Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Today, Veronika meets Mrs Stephen Fry. Edna Constance Bathsheba Fry took Twitter – then the Net – by storm with her spicy confessions and hysterically funny diary. How does it feel to be Stephen Fry’s wife? Edna opens up about her marriage and talks about kebab, karaoke and her five, six or possibly seven children. Oh, and her diary, of course.

Good afternoon dear Edna! I’m delighted to meet you for a cup of tea and some friendly chit chat about your diary and Mr. Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry). I imagine there was a before and an after Stephen: can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, before you became “Mrs. Stephen Fry”?
Oh, there’s not much to tell. I was just your average bullfighting, gun-running, Nobel Prize-winning girl, really. Of course meeting Stephen changed all that. Now I’m more your average tea-making, dinner-cooking, wallpaper-hanging, domestic appliance-fixing, carrying-Stephen-home-from-the-pub-on-a-Friday-night kind of girl

How did you and Stephen meet?
It was just your typical ‘Boy Meets Girl’, ‘Boy Meets 12 Pints of Lager’, ‘Boy Meets Policeman’, ‘Girl Talks Policeman Out Of Arresting Boy’, ‘Girl Spends The Next 16 Years Wondering What on Earth She Could Have Been Thinking Of’ story.

You’ve been married for 16 years! What is the secret of such a long-lasting marriage?
Trust, honesty and a very short memory. And trust.

If you could describe Stephen with three words…
I’d love to, dear, but I’m afraid you’d be removed from the internet.

What sparked the idea for your diary?
I’ve always kept a diary ever since I was a mere slip of a thing. I find it oddly comforting, like a cosy blanket. With a bottle of gin in it.

The diary mentions kebabs, window-cleaning and womanizing. Your confessions differ a little from Stephen’s autobiographies. Do you mean that Fry is… a liar?
Good heavens no, dear! He’s as honest as the day is long. Provided that day is in the middle of the Siberian winter . .

That’s reassuring! Stephen wrote the foreword to your diary. How did he react to your revelations?
I don’t think he really noticed, to be honest. He was far too busy with her at number thirty eight.

Could you share a tasty bit that didn’t make it into the diary?
I have to say all my tasty bits are in the diary, dear. And Stephen’s tasteless bits . . .

Life with Stephen: what is your best memory so far? And the worst?
I don’t think there is a worst memory. They’re mostly equally dreadful, to be honest. As for the best? Well, there was that time he said ‘I love you’ in front of an entire restaurant full of people. He said it to his Chicken Madras, but it’s the thought that counts.

Very nice, indeed. Oh, there’s a question from die-hard fan Roxy: what makes your husband happy?
Hello, Roxy, dear. What a delightful name! I imagine you to be a fighter pilot or possibly a pole dancer. As for what makes Stephen happy – need you ask? Me, of course! Well, on a Sunday morning at any rate. The rest of the week I leave it to the kebabs, lager and karaoke.

Let’s talk about your family, now. Do your five, six or possibly seven children want to be like their Dad?
Sadly yes, dear. Apart from Hugh Junior, unfortunately. Even little Brangelina’s growing more like her father every day. I’ve tried the school psychologist and the school exorcist but it seems nothing can be done.

The Web buzzes with rumors. According to those, Mrs. Stephen Fry “is a fake”. Some people suspect Mr. Fry himself to have originated “the hoax”. Your reaction?
Ridiculous, dear! I mean, do I look like a fake to you? The very idea!

Are you planning another diary? What about your plans?
I always keep a diary, dear. I only hope my current one doesn’t fall into the hands of some unscrupulous publisher like the last one did. As for my life plans, I can’t really say, dear. I did have one dream but then I discovered that Stephen wasn’t insured.

And, finally, my favourite question: imagine you found £100 in your purse (or in Stephen’s pocket). How will you use that money?
If I found £100 in Stephen’s pocket, I’d put it straight back in my purse where he got it from, dear! Then, perhaps, I’d splash it all on a pampering day at Widdecombe’s Beauty Parlour. And possibly a nice bottle of Blue Nun.

“My Favurite…”

My Idol: That would have to be Stephen, dear. Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said idle.
Author & Book: I’ve always been terribly fond of that George Eliot. He really seems to understand women. My favourite book is probably The Cat in the Hat – it keeps Stephen amused for hours while I get on with the housework.
Movie & TV show: I’ve always been terribly fond of ‘Brief Encounter’, dear. Two people thrown together by circumstance only to be thwarted by society and their own moral decency. It makes me wonder what might have been . . Food: Well, I am a bit of a domestic goddess as you know, dear, so that would have to be my speciality, Spam Rumpy Pumpy – an intensely satisfying dish, I assure you.
City: It has to be Paris – the city of love. It has that certain je ne sais quoi. And a big tower.
Music: I rarely get time to listen to music, what with six or seven children to look after. As a teenager, I was a big fan of Stephen’s punk band, The Kebabstards. Sadly they disbanded due to musical similarities.
Place to write: My diary, of course. (what a ridiculous question!)
Motto: If life gives you lemons, make Lemon and Bacon Cheesecake.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea of course, although our local café, the Cuppa Cabana, does have a rather nice Colombian. Pablo, I think he’s called.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Generally at home while Stephen’s at the disco. Unless he’s mislaid his leather trousers again.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Sadly neither. We generally go to Stephen’s favourite theme park, Lagerland.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I’m sorry, dear. I’m afraid I don’t play computer games.
Stephen Fry or John Cleese? Oh, John Cleese, dear! He’s so funny and tall. And terribly dashing. Sorry, who was the other one again?
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? I do love a good three tissue movie, dear. As does Stephen, when he manages to unlock the adult channel.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? I love to travel but Stephen hates to move. He gets nervous if he’s more than a hundred metres from the fridge.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? If you’re talking about Stephen, both.
Leader or Follower? I like to follow. But only when Stephen’s ankle tracking bracelet isn’t working.
Shy or Easy-going? I’m very easy-going. With a husband like Stephen, I don’t have any choice.
Funny or Serious? Most of the time I’m a combination of the two, dear – Furious.

