Also by this author: For Darkness Shows the Stars, Secret Society Girl, Under the Rose, Rites of Spring (Break), Tap & Gown, Rampant, Ascendant, Across a Star-Swept Sea, Omega City, Omega City: The Forbidden Fortress
For my final Birthday Month Author Spotlight, I have a fantastic interview with the wonderful Diana Peterfreund. Read on for more about Diana’s favorite scenes, couples, more information about her upcoming companion to For Darkness Shows the Stars, ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA and one last giveaway of any of her books!
MOSTLY YA LIT: You’ve been a pretty steady author since you sold your first book. Do you feel like it’s gotten easier over time to figure out what to write, how to sell that proposal, etc?
Diana Peterfreund: Both and neither. In some way it’s gotten harder and in some ways easier. I also think those are probably two different questions. What to write gets much much harder after you’ve published. You have to think about what your readership expects, about what your publisher or market segment is willing to publish. There’s a lot less of the fun and games of jumping from genre to genre, and I’ve been luckier than most in that regard. And the more you’re involved in the industry, the more you know “what else is out there”. But with an agent, “how” to sell the proposal is something that’s not as much my duty.
MYAL: How did you end up transitioning from “New Adult” to YA? Did you always want to write YA, or was it always your intention to start with romance/chick lit?
DP: I don’t really think of myself as “transitioning” though I can understand how it might look that way. I started writing Rampant in 2005, the same year I started writing Secret Society Girl. But between being so busy launching my writing career and how slow YA publishing moves, it didn’t come out until 2009. I had adult and YA books out in both 2009 and 2010, and then I had a baby and went on maternity leave, which is why there was no books in 2011 and only one in 2012 and 2013. Now that my daughter is two, I hope to increase my writing time again. I hope! (Also, my adult books tend to be only about 2/3 the length of my big fat YA novels. Ironic, huh?)
MYAL: You started as a contemporary writer, and have moved to more paranormal/post-apocalyptic projects. Do you think you’ll stick with that?
DP: Nope. 🙂 I think this is just another artifact of timing. A futuristic retelling of Scarlet Pimpernel (ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA, my 2013 book) was something I was working on long before any of the other books I’ve published. My reading tastes are all over the map, and I’ve written all kinds of things, from contemporary realism to contemporary fantasy to post-apocayptic sci-fi and historical fantasy. I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to follow my interests through my career so far.
MYAL: Paranormal, dystopian and post-apocalyptic YA is a really big thing right now. Do you see this trend fading in the next 10 years? Why do you think this is a big YA phenomenon and less an adult fiction thing?
DP: Oh, I think paranormal is a HUGE thing in adult fiction, especially romance, and post-apocalyptic is all over the place in mainstream adult (Justine Cronin, Colson Whitehead, etc.). I think trends have a natural ebb and flow, and ten years is a LONG time. People get sick of things and stop reading them and then they get back into it. I try not to think about trends as much as about what I’m inspired by. I’m not going to write a book just because it’s trendy. (For instance, I’ve never been inspired to write a vampire story, even though I love reading them. I am driven by my own ideas.)
MYAL: Moving on to your books – I know you’re a planner. How much did you plan out the Secret Society Girl series when you first started? Did you always know that it was going to be four books, and where each book was going to land (initiation, first semester, spring break, graduation)?
DP: I always wanted it to be four books, and so I’m glad that the publishing contracts worked out that way. And I did have that idea of that timeline and that focus for each book from the beginning, but there were things that surprised me. For instance, when I sold the series, I thought Amy’s big relationship question was going ot be a love triangle with George and Brandon, and that plan went right out the window. 😉 That’s why planning things out doesn’t bug me much. I’m open to changing things if I find, while writing, that another option is much more appealing. And when Jamie and Amy started lighting the pages on fire whenever they got near each other, well, I just had to follow that trail instead.
MYAL: One of the things I like most about your books is your ability to bring in feminist issues, especially those that have to do with women’s bodies – for instance, the virginity issues in the Killer Unicorn series, or Michelle’s problems in Tap & Gown. How much of that is part of your plotting/planning for a book? Or do characters surprise you with these issues?
DP: Thank you! These issues are actually what draw me to the project to begin with. I love writing about women and about exploring the issues that face young women in society today. It’s right out in front with Secret Society Girl, dealing with an issue of institutional sexism in an all-make society. But the series does encompass a lot of issues that exist for young women in college (like Michelle and her abusive boyfriend).
The story with Rampant is about girls who are faced with a very ancient magic governed by rules based on attitudes that don’t make sense in our world. So yeah, there’s fun and games with unicorns, but there’s also questions about this whole “virginity” ideal and all the problems it has caused and continues to cause for women all over the world.
And of course, part of the fun for me with Star-Swept is the gender switch. She’s a brilliant spy who disguises her activities by being very fashionable and acting dumb, and that character being a woman gives me a lot of interesting topics to explore, like the way we make assumptions about women who embrace femininity and the pressure women might feel to undercut their own intelligence and accomplishments to fit in. It just adds a whole other layer to an already great story.
