Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Author Bites - Interview with Beth Fantaskey

I did this interview on my writing blog back in January, before I had this blog and before I even read Jessica's Guide. I don't know what it was about this book that drew me in immediately but I had to know more about the author. Since I hadn't read the book yet, the questions are a little more general and since it was for my writing blog, a little more writing-centric. So this'll probably be something a little different than your standard author interview on other book blogs in that respect. Enjoy!


What got you to start writing? Was it something you’ve always done or did you just wake up one day and say ‘I want to write a novel’?

Actually, I’ve been writing professionally for my entire adult life. I’ve done everything from political speechwriting to newspaper reporting, so writing a novel just seemed like the next step in my career. I used to go into book stores and think, “I would love to do that . . .” So I tried!

Is “Jessica” your first novel or do you have manuscripts in your trunk? If you do, how many did you have to write before snagging an agent?

Like everybody, I wrote a few manuscripts that were mainly experiences. I think “Jessica’s Guide” was my third complete manuscript.

Donna’s Note–I’m telling you, three’s the magic number here.

How do you balance writing in your life? Is it something you make time for or when you have a spare second?

Writing really is my job. And as a freelancer, I depend on it for my income . . .the more I write, the more I get to eat! It’s definitely a top priority in my life.

Are you a pen and paper or a fingers and keyboard type of writer?

Oh, gosh - keyboard. I don’t know how authors like Dickens did it, writing 400-page manuscripts by hand. He must have had the world’s worst writer’s cramp, 24/7. And I can’t imagine not being able to just mark, say, an entire hour’s worth of text and hit “delete,” when necessary!

Donna’s Note–LOL! That’s how I’ve written my entire writing life and this past November, for NaNo, was the one and only time my wrist started to cramp.

Any websites or books you want to recommend that helped you as a writer?

My favorite resource is a dog-eared, 1961 Rodale Synonym Finder. It has these wonderful, sort of archaic expressions that somehow inspire me to think differently about how to express things.

What’s the single best piece of advice about writing that you’ve ever received?

Don’t mess around cleaning your house or trying to make everything around you “perfect” before you write. Those types of things are just distractions. Just sit down and DO IT.

How do you push through the “OMG this sucks! EPIC FAIL!” moments of self-mutilation we all have in writing?

I have a pretty standard ritual for that. I go to the gym, get on the treadmill and listen to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” or Social Distortion’s “Live Before You Die,” run really fast, and get all fired up about doing my best . . . which is all we can really do, right?? Then I just try to work again, before the endorphins wear off.

Did you know you were always a YA writer or was it something that you just realized one day?

Actually, the characters of Jessica and Lucius dictated my path into YA. I wanted to write their story, and that made me a YA writer, sort of by default. I’m glad to be here, though! I love the way YA readers are so eager to interact with authors.

If you could dip one author in gold and worship him or her, who would it be and why?

Although I’m a HUGE fan of Alexandre Dumas, I would have to say the aforementioned Charles Dickens. His work is so emotional, and timeless, and although I’ve read “The Pickwick Papers” Christmas scene every Christmas for about 10 years, I still cry. That’s amazing talent, in my opinion.

What did you stress over more: the novel or the query?

The novel, definitely. I was so doubtful that the query would work that I just sort of dashed it off, if I remember right.

Care to share your hook that you used in your query?

I don’t remember exactly, but it was something on the bad-vampire-humor-side, like, “Sometimes love sucks - and that can be a good thing.” Looking back, I think it was a little risky! I probably wouldn’t recommend being so off-the-cuff.

What was your initial reaction when you got “the call” #1 from your current agent and #2 from your agent about the sale of “Jessica”?

I had a complete, embarrassing freak out when my agent called to say that she wanted to represent me. It was such a thrill. The, when she sold the book, I think my heart stopped. I was so overwhelmed that I kept it a secret for the longest time. I just kept thinking, “This can’t really be happening . . .”

No doubt “Jessica” will be compared to the “Twilight” series, as Publisher’s Weekly has already done in passing. How do you feel about that?

“Twilight is a cultural phenomenon - a force of nature - so I’m flattered by any comparisons, but especially happy about contrasts. I love it when somebody e-mails to say, “I liked that your book had the intense romance of “Twilight,” but had humor in it, too,” or something like that.

Are there any particular scenes in “Jessica” that you didn’t want to cut but knew they had to go?

Hmm . . . Actually, I remember adding, more than cutting, scenes, and I loved the additions, like Jess’s breakup with Jake, which wasn’t in my original manuscript.

Do you find that your characters have a tendency of getting away from you and hijacking the story, leading down a foreign road that you never even thought of taking?

Sure, that definitely happens . . . It’s weird how people you invent can surprise you. I guess that’s just testament to how real they become.

Which character had the loudest voice that just wouldn’t shut up?

Lucius is definitely a forceful presence . . . but I liked to hear him talk! I was always happy to write his letters.

You can only choose one: which one of your characters is your favorite?

I love Jess, and even Faith, but I’d have to say Lucius. I created him, and he still fascinates me!

Aside from writing, what’s another passion of yours?

Music. I’m totally un-musical, but I can spend hours just listening to my iPod and daydreaming.

Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?

Smooth . . . I think I’m too lazy to actually chew peanut butter.

How about a guilty pleasure. Care to spill one of those?

Every Friday night, I get a big stack of women’s magazines - the kind you buy next to grocery store aisles - and some kind of really bad fast food like a huge Big Mac, and I sit for about two hours stuffing my face and reading about make up and clothes and hairstyles. It’s my favorite time of the week . . .

What’s your favorite movie?

Right now it’s “The Princess Bride.” I just discovered it, years after its release, and I think it’s such a great blend of comedy, romance, and adventure. I love it!


Amelia said...

Cool interview. You asked great questions!

Donna said...

Thank you!

prophecygirl said...

Nice one Donna! :)

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