Because I’m terrible with synopses, I’ll let my protagonist (heroine might be pushing it just a bit), tell you all about it in her own words:
Hey, all, it’s me… Gina Covello, fashionista of the damned. Yeah, I know, I managed to get almost all the way through high school without cracking a book and now here I am immortalized in one. Well, actually, the immortalization process might have started a bit earlier, like in the broom closet at the after-prom-party, somewhere around the time Bobby-freakin’-Delvecchio started gnawing on my neck. Anyway, this is one book I’d maybe even phone a friend about, since it covers all my adventures going from chic to eek. Because, let me tell you, eternity without a mirror or tanning options—totally uncool. And they don’t tell you in, like, Vampirism 101 about crazy conspiracies, psycho-psychics and other hazards of unlife. But I will, so stay tuned.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with our readers, Lucienne. Vamped is a funny, fabulous read deserving of all the rave reviews it has received since appearing on bookstore shelves in May.
Thank you so much! You can’t see me, but I’m blushing furiously.
Q: Gina Covello is quite the little spitfire! Her personality is contagious. How did Gina come to you? What made you give her life, or unlife I suppose is more in context with Vamped?
A: My stories always begin with characters talking in my head. One day Gina started carrying the conversation. I didn’t have a plot to associate with her, just a vignette, really, about an undead fashionista stalking her stylist. But everyone who read it said, “This wants to be a novel.” Gina agreed that a novel would be cool. A series would be even better. And if I’d just get out of the way and let her handle things, we’d be golden. It’s like that. The best characters kick me to the curb and I simply write out the stories as they’re told to me. Sometimes, though, I have to wrestle the storylines back under my control so that they don’t meander this way and that. (For example, Gina, if given the chance, might just spend all her time at the mall hunting hotties and couture.)
Q: Is Gina anything like the teenage Lucienne? Does her humor reflect your personality?
A: You know, it’s funny but the only thing Gina has in common with the teenaged me is big hair. (Hey, it was the eighties. We barely knew about the ozone layer.) My hair was about the only stylin’ thing about me. I was a geek. I played D&D, did chorus and drama, took extra art and English classes in lieu of lunch and study hall. I was kind of the anti-Gina. Her humor, though…. You know how you always think of just the right thing to say about five seconds too late? Gina is maybe me on that five second delay. She’s always got the snarky comment right at the tip of her tongue. No one’s going to walk away from Gina without getting as good as she gave. I have to respect her for that
Q: Without giving spoilers of course, which scene is your favorite?
A: Wow, that’s so tough. There’s a scene that didn’t even make it into the final draft that I dearly love – of Gina getting even with her ex. Hmmm, maybe I ought to post that on my website as a little bonus at some point. Second to that, I think there are two: Gina kicking major booty in a scene I don’t want to spoil, and the quiet moment she finally has with Bobby toward the end. I share Gina’s weakness for Bobby. He reminds me of my husband, kinda geek chic. I’m not sure he’d find that flattering, but there it is.
Q: Have you always been a fan of vampire fiction? Who are some of your favorite vamps?
A: Oh, I’m a fan girl all right. My favorite vamps…hmm. I like Jean Claude from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and Dorian Black from Susan Krinard’s wonderful romance DARK OF THE MOON. I love P.N. Elrod’s Vampire Files series, though I have to admit partiality for Jack Fleming’s human partner in crime(solving) Charles Escott, who’s very Sherlockian to me. I’m also a big fan of Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series and Chloe Neill’s new Chicagoland Vampires. As for television series, I kinda love Spike from Buffy and I’m finding Bill in Charlaine Harris’ TrueBlood HBO series a little irresistible. (If I could only get over the killing.)
Q: Bravo for making Gina a tough, together heroine! What are your thoughts on female main characters in YA books? Do you prefer a strong female protagonist?
A: Thank you! I really love a character who can kick butt and take names. I especially like that Gina doesn’t triumph because she’s super-powerful (vamp strength isn’t much of an edge in fighting other vamps), but because she is who she is. In the right hands, even hairspray can be a very powerful weapon. And spiked heels…don’t even get me started. I guess the point is that most people don’t actually set their minds to becoming heroes. They see a need to right a wrong and step up. Or, as Gina would say, they put on their big girl panties and deal with it.
Q: Revamped comes out next year. Can you give us a hint about what’s in store for Gina next?
A: (cue evil laugh) Finally with Gina I’ve found a character I like to torture. You can be sure that whatever it is, it won’t come with a clothing allowance.
For fellow writers, I’d like to ask a couple questions about your writing style.
Q: How long have you been writing? What are some of your other published works?
A: I’ve been writing since I was eleven years old. Maybe even earlier, but that’s when I first remember actually finishing stories and showing them to someone else to read. My fifth grade teacher was amazing. I really credit him with helping me find my calling. In addition to VAMPED this year, I’ve got a story coming out in Esther Friesner’s STRIP-MAULED anthology. Next year will see REVAMPED published, as well as an adult vampire story in another Esther Friesner anthology from Baen Books.
Q: Do you outline or wing it?
A: A little of both. I’ll generally have a sense of where the story will go, but I only outline a few chapters ahead, because I find that so much changes as I write, as I learn more about the characters and their worlds, that there’s no point in plotting beginning to end early on. I’d have to throw out all the latter material in any case by the time I got there.
