Prom Dates from Hell is just laugh out loud funny from the first page. I was plunged right back into that awkward high school hell. Congratulations on your RITA win, by the way. Did you find it challenging to plunge back into the mind of a teenager?
Thanks and thanks! PDFH was just such a fun book to write, and wining the RITA was amazingly cool.
It was surprisingly (or maybe embarrassingly) easy to get into character as a teenager. But then, I spent years teaching drama to teens (as if they needed lessons in being dramatic), so it was a very natural voice to slip into. It helps that Maggie Quinn (my narrator) and her friends aren’t bubblegum smacking pubescents. I think it’s easier for me to get into the head of an eighteen year old than a fourteen year old–though there are others who do it very well.
Rather than thinking “teenager,” I think of the characters as individuals who are still becoming who they’re going to be. That makes it easier to avoid cliches and condescension, which is a danger when adults to set out to write “for kids.”
Actually, the most challenging thing is to let them make mistakes that, as an adult, I see the danger in that I didn’t then. I want to protect them. But making mistakes is how we become who we are. Plus it makes a better story, and more authentic characters.
Do you find that your audience is equal parts adult and young readers
Definitely. I even got a letter from someone who had passed the books to her daughter AND her mother. That was awesome, knowing I had three generations of fans. I really try and write books that will have universal appeal, that anyone can identify with, whether it’s because the characters are trying to save the world from literal demons or vanquish their more figurative ones.
Plus, I don’t limit myself to only current literary or pop culture references. You’re as likely to find a joke about Jonathan Swift or Alfred Hitchcock or original Star Wars as you are about Project Runway or Paris Hilton. (More likely, actually. Because classics stay, well, classic, and too current references get dated quickly.)
What sets The Splendor Falls apart from Hell Week?
The Splendor Falls is a gothic novel, so it’s got a more romantic sensibility. It’s got a spookier setting, lots of buried secrets and dark family mystery. Plus it’s got more actual romance, which I love. (Though relationships play a part in all my books, it’s integral to the plot here.) Hell Week, and all the Maggie Quinn novels, are a little more action oriented. If Hell Week is the second cousin to Buffy and Supernatural, The Splendor Falls is the cheeky and modern descendent of Jane Eyre and Rebecca (with more sarcasm and kissing).
The heroines are probably the biggest difference. Maggie is a plucky and sassy girl detective type. Sylvie is a little darker, and she’s got more of an edge. But they both solve their problems with strength and humor.
How hard is it to bring the funny to your writing? Do you have to ‘think’ about it or is that how the words flow?
I try not to force the funny. Sometimes the humor is inherent to the scene, sometimes it’s not. Because I see the humor in things, my character tend to do so as well. That comes through most in the dialogue, whether internal or external. That generally does flow fairly naturally. And of course, the great advantage to fiction over real life is that you can give your characters great set up lines for their witty comebacks. And if you think of some wonderful zinger after the fact (which always happens to me in real life), you can go back and add it!
What is the most challenging part of writing the relationship dynamics of your characters?
It goes along with letting my characters make mistakes. I have to let them sometimes get their feelings hurt, or push someone away out of fear or pride. I’m a peacemaker, and I just want everyone to get along. But that makes a boring story and stagnant characters. Characters have to hurt they can come out better for it, individually, and as a pair, whether friends or lovers. Better in a novel than in real life, I guess.
What is the first element of the character that comes clear to you?
Usually the first thing that comes to me is the thing that’s going to drive the character through the story. For Maggie Quinn, I knew before I ever put fingers to keyboard that she was going to be the “resourceful girl detective” type. (Think Nancy Drew, Lois Lane, Brenda Starr.) Her snarky sense of humor was a surprise; I had no idea that was her “voice” until I started writing her narration. But what drives her from point to point is definitely her crusader, solve-the-mystery, fix-the-problem personality. This is the unalterable part of her character, the thing that if I veer from it, it rings false with the reader. So it’s a good thing to start with.
What do you enjoy reading?
My tastes are all over the place, but my bookshelves are full of historical novels, fantasy (from epic to contemporary), mystery, romance. My favorite books blend genres together in unique ways. Probably the most common thread is a strong, likable protagonist (I’m not big on the anti-hero), and good dialogue. I love snappy repartee! (As you can probably tell from my own books.)
Would you describe a typical working/writing day? What routines or rituals do you observe to get your writing done?