Thank you Edna, dear!

You can follow Mrs Fry on Twitter:
…and support Fry’s Gig:


Ben H. WintersBestselling author Ben H. Winters talks about mashup novels, Benjamin Franklin, Leo Tolstoy and his new novel “Android Karenina”…

Hi Ben, welcome on Veronika Asks! Could you please briefly introduce yourself?
Thanks for having me!

My name is Ben, I’m a writer who lives in Brooklyn. Although I’m about to move to Boston, slightly further up the eastern seaboard of the continental United States.

Then, if you could describe yourself with three words (No, Ben H. Winters won’t make it. I’ve already heard this one :)…
Hard-working, well-meaning writer/father.

“The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman” will be published in September 2010. How about a little pitch?
Sure. It’s a “young adult” novel, about a nerdy, soft-spoken middle-school Band & Chorus teacher who turns out to have been a punk rock singer, a fact that makes her students go crazy.

Can you tell us more about your mashup “Android Karenina” (out in June 2010)? Why rewrite this novel (and not Romeo & Juliet, for example, although they’d both look great on the moon)?
After my last “mash-up novel”, the Jane Austen parody Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, I was itching to do another one. Tolstoy is one of my favorite authors (very original, I know) and I figured why not be audacious, be brave, and try to re-imagine the greatest novel ever written?

What would Leo think? 🙂
Well, I think he’d be a little confused, at first. But there’s a lot of material here I think he’d respect, and he’d like how I’ve maintained many of the major themes of his work, including mankind’s complex and often scary relationship with technology.

You also wrote “Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters”. Why did you pick the mashup genre (or did it pick you)? Aren’t you afraid of the Tolstoy and Austen diehard fans?
Indeed, it picked me; the whole thing was the idea of the folks at Quirk Books, I’ve just been lucky enough to get to play in this strange world they invented. And for the most part, the fans of these writers have been delighted by the whole thing. Just like a great movie version, a parody version of a classic work is another way of re-imagining, re-engaging, and re-encountering a beloved piece of writing.

You don’t plan on parodying “War & Peace”, do you? 🙂
One massive Tolstoy parody is enough for me, thanks very much.

Is there a mashup you’d love to read but are unlikely to write yourself?
I think it would be cool to see someone do one of Shakespeare’s plays, but not only write it, actually produce it — A Midsummer Night’s Terrible, Terrible Nightmare, or something.

What about your life before you became a bestselling novelist? Do you remember the very first story you penned?
I remember writing a series of extremely silly, page-and-a-half long stories about a pig who had extraordinary adventures. This was probably in grade four or five, so around nine or ten years old. I believe his name was Piggly-Wiggly.

How did you break into the publishing world? How much time did you spend looking for an agent or publisher?
That’s a long, boring story, that probably has elements in common with the boring stories of lots of other writers: a lot of dashed hopes, a lot of support from good friends and family, a lot of trying and trying again…and then, finally, things start to line up the way you want them to. I try to be as grateful as I can about each success I have, and as realistic as I can about what the future might hold.

What is a typical working day for Ben Winters? Do you have some writing habits?
The thing I try to stick to most of all, is to work for at least three hours before I go on the internet. It is the greatest eater of time ever devised by mankind.

If you could meet any person and ask him/her one question, who and what would you ask?
Of all the figures of history, I am most fascinated by Benjamin Franklin. I’m not sure what I’d ask him — he knew everything. The man invented the rocking chair, discovered electricity, and saved our young country several times over. I might, however, ask him how to get old without losing one’s marbles in the slightest, because he seems to have done that too.

Typical situation: Pixie caught in a bottle. Shrieking. Cursing. Fighting. End of the hysteria: three wishes (yay!). What would you wish for?
* Happiness for my children.
* Enough money to live on, not so much as to screw me up irrecoverably.
* Some sort of unlimited ice cream arrangement.

You write books and work on musicals. Is there something you haven’t tried yet and would love to?There are several people I’d love to write biographies of. But the amount of time and energy required to write a really good, complete biography, is extremely daunting to me.

And here is the famous “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
The right answer: Donate it to a favorite charity — I really like Doctors Without Borders.
The honest answer: Waste it on ice cream and books.

Can you tell us more about your projects? Who’s your next co-writer? Shakespeare? Wilde? Casanova?
I’m working on the sequel to The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman (yes, even though the first one hasn’t come yet!) and preparing to start on an idea I have abut the aforementioned Benjamin Franklin.


My Idol: My dad.
Author & Book: John Irving, P.D. James, Charles Dickens (who can pick one!)
Movies & TV shows: The Blues Brothers ; The Sopranos
Food: Grilled cheese sandwiches
City: Chicago, Illinois
Music: When I write I listen to opera (as I write this, The Magic Flute); otherwise, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan
Place to write in: The roof of my apartment building
Quote or Motto: “Time is what we want most, and use worst” — William Penn
“Tea or Coffee?”
Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Cinema and restaurant, if we can get a babysitter!
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Currently live in crazy, would love to end up in sleepy
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato, though I do like to take long walks
Leader or Follower? Leader
Shy or Easy-going? Not sure these are really opposites, but I’m definitely easy-going
Serious or Funny? Well, I wrote something called Android Karenina, so I suppose I have to go with funny!
Thank you, Ben!
You can learn more about Ben H. Winters and his books at

Enter a world of luxury, rumors, envy and splendor with author Anna Godbersen and her best-selling series “The Luxe”. Anna talks about gossip, writing and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Anna, welcome to the new & improved “Veronika Asks”! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello! I am the author of THE LUXE, a series about young people living in gilded age Manhattan.

