Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith

By March 3rd, 2011

You may have noticed the Blessed galley giveaway posted on the blog earlier this week; now you can meet the book’s author, Cynthia Leitich Smith!

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Cynthia Leitich Smithauthor website

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of Eternal, Tantalize, and Blessed (Candlewick). She is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.

Q. What was it like combining the worlds of Tantalize and Eternal to create Blessed?

A. Fun, full of surprises. The same big-picture fantasy rules applied, but I enjoyed crossing over characters from the previous books, seeing how their personalities and priorities meshed (or didn’t).

Bringing together the two strongest-willed female vampires in the series–neophyte Quincie from Tantalize and Old Blood Queen Sabine from Eternal–was hugely entertaining. I adore how Sabine refers to Quincie’s fangs as “precious baby teeth.”

Q. Blessed clearly references Dracula. Are there any other classic vampire stories or mythologies that inspired you?

A. On the mythology front, I took a long look at shape-shifter stories from around the world, the old oral tales that had been first whispered around campfires.

It occurred to me that the demonized animal was often the one who competed with humans for food and territory. The wolf in Europe. The big cat in Asia. That didn’t seem especially eco-friendly, so I decided my werewolves, werecats, werebears, weredeer, wereopossum, and werearmadillos had free will. Bless their furry souls. They could be good guys, if they wanted to.

Q. Between learning to be a vampire in secret, running a restaurant, falling in love, and saving the world, Quincie has a lot on her plate. Do you think the feeling of being overwhelmed is something with which many teens can relate?

A. I do! Quincie works at her family’s restaurant, and I waitressed as a teen, though I know a lot of YAs are struggling to find jobs in the current economy.

That said, even teens whose whole lives revolve around school and family may be still juggling their social schedules, homework, and extra-curricular activities.

Others care for younger siblings, shuffle between two different parental households, or dedicate time to church youth groups or community projects or their own blogs.

Teens are amazing.

Q. After Blessed, will we be seeing any more of Quincie, Kieren, Miranda, and Zachary?

A. Yes, the four will be back for one more novel. It doesn’t have a final title yet, but it’ll pick up mostly from plotlines introduced in Eternal.

What’s more, graphic novel fans can look forward to Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, coming from Candlewick in August, followed by Eternal: Zachary’s Story. These books are being illustrated by the amazing Ming Doyle, and the early sketches look spectacular.

Q. You wrote a short story for the Teen Libris anthology about vampires, Immortal: Love Stories With Bite. Can you tell us about your story?

A. “Haunted Love” is the story of Cody, a neophyte vampire trying to come to terms with his new existence and build a future for himself in a small Texas town. He decides to bring the local, historic theater back to life, but quickly finds himself in the middle of a decades-old (but still lingering) murder mystery.

It’s a romantic story, a bit of a puzzle, and has a creepy factor.

Q. Along with vampires, your story, “Haunted Love,” features a ghostly presence. Do you believe in real-life ghosts?

A. Yes, my house is haunted. I know what you’re probably thinking. But I’m from Kansas, a very boots-on-the-ground kind of girl. I didn’t believe in ghosts either until I saw one and things started moving around, seemingly of their own accord.

Q. Do you like writing short stories or novels better?

A. They’re different beasties. The short story is a sprint. It takes you just as far as a horizon, so you can see something new or in a new way. The novel is a marathon.

Q. Between Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, and “Haunted Love,” you’ve written about quite a cast of supernatural creatures. Are there any magical beings you haven’t written about yet that you’d like to work into a story?

A. I’m increasingly drawn to (mostly) humans with a bit of supernatural power, or those without any who nevertheless dare to join the war between good and evil.

I also have a hankering to write a hobgoblin, maybe as a sidekick or for comic relief.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. I’m finishing the fourth prose book in the Tantalize series, and I need to look at the Eternal graphic novel one more time before it goes to the illustrator.

I’m also excited to have contributed an essay to the upcoming anthology Dear Bully, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, which will be published next fall by HarperCollins.

Q. If you could recommend one book this year, what would it be?

A. I can hardly wait for Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler, coming this summer from Delacorte. Jennifer’s previous novel, How Not to Be Popular, is one my all-time faves.

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