Beth Fantaskey graciously allowed me to interview her about her debut release, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side.
1. Where did the idea of an adopted Pennsylvanian, vampire princess and her betrothed come from?
I love that you broke this down into pieces. So many people ask where the idea came from, as a chunk, but you’ve dissected it into its essential elements.
Adopted Pennsylvanian – I live in Pennsylvania, and my kids are adopted, which always raises questions about their birth parents. What were they like? What if they were… different, somehow? I sort of took that to the extreme with Jessica’s Guide.
Vampire princess – I wasn’t a fan of the “Disney princess” stories as a kid, and was kind of dismayed when my children fell under their spell. I get tired of princesses always waiting around for princes to rescue them. I wanted to create an alternative for my kids to consider… a princess who embraces her dark side and takes charge of her own destiny. I hope I did that with Jess.
The betrothal thing… that just seemed like a great way to link a very rational girl to a very irrational guy. Otherwise, I’m sure Jess would have just brushed Lucius off without a second thought.
2. Jess has a really positive relationship with her adopted parents, the Packwoods, how much of that was influenced by your own life?
I had a great relationship with my parents – still do! – but like Jess, I went through a stupid period when I found them embarrassing. (And they never did anything as grievous as utter the word “teats” to a new boyfriend.) Jess’s relationship with her parents is definitely rooted in my own life.
3. Lucius likes using specific American turns of phrase throughout his letters; which one do you kick yourself for not using?
I think Lucius would have liked using “going to hell in a handbasket.” I can imagine Lucius convinced he’s headed for hell – but flat-out refusing to step inside anything called a “handbasket.”
4. I have seen many reviews comparing the novel to Twilight, what do you think of that comparison?
I don’t mind the comparisons… it’s flattering to have my book compared to a cultural phenomenon. Beyond that, every comparison seems to include lots of contrasts, i.e. Lucius is sarcastic, etc. That’s even better. (For more on this topic, though, see my guest blog…)
(Adele - Guest blog coming this Friday)
5. We learn progressively more about Jessica's birth mother, Mihaela, throughout the book. What can you tell us about her birth father?
That’s such an excellent question, and I’ve been waiting for somebody to ask it. The answer is… not much, really.
I felt like I only had room in the story to create one powerful bond between Jess and her deceased biological parents, and I chose to bring her close to her mother. I really wanted to emphasize that Mihaela was the force in the family – a real queen and a powerful role model for Jess – so I kept her dad in the shadows. (But maybe if there’s a sequel we can learn more about him… Maybe there’s a nefarious, secret reason he’s been hidden away! That might be interesting…)
6. Can you walk us through the time frame of the novel from initial concept to being available on the shelves?
The time frame can be summed up in the single word AAARRRRGH!
I started jotting ideas down during a long car ride in the summer of 2006, wrote the book in the ensuing months, and it sold Halloween day of that year… then spent nearly three years in the editing and production processes, due to a whole slew of random stuff that seemed to jump out of nowhere. In the end, it was worth it, though!
7. What was your playlist during the writing of this tale?
I wish I could say that I listened to a bunch of bands so cutting edge that nobody - not even the world’s hippest music buffs – have even heard of them yet. But the truth is, one day somebody gave me a copy of American country singer Toby Keith’s greatest hits, I tried it out, and I got in the best writing groove of my life. After that, I played it every day, over and over again, like a good luck charm.
It’s kind of embarrassing for a rock/punk fan to admit getting OCD about a country CD, but something about Toby’s twang just worked in that moment. I’m still fond of it. (I don’t lose my winged monkey for that, do I???)
(Adele - No, but you do win a dork tiara! Oh wait, I rock out to the Dixie Chicks so I guess we have to share one..... Aren't TK and the DC mortal enemies, I am taking the tiara back!)
8. Should a sequel come to fruition, what are the chances of a winged monkey (who may or may not be called Adele) making an appearance? Perhaps as a friend of Dorin?
If said monkey is into cappuccino, I would say that is a strong, strong possibility.
Isn't she fabulous? Beth gives a good interview and writes a good read, check out Jessica's Guide to the Dark Side asap.