Then, how would you describe your books with three words?
Arch, ardent, absurd.

You’re Aries, aren’t you? They (usually) are famous for being adventurous and quick-witted but also impulsive and impatient. Do you consider yourself a typical Ram or isn’t this about you?
I don’t know if I am typical—I am happiest at home—but I certainly am a red-blooded, passionate and curious person, and I think in some ways I do fit the Aries profile.

Can you tell us more about “The Luxe” series?
It follows five teens embroiled in a very complicated love triangle (or whatever shape applies when there are more than three players involved), all of whom meanwhile have to present a very virtuous, well-behaved face to the world.
Some words about “The Luxe”…
In which we discover that the good girl is not who she seems at all, the bad girl is capable of true evil, and that little sisters have the most fun.
Then comes “Rumors”…
Of cross-country train travel, sugar daddies, rushed weddings and the selling of secrets.
The third novel is called “Envy”…
… so naturally everyone wants what someone else has. Because this is 1900, that includes bejeweled gowns, caddish boys, exquisite Palm Beach hotel rooms, and big fat inheritances.

“Splendor” was out in October ’09. Can you share a few secrets about the final installment of the Luxe series?
All the characters have to reckon with the various lies and betrayals they’ve committed, and most importantly, with their true selves. In the end, I believe every one of these characters gets both what they deserve and what they need.

Why set your story in Manhattan’s Upper-Class society in 1899?
Because I was fascinated by this glittering, ostentatious display of wealth that defined that era, and also because the very strict rules of behavior mean that these young people really have to struggle against something mighty to find out who they are.

Did “Gossip Girl” influence you in writing “The Luxe”? Some readers compare your series to the smash hit and state that “The Luxe” is the 19th century “Gossip Girl”…
I have read a few of the books, and I really enjoyed them—I think it’s a fair way to describe THE LUXE, though I wouldn’t say that GOSSIP GIRL influenced my writing.

Would you like to see “The Luxe” being turned into a TV show? Who would you cast as Elizabeth, Diana, Penelope, Henry, Will, Lina, Claire?
I would love to see my stories acted out by flesh and blood people! But I can’t picture anyone famous playing these characters I’ve pictured in my head so long. For me, they would have to be played by beautiful unknowns.

Are you a Diana or an Elizabeth? A Penelope, maybe? 🙂 If you had a magic wand, would you trade your life for this of the Holland sisters?
There are parts of me in all my characters, though I would say I am most like Diana. I would never want to live in their world, though. For one thing, it was a period when women’s roles were tragically narrow, and then of course there are all the discomforts of the pre-twentieth century world.

How do you work? What about the most-feared “writer’s block”? Do you have an advice for young authors?
I have really intense deadlines, so I can’t lose days to writer’s block. I just sit down with a good outline and stick to it till I get some sentences. As for young writers—life is long, take your time, and try to be an ambitious reader first.

What about the researches (for the series to be as accurate as possible)?
I do a lot of research—many history books on this era have been published, and those are really fun to read, and I also read old Vogue magazines and etiquette books and newspapers to get a feel for the language and concerns of the time.

How did you get published? Tell us more about your “getting published” quest…
I was a ghostwriter before I began writing my own series, so when I had an idea I already knew the people who ended up being my publishers. Sometimes life works that way.

Imagine you wake up tomorrow not an author anymore. Which job would you pick?
I would like to be a scholar specializing in Henry James. Then I could spend all my days reading Henry James and talking about it with young people.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Something with vampires! Just kidding. I have years and years to write the books I wish I’d written, so yes, but I think it will be a long process of figuring out what they are about.

What about the after-Luxe? Can you tell us more about your projects?
Yes, I am writing a new series called BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS. It is set in Gatsby era New York, and it is going to be full of a slightly darker glamour (than the LUXE books).

Finally, the infamous “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve just found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
I would go to the Russian and Turkish Baths on East 10th Street in Manhattan, take a long sauna and relax, and then I would walk down the street to my favorite sushi restaurant, and have a decadent meal.

Would you like to add something, Anna?
Thanks so much for having me!


Author & Book: Evelyn Waugh, VILE BODIES
Movie & TV show: Annie Hall, Deadwood
Food: Fried pork dumplings
City: Los Angeles
Music: Etta James
Hobby: Reading
Place to write in: My bed
Quote or Motto: No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky. –E.B. White

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home with a book.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach!
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Can’t I have a little of both?
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Travel
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? I’m more of a yoga girl
Leader or Follower? I spend most of my days alone, so I can’t really say I’m either.
Shy or Easy-going? I am both. In a man, I prefer the latter.
Serious or Funny? Again, I am both, intensely and equally. Also applies to what I enjoy in others.

Thank you, Anna!
You can learn more about Anna Godbersen and her books at

Young author (and YABooks Central YA Goddess) Kimberly Pauley answers my questions about vampires, getting published, young adult books and tells us more about her upcoming projects…

Howdy Kim, welcome to the new & improved “Veronika Asks”! Ready for some vampire and YA chit chat? First, how would you describe yourself in three words?
Um…short weirdo.

