Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Interview - Cynthia Leitich Smith

Darque Reviews welcomes Cynthia Leitich Smith:

Hi Cynthia! Thank you for sharing your time with Darque Reviews. We’re looking forward to getting to know you, and learning more about your current and upcoming books.

CLS: Thanks so much! It's an honor to talk to you.

To begin, can you tell us how long you’ve been writing, and when you knew that getting published was a goal you planned to pursue?

CLS: I majored in news/editorial and public relations at the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas and continued on to complete a J.D. at the University of Michigan Law School. My intent was to become either a reporter covering the courts or a media law professor.

As much as I enjoyed my legal studies, the language of the law was a tad ponderous. As a reader, I returned to youth literature for clarity and poetry and humor.

Shortly after graduation, I decided to write for kids and teens. That was twelve years ago.

My first children's book was Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000). I've since published three more books for children, and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) is my first novel for the upper-level young adult audience, though I've previously published short stories for teens.

Your most recent young adult story, Tantalize, published by Candlewick Press is just fabulous. Can you tell us where you got the idea for this story?

CLS: During college, I worked as a waitress, and the idea of a restaurant as a stage—thematic décor and menu, staff in costume/uniform, mood music and lighting—intrigued me. I knew I wanted to write a novel with that backdrop.

More recently, I'd decided to write the kind of book I enjoyed most as a reader, Gothic fantasy. To prepare myself, I revisited the classics, including Bram Stoker's Dracula. I took note that Stoker, who was Irish, had cast a Texan, Quincey Morris, as one of Van Helsing's original vampire hunters.

That inspired me to bring the mythology "home" in a sense to Austin. I crafted my own Quincie (with a gender flip) and decided that her family restaurant would be my central setting.

Tantalize has been so well received by teens and adults alike, will you be continuing the story of Quincie Morris with a sequel?

CLS: My next novel, tentatively titled Eternal, will be set in the same universe but feature different characters. However, I am interested in revisiting Quincie and pals thereafter. These would be companion books rather than a more linear series format.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

CLS: I'm working on a revision for Eternal and short stories for two different YA anthologies, one to be published by Candlewick and another to be published by Little, Brown. I also have a gothic graphic (comic-book format) novel in the works.

Do you work on multiple projects, or is it easier to work on one at a time?

CLS: I don't tend to work on two novels at once, but I can work on a prose novel and a shorter or very different project like a picture book or short story. Novels require a fair amount of cooling between drafts (or while waiting to hear from an editor), so that in-between time is well suited to picking up another manuscript.

Writing with a younger audience in mind, is it difficult for you to write the steamier scenes?

CLS: I focus on the story and let the character tell it in his or her voice. Young adults are a sophisticated audience. Most teens are already reading books marketed to grown-ups, too, and our readership includes college students and twenty-somethings.

That said, books in the YA category tend to have a strong moral center, perhaps even more so in fantasy, and we're (or at least I'm) still hovering within the PG13 range.

Much of your previous writing utilizes your Native American background, was it more difficult to write without that influence in Tantalize?

CLS: When I began writing, I took the typical advice: write what you know. For me that meant stories of small-town people from the mid-to-southwest, including Native families.

As I've grown as I writer, I've begun to branch out and take more chances. Like Quincie, I live in Austin and have a history of working in a restaurant and am independent and ambitious. So, a lot of me can be found in her story, too.

What genre do you enjoy reading most, and is more of your reading for pleasure or for research?

CLS: Gothic fantasy, followed by contemporary realistic fiction.

Most of my reading is for pleasure and to "keep up" with the industry, though I adore research (and tend to overdo it).

In addition, I run a large youth literature resource site (www.cynthialeitichsmith.com) and popular youth literature-related blogs, so I'm always looking for new titles and voices to highlight.

Quincie has some very unique friends and acquaintances in Tantalize. If you had the ability to turn into any one of them, which would you choose, and why?

CLS: I don't know that they're friends exactly, but I'd choose the werecat. I have four bossy felines of my own, and just once I'd like to show them how cool of a kitty I could be.

Before we say goodbye, is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

CLS: I'm having delicious heaps of fun writing spooky stories, and it's a thrill to have entered the vibrant horror fiction community.

Thanks so much for joining us, it’s been a pleasure. :)

CLS: Thank you!

Kimberly Swan, Darque Reviews

Please visit Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website, here:

Cynthia’s blogs can be found here:

Visit Candlewick Press, here:


Katie said...

Great interview! Now I really am dying to read the book.

Kimberly Swan said...

She was wonderful about doing the interview and it's always so nice to learn a bit more about the authors. :) I hope it gets to the top of your TBR pile soon. So many books, so little time, right? *grin*