Q: Do you prefer to write in first person or third? Present or past tense? Why?
A: Most of my stories come out in first person. I think that’s because, as mentioned, my characters seem to come through and tell their stories personally and I more or less step out of the way. I hope that’s what readers hear when they pick up my work — my characters’ voices and not mine. Different stories, though, call for different POVs.
Past tense, definitely! I find it very difficult to read, let alone write, present tense. Some authors do it tremendously well, but most attempts I’ve seen at present tense are inconsistent and intrusive to the narrative. Distancing even.
Q: Did you or do you have a critique group? Do you see a benefit in having one?
A: I had a critique group for a long time, including when I wrote the first draft of VAMPED. Now I have a crit partner. I can’t speak for all writers, but I know that for me it’s vitally important to get a second opinion on my work. I need to be pushed sometimes. It helps to have someone point out the flaws I’m hoping no one will notice (or those I didn’t even know existed) so that I can fix them before my work is ever submitted.
Q: Writers sometimes struggle with bad habits, like using too many adverbs, or passive verbs. Do you catch yourself having a writing habit that you try to break?
A: Bad habits are another great reason for critique partners/groups. Many of us don’t even realize we have them until they’re pointed out. But once you’ve worked with a group for a while, you start to hear them in your head and can avoid past pitfalls. Yes, it gets crowded in here sometimes—my critique group, my characters, my mother telling me the dress I’m wearing is way too short….
I have to be careful with the word “just.” I’ve also struggled a lot with action scenes. I used to drag my feet whenever I approached one. Now I just accept that my action scenes are going to take a few drafts, but I no longer fear that I won’t get them where they have to be.
Q: Do you edit while writing, or leave editing until after the first draft?
A: I try to write forward – a full draft from beginning to end before I allow myself to go back over what I’ve written. However, there always comes a point (or more) in the course of the writing, where I have to go back and add something in or change it before I feel I can move on. I’ve found that fighting that urge only keeps me from progressing.
Q: Best piece of advice for aspiring authors?
A: Writing is hard work. I think that often the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is the willingness to put the work in. Yes, you should enjoy what you’re doing and yes it’s an art, but even artists hone their skills and improve from work to work. Think artists don’t do drafts? What about the sketches that come before the great paintings or the scale models that come before the sculpture? No pain, no gain goes for writing just as it does for body-building.
Hand in hand with that is the willingness to accept criticism productively. You can always learn something from an honest critique. It may not be what you want to hear. You may not even necessarily agree, but take it under consideration. Try to see where the reader is coming from. There may be things that are clear in your head that don’t come across on the page. There may be things you like that don’t serve to further the story. Lynn Flewelling, who is absolutely fabulous, once said that she throws out as much as sees print. It’s not the fun part of the process, but if you’re only looking for fun, you’re probably not looking toward publication.
Q: What kind of networking do you do, and how do you interact with your readers?
A: I have a wonderful street team who helped me get the word out on VAMPED (hey, guys!), a blog, a Twitter account, Facebook, MySpace, a website…whew! I also answer all the fan mail I get. It makes my entire day every time someone writes to say they’ve enjoyed the book. (Gina always wants to take total credit, but I won’t give her my passwords, so I get to answer on her behalf. Tee hee.)
Q: As an agent, what makes you jump out of your chair and request the full manuscript?
A: A really wonderful voice, fresh ideas, and lots of suspense. I want to be wowed with the reality and originality of the voice and the world. I’ll read anything that hooks me and drags me along for a fast-paced thrill-ride. The genre doesn’t so much matter to me—romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thrillers, I love them all—as the connection to the work. If I stay up way too late reading and gush about the novel to everyone I come into contact with, I know it’s for me.
Q: Any upcoming releases or announcements from clients that you would like to share?
A: Oh, so many! Looking just at July, there’s:
DYING BITES by D.D. Barant, a fantastic urban fantasy, first in a very original new series.
STRANGE BREW edited by P.N. Elrod, an anthology with stories by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, P.N. Elrod, Caitlin Kittredge, Faith Hunter and Jenna Maclaine
THE CALLING by David Mack, a dark fantasy thriller
SKINWALKER by Faith Hunter, the first in her excellent Jane Yellowrock series
DARKNESS CALLS by Marjorie M. Liu, the sequel to her bestselling uf THE IRON HUNT
SOUTHERN PERIL by T. Lynn Ocean, Southern-styled mystery
THE EDGE OF DAWN by Patti O’Shea, paranormal romance, newest in her Light Warriors series
WILD WOLF by Karen Whiddon, the latest popular Pack novel from Silhouette Nocturne
Then in August there’s a new Weather Wardens novel from Rachel Caine, a Dirk & Steele from Marjorie M. Liu, a debut mystery from Diana Orgain…. So much going on!
Just for the fun of it…
Q: What is your favorite color?
A: Cobalt blue.
Q: Favorite flavor of ice cream?
A: Dulce de leche!
Q: Mexican, Italian or something else?
A: It depends—which one of them has the fangs? Oh, wait, you’re talking food! Boy, is my face red. Uh, after that I think I’d have to go with my husband’s bourbon and vanilla marinated pork and sweet potatoes.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with OPWFT. We’ll be watching for Revamped to hit the shelves next year so we can catch up with Gina’s antics!
Thanks so much! I really enjoyed the interview. Have a wonderful summer, everybody!
Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Jamie Blair. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.