A little bit of Astrology now: you’re Aquarius, aren’t you? They’re known for being honest, friendly and optimistic, but also unpredictable and contrary. Do you match your sign description?
Yep, I am. And I’d say those things fit me pretty well, all in all. I used to have this book called Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and it always amazed me how well the description pegged me (except for the part about being blond and blue-eyed).

Your first YA novel “Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)” was released in paperback on August 11th 2009. Tell us more about Mina Hamilton! And first question (can’t help it): who picked the title? 🙂
My editor came up with the title. The original title that I wrote it under was “This Bites” but then a bunch of vampire books came out with “bites” in the title so we went back to the drawing board.  It’s a story about a girl who’s parents are vampires and she’s being made to choose whether or not she wants to be one too – in a month’s time. And she’s got to go to “vampire classes” when she’d really just rather be a normal teenager.

I’ve heard there will be a sequel named “Still Sucks to Be Me”, out in September 2010…
Yep! Though the date was recently moved up to May 11th, 2010, which I am super happy about.

Why vampires? Do you think they are now a part of Pop Culture?
Vampires have always been a part of pop culture. Vampire myths have been around essentially as long as humans have been – and they exist in some form in pretty much every culture. They come and go in popularity, but they are always around.
I never thought I’d write a book about them, but goes to show that you never know what will happen!

You’re a big “Twilight” fan (you even mention Stephenie Meyer in the first chapter of your novel). Some people say authors try to surf on the vampire wave created by Stephenie to attract “vampire lover” readers. What would you answer to this?
I’m sure that some authors have done that. However, people don’t realize how s-l-o-w the publishing business is. Anything you see on a shelf today was written ages ago (usually). I wrote my book before Twilight came out, in fact (though it didn’t appear on shelves until 2008), and a lot of other vampire books hit the shelves around the same time as Twilight, which means they were written probably between 2001 and 2004.
The original reference in my book was actually to Anne Rice (since I hadn’t even heard of Stephenie Meyer when I wrote the book), but my editor and I decided to change it Meyer since she had become such a pop culture phenomenon and we weren’t sure as many teens would know who Anne Rice was today (she no longer writes vampire novels, in fact).

If, like Mina, you had to choose whether to stay human or become a vampire, what would you do?
If I were in the exact same position as Mina, I would probably choose to become one. But it’s hard to say unless you are actually faced with the decision.

How did your passion for reading and writing start? Is “Sucks to Be Me” your first completed novel (or do you hide some more unpublished gems in your desk)?
I’ve always been a reader and a writer. I do have some other unfinished manuscripts, but Sucks to Be Me was my first completed novel. Now that the second book is wrapped up, I’m working on a new book. It’s also a fantasy, but it doesn’t have any vampires in it. J

How did you get “Sucks to Be Me” published? Tell us more about your journey in the publishing world! What was the coolest thing? And the most difficult (and unexpected)? Do you have some tips for an aspiring author willing to be published?
Well, I’d been sending it out to agents and they all pretty much said the same thing: we like your “voice” but we don’t think vampires are a good sell these days (remember, this was back before Twilight hit big). I was about to try and re-write it without vampires of just work on something else when a friend of mine mentioned that her editor was looking for paranormal YA. She introduced me and they ultimately bought it (though it took them almost a year to decide).
Strangely enough, I got the news that I was getting published the exact same week that I found out I was pregnant.
As for some writing tips, I’ve got some on my website: and I also host an online Writing Camp.

You’re the owner (and YA Goddess) of the popular “YABooks Central” website, revolving around YA books, YA authors, YA reviews…well, everything YA. How did it start? What can your readers expect from “YABooks Central” in the future?
It started back in 1998. Originally, I was a “guide” with the Mining Company, which then became which then ditched most of their teen sites. So I started up YA Books Central because I had all these great author interviews and reviews. I’ve expanded it over the years and now have a staff of volunteer reviewers. We’ll continue to do giveaways every month and post reviews and interviews and more. I expect to hit 20,000 reviews this coming year.

On your website, you’ve reviewed hundreds of YA books and interviewed dozens of YA authors. Do you have a few favourite books/authors to remember?
I loved interviewing Clive Barker. He was just cooler than cool and I got to chat with him on the phone for an hour. And I adore Neil Gaiman (who doesn’t?). Honestly, I’ve pretty much yet to meet a YA (or other) author I didn’t like.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Hmmmmm. Maybe Coraline?

Do you plan on writing something unrelated to vampires and Mina Hamilton? Tell us a little bit more about your projects…
Yes, definitely. I’m working on something now about a teen girl with an unwanted (kinda useless) “super” power who stumbles into a celebrity kidnapping/murder mystery. And the next one I plan on picking up after that is probably an idea I have about the adopted son of Death. And there’s a joint project I’m working on with a friend.

The infamous “Nothing-in-common-with-books-question”: you’ve just found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Hm. I really don’t know. I’d say The Sims 3, but I never have time to play anymore!


Author & Book: An impossible question
Movie & TV show: The Princess Bride and, um, well, Eureka or Glee.
Food: I’d say chocolate, but right now I’m craving potatoes. Love ‘em. Any kind.
City: Oh, that’s tough. I just like cities to wander around in!
Music: That’s harder than picking a book! Anything but country.
Hobby: Too many: painting, knitting, making soap, baking…basically, just making stuff.
Place to write in: my office at night, when the rest of the house is quiet
Quote or Motto: “Being intelligent is not a felony.  But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.” —Lazarus Long (Robert. A. Heinlein)

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home, Books & DVDs!
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Hm. Before, when we lived in Florida, I’d definitely say Mountains. Now? Kind of a toss-up.Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? To visit? Crazy Megapolis.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Comedy, definitely.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to Travel
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato, sadly
Leader or Follower? Observer
Shy or Easy-going? Mostly Easy-going, but with snark on the side.
Serious or Funny? Funny

Thank you, Kim!
You can learn more about Kimberly Pauley and her books at
And don’t forget to discover for YA books, news and reviews!

