Jan 25, 2012

Diabolical - Interview with author Cynthia Leitich Smith +Giveaway

Diabolical was released this week and I'm happy to have author Cynthia Leitich Smith at the blog today. We live in the same town and she is a big part of the awesome YA and Kidlit community here. Today, we're talking about the Tantalize series and all things devilish! If you haven't seen my review, you can check it out HERE. Welcome, Cynthia!
DIABOLICAL is book four in the TANTALIZE series. When you started to think about writing Quince and Kieren's story, did you think it would go this far?
I had hopes! It didn’t begin as a series, but rather a single title followed by another single title and then another. Now, it’s being repackaged and marketed as a series. My initial concept was to engage in a conversation of sorts with Bram Stoker’s classic novel, DRACULA—to offer a contemporary extension of its mythology with strong romantic elements, some humor, mystery, suspense, a dash of girl power, and a diverse cast. Each of my Gothic novels inches closer to that source material, and in DIABOLICAL, we visit to the legendary Scholomance, where the Count supposedly learned his malevolent magic.

But back in 2000, when I started book one, I was well known as an author of contemporary Native American themed books for younger children. (I still write Native fiction—check out my short story “Mooning Over Broken Stars” in GIRL MEETS BOY, edited by Kelly Milner Halls (Chronicle, 2012).) And girl-friendly YA paranormal books were almost non-existent. (The TANTALIZE manuscript, which was some five years in the making, sold prior to the release of TWILIGHT and the related paranormal boom in YA literature). So I was just thrilled that such a prestigious house as Candlewick Press would take a chance on me and a type of genre fiction that was so underrepresented in the body of literature.

It’s been a wonderful experience. Writing the TANTALIZE series stretched me in new direction and shifted my public persona as an author to that of someone capable of a wider variety of work.
We are taken from Heaven to Hell in this book. Which setting was most enjoyable to write about?
It’s funny, because I don’t think the finished novel is particularly scary, but I literally woke in a sweat for months while writing DIABOLICAL. It’s that spinning subconscious at work. When you’re a horror novelist, your nightmares have sensory detail, thematic resonance, and subplots.

That said, I probably drew more on the iconic historical images of hell than I did of heaven. So, more imagination went into developing the Penultimate, which is located outside the Pearly Gates. It basically functions as a receiving/reunion area and lobby lounge with temporary housing and business offices of the angels. I hugely enjoyed that part of the world building process, especially the pop culture nods.
Miranda isn't very patient in Penultimate. Will she figure out why exactly she is there and not in Heaven?
Given Miranda’s previously vampy activities, I suspect it’s a pleasant surprise to her to have gotten as close to heaven as she has.

It was intriguing to revisit the character as an “ascended soul” and to consider the impact of her past experiences, especially misdeeds, on her eternal status and being. The one-time princess has become accustomed to snapping her fingers and having her will be done. She’s not one to take lightly being sidelined, especially when those she cares about are at risk.

That said, DIABOLICAL is all about second chances. It’s by far the most optimistic of the books in the series. The four heroes—Quincie, Kieren, Zachary, and Miranda—are heartily challenged, but it’s also a celebration of how much they’ve grown.

Finish this mad lib, please. 
As everyone knows,  ________ is  ________. He(she) tries to ________ again and again, but ________ is always ________.
As everyone knows, the archangel Michael is a softie when it comes to his fellow good guys. He tries to act tough again and again, but Michael is always there when they really need him.

Which is your favorite version of Satan? Tim Curry in Legend or Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate? Or, choose your own.
Tie: George Burns in “Oh, God! You Devil” and Roddy McDowall in “Fantasy Island.”
What is your favorite devilishly delicious dessert?
Dark chocolate covered strawberries.

What tour stops do you have planned for 2012?
Feb. 10 Austin, TX
Book People YA Fantasy Panel - 7 p.m.
Vicious Valentine: featuring authors Jordan Dane, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, Mari Mancusi, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and L.A. Weatherly---moderated by Sean Petrie. Whether you love love, hate it or fear it, be there for spooky cool refreshments and scary bookish fun!

March 8 Albuquerque, NM
Alamosa Books Author Event - 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

March 10 Tuscon, AZ
Tuscon Festival of Books
(plus school visits)

April 18 Houston, TX
Texas Library Association Conference
(two panels and signing)

June 11-15 Sandy, UT
Writing &  Illustrating for Young Readers

July 11-15 Southampton, NY
Southampton Writers Conference

August 13-19 Montpelier, VT
17th Annual Postgraduate Writers Conference

Thank you, Cynthia for your time! 

Her website 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 was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column.

Check out the official book trailer:

Candlewick has been kind enough to offer a copy of DIABOLICAL for one lucky winner! Fill out the fancy doo-hickey below to be officially entered. US only, please.

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