undying because he’s the ultimate warrior. He’s fought everywhere, and come out of it alive. Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Balkans, Africa. He’s served with the Spetnaz, the USSR’s own special forces, and then he worked for the KGB. He’s one scary fellow.
Thank you, Sarwat, for some very fascinating answers.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Sarwat himself, playing Templar Knight. (Or maybe he's not playing... Hmmmm...)
Now let me say that for me, this was the equivalent of say, JK Rowling wandering over and saying – as Sarwat did – “Hi Joy. I’ve been anxious to meet you. When your signing’s done do you have time for a drink and a chat.” You could have bowled me over with the proverbial feather. If you don’t believe me, ask Kay Mitchell; she will verify.
And here’s the thing – we’d both – Sarwat and I – been google stalking each other. Because we’d both realized that quite independently from one another using the same Russian historical and folkloric figures – specifically – Baba Yaga, Vasilisa the Brave, Anastasia Romanov, and even Koschei the Deathless (whom you’ll meet in my third book) Clearly we did have a lot to talk about.
Since then, we’ve joined forces; I’m appearing on his blog as part of his Kiss Me Kill Me Blog Tour (with most of my writerly idols like Maggie Stiefvater and Holly Black and Carrie Ryan!) and he’s appearing here on my blog as part of the same event.
Tomorrow, we’ll be chatting about Russian folklore and all the things we discussed as we sat on a bench at Disney World and realized that both had a great love for these characters, a good cup of tea and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a writer match made in heaven, I tell you!
But today, I’m reviewing his first novel, The Devil’s Kiss and giving you a description of the second novel – about to release here in the US – Dark Goddess.
First, here’s Amazon’s product description of Devil’s Kiss:
There's Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself....And Billi SanGreal.
As the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar, Bilquis SanGreal grew up knowing she wasn't normal. Instead of hanging out at the mall or going on dates, she spends her time training as a soldier in her order's ancient battle against the Unholy.
Billi's cloistered life is blasted apart when her childhood friend, Kay, returns from Jerusalem, gorgeous and with a dangerous chip on his shoulder. He's ready to reclaim his place in Billi's life, but she's met someone new: amber-eyed Michael, who seems to understand her like no one else, effortlessly claiming a stake in her heart.
But the Templars are called to duty before Billi can enjoy the pleasant new twist to her life. One of the order's ancient enemies has resurfaced, searching for a treasure that the Templars have protected for hundreds of years -- a cursed mirror powerful enough to kill all of London's firstborn. To save her city from catastrophe, Billi will have to put her heart aside and make sacrifices greater than any of the Templars could have imagined.
And here’s what Joy has to say:
I loved Devil’s Kiss. Billi’s a great hero. We meet her as she undergoes her final challenge to become an official Templar. Let’s just say it involves killing a big bad evil – in the guise of a little boy. After which she has to go home and do homework. I was hooked from that moment on. Billi’s exactly the type of character I love best – conflicted, strong, intense. Her moral compass knows her true north, but she gets lost at times. Her father – for reasons you learn later in the novel and which I will not divulge – has not shown her much love. She’s got surprising warm and fuzzy feelings for childhood friend and Templar psychic Kay, and she makes a huge wrong turn with mysterious handsome hottie Michael. It’s okay to me that Michael’s character screams ‘bad guy’ from the moment he appears. That’s what I love about classic dramatic irony. The reader can shout at Billi to beware at the same time that we realize that she is going to make this mistake on her own – and that the consequences are going to be deep. Sarwat doesn’t go easy on his characters: a true hero must sacrifice and Billi is no exception. When Kay carelessly unleashes a lethal power, Billi must help save the world from destruction. The results are heartbreaking – and set the stage for more Templar adventures and a hero who realizes that in the end she must rely on herself – that saving the world is a long and lonely business – especially for a teenage girl who should probably be texting her friends about boys and doing her math homework, not killing demons and vampires and werewolves and fighting fallen angels.
I also quite enjoyed the mixture of paranormal, religious, mystery and romance elements. As a genre-blender myself, I was right at home. I can hardly wait to dig into Dark Goddess and see what’s in store next for Billi. Plus Baba Yaga appears in DG!! It’s a must read!!
So link thee to the tour right now, gentle readers! Cause there are prizes!! Books! Swag! Really cool stuff! http://sarwatchadda.blogspot.com/
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Lots in the works to announce soon - If you are an ebook reader, get ready for an amazing HAUNTED opportunity coming the week of 2/1. Seriously fabulous! That's all I can say right now.
And you know how I met author Sarwat Chadda (Devil's Kiss and the forthcoming Dark Goddess) at NCTE? Well, he is now my favorite Brit ever, because he has asked me to join him in his Kiss Me Kill Me Blog Tour, along with the "big kids" crowd. Yup, me and Aprilyne Pike, Brenna Yavanoff, Rachel Hawkins, Cindy Pon, Holly Black, Becca Fitzpatrick, Melissa de La Cruz, Ally Carter, and Carrie Ryan (who I got to meet at NCTE) Did I say I was excited? Sarwat and I have bonded over our mutual use of Russian foklore: we both use Baba Yaga, Vasilisa the Brave, Anastasia Romanov and Koschei the Deathless!! We'll be talking about this when I interview him on my blog next week and when he reviews DA and Haunted on his site.
Plus when he emails, he uses words like bloody good, chum, jolly and cream teas. This delights me no end.