Best-selling and award-winning author Holly Black pays me a visit. She answers my questions about writing, getting published, the Spiderwick series  and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Holly, welcome on “Veronika Asks” and thank you for being here! How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’m Holly Black is three words!

You’re Scorpio, aren’t you? The stars say they’re often determined and intuitive, but at the same time secretive and obstinate. Do you consider yourself a typical Scorpio?
I believe in astrology in a very general way – my father-in-law is an astrologist, so I have to believe a little!  I certainly fit lots of the descriptions of Scorpios

Can you spill a few secrets about those of your books that will be (has been) released in 2009/2010? I’m talking here about “The Wyrm King: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles”, “The Good Neighbors: Kith”, “Poison Eaters & Other Stories” & “The Good Neighbors: Kind”.
Hrm.  The only secrets I have to share on the Good Neighbors series is that the last book, Kind, comes out Fall 2010.  The whole series was based on certain kinds of betrayals.  Book 1 was about family betrayals, Book 2 is about betrayals in love and Book 3 is about betrayals of self. Muahahaha.
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is a collection of my short stories.  I wrote two new stories for the collection, one set in the Modern Faerie Tale world.

“Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale”, published in 2002, was your first novel. What gave you inspiration for a faerie tale? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
The longest and most tiring part of my road to publication really was learning how to write a good book.  It took me many years for Tithe to get into any kind of decent shape. I was lucky enough to find an editor who loved the book fairly quickly, but if I hadn’t spent all that time writing and rewriting it, I don’t think I would have had such a positive experience.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits?
I don’t have too many writing habits, but I do a lot of my writing at night and I do a lot of it with headphones on, so I can listen to music and shut everything else out.

If you could give only one advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
I would advise them to read everything — read books in familiar and unfamiliar genres, read nonfiction, read the backs of shampoo bottles — and to write a ton, and to find a critique partner.  Not only is it great to build up a skill in critiquing another person’s work, but having a trusted reader to tell you when a scene is good and when it isn’t is invaluable.

You write mainly fantasy and horror for teens and children. Why those genres in particular? You have been living in a “decrepit Victorian house” when you were little. Did this influence your writing?
I write the kinds of stories I most love to read – dark fantasy, capers, and urban fantasy.  I don’t know if growing up in an old, decrepit house had a direct influence on the kinds of stories I had to tell, but certainly my childhood did.  I grew up absolutely believing in the fantastical and it is very easy for me to get back into that frame of mind.

A lot of adults read your children books. How do you explain such a success? Are you writing for a certain audience or “just writing for yourself”? Why do you think people are so attracted to fantasy, faeries and magic?
I think that everyone is intrigued by the idea that the world could be bigger and stranger than what we see – that out of the corner of our eye we might be able to glimpse something more.  But I do mostly try to write for my reader-self.  I try to write the stories that I think I would love.  I am really happy that other people — kids, teens, adults — like them too.

You said you’re living in an old house with a secret library. If we’d manage to sneak into the library, what kind of books could we find there?
My library has a big folklore and myth section, a lot of fantasy novels, and a lot of comics.  I think the most surprising thing I have is a ton of true crime.

Why this love for spooky dolls and hats?
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved dolls.  I never stopped.  They are like tiny, very still people. I love hats because they are so dramatic!

You’ve probably been asked if you believed in faeries a hundred times. Let’s ask the question another way: some people say you never invent anything, that everything that comes to your mind as an idea is already existing somewhere. Do you think there’s a Spiderwick somewhere? Would you go there if it really existed?
You mean a Spiderwick estate or an Arthur Spiderwick?  I absolutely think there are researchers like Arthur Spiderwick who look for evidence of faeries.  In fact, quite a lot of faerie folklore has been collected by people, like Robert Kirk or Dermot MacManus or even William Butler Yeats, interested in finding proof that faeries exist.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how?
In recent years, I haven’t gotten to celebrate Halloween, despite my great love for it.  The World Fantasy Convention is often the same weekend and doesn’t allow costumes.  When I am home, though, we usually throw a party, complete with fog.  Last year we had a dinner party where we served insects and other seasonal delights.

If you had a magic wand or if a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for? If you could be turned into a fantasy character, who would you be?
Oh, I would puzzle over three wishes forever – but I would never wish to be a character in a novel.  Their lives are too miserable.  It must be awful to be a protagonist!

Imagine for a second you’re not an author/artist anymore. Which job would you pick?
I’d probably be a librarian.  I was in library school when my books came out and I really loved it.  I never finished.  I wouldn’t mind going back.

What about your projects? What are you working on right now?
My new series is called The Curse Workers and the first book is White Cat.  They are caper mobster fantasies set in a world where one in a thousand people have the ability to cast curses, and magic is illegal.

And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?


Author & Book: I couldn’t possibly choose just one.
Movie & TV show: My recent most favorite film is probably Brick.  And I have been loving True Blood on HBO.
Food: Korean BBQ.
City: New York.
Music: I’ve been listening to a lot of Rufus Wainwright.
Hobby: Reading.
Place to write: My new office!
Quote or Motto: Coffee: you can sleep when you’re dead

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Books
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Neither
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Both
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Loner
Shy or Easy-going? Socially anxious
Serious or Funny? Mostly serious.  Mostly.

