This week again I was lucky enough to have a YA author give me an exclusive interview! The idea behind the “Writer in the Spotlight” feature is that published (and bestselling) authors are the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers. Today’s interview is with the amazingly nice Beth Fantaskey.
A writer in the spotlight – 4
Author : Beth Fantaskey
Genre : Young Adult, Paranormal Fiction
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Website : http://bethfantaskey.com/
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (2009)
Jekel Loves Hyde (2010)
Jessica Rules the Dark Side (2012)
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
No, while I was growing up, I had no idea that I wanted to write, and I actually became a writer out of necessity. When I graduated from college, I had no job prospects, so when a friend mentioned that a public relations office was hiring writers, I applied. When I turned in my writing sample, the man who would become my boss said, “You know you’re a writer, right?” I got hired on the spot, and that’s what I’ve done ever since – thank goodness!
When and where do you write?
I write in my home office, which is a messy space that fortunately has a nice view of my neighbor’s gorgeous garden. I write while my three children are at school. As soon as they are out of the house, I sit down to work.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
That’s an interesting question, because I think people experience that in a lot of different ways. I do have days where the words don’t seem to flow naturally, or I really have to struggle for ideas. I suppose that’s my form of the disease!
What do you say to people who want to be writers? How difficult is it to get published?
I always give people the same boring but sincere advice, which is to treat writing like anything else you want to be good at – meaning practice every day. I get the sense that some people think writing is a “gift” that you either have or don’t have. But in my opinion, it’s also a talent that you can develop with hard work and practice. So I always encourage aspiring writers to sit down and work, just like you’d practice piano if you wanted to be a concert pianist, or do soccer drills if you wanted to be a soccer star.
I worked as a professional writer for nearly twenty years before I tried a novel, and I learned something every day on the job.
Is it better to outline and plot your novel or “go with the flow”?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I tend to go with the flow. I like to know where a story will start and end – especially in terms of how the main characters will develop – but beyond that, I just let the rest come out naturally. I honestly don’t think I could stick to a plot, because it seems like new possibilities always open up as I write. For example, I’ll leave a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, and suddenly I see new directions to take. I envy people who can create detailed plots, though. I think that’s probably a more sane way to work!
Do you set goals for yourself as you write?
I generally strive to finish one chapter each day, but hopefully achieve more than that. One chapter (mine are usually short) seems like an achievable goal – and not overly intimidating – so I think about that as I sit down at my computer. However, in the back of my mind, I’m also expecting to go past that mark. I guess that’s my way of breaking down the big job of writing a complete novel by looking at it as a series of small steps.
On “Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side”
To write this book, where did you get your inspiration from? Were you aware of the coming vampire trend in YA literature when you wrote it?
Honestly, if I’d been aware of the trend, I probably wouldn’t have written the book. I had no idea that the market was already getting saturated, because I didn’t read YA lit before I started writing for YA readers.
The inspiration actually came from my family. My children are adopted, and sometimes we wonder what their birth parents are or were like. Maybe doctors? Farmers? Teachers? Who knows? That gave me the idea to write the story of a grounded, logical girl who discovers that her birth parents were different from anything she could have imagined – and how that rocks her world. I took that to the extreme by making Jessica’s birth parents vampires, because they are very close to “human” in terms of appearance and habits, and therefore almost within the realm of believability, but “monsters,” too. That’s how I ended up writing about vampires.
Jessica and Lucius: How did you come up with those characters? Are they based on real people?
None of my characters are based on real people. I swear, they just sort of spring to life, fully formed, as I write about them. Vampire prince Lucius, in particular, was a vivid presence from the minute I started writing his first letter home to his uncle. It was as if he walked into my office and began dictating to me – which seems like something he’d do. Within the first few seconds, I felt like I knew everything about him.
What type of music did you listen to when you wrote those books?
I live close to a small university with a radio station, and that’s what I usually listen to while I work. It’s mainly alternative rock. I definitely have to work to music, which seems to be true of most writers, don’t you think? I guess it’s such a solitary job that you need some company.
What are you working on now? Is it another “Jessica’s” book?
I am actually working full time on my doctoral dissertation. I took a break from school to write my three novels, but if I don’t finish this year, seven years of education are down the drain. I really want to finish my degree, so I’m hustling.
Which authors inspire you now?
I’m still inspired by the classic English-literature canon, which is reflected in my books. For example, my character Lucius Vladescu loves literature, and in the first book does a rather dramatic classroom report on Wuthering Heights. And, of course, my second novel, Jekel Loves Hyde, is a modern interpretation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I guess I’m a traditionalist.
Which YA books would recommend?
You know, as I mentioned before, I didn’t really read YA lit before writing a YA novel – and I still don’t read it. Before, I just didn’t know much about the genre, but now I deliberately avoid that whole section of the bookstore because I don’t want to be influenced by what other YA writers are doing. I just want to make sure that I’m always writing in my voice and style, and never subconsciously being swayed by other authors’ works. I know there’s a whole incredible world of YA books waiting out there, the minute I’m done writing for young adults, though!