Thursday, January 31, 2013

Author Interview with Melissa de la Cruz!

When Melissa de la Cruz came to Toronto recently on January 20th to celebrate the release of Gates of Paradise, the seventh and final novel in the Blue Bloods series, I had an amazing opportunity to interview the author in person before her book signing at Indigo Yorkdale began.

It was my first time doing a Q&A like this before, so I was incredibly nervous that I would become an unintelligible, babbling mess when I began to speak... Melissa de la Cruz is very sweet and friendly, and once the quick introductions were out of the way, I jumped into asking questions right away.

I recorded the interview and I've transcribed our discussion below!   

You have seven books in the Blue Bloods series plus Keys to the Repository, Bloody Valentine and Bliss’ point of view in the Wolf Pact ebooks. You’ve been writing these books for at least seven years. Have you always had a clear sense of how everything would begin and end? Or has it kind of changed? 

I think when you start to write a saga, yeah, you kind of have to do a lot of planning, so I definitely knew I wanted to write this big story. I had a big idea for the story, and then I wrote the back-story. I had to figure out what happened in the past to start writing in the present, and when I first started writing Blue Bloods, I wanted to do nine books. I wanted to do three trilogies: a forward trilogy, a prequel trilogy, and then pick it up again with the forward-ending trilogy. When I started writing Revelations, book three, it became so big that I had to cut it in half. So The Van Alen Legacy is really kind of the fourth book and “first trilogy”. When I finished writing that, I realized I didn’t want to do a prequel trilogy. I didn’t want to do just the past because I watched the Star Wars movies and they sucked, so I thought to just consolidate everything. At that point, after I decided not to do these trilogies and just do a big saga, I decided to write seven books and some side books too. But I always had a big plan for everything and knew exactly what each book would be about and who’s who. There were no surprises to me.

Like who would live or die? Or who would get their heart broken?

Yes!

What about the side stories? When you were writing them, did you think you could expand them into something more?

No, I mean, side stories kind of come from your publisher wanting more books, and trying to figure out how to please them while still also staying true to the story. I also like to do the side books and do something interesting about the mythology in them so that they’re not just sort of wasted.

Like to complement the books?

Yeah, I wanted them to complement the books but have something new in them as well, not just some sort of encyclopedia with nothing new in it. I wanted new things for people to discover.

I think my favourite was Allegra and Bendix’s story [from Bloody Valentine]. I was tearing up about it… Which book was probably the most challenging to write? 

Misguided Angel. After Van Alen Legacy, not just the pressure of living up to it, but my Dad died, so I was grieving. And then Bliss was gone, so I had a whole new character to write about.

The Chinese Venator [Deming Chen], right? 

Yes.

That book was written really different because it was divided into three parts...

Yeah, I wanted to try something a little different. I think that one was the hardest for me to write. My outline wasn’t working and I kept rewriting it and rewriting it. After writing Van Alen Legacy, which came from an outline like Masquerade did and was easy to write, Misguided Angel was definitely the hardest.

Which character do you feel you’re the closest to?

Definitely, I think they’re all like me and have parts of my personality. Schuyler was me in high school, very alienated, sardonic and alone. Mimi was kind of me after high school, when you’re a lot more confident. And I always relate to Mimi because she never gets anything she wants.

When I read the first book, I was Team Schuyler and hated Mimi. She was so cruel… 

And mean! [laughs]

Then I took a break and came back to the series, re-read them all over again… and I feel bad and much more sympathetic for Mimi now. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, but I think I was too hard on her before.

I knew Mimi always had another side to her. There was always a reason why. She’s kind of conservative and traditional, and she was just trying to keep everything together. So yeah, she had her reasons for doing what she did.

And she loves Jack, but he doesn’t love her back.

I know! So, it’s like, how can you not like her? It’s so sad.

Well, at least she has Kingsley. I really like him! Their personalities match. And, of course, my heart broke when it looked like things were not meant to be… 

[laughs]

And you somehow brought him back!

Oh, yeah. We brought him back.

Was that your own decision? Or were you keeping your fans in mind?

No, he was always coming back! 

We’ve traveled to Venice in Masquerade, Rio de Janeiro in Revelations, Cairo in Lost in Time and more around the world. In Gates of Paradise, we find the vampires in London. What inspired you set you to set the books, in part, in these different countries and cities with such history?

These cities really appealed to me. I’ve always loved Italy and Venice and Florence.The birth of the Renaissance was there, and Western culture had a great apex there, and the vampires are sort of part of that. Definitely, Italy and France were always part of it. And with London, I was thinking, “Where haven’t we been?” It was fun! And London has a lot of history to it too, so I really wanted to go there. Also, especially because the US and England are so tied together with the Mayflower. I kind of just picked places that would be fun to write about and would have some interesting things in their history that I could use to write about.

Sort of related to that, in the Blue Bloods series, there’s a lot of history and back-story to it that you might mention, but don’t completely reveal everything. I know you were talking about writing a prequel earlier, would you ever consider a side-story later on?