Thank you, Holly!
You can learn more about Holly Black and her books at

Kelley ArmstrongBest-selling author Kelley Armstrong answers my questions about writing, werewolves and the Women of the Otherworld and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Kelley, thank you for being on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! First, would you please introduce yourself to our readers? How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’m the author of the “Women of the Otherworld” paranormal suspense series, “Darkest Powers”  YA urban fantasy trilogy, and the Nadia Stafford crime series.  I grew up in Ontario, Canada, where I still live with my family.  A former computer programmer, I’ve now escaped my corporate cubicle and hope never to return.
How would I describe myself in three words?  Averse to normality.

“Frostbitten”, the tenth novel in the “Women of the Otherworld” series is on stores this month. Can you tell us more about it?
It returns to my first and most popular heroine, werewolf Elena Michaels.  Together with her husband, she goes to Alaska to warn a young werewolf that he’s in trouble…and gets into a whole lot of trouble herself.

Can we have a few tiny spoilers about the 11th “Otherworld” book? Some hints, maybe…
It’s done, so I can give a few hints <grin>  The narrator is Savannah Levine, who has grown up over the course of the series, having first appeared in Stolen at the age of 12.  In book 11 (Waking the Witch) she’s 21 and gets her first investigation.

And in December 2009 comes out “Angelic”, a short novella (in limited edition!)… What is it about, why a novella and why in limited edition?
I don’t get a lot of opportunity to publish novellas and I have a lot of ideas that just aren’t novel length.  The requests I get are for anthologies where they want a specific theme, meaning I can’t use one of my ideas!  With Subterranean Press, I get the chance to write about anything I want–in this case, it’s an Eve Levine story.  They do a fancy hardcover edition with four original full-colour illustrations, which is why it’s a limited edition. I did a short story for them last year and was thrilled with the result.

Why did you choose to write about witches, vampires and werewolves? How was the “Otherworld” series born?
I love writing paranormal fiction.  I’ve been fascinated by the supernatural since childhood.  When Bitten sold, the plan was to follow up with another stand-alone supernatural thriller.  Then my publishers suggested turning it into a series.  I loved the idea, but couldn’t imagine a whole series on Elena so I introduced other supernatural types in Stolen.

You’re now a New York Times bestselling author. Do you remember how it all started? Can you tell us more about your “Want my book published” quest?
I’ve been writing all my life.  In my twenties I started working on novels, and would sporadically send out query letters and sample chapters, but never got anything more than a form letter rejection. When I finished Bitten, I had an instructor look at it, to see how well I was progressing.  He offered to recommend it to an agent, and things happened very quickly from there.  Within a couple of months I went from being unpublished to having multiple book contracts.  So it was a long empty road, with a very quick stop at the end!

How do you explain such a success? Why do you think paranormal novels are so popular nowadays?
I wish I knew! I’ve heard many theories floated, but I suspect it’s just the cyclical nature of the medium.  Paranormal books come into fashion, then fade out, and after they’ve been gone a while, people are hungry for them again.

How do you work? Do you have a few rituals or habits that help you?
I don’t really have any rituals or habits.  That’s a necessity for me.  With a full household of husband, kids and pets, I need to be able to jump into writing at a moment’s notice.  If I could only write at certain times, under certain circumstances, I’d be in big trouble.  My basic routine is to start when they kids go to school and work (writing, editing, outlining, etc) until they come home, then get things like business done after dinner and on weekends.  It’s not a regular 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday job–I can say that much!

What do you think is the perfect “paranormal fiction” cocktail?
I’m not sure there is one.  I know what works for me as a reader–fast-pacing, high action, humour, light romance and good world-building.

If you had a magic wand, how would you use it?
That’s one of those questions that requires a big answer, like the kind they give in beauty pageants.  Bring world peace, end world hunger…

I see there’s a Role Playing Game devoted to the “Otherworld”. If you could live in the “Otherworld”, who would you be?
Which character? None. LOL  There’s not one of my characters I’d trade lives with.  Now, if you forced me to become one, I’d pick Elena, mainly because we share a lot of superficial qualities–same age, similar educational background, Canadian, married, kids.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Oh, there are lots!  At least a few times a year, I pick up a book and think “I wish I could write like that.”  I know my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and I envy anyone whose strengths are my weaknesses.

What are you working on right now?
I just finished my fourth young adult novel, and I’m currently proofreading the third–The Reckoning–which comes out in May.

Do you want to add something (or perhaps wish a happy Halloween to our readers? While we’re at it, do you celebrate it and how?)?
Yes, a huge Happy Halloween to all.  It’s always been a favourite holiday of mine.  I used to decorate my parents’ house with a front yard cemetery, tableau in the garage etc.  Unfortunately, where I live now, we’re lucky to get one trick-or-treater a year–it’s a rural area and religiously conservative (many kids don’t go out for Halloween)

Finally, the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Books of course!


Author & Book: Richard Adams, Watership Down
Movie & TV show: The Princess Bride, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Food: Cheesecake
City: Montreal
Music: Just regular top-forties rock/pop
Hobby: Reading!
Place to write: Curled up in a recliner
Quote or Motto: Mae West quote: When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home with books and DVDs
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Hmmm, prefer rural life, but if it had to be urban, I’d go with the big city
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Not really keen on either…
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Both.  I like travelling for business/pleasure, but I don’t like moving permanently
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Leader (I’m bossy)
Shy or Easy-going? Shy
Serious or Funny? Both

Thank you, Kelley!
You can learn more about Kelley Armstrong and her books at

Rachel CaineBest-selling author Rachel Caine answers my questions about vampires, music and Halloween memories and tells us more about her upcoming books & scary urban legends…

Hi Rachel, welcome on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please say a few words about yourself?
Thanks for having me here, Veronika! I’m very honored.
About myself: a former editor (and current bestselling author!) has described me as “the most together crazy person you’ll ever meet.” That pretty much sums me up, I think. I’ve been writing professionally since 1991, and I started writing when I was 14 years old, mostly stories for my friends. I still have a day job, and I write about a million words a year on my own books and stories. That pretty much sums me up.

