Cynthia Leitich Smith is the acclaimed YA author of TANTALIZE (2007), and its companions, ETERNAL (2009) and BLESSED (forthcoming), all Gothic fantasies from Candlewick Press. She also has written several YA short stories as well as books for younger readers. TANTALIZE was a Borders Original Voices selection, honored at the 2007 National Book Festival, and The Horn Book called it "an intoxicating romantic thriller." A graphic novel adaptation of TANTALIZE is in the works. ETERNAL received 5 stars from TeensReadToo, which raves "This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is filled with danger, deception, humor, love, sadness, and hope." And Notes from the Horn Book calls it a "witty, dark love story of death and redemption."
Tell us a little about Eternal.
Eternal is a Gothic fantasy love story, told in alternating point of view by a vampire princess and the one-time guardian angel who blames himself for her fate. It's set in the same universe as my previous YA novel, Tantalize, and the two casts will crossover in book three, Blessed.
Which one of your novels was your favorite to write?
I always love the book that I'm working on at the moment. Right now, that's a graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize told from the point of view of Kieren, the werewolf hero. I grew up on comics, and I can't wait to see what the illustrator makes of my fictional world.
Why did you choose YA as your target audience?
I have great respect for the audience and great admiration for young heroes. They have fewer resources and less life experience as adults and therefore must stretch themselves more to grow and change and deal with the challenges in their lives.
It's also a time of heightened intensity. Consider a kiss. Then consider a first kiss. Then consider your first kiss ever. An age filled with rites of passage is simply more compelling.
Their true natures aside, would you rather be an Eternal or a Guardian Angel?
I'm pretty happy as a human being. But if I had to pick, I'd rather be an angel. Among other things, I'd get better hair with the deal. Are shapeshifters an option? It would be fun to be a werecat!
What characters in your novels have you related too?
I think every character has a splice of the author in them. With Quincie, it was her work ethic; with Kieren, his scholarly nature; with Miranda, her insecurities; and with Zachary, his devotion to his love.
When you have writer's block, how do you get back on track?
I dance in the dark to the soundtrack from the "Xanadu" album.
What is the best part of being a writer?
Living in the world of books and feeling as though I belong among its magical people. I adore writers, young readers, and the folks who act as ambassadors and champions of youth literature.
How do you deal with negative feedback?
If the book is already finished, there's nothing to be done, even if I'm in agreement or a light bulb goes off. I can only take those insights into the future. If it's a work in progress, though, I'm very open to revision suggestions. My goal is the best story possible, and I'm thrilled by any suggestions that get me closer to that goal.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ah, there are so many! Just to highlight, they include Maggie Stiefvater, Libba Bray, Elizabeth Scott, Brent Hartinger, Kathi Appelt, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Varian Johnson-among others.
Can you tell us of some of the projects you are working on?
I've already mentioned them! Blessed will crossover the casts of Tantalize and Eternal, and the Tantalize graphic novel features the same story (with many, many new scenes) from Kieren's point of view.
I also look forward to the release of two short stories-"Cat Calls" will appear in Sideshow: Ten Original Dark Tales, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2009) and "The Wrath of Dawn," co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, will appear in Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown)-watch for them this summer!
A big thanks to Cynthia for this awesome interview!
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