The topic of witches conjures up images of cauldrons filled with magical brews and broomsticks flying in the sky. The most famous one that comes to mind is Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz. Many young girls have found themselves role-playing this character on Halloween due to her undeniable beauty and charm. The possibility that someone can possess magical powers has fascinated people for centuries.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Melissa de la Cruz shares this very idea of fascination with witchcraft in her latest release WITCHES OF EAST END. It’s the story of the Beauchamp family who possess magical powers in modern day times. Known as the author of the widely popular Blue Bloods series, this new series is Melissa’s first for adults. With just the right amount of intrigue and magical charm, this novel is the perfect read to kick off the summer.
As part of this interview, Hyperion Books has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your summertime fun.
Jen: A New York Times bestselling author, your career has included many facets of the publishing business. So that my readers may have a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background prior to becoming published.
Melissa: I graduated with a degree in English and Art History from Columbia University. I was a beauty editor at Allure, a fashion editor at Hintmag.com and a freelance magazine writer and contributed to many publications including Marie Claire, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Teen Vogue and The New York Times.
Jen: Please describe for us the “Aha!” moment when you made the decision to pursue a writing career.
Melissa: I’ve wanted to become a writer since I can remember; probably when I was about eight years old I decided this is what I want to do. My ‘aha’ moment came when I was eleven and I found out the author of Sweet Valley High was a girl in her twenties. Before then I thought authors were either ninety years old or dead. When I found out she was only about ten years older than me, I thought ‘hey, maybe I could do that.’
Jen: Besides writing for many outstanding publications, such as The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Marie Claire, your current claim to fame has been your award-winning novels for Young Adults. For those readers unfamiliar with your work, please give us a brief overview of your writing career.
Melissa: I published my first novel, CAT’S MEOW, in 2001, and then I co-wrote two non-fiction books with a friend, HOW TO BECOME FAMOUS IN TWO WEEKS OR LESS, and THE FASHIONISTA FILES. My first YA novel, THE AU PAIRS, was published in 2004. Blue Bloods, about a group of young New York teens who discover they are vampires, was published in 2006, and it’s the series that took off and ‘broke out’ as they say in publishing.
Jen: Having established yourself as a mainstay in the teen market, what was the driving force behind your entering the adult market?
Melissa: I was on book tour a few years ago and I noticed that many of the people in the audience were adults-the “Twilight mom” fanbase, and that my readers were growing up – they were in their 20s, in college, or out of school and working. I thought, hey, maybe I can do something for that age group-it would be fun to write a paranormal story that wasn’t set in high school.
Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, please share with us your writing process. Do you outline first and plot? Or, do you just allow the story to take on a life of its own?
Melissa: Both. You can’t plan everything. Writing is part planning and part discovery. I plot and I outline, but then as I write the story, it has to gel, and make sense, sometimes it does and I feel so lucky, sometimes it doesn’t and I have to go back to the drawing board.
Jen: And besides the obvious subject matter, how does writing for an adult market differ from writing for teens?
Melissa: I think the main difference is in an adult novel you can linger a little more on the environment and the setting a little more, whereas in a YA novel you’ve got to keep things moving so that your readers don’t get bored. I think adults are maybe more tolerant, although with the popularity of YA for adults, it looks like everyone likes a fast-paced story. But there’s really not that much difference, it’s still storytelling, and to say that it’s different-that’s just a marketing issue.
Jen: Later this month, your debut adult novel WITCHES OF EAST END hits stores. How did you arrive at the premise?
Melissa: I had an idea to write about a family of women, I wanted to write about sisters, about having a complicated relationship with your mother, and once I realized it was very girl-centric, of course I thought, oh, they’re witches! I did some research on Gardiner Island, which is the oldest independently owned property in America – it was gifted to the family from the English crown. Pretty cool, right? The family hasn’t been able to maintain it (it’s four hundred years old) so that started the wheels spinning…
Jen: Your three main characters in this delightful, summer read are witches, a mother Joanna Beauchamp and her two daughters Freya and Ingrid. Each one has her own set of magic tricks, if you will, which have been banned from being used by the Council. Why then does Freya choose to test fate and start practicing witchcraft again?
Melissa: I think she just gets a bit bored and frustrated. You have this awesome power, and you can’t do anything with it? I was very much thinking of how restricted the lives of women used to be – they couldn’t vote, they weren’t supposed to work, etc. And not being able to use your magic is like being a frustrated 50s housewife.
Jen: Ingrid is a somewhat shy girl choosing to hideaway behind a desk as a librarian. Why does she lack the self-confidence which is so evident in her little sister?
Melissa: It’s a personality issue, Ingrid is much more reserved and not able to put herself “out there” and the restriction made her more timid, whereas it made Freya wilder. They reacted to it differently.
Jen: Being the matriarch of the family, Joann is in charge of keeping the girls in line; however, she seems to be a bit of a free-spirit herself. In what way is she a good role model for her girls?
Melissa: I think she is. Joanna is not your traditional mom, and neither was my mother. My mom wasn’t a typical stay at home mom. She was a vice-president at Bank of America, and did a lot of mothering by phone, by nannies, and by setting an example of being a strong, independent woman. I based a lot of Joanna on her, I think, in that Joanna is a bit flummoxed by her daughters, but loves them dearly. My mom had clear goals for us, and we adored her, she can’t bake a cookie to save her life, but she showed us a different path. Most of my friends’ moms stayed at home. They seemed so boring compared to my mom, who wore designer clothes, threw great parties, and wore high heels to work, where she was the boss.
Jen: The wealthy Bran Gardiner has swooped Freya right off of her feet. What makes him so irresistible to her?
Melissa: The main thing that draws Freya to Bran is that he’s kind, he’s a very gentle person, and I think kindness is the best quality in men (and women). It’s very attractive to be with someone who cares for you.
Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Do you participate in Author Phone Chats? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one?
Melissa: Right now my schedule does not allow me to do that, so sorry. I would love to in the future but with my deadlines and my four year old daughter demanding my time, it’s very difficult.
Jen: Please take us on a tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Melissa: I keep a blog, which I update on promotional and sometimes personal whimsy.
Jen: In terms of social media, are you on FaceBook? Twitter? Do you blog regularly on any sites?
Melissa: I am on Facebook at facebook.com/authormelissadelacruz and on twitter twitter.com/melissadelacruz. I seem to use twitter a lot more than facebook. My assistant updates my Facebook page. But I do my Twitter updates myself, I like it, it’s very easy to use.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you share with us?
Melissa: Yes, working on many next novels. In addition to the sequel to WITCHES OF EAST END, (sequel comes out next summer). I have LOST IN TIME, the sixth Blue Bloods novel coming out in September. Then I have the Blue Bloods spinoff WOLF PACT, which I’m co-writing with my husband that comes out September 2012. Then the seventh and final novel in the Blue Bloods series comes out January 2013. And my husband and I just sold a new fantasy series, The Other Land Chronicles, to Penguin, and that comes out spring of 2013. And Hyperion bought new books in a second cycle of Blue Bloods novels, not sure when that is scheduled yet, but the Blue Bloods world does continue, which I’m very happy about.
Jen: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by and chat with my readers. I hope you have a relaxing summer!
Melissa: Thanks for having me!! So glad you liked WITCHES OF EAST END!!
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Melissa. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of WITCHES OF EAST END today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?
Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at email@example.com with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win!
What is the name of the Melissa’s first published novel?Next month, I will be bringing to you interviews with New York Times bestselling authors William Dietrich and Meg Cabot! You won’t want to miss them.