How would you describe yourself (then your books) with three words?
Me: crazy, meet normal
My books: normal, meet crazy

You’re Taurus, aren’t you? It is written in the stars that they are usually patient and warmhearted, but also possessive and inflexible. Did the stars get their facts straight about you? Are you a typical Bull?
Hmmm, half right? I think I’m pretty patient (mostly) and warmhearted (mostly), but I’m really not very possessive, and I don’t think too many people would think of me as inflexible. Unless Gumby is inflexible.

Can you tell us more about your “Morganville Vampires” series? “Fade Out”, book seven in the series, will be out in November 09. Can you spill a few secrets? How many books can we expect in the series?
Secrets … Oh, we still have a few of those in Morganville, for sure! And Claire & Co. are about to trip right over one of them, in the form of Kim, Eve’s new friend. Kim’s not new to Morganville, but she is new to our little group of friends, and she brings a whole new kind of crazy to the mix. For one thing, she maybe kind of still has a crush on Shane. For another, she’s got her own plan on how to get out of Morganville — and it won’t be pretty. Currently the publisher has agreed to nine books in the series, but I’m hoping that we’ll continue on even past that. Can’t swear to it, though.

Nowadays, many authors write about vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters. Why did you pick vampires? Do you think they are now a part of Pop Culture?
I started writing vampires back in the old Anne Rice days, so I’m sort of a holdover, you know? But vampires have been part of the literary and stage scene since the late 1800s, so in a sense they’ve been around a whole lot longer than many people realize. And part of the reason is that they’re so adaptable. Vampires used to represent the unknown, death, decay — real horror. By the time Dracula was written, vampires were more about how the Victorians viewed sex and lust. By the 1970s they were starting to become more of the dark, brooding hero that’s become so popular — but vampires split off into even more of a horror vein too. By the 1980s you could find good guy AND bad guy vampires side by side on the shelves. These days, the romantic vampire is still more popular, but I kind of enjoy playing with the bad-guy vampires, too. 🙂

So to sum up … ah, yes. I think vampires are here to stay.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits that help you?
I have to have music. Headphones, preferably, and I tend to put together custom playlists for each book that helps me get through the rough patches. I like to write early in the mornings, and luckily, my local Starbucks opens at 5:30, so I hit that before I go in to my office at 8:30. On weekends, I work at writing until noon, maybe longer if I’m on a tight deadline.

You’ve been a musician before you started writing books (Rachel played with legends Peter Nero and Henry Mancini, to name a few). Why did you switch to writing?
Both writing and music are really, really time consuming as part-time occupations … and I just didn’t have enough time to be good at both of them. I didn’t really want to compromise what I loved, so I decided to give up the music and go with the writing. Seemed like a bad choice at first, but I think I might have done okay with it. 🙂

Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
Er … can it be both? Because it really was. I got very lucky and published my first four books pretty easily, but then things got a little hard. I hadn’t really sold a lot of copies, so I had to rethink what I was doing and figure out a better way to do it. I went through three publishers before I started really having success, with the Weather Warden novels.

If you could give only one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Be patient. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon; you’ll have setbacks, and lots of days it’ll seem like there’s no reason to get up in the morning. But if you’re dedicated, luck may find you!

I’ve read that you returned to a full-time job in 2008. You’re “Director of Corporate Communications for a large multinational company”. How can you cope with a full-time job and several novels a year (I count five of them for 2009!)? What is the secret?
Becoming REALLY boring. Seriously. I get up, I write, I go to work, I go home, I return email, and I rinse and repeat. Every once in a while I have to sleep in and get 8 whole hours of sleep, but normally I’m squeaking by on 6 or so, which is not a thing I recommend as a lifestyle.

The secret really is to have an understand family AND an understanding company to work for. Because it really takes both for this to work.

If you had a magic wand or if a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for? If you could be turned into a fantasy character, who would you be?
Funny you should ask that, since I write about genies (or Djinn) in two of my series! I think I’d wish to be aging in reverse, like Benjamin Button. Because by the time I got to my hottie years, I’d actually know what to do with them. Either that, or world peace. But probably that first thing.

If you could trade places with anybody for one day, who would that be?
That would really depend on the day! But most days, I think I’m pretty happy where I am. I like visiting other people, but I wouldn’t want to be them!

Do you celebrate Halloween and if you do, how? Do you have a best/worst memory related to Halloween you’d like to share?
Best Halloween ever was working in a big haunted house, with lots of secret passages; I got to dress up and be a ghost and scare people. I like BEING scared a whole lot less. That brings me to my worst Halloween memory, when I got taken on a horror ride at an amusement park and ended up hysterical. They had to shut down the ride to take me off. EMBARRASSING!

I’ve heard you just love movies. Can you advise us a few good Halloween flicks?
ALIEN and ALIENS still scare me. Oh, and THE RING. For good vampire films, how about BLADE and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN … I love them for entirely different reasons.

Talking about that, do you have some favourite Halloween-themed books?
Shirley Jackson’s HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. And Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT.

What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing up Book 8 of the Morganville Vampires series, KISS OF DEATH! I also have a short story to do soon.

