Guest Author Interview: Beth Fantaskey
At some point, every teenage girl has told herself, “This isn’t where I belong. Those aren’t my real parents. My real parents are (royals, relief workers in the Peace Corps, circus folk, etc.)”
Well, for Jessica Packwood, it’s true.
Jessica has always known she was adopted. She did not know she was the last princess born to a noble and ancient vampire line. Or that she was promised in marriage to the son of a rival royal vampire clan in a ceremony just after she was born. When her betrothed- posing as a yummy, if somewhat arrogant foreign exchange student from Romania- shows up on her first day of senior year to demand her hand, her whole world is turned upside-down.
I found Jessica and the other characters in JESSICA’S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE a little while ago while searching for more age-appropriate alternatives for my mother’s eighth-grade students, who wanted to read my book. Author Beth Fantaskey has managed to blend just the right mix of humor, fantasy and angst in her debut novel. Jessica is smart, strong, and has believably adolescent reactions without being whiny. The chemistry between Jessica and her love interest, Lucius, is sexy enough that young readers won’t feel patronized, but still manages to be age-appropriate.
It’s been a long time since a young adult novel actually made me shed a tear or two… in fact, I think I was a young adult the last time that happened.
So imagine my shock and surprise when Ms. Fantaskey took time out of her busy schedule (not to mention defending her century-old home from roof leaks and plagues of ants) to respond to a fawning E-mail from yours truly.
Beth was kind enough to agree to a guest interview here on my blog. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself.
BF: Hmmm.... I'm 43, married with two kids, and I have a couple jobs, including teaching at a university and working sporadically as a journalist. I like to dabble in different hobbies, like studying Mandarin or doing martial arts, and I most recently joined up with a bunch of women who are training to complete a mini-triathlon this summer. Not sure if we'll cross the finish line, though, since half of us - including me - don't really know how to swim. That could be a problem!
Tell us about your pathway to publication. Where were you when you thought of Jessica? How long did it take you to write the book? To find an agent and a publisher?
BF: I was riding in a car, traveling from Georgia to Pennsylvania, when I came up with the idea for Jessica's Guide. I started jotting notes on the gazillion fast-food napkins that my husband stockpiles in his glove compartment. (He is ready for any ketchup-related emergency!) When I got home, I wrote the book very quickly, in a matter of weeks, and sent it to an agent I'd heard speak once, at a conference. She called me within a few days and said, "Let's get this sold." It was all really fast - which was great, since I never had time to think, "Who do I think I am, writing a novel??"
What about this story made you sit up and say, "This HAS to be told."
BF: I just loved the idea of a very rational, math-loving girl discovering - and embracing - a very irrational truth about herself.
How did you come up with your vampire lore? Were there certain plot devices that required certain vampire powers?
BF: I created my vampire lore from scratch, not counting vague memories of movies like "Nosferatu" and the old Bram Stoker story. Mainly, I wanted Lucius to be able to function in the real world (not dissolving in light, for example) or doing things that I considered too silly, like cringing away from garlic. I can't imagine Lucius Vladescu cringing away from anything.
You've created a sensible, steady teenager in Jessica. How important was it to you that she be a good role model for teen girls?
BF: Very important. I want my own daughters to have strong female role models. I wanted Jess to be able to stand up to Lucius, when necessary, and think for herself and make her own choices. I also wanted her to be proud of her appearance, although she's not the traditional "model" body type. Smart, gorgeous women come in all shapes and sizes, and I think that should be celebrated.
How did you manage to find such a delicate balance for Jessica's parents? They're these wacky hippies, but still very well-rounded, real characters.
BF: Thank you! I drew upon being a parent, myself. I do things that embarrass my kids, but I'm also there to give them guidance, support and, of course, love. When I wrote about the Packwoods, I'd think, "How would I deal with Jess in this situation?" They are in a tough spot, trying to protect Jess while also allowing her to grow and become the person she is meant to be, and I really connected with that struggle, emotionally, as I wrote.
Will there be a sequel? (Please, please, pretty please.)
BF: That is not certain... I am honestly not sure!
What's next for you? Future releases? Exorcism of ants and leaks from your house?
BF: Propping up our old house with duct tape, Elmer's glue and chicken wire is, indeed, high on my "to do" list. But as far as writing goes, my next book, called Jekel Loves Hyde, is due out next year. It's another dark, supernatural romance/mystery... I'm very excited about it. I hope readers are, too!
JESSICA’S GUIDE CAN BE PURCHASED ANYWHERE BOOKS ARE SOLD.
Here is her Amazon sales page
And here is her home page.