What originally gave you the idea for Of Light and Darkness? I rode the train to my high school every day. (I attended an art school that was too far for a school bus to take me.) I loved to pretend that it was something similar to the Hogwarts train, because I've always loved fantasy. I remember sitting alone a few days, watching out the window at the world around me thinking; "what would everything I'm looking at be like if it existed in a fantasy?" I started assigning creatures to the chaperones that attended the students on the train. One woman instantly became a troll. One of the students, a witch.
And then I remember a dream I had that I kind of considered to be the catalyst for my beginning to write OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS. There was no one in the dream but me. I was completely alone walking through this Halloween-esqe town. It was night. There was a dirt packed road, giant mushrooms with windows that might have been houses. There were jack-o-lanterns. It was really dark and eerieÉand cool! I thought, THIS is the setting for my story. And then someone very special in my life inspired me to set it in the Czech Republic (which workedÉbecause Prague is famous for its rich culture and a history that dates very far back).
I just wanted to twist it, and make it a little edgier and a bit more controversial than some of the other YA stories that I'm reading (and loving) these days. I wanted to add that element which would make readers slightly cringe and then root for that which was "wrong". (Sort of like FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC) *Cue the evil laughter!*
You've got an unusual setting apart from your paranormal world. Why did you pick the Czech republic as the backdrop for the book? As stated earlier, it was inspired by someone very special in my life. :) But also, after doing A LOT of research about the history of the fall of the Iron Curtain, the effect of World War II, Communism, and then some events from earlier Czechoslovak history, the setting of Prague seemed inspired and perfect! As you said, it's a place you don't come across a lot when reading. I see Paris a lot, London, Rome. I'm happy to hopefully get to introduce a new place to readers that they can fall in love with just as much as I have. The culture is so interesting. The architecture is amazing. With all of the ancient castles, spires, gargoyles, cathedrals and dark, historical events, Prague and the rest of the sort of mysterious Czech Republic was the PERFECT setting for my fantasy. The country is shrouded in mystery and beauty, and when you begin to read more about it, it really has this attraction to it that is difficult to ignore.
Did any of the characters surprise you while writing OLAD? This question instantly made me smile. I did not go in with a plan when I was writing this book. I just went inÉand started writing. I let my characters talk to me, and dictate what would happen next in the story as they each evolved and developed their own distinct personalities in my head. (Did I mention writers are schizophrenic?) All of my characters shocked me in one place or another, but the one who continuously surprised me and who was the most fun was Francis, the leader of the Rogue Vampire Coven. He's sort of my flamboyant ode to 'Lestat' from Anne Rice's THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES. He is simply hilarious, witty, cunning, snarky, and everything that comes out of his mouth will throw the reader for a loop! He's too much fun and one of my favorites. I have a lot of plans for Francis later in the series!
Which writers influenced you the most? When I first began writing OLAD, I was sixteen and editing book trailers for Cynthia Leitich Smith's books, Tantalize and Eternal. She's an amazing author and we instantly became fast virtual friends. I sent her the beginning pages of what was to become OLAD, and she sent them back to me with a lot of great critiquing, many red pen marks, and a shiny sticker and then she told me to keep going because a had a long road ahead of me. Well, now I'm here, four years later. :) She was a great influence on my writing as well as a phenomenal mentor that kept me going even after the task of breaking in to publishing seemed to be a bit daunting.
Also, I'm really in love with Anne Rice's style. I think the woman's work is fascinating, dark, sexy, and reads almost like poetry. I strive to be a similar voice in the young adult genre.
Who is your favorite fictional bad guy or girl? I think the best villain is definitely Anne Rice's 'Lestat'. He's a villain, but you're so in love with him, you don't care. You almost giggle when he does something deplorable. I think the best villain, is when you can disguise him/her as a friend. (*Wink*Étried to do that in the book) The best villain, is when they are a wolf in sheep's clothing and you never see them coming.
Favorite fictional good guy or girl? Harry Potter spoke very loudly to me when I was younger. He was the perfect underdog hero, and I think a lot of children related to him when they needed to find the strength, courage, and power within themselves to fight off something difficult in their lives. I remember reading those books, and being inspired. I love Harry Potter for what J.K. Rowling had him stand for and for what the message is behind him; never give up. I think a lot of children need to hear that.
I know readers have some special "multimedia" things to look forward to concerning OLAD. Can you tell us some of what's in the works? Here comes my "cat-that-swallowed-the-canary" grin. We have a motion picture in development currently, as my background is primarily in film. Michael Welch, who played 'Mike Newton' in the TWILIGHT SAGA has signed on to play the role of 'Aiden' in OLAD. It is still in the extremely early stages of development, but we are all very excited about it. The project is currently being co-produced by myself and Candace Charee', though when this interview is released, that might have very well changed.
Also, there are two original songs released for the soundtrack to OLAD. One is available now entitled 'Not Like the Others' and is available on iTunes. The music video is up on YouTube and gets posted every now and again to the OLAD Facebook page and the second song is called 'Of Light and Darkness' will be released soon. :-)
Will there be any more books featuring Charlotte and Valek? Absolutely! This is my absolute favorite project, and I have a lot of plans for Charlotte and Valek. I have a series of 5 planned right now. Although it might turn into more, so readers will just have to keep their eyes peeled. ;)