My “typical” day, if there is such a thing, is to do my chores/errands/personal stuff in the morning, then after lunch I do edits, revisions and research. Then a break for some dinner and sometimes some TV (or some Rock Band), then back to work until late at night. I don’t know why I work so much better when the rest of the world is asleep, but I do. I can get more written in the 4 hours between 10 pm and 2 am than I can in eight hours during the daytime. I’m sure it’s purely psychological, but that’s how it is, so I go with it.
To write I need: music without lyrics (I’m partial to soundtracks and classical music), coffee or tea, my dogs sleeping on my couch, and my dad’s old sweater. I always write better when I have it on.
As a writer, what’s the most difficult part of the process for you? The creating? The editing? The submitting?
The first draft. Getting my ideas to the page without second guessing myself. Sometimes I “see” it very clearly when I’m chewing it over in my head, but then I freeze up when it’s time to go forward in the manuscript. Should I do path “A” or “B”? Which will be better? What if I choose the wrong path? Argh!!! It’s almost like stage fright. I’m so worried about doing it “wrong” I stare at the blank page all day. *Not* productive.
I won’t say that editing is much easier, since I tend to change things, then change them back. The most difficult thing for me is definitely trusting my instincts and going forward instead of trying it fifteen different ways then going back to the first draft.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yeesh. I just confessed my horrible struggle with second guessing myself, and you ask me this? 😀 Of course. I would tweak and edit things until doomsday. Every time I see a review that mentions something (which, by the way, will drive you crazy), I want to fix it. But then the next review will like what the first one didn’t, and not like something the first one DID, so I would have to just change it back.
So, the answer is no. 😀
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My parents always encouraged me to make up stories, whether it was around the campfire, or playing with my Barbies, or just in my head as I was drifting off to sleep. I love to play spies or detectives with my girlfriends, and come up with elaborate storylines. I think I started writing the stories down when I was still in grade school, but it was always something I did for my own entertainment–and my close circle of friends. It took me a long time to get from “I enjoy writing” to “I want to sell my work and be published.” But I’ve always loved to make up stories, the weirder the better, and that’s totally on my parents’ heads.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
[The calf] took off, and I took off after it, running across the pasture like William Wallace in Braveheart. Except in a panties and a bra, which sounded like a Monty Python sketch, but had become my life, thanks to my sister, who had obviously left the gate open, not to mention gotten me here in the first place and don’t think I wasn’t going to let her hear about it.
Stupid cow. Waving my arms, I chased the animal almost to the barbed wire fence, where I realized it wasn’t alone. The calf wasn’t half-grown at all. It was more like one quarter grown, and its mother was big. Big and pissed that I was yelling at her baby. She lowered her head and mooed at me, swishing her tail to punctuate the long, aggressive, foghorn of a call.
“Don’t yell at me, you stupid cow!” My hand flailed emphatically toward her offspring. Its expression looked closer to “Nyah nyah nyah” than I ever thought a bovine could get. “Keep your juvenile delinquent calf away from my car!”
She stamped her hoof and arched her neck and let out another throaty bellow of complaint.
“No. You shut up. This is my side of the fence.” I waved my arms, gesturing vaguely gate-ward. “Get your fat ass and your miscreant offspring back on your side of the barbed wire.”
I turned and found the source of the shout. Well, heck. There was a horse, and a guy on the horse, and he was sitting there with one fist on the reins and one on his hip, looking at me like I was insane.
“What the hell are you doing to that cow?” he said.
“Me?” My voice went in to the stratosphere of outrage. “That cow, that calf, I mean, was violating my Mini Cooper.”
He turned his horse in a circle, scanning the field, but there was no car nearby. I really had run quite a ways from the house. The cowboy shaded his eyes to peer in that direction.
“You mean that blue toy parked in front of Ms. Goodnight’s place?”
“Goodnight Farm. Yes.” About this time I realized that I was standing in the pasture in a state of highly questionable decency. Maybe if I pretended I meant to be out here half naked, he would think it was a bathing suit. I swatted at a fly and squinted toward him, noticing he was keeping his distance the way people did from crazy folk. Even his horse was looking at me like I was nuts.
You can keep up with Rosemary at her website, so be sure to check in with her latest projects.
Rosemary Clement-Moore’s The Splendor Falls is included in the Daily Dose’s Trick or Treat drawing at the end of the month. So be sure to comment for a chance to win.