Q. PC, you were the editor on the Teen Libris fiction anthology Immortal: Love Stories With Bite, a collection of vampire short stories by a great group of YA authors (including Kristin!). Was this your first time heading up an anthology?
PC: Yes, it was my first time! I had such a wonderful experience, thanks in great part to our fabulous BenBella Books editor, Leah Wilson, that I’d love to do it again and again!
Q. Kristin, speaking of Immortal, tell us a little bit more about your story, “Amber Smoke,” and the process of writing it.
KC: Actually, writing on my own was very hard for me. I’m used to having the framework already set up and just having to fill in the blanks. It was very different trying to make the characters come alive on my own. “Amber Smoke” is, of course, about vampires, and my vamps are on missions to recapture spirits that have escaped the Greek Underworld; they also each have a unique power that helps them throughout their journey.
Q. Why do you two think vampires have made such a big comeback lately, especially in teen fiction?
PC: I discuss this in my intro to the anthology. Basically I think vampires are an alluring fantasy because they represent the mystery and magnificence of eternal youth. It’s sexy and fantastic! There are so many fictional possibilities when you introduce the idea that your character can virtually live forever (and be gorgeous!), that vampires equate to a wonderful adventure.
KC: I didn’t really know that vampire stories had ever gone away! But, I guess, the idea of a vampire character is very romantic. There is always a struggle of how the vampire will fall in love, and the whole living forever thing presents a kind of large problem sometimes (not to mention … vampires are super fine!).
Q. You guys collaborated on the (now New York Times-bestselling– congrats!) House of Night series. Whose idea was that?
PC: A couple years ago I was at a national writers’ conference in Reno having drinks with my agent, Meredith Bernstein, and she said she had an idea for a series she wanted to give me. Then she said the three magic words: vampire finishing school. I took it from there!
Q. How weird is it relating to each other not just as mother and daughter, but as co-writers? Do either of the relationships ever get in the way of the other?
PC: I don’t think it’s weird relating to each other at all because no matter what we’re still mother and daughter. Kristin and I have always been very close, and I love working with her. It’s really fun now that the series has become so successful that we’re being sent all over to promote it– and we get to travel together! It’s great because Kristin and I have loved to travel together since she was a little girl (actually she was born in Japan on Yokota AFB). It is interesting that as Kristin gets older (she was barely 19 when we started writing together and now she’s 21) I can depend on her professional judgment more and more. I value her opinion about the business aspect of writing– she’s grown up as the daughter of an author and she understands much more about the business of publishing than a typical 21 year old. Our publisher, St. Martin’s Press, also values her business savvy and has used several of her ideas for marketing and publicity, as well as offering her an internship with them.
KC: My mom has always been an author, so this has just been a chance to spend more time with her and share something that we both enjoy. I don’t even see a difference in the co-writer and mother/daughter relationships.
Q. Kristin, how hard is it working on the House of Night series and going to school at the same time? Do your professors accept “But I had an editorial deadline!” as an excuse for late papers?
KC: It isn’t too hard until I have to miss class to go out of town for a signing or other event, because my mom understands the importance of my education. Unfortunately, I attend a private university that only believes “literature,” and not pop fiction, is worth reading. With that said, the majority of my professors could actually care less, and often don’t take my NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING writing career seriously (even after I give them signed copies of books … sigh).
Q. PC, you have a day job too– teaching high schoolers, no less. How do you think working with teenagers has affected the way you write young adult fiction?
PC: It’s had a profound affect! I’ve been teaching freshmen and sophomores since 1993, and had I not been so immersed in their crazy teenage world for so long there’s no way I could write a first person YA and make it believable– at least not one set in a modern version of our world. Teaching the same age as the kids I’m writing for and about allows me to get inside knowledge of what’s really going on with today’s teenagers.
Q. Let’s talk about the House of Night series. When I finished reading them, the first thing I did was pass the books on to my mom. So I was curious– do you have a lot of mother-and-daughter fans?
PC: I do get a lot of mail from mother-daughter readers. Actually, I get a lot of mail from older readers. That doesn’t surprise me, though, because I’m definitely older and I enjoy reading YA. The reason I took this series in the direction of YA rather than an adult slant is because I like today’s young adult genre and read qite a bit of it. I’ve always said authors should write the book they would love to curl up and read, so really I’m just following my own advice.
Q. The House of Night series, like a lot of YA series these days, is a lot darker (and racier!) than the YA books of previous generations. I suspect this resonates with today’s readers– and would have resonated with those past generations’ readers too!– but have you gotten any parental backlash from that?
PC: I get very little parental backlash, or at least not personally. I am aware of negative comments on the web, but I don’t read those. Kristin and I are not trying to please everyone. We’re trying to write a series we believe is authentic. The content in our books that is sexual or violent or displaying bad language is not there gratuitously. It’s there because it’s there in the real world of teenagers, and even though we’ve created a fictional version of that world, we want it to resonate with today’s teens, which means it must be accurate. Because of my years of teaching I’m acutely aware that there is a type of parent who believes he/she has the right to dictate what all kids are exposed to because he/she has the only correct point of view. If one doesn’t agree with this type of parent, one is considered not just wrong but inherently sinful. I loath this type of attitude and consistently stand up to it in my classroom. It’s just a natural extension of my belief system that in my novels I deal with controversial issues head on. If that offends some parents then I suggest they don’t read my books. Kristin and I choose not to dwell on negativity, so we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about not pleasing everyone.
Q. The students (and professors) at the House of Night school aren’t your average vampires. The fact that they Change into a vampire is a lot more like puberty than like death is only the beginning. What are the reasons behind changing the mythology of vampires so radically?
PC: I decided if I was going to write about vampires I was going to do it on my own terms. While I do give fictional nods to some of the classic vampire mythos elements, i.e., aversion to sunlight, bloodsucking, enhanced powers, long lived, etc., I also create a world that is very much my own. My vamps have a strong biological basis because I have a strong biology background – I was a literature major in college, but took so many premed classes I could have minored in biology instead of secondary education. My father is a biologist, and I went to him to brainstorm the biological basis for my vamps. Together we came up with a strong physiological element that I think mixes well with the paranormal aspect of the world.
Q. The next House of Night book, Untamed, is coming out in September. I’m anti-spoilers, but-is there anything you can tell us about what we have to look forward to?
PC: Hum…I can tell you that Zoey has a mess from Chosen she has to clean up! And in Untamed we finally get to see why Neferet has gone bad, which brings us to a whole new evil Zoey and the House of Night come up against. This book is darker and scarier than the previous books– I scared myself while I was writing it!
Q. What are you both working on right now?
PC: Right now I’m almost done with the draft of book 5, Hunted, which means very shortly Kristin will be working on it. Besides my YA world I have another Goddess Summoning Book for Berkley I’ll be finishing (Goddess of Camelot, release date June 2009), as well as a book I’m doing for Harlequin’s Nocturne line where I’m one of the four authors leading off a new series written by women who are all military veterans. The heroines of our books are military women, too. It’s a great paranormal series that should debut in 2009.
KC: Besides awaiting the arrival of Hunted to my hotmail inbox, I am working on taking “Amber Smoke” and making it into a YA novel, and perhaps the beginning of a new series!
Q. If you could each tell us to read one book this year, what would it be?