MYAL: In that vein, how difficult is it to write those scenes, like the scene with Phil in Rampant, or the one with Michelle talking about what happened to her?
DP: Because these scenes are very important and personal to me, I work very hard to make sure that I’ve presented them to the best of my ability. I make no claims that Phil’s experience or Michelle’s experiences are universal, but they are true. I appreciate it so much when I get mail from readers who say they were moved by those young women and more than that, by the way their friends responded. Phil and Michelle were both betrayed by people they trusted (Michelle was betrayed by pretty much everyone) and if there’s any “message” in their stories it’s that you aren’t alone and your real friends will believe you and stand by you and help you. Michelle’s situation and the school admin’s response, particularly, was probably the closest I ever came to writing about something that “really happened.” (Well, Josh’s Phi Beta Kappa tap happened also, but that was more of a joke.)
MYAL: Ascendant sort of ends on a cliffhanger, and we know you have plans for KU3. Can you give us a little hint as to what happens? Maybe something about Phil and Neil or Astrid and Giovanni? Or my favorite character, Bucephalus?
DP: All of the above, of course! It’s the third book in a trilogy — the sky is the limit. All the major players come together in TRIUMPHANT [Editor’s note: OMG, is that the title?!?!?!?!] for the battle to end all battles — it’s about the future of the unicorns, the future of the Order of the Lioness, all of it. And Flayer and Bonegrinder have little babies.
[Edited to clarify: KU3, or TRIUMPHANT has not been contracted or written, and it doesn’t have a release date. Diana says it will be written eventually, but for now, it’s on the backburner. I just had to ask about it because I’m that excited, and Diana was kind enough to indulge me. See her comments below for more details.]
MYAL: I’m pretty excited for your new Scarlet Pimpernel adaptation, Across a Star-Swept Sea, which is set in the same world as For Darkness Shows the Stars. Can you tell us a bit more about it? I know there’s a lot more technology in this one, and more frocks. Any hints about the frocks, the tech or the setting?
DP: It’s the longest book I’ve ever published, and it’s because I wanted to do complete justice to this world. It’s set in a place called New Pacifica, which is a terraformed continent (guess where?) made up of two island nations: Albion and Galatea. Both have been ruled since their creation by, respectively, kings and queens. Two generations ago, the Helo Cure ended the Reduction in one fell swoop, and now, the “regs” (regulars), the descendents of Reduced, on Galatea have risen up against the queen and the aristocrats on their island, and the political struggle has turned into a Reign of Terror whereby the revolutionary government is hurting anyone that disagrees with them by giving them a drug that makes them Reduced.
My heroine, Persis Blake, is an aristocrat on Albion. She’s best friends with the Princess Regent of Albion, Isla, who is trying to maintain control in the wake of her father’s sudden and unexpected death while fearing that the violence in the south is going to spread to their country, too. Persis is Isla’s chief lady-in-waiting, and she is not going to stand by and let bad things happen to her country, to the princess, or to any of the innocents being hurt in the revolution. So she invents the Wild Poppy, a daring spy who can do all the things that Persis Blake, teenage aristocrat, can’t (and better, would never be suspected of).
But things get complicated for her when she meets a Galatean revolutionary named Justen Helo. He’s a young medic, the grandson of the woman invented the Helo Cure, and he’s deeply disturbed by the horrible direction the revolution has taken. She can’t trust him with her secrets because of his part in the revolution, and he wouldn’t dare trust her — or at least, the girl he thinks she is. But they need each other anyway.
MYAL: Lightning round!
Fave character you’ve written: That’s totally Sophie’s Choice. Goneril the dog, maybe, or Poe. Ooh, or Vania Aldred, the villain from Star-Swept. Apparently, I like the sarcastic ones.
Fave 2012 YA release: TEAM HUMAN by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier. I’m massively behind on 2012 books in general. I’m still making my way through 2010.
Waiting to read in 2013: Given how behind I am, it will probably be my most anticipated release of 2012: DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor. I’m also really looking forward to Beth Revis’s third Across the Universe book, Shades of Earth.
Q (your daughter)’s favorite book: THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK. Or maybe that’s just my favorite to read to her.
Second letter in Q’s real name: L
Book you wish you had written: Anne of the Island [by L.M. Montgomery]
Amy and Poe, Astrid and Giovanni, or Elliot and Kai? Elliot and Kai, definitely. They are the only couple I know for sure will make it.
And because it’s me, fave romantic scene you’ve written: Poe and Amy in the shower on Cavador Key, but that letter Elliot wrote Kai the day her mother died gives it a run for its money. True story: I did not know Poe was in that shower house until Amy did. That boy has always surprised me.
It’s been a blast reading and reviewing Diana’s books this month – if you haven’t read any of her books yet, I obviously HIGHLY recommend reading one right now.