Friday, January 8, 2010

Interview With a Vampire... uhh, Lili St Crow

Kicking off Betrayals/Lili St Crow week is Lili herself! Also known as Anna Beguine, the author of the Dante Valentine series for adults is here to talk about her YA series, Strange Angels.

Hi Lili! Thanks so much for agreeing to take part in this interview!
Lili St Crow: Thanks for having me.

Pitch Strange Angels, Betrayals and Jealousy to us in three separate one liners.
Strange Angels: Girl's dad gets turned into zombie, she discovers she's not quite human, and she has to figure out who's trying to kill her. Betrayals: Dru's at a school full of werwulf and djamphir boys; but it's not where she's supposed to be and then the vampires show up. Jealousy: Girls are mean, and half-vampire girls are meaner.

When and how did the idea of Strange Angels come about? How did it go from there to publication?
I was actually asked if I had anything that could be considered YA, and I had the first few chapters of Dru's story lying around. I had my doubts whether it would truly be YA—I mean, the book pretty much starts out with patricide, and my characters cuss. But the editor liked it, so we went with it.

It seems as if the series is being published on a tight schedule. How was it like? Did you write the series in one whole go, or did you pitch the sequels after the sale of Strange Angels?
The publisher asked if it was a series or a standalone, and when I said it was a five-book series, they were very happy. As soon as I was halfway through Strange Angels I knew what the rest of the series was. So as soon as I finished SA I was at work on Betrayals.

Were there any notable changes from the first drafts of any of the books to the published manuscript?
Oh, yes. Graves was renamed twice, and his first name was taken out. Plus, Christophe was made less menacing and more helpful, and the History teacher—Bletchley—actually survived her run-in with Dru's temper. Which was not what happened in the first draft.

Tell us more about research for the book.
I poked around a lot about the idea of djamphir, or dhampir. Basically, I wanted a sort of Vampire Hunter D vibe—the idea that you're related to the thing you want to destroy, the thing you're hunting, is so fascinating. But in a lot of the dhampir mythology, it's very male. I wondered what happened to the girl dhampir, and it fit very neatly with Dru's character and why she was being pursued.

How different is it writing for YA as compared to adult books?
I was initially very cautious, because I tend to write dark, violent little stories. I spoke with my editor before we ever signed the contract to make sure they knew they were not going to get sweetness and light out of me. Other than that, it's not different at all. The basic commitment is to tell the truth in the story; whether my audience is fifteen or fifty that commitment doesn't change.

The hardest thing for me was remembering what it was like to be a teenager—to not have a job, a car, my own money, to have other people controlling where I went and what I did. It was extraordinarily stressful and difficult for me to revisit some things about my own teenage years.

What experiences, if any, did you draw from in your own life in order to create Dru? Is there anything in the books that happened exactly the same way in real life?
I felt a huge sense of isolation and abandonment when I was Dru's age, and I was an adrenaline junkie. So those aspects of Dru's personality and feeling really hit home for me. As for the rest of it...not so much. I never saw anyone bit by a werwulf. At least, I don't think I did...

Creepy. Where’s your favourite place to write?
That's like asking where my favourite place to breathe is. I do it anywhere, it's what I do.

Would you say that you’re more like Christophe, Graves, Dru, Dru’s dad or a mix of all?
Hmmmm. Dru is of course the character I identify with most; her father is the character I understand most, Graves is the character I like most, and Christophe is the character who fascinates me most.

That's a great answer! The father daughter relationship in Strange Angels is prominent and important to the plot. Dru’s dad plays an integral part in Strange Angels, even though he’s not there physically for Dru. Will we know more about Dru’s dad in Betrayals?
Yes. You get to find out bits and pieces of him all through the series. Even though Dwight is gone, he's still very much present for Dru in all the ways that matter, and her grief over losing the only solidity in her life is very strong.

Dru’s going to a secret school in Betrayals. Will Graves and Christophe have smaller parts to play, or will we just have to find out?
Graves is with her during the entire book. Christophe is very busy for the first half of the book—Jealousy is really Christophe's book, when all is said and done. Book 4 is all about Christophe too.

Who are your top three choices respectively to play Dru, Graves and Christophe?
I don't watch a lot of television, so I have pretty much no idea. Graves sometimes looks like a young Takeshi Kaneshiro to me; Christophe looks like a younger, handsomer Vincent Perez in my head. Dru has a sort of Summer Glau thing going on, but with more of a Peta Wilson-shaped face.

Dru is a kickass heroine, first and foremost in my mind. Do you view Dru as someone girls can relate to or someone they should aspire to be?
Neither—that's not my choice, that's the reader's choice. And I don't want to tell girls what to aspire to, because anything I tell them will be a lowball. But I do definitely think that Dru's strength is a good thing. Dru acts, and she protects Graves and takes the upper hand in negotiating with Christophe. It doesn't occur to her to sit back and let the boys handle it. She's all about handling it herself, despite wishing her dad was around to help.

There’s an underlying(or blatant, depends on how you look at it. Either way, it gives me shivers.) tension between Dru and Christophe. What are your views on Dru and Christophe’s relationship?
Christophe is kind of creepy. He's how old, and hanging around a teenage girl when he knew her mother? On the other hand, djamphir stop physically maturing at about twenty, twenty-five at the latest, and that is bound to have an effect on their psychological makeup.

Personally, I don't think Christophe is a good choice for Dru. He's controlling, way older, and maximizes his power and control in the relationship he has with her. But we'll see what happens.

Now the pre-requisite question: Tell us five fun facts about you.
1. I don't like ice cream.
2. I'm a Gemini.
3. My favourite colour is green.
4. I can't wear gold jewelery.
5. I could eat Indian food for the rest of my life.

You're making me hungry. What’s your pick for the overall theme song for Strange Angels, Betrayals and Jealousy (one each)? I know both Betrayals and Jealousy aren’t out yet, but I’m super excited.
For Strange Angels the theme song was Andrew Bird's Measuring Cups; Graves's theme is Guster's One Man Wrecking Machine; Christophe's is Coldplay's Viva la Vida. Dru has several songs (I've done soundtracks for each book) but the one I play most often is Believe from the Run Lola Run soundtrack. You can hear Christophe in the latter half of that song, too.

Thank you for that interview Lili! Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thank you for having me! And thank you to the readers. Without them, I'm just shouting into the wind.

That's so sweet! Want to know more about Lili and her books? Check out her website and blog. Here's the trailer for Strange Angels:

Cross-posted at: LiyanaLand! on 16 November 2009.


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