Join me today in welcoming author Marta Acosta to the Preternatura blog!
In late September, Marta Acosta’s Haunted Honeymoon debuted, the last in her popular Casa Dracula series. It’s a vampire “Comedy of Manners” featuring Milagro de Los Santos, a human with vampiric abilities, her “boyfriend-lover-whatever” Ian, and ex-fiance Oswald. Marta, who also writes under the name Grace Coopersmith (her non-paranormal women’s fiction book, Nancy’s Theory of Style, came out last May), joins us today to talk about the Casa Dracula series, writing in general, and where she thinks paranormal fiction could be headed.
Marta’s also been gracious enough to offer a giveaway of Haunted Honeymoon. Details at the end!
Q: Tell us about Milagro de Los Santos, and how she came to be.
I tossed my favorite character traits into a blender and hit the “frappe” button. I’m very fond of well-intentioned, bright and funny young women who are somewhat self-delusional. They make mistakes because they’re still more trusting than cynical or because they just have some nutty notion about life. So that explains Milagro’s attitude.
I wrote the first book as a comedy-of-manners, so social class is important. In this sort of comedy, there’s generally some impoverished girl who is stuck with snobs and has romantic mishaps. So that explains the shenanigans.
I wanted to create an empathetic character who represented all the smart, amusing, and warm-hearted Latinas out there.
With Milagro, the whole is more than the sum of her parts and readers always tell me how “real” she seems. When they tell me they think of her as a friend and would like to hang out with her, I’m quite delighted.
Q: Haunted Honeymoon is supposed to be the last in the Casa Dracula series—will we see Milagro or Ian or any of the other characters again?
Ian shows up in my next book, a YA gothic I’m writing for Tor Books, and I imagine Milagro will reappear somewhere. She’s busy on her honeymoon now, though, so I’m letting her enjoy herself. I didn’t plan to write a series, just a stand-alone novel, and I’ve been lucky to spend time with Milagro and her friends for several years now. I was a little surprised to feel…mournful when I was done with the series. It took me some time to get caught up in another project.
Nancy Carrington-Chambers, Milagro’s best friend from her Fancy University (F.U.), is featured in the romantic comedy, Nancy’s Theory of Style, under my pen-name Grace Coopersmith.
Q: One of the things I love about Casa Dracula is the humor. Did you set out to write it funny from the beginning?
Yes, I’m a pretty amusing chick. Or annoying, one of those words that starts with “a” and is three-syllables. It could be anarchic or aardvarkish or abusive, but I digress.
I love writing humor, particularly satire, but it’s not all I like to write. The first novel I wrote was seen as “too dark” and “unmarketable.” An editor told my agent, “If she ever writes anything conventional, I’d love to see it.” I don’t know why I thought that a vampire comedy-of-manners was “conventional.” Actually, I didn’t. I wrote the first book to amuse myself. Or to aggravate myself – it’s one of those “a” words that’s three-syllables.
Q: Today’s urban fantasy market and paranormal romance markets are dark and seems to be growing darker—does your crystal ball tell you there will eventually be a backlash into lighter UF and PNR?
I don’t think so. Personally, I prefer darker stories with humor. The books that seem to be doing well know are urban fantasy with a dystopian theme. However, I don’t think apocalyptic stories will ever really catch on, because how often do you want to read a completely hopeless story? Also, zombies may be vicious, but they’re essentially boring. You’ve seen one mob riot and eat brains, you’ve seen them all. We won’t even speak of their dancing, which is pretty much limited to doing the Cabbage Patch.
Q: Can you talk a bit about Marta Acosta vs. Grace Coopersmith? What does Marta do that Grace would NEVER do? Do the two of you ever talk?
Grace and I are very friendly, but afterward we say, “Can you believe she said that? Can you believe she was dressed like that? Well, at least she laughed at my jokes and brought a decent bottle of wine.” Grace would not be wearing her old Clark’s muckers, jeans, and a ratty sweater. She would have gotten a haircut last month. She answers her emails in a timely manner and doesn’t use four-letter words.
Q: Which comes first for you, the worldbuilding or the characters?
A plot comes first. What if… For Haunted Honeymoon, it was “What if Milagro got another chance at love with Oswald? Would she make the same mistakes or do things differently?” For my young adult novel, it was “What if a poor girl got invited to an exclusive school and found out there were dark secrets?”
Then I think of the characters, and I’m constantly trying to develop the characters, even the secondary ones. I think of the predictable behavior/speech and I try to think of alternatives. I mean, I see an angry dog charging and I cringe and look for cover, but one of my friends used to lean forward and shout “Sit!” at the dog. (Which works by the way, if you do it with enough confidence.) Make the behavior and dialogue true to the character.
Q: I’m always fascinated by opening sentences. The first sentence of Haunted Honeymoon is: “The next time a sex toy sales consultant offered to teach me how to unlock handcuffs with a paper clip, I would accept.” Was that the original opening?
I think it was probably the first sentence of the next chapter: “It was a marvelously sunny April day and I took a minute to admire the dignified bumblebees hovering like stripy zeppelins over the lavender hedge, and inhale the scent of freesia and narcissus before I packed my gardening gear into the back of my small green pickup.” That’s a nice sentence, but not as attention-getting. First sentences usually come to me unbidden and I know that’s how I have to start the book.
Q: What’s next for you?
I have a short story, “Wolfish in Sheep’s Clothing,” in The Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance, which is being released today (January 4, 2011). I’d never written a romance before and I don’t write short stories generally, so this was a challenge, but a fun one. It’s fairly steamy and has a happy ending.
I’m doing a revision on my young adult gothic, The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove, for Tor. It will be published in January 2012, probably with a less cumbersome title. It’s about a foster girl who is invited to an exclusive all-girls academy. It seems too good to be true and it is. The heroine, Jane, must decide just what she’s willing to sacrifice for the security she’s never had.
I’m also working on an adult gothic that’s set in both the present and 1850 in California. It’s a tangled story about greed, idealism, lust, love, and crime. I’m having a great time writing both of these stories. They are more serious and darker tales and I hope my readers will enjoy them even without much humor.
Suzanne, thanks so much for having me here! I’m so excited that we’ll both have books out with Tor!
Thanks, Marta (me too!). So, wanna win a copy of Haunted Honeymoon? Just leave a comment, and you know the drill. One entry for comment, another for blog follow, a third for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a Tweet or Retweet. Be sure to include your email.