We’re doing a spin-off. We decided, actually, in 2010 that we were going to do another cycle of Blue Bloods, but we wanted to have everyone enjoy the finale first because I wanted to wrap up this story. And I also wanted the freedom to do something completely new, but also still in the same universe.

In a way, Witches of East End and that series are set in the same world too, but with more focus on Norse mythology. So, maybe, would we see familiar Blue Bloods appear there again? 

I don’t know about again, but maybe. I don’t want to give anything away, but you can expect some new characters in the spin-off.The big announcement will be coming soon!

Your next new books are Frozen and an epic fantasy one called The Court of the Last Princess. Can you share any details about them?

I can talk about Frozen because it’s coming out in September. My husband and I like to call it Lord of the Rings in reverse. Our world is dying and ending, and new things are coming. Instead of elves and magic leaving the world, magic is coming back into it. It’s very fun. It has this cool post-apocalyptic start where the world has been destroyed. But, in my books, it’s not all a grim dystopia. It is a hundred years after the world has ended, but Vegas is still Vegas. The U.S.is still around, but then something new is happening. There’s a 16-year-oldblackjack dealer named Natasha (“Nat”) and she is having dreams of dragon fire.

It definitely doesn’t sound like your usual post-apocalyptic novel! It’s more like a new beginning. Will Frozen be part of a series?

Right now, it’s a trilogy. It’s kind of this idea to create a whole new world, and we were thinking about doing stories about other times in it too.

Is the writing process different now that you’re co-writing it with your husband? 

Well, we worked on Blue Bloods together. We always have the same process. I think we just decided to put Mike’s name on the cover now because he really works on them too.

Do you ever disagree on needing certain parts of a book when you’re writing?

No, I think somebody always needs to own the book. It’s both of our books and both of our decisions. We kind of arrive at the same point together and agree. When you collaborate, you can’t really collaborate with someone you’re going to disagree with all the time. You know? We know which parts matter to us, but in the end, somebody has to call the shots. 

Gates of Paradise is the last book in the series. Is it sort of bittersweet to see it end after all this time? 

I think it’s very satisfying, actually. I think it’s hard to let go and say goodbye, but it’s also really nice to know that stories have an ending. All the series' that I love, like His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and Harry Potter, have these really wonderful endings that kind of linger with you and then you can re-read them. I really don’t like things that go on and on, and there’s no ending in sight, and the author hasn’t planned one. I always had my ending planned, and I knew what I wanted. I’m really content with how this series wrapped up. I was really happy with the story.  

When the Gates of Paradise book trailer came out, I was reading on USA Today’s blog that your influences while writing the Blue Blood series included Philip Pullman. I’m glad it wasn’t as heartbreaking as that trilogy! I read those books when I was younger and still remember crying for days afterwards. I was so sad!

[laughs] I know! Will and Lyra…

In a way, those books have their own angel mythology and there are angels in Blue Bloods. Have you always had a sense of vampires/angels for the series? How did you come up with it?

Well, I wanted an origin story for my vampires, and I love the story of Paradise Lost. It was actually just something that came together and I knew it was an awesome idea. I think I got up out of my seat and was like, “Oh my God. Eureka!”I just thought, of course, how are vampires on Earth? They got cast out of heaven with Lucifer and were cursed to suck human blood. For me, this seemed so natural. And people will come to me saying it’s a common myth, and it’s not. I made it up. It’s in Blue Bloods. [laughs] 

Blue Bloods came out around or before the time of Twilight. Would you say the popularity of that series helped yours? 

Oh, definitely! I think Twilight doing well was great for everybody who writes about vampires, and great for everybody who writes paranormal with romance. It was great to see the cultural phenomenon happen, and we were all part of it. Like Richelle Mead and P.C. Cast. The Vampire Diaries was brought back, which is funny because they actually came out in the ‘90s.

Yes! I still remember when the TV show came out and everyone thought The Vampire Diaries was copying Twilight, and all of us who know the books were just like, “What are you talking about?” in disbelief.

Yeah, it’s funny that way.

The Blue Bloods series was definitely one of the earlier vampire books I read. I’m really sad to see it end… 

Well, there’s the spin-off series! 

Do you maybe have an idea of when in the future we’ll be seeing it? I know you’re probably very busy. 

Well, it’s due this year. I know that. So, maybe sometime next year? Much sooner than you might think. And hopefully the TV show[for Witches of East End] is happening. 

When will that be? I remember hearing that they were filming the pilot… 

They filmed the pilot. We’ll discover soon what’s going to happen. They’re making a formal announcement


*****

Thanks so much to Melissa de la Cruz for so patiently answering all my questions! And thanks so much to Hachette Book Group Canada for the chance to sit down with Melissa and chat with her.

If you missed it before, you can read my recap of Melissa de la Cruz's Toronto book signing or read my gushing review of Gates of Paradise

If you're still interested in learning more about Melissa de la Cruz and the Blue Bloods world, I'd recommend checking out these two Q&As from my blogger friends who also met up with the author before the event. They asked some really fabulous questions!

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