Read more on Sarwat's blog:
Hope to announce a bit of a mini tour schedule soon, so stay tuned. Here's what I have planned for now:
--Saturday, 2/5: Launch Party/Signing at The Woodlands, TX Barnes and Noble - 2PM
--Saturday 3/5: Signing and Writer's Workshop at The Woodlands TX Borders - time TBA
--Tuesday 3/15 - Pilgrim School as part of their Visiting Artist/Writer's Series, Los Angeles, CA
--Saturday 3/26 - Champions Forest B&N, Houston ,TX - Signing and Book Fair with Banff School (time TBA)
--Saturday, 4/8 -Will be introducing my lovely editor, Leah Hultenschmidt at Houston SCBWI
--April, 2011 - TLA in Austin, TX - signing times to be announced
--Blog Tour - TBA
There are some other really cool events that I'll announce soon.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Here's the official author photo, below.
Would you risk everything for someone you just met?
What if he had a secret worth killing for?
Welcome to a future where water is more precious than oil or gold...
Hundreds of millions of people have already died, and millions more will soon fall-victims of disease, hunger, and dehydration. It is a time of drought and war. The rivers have dried up, the polar caps have melted, and drinkable water is now in the hands of the powerful few. There are fines for wasting it and prison sentences for exceeding the quotas.
But Kai didn't seem to care about any of this. He stood in the open road drinking water from a plastic cup, then spilled the remaining drops into the dirt. He didn't go to school, and he traveled with armed guards. Kai claimed he knew a secret-something the government is keeping from us...
And then he was gone. Vanished in the middle of the night. Was he kidnapped? Did he flee? Is he alive or dead? There are no clues, only questions. And no one can guess the lengths to which they will go to keep him silent. We have to find him-and the truth-before it is too late for all of us.
1. Tell us a little about Water Wars and the inspiration behind writing it.
I wanted to write a thrilling adventure story for my son who was 12 at the time, but was reading sophisticated books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Road, and the Golden Compass. I've always enjoyed near-future novels, where present day problems are manifested in some strange / interesting / frightening way. And, of course, one of our biggest current problems that most people are ignoring is water shortages.
I think Vera would be Abigail Breslin. Plucky and adventurous, and also determined. Kai would be a young Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will would be a young Tobey Maguire.
3. Why dystopia for your first foray into YA novels? Is this a favorite genre?
Yes. As I said above, I've always loved near-future novels -- Blade Runner is a favorite. I love most everything by William Gibson. I was a big science fiction fan as a kid -- Dune, lots of book by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, etc.
4. Which of your characters would your teenage self most relate to? Why?
Good question! I would want to kiss Vera.
5. I very much enjoyed your "Dinner with Dad" which chronicles your year of trying to find personal balance through cooking dinner for your family most nights. Are you still cooking? Are your kids still fans of macaroni and cheese? :)
Thank you! Fortunately, my kids have moved beyond macaroni and cheese. A big favorite now is gnocchi. Also, I make a mean homemade pizza -- or I did until our oven broke down (we're waiting for a replacement). Both my kids love my egg rolls, and my wife makes a great shrimp fried rice. I'm not cooking as much as before (I have to work unfortunately), but we're definitely eating better.
6. What about balance these days? How do you manage to write, practice law, parent, husband, run, and live the rest of your life? (because if you have a secret, let me know. Cause I'm finding that I'm sleeping less and less these days trying to keep up)
Less sleep, and lots of coffee! I write in the mornings and the evenings during my commute. I have 75 minutes each way on the train where I'm usually not interrupted and can get a lot done. The rest of my day is usually spent practicing law. If I can, I'll sneak out at lunch for an hour to run. Mostly, I do my running on the weekends.
6. One of the first things I learned about you when we met in person in NYC was that you’re a runner. Why running?
Hard to say. I was not particularly athletic as a kid, but we ran the 800 meter in gym class in 8th grade and I won, and I guess I was hooked ever since. My best (fastest) days are behind me, but I still try to run as much as possible. I'm writing a non-fiction book about the running boom and the 1970s, and it's fun to re-live those days in my own mind.
7. In case readers are not aware, you have a fairly glamorous day job as an entertainment lawyer. What's the coolest thing that's happened since you began repping the rich and famous and tabloid-worthy?
I love my day job, but I do spend a lot of time responding to angry letters from lawyers for celebrities like Tom Cruise and Britney Spears. I think what's coolest about it is that I know the gossip before my 11 year old daughter, and so she doesn't think I'm a complete loser.
8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. It's amazing (and sad) how many people want to write but don't read enough so don't have models on which to base their writing. You should read and think about what makes a certain story / character, etc., work, then try to copy it in your own writing. Eventually, you will develop your own "voice," but first, I think, you have to learn the basics.
9. What books are on your nightstand/downloaded to your ereader?
I share my kindle account with my daughter, so I have all 8 books in The Pretty Little Liars series, and I'm almost done with the first. I also just read Born to Run, which a lot of people have recommended to me, although I didn't love it. I also just re-read a book that might be considered dystopian fiction from the 1950s -- On The Beach. It's about what happens to the world after a nuclear war when the only survivors live in the southern hemisphere and the radiation is gradually spreading southward.
10. What's next for Cameron Stracher?
I have to finish my running book, as I mentioned above, and I'd love to write a sequel to The Water Wars. I also have another YA project I'm working on called "91," but I'm keeping the topic of it a secret for now!