Do you want to add something, Rachel?
I get a lot of questions about whether Morganville will ever become a film or TV show; I can tell you that it’s been optioned by a producer, and we’re working on it, but it’s never a sure thing. Keep your fingers crossed!

Simply can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Give $15 to five different people. And have lunch.


Author & Book: Roger Zelazny’s Amber series
Movies: Silverado
TV shows: Firefly
Food: Indian food
City: London
Music: Blues rock, baby. Joe Bonamassa!
Hobbies: Uh … does email count?
Place to write: Coffee shop
Quote or Motto: “No matter where you go … there you are.” Buckaroo Banzai.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? COFFEEEEEEEEEE. Preferably, mocha.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home, Books & DVDs!
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains!
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Crazy Megapolis all the way, baby.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Argh. Can’t things blow up? Probably weepy drama, then.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Love to travel!
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato, sadly
Leader or Follower? Depends on the movement. 🙂
Shy or Easy-going? Can’t be too shy in this business!
Serious or Funny? Yes.

Thank you, Rachel!
You can learn more about Rachel Caine and her books at

Rachel’s Reading List for Halloween
Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT

Laurie Faria StolarzAcclaimed author (“Blue is for Nightmares” and “Deadly Little Lies” series) Laurie Faria Stolarz answers my questions about Wicca, Salem and writing and tells us more about her upcoming books & scary urban legends…

Hi Laurie, welcome to “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please say a few words about yourself? Could you describe yourself (then your books) with three words?
I’m laid back, motivated, and perceptive.  For my books: suspenseful, humorous, romantic.

“Deadly Little Lies” will be out in November 2009. Can you reveal a few spoilers about those little lies (tell the truth!)?
There are so many lies in DEADLY LITTLE LIES.  Just when you think you know who’s telling the truth, you find out that person might be lying.  I’m really excited about the release.  I think fans of DEADLY LITTLE SECRET will be pleased with this latest installment of the TOUCH SERIES.  There are tons of twists and turns and a romantic triangle develops.

You wrote the bestselling series “Blue is for Nightmares”. Can you pitch it in a few lines, to spark the interest of those who haven’t read it yet?
The BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES SERIES centers around Stacey Brown, a 16-year-old hereditary Witch who experiences premonitions about the fate of herself and her friends.  She uses folk magic as a way to bring those premonitions to fruition, so she can stop the impending danger before it’s too late.

The graphic novel “Black is for Beginnings” is in bookstores since September 2009. What can we except from Stacey and her friends in this new addition to the series? Will there be another book?
When my editor approached me with the idea of writing a graphic novel, I was very intrigued because it gave me the opportunity to not only try something new, but to really picture the book as a movie.  I have a background in screenwriting and wrote BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS in screenplay format, adding in ideas for illustrations and sidebars.  It was an absolute thrill to write, and to have the opportunity to work with an illustrator for these characters and situations I’d created.  BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS does not take the place of a regular prose novel in the series.  It is a companion piece, complimenting the entire series as a whole.  It picks up where RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE left off, and also shows some fan-favorite scenes from the entire series.  As for another book in the series, I’m not sure yet.  I’m open to the idea, so we’ll see.  A spin-off or companion series could also be fun.

You were born in Salem (who doesn’t know about the Salem Witch Trials?). Is there a connection between your hometown and your writing?
Yes and no.  I first started BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES in an adolescent fiction writing workshop in graduate school.  I knew I wanted to write a mystery/thriller. I loved suspense novels as a young adult and I really wanted to write something that would have appealed to me at that age, adding in elements of humor, romance, and drama. When I started the novel, I had no idea I would delve into the world of magic and witchcraft – that is until I did a free-writing exercise in my workshop class.  I wrote a scene in which Stacey, my main character, was meditating in front of a blue candle. Students in my class suggested that since Stacey had a candle, and since I’m originally from Salem, I make her a practicing Wiccan.

A very predictable question for an author writing about magic: do you believe in magic, witches and supernatural powers?
Having been raised in Salem, MA, and having done a lot of research on Witchcraft, I do have a lot of respect for the Wiccan religion.  Growing up, it was really no big deal to have practicing Wiccans in class with you in school.  They’re normal people, with normal jobs, who go about their normal lives.  It’s a major religion in Salem, and people take it very seriously.  I think Salem’s biggest influence on me is that I’m open to that.  But, no, I am not a Witch and do not practice magic, though I do love home remedies and lighting an occasional soy candle.

When did you start writing? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
I tried selling my first novel BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES for over two years before I finally found an editor who was willing to work with me.  That editor, Megan Atwood, though no longer at Llewellyn Publications, was really excited about the project and so I knew I was in good hands.

Finding a suitable agent or editor is a full-time pursuit and luckily I didn’t give up – even 50 rejection letters later.  When I was trying to sell, I kept a log detailing to whom I had sent my work, what exactly I had sent (i.e. a query letter, sample pages, the full manuscript), how long he or she had kept it, and what the outcome was.

My favorite rejection letter came from an editor who said: “While this is an interesting project, I do not feel it is strong enough to compete in today’s competitive young adult market.” That same young adult novel (Blue is for Nightmares) has sold over 150,000 copies, was named a Reluctant Reader Quick Pick through the American Library Association, a Popular Paperback, was nominated for YALSA’s Top Ten Teen pick list, and has been translated into a dozen different languages.  When I speak to young people and aspiring writers, I always tell them this story, that if I had stopped persevering, I may never have been able to enjoy the success of my work.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits? What about the writer’s block?
I don’t have any rituals or habits, except that when I’m on deadline, I write at least 10 pages per week.

As for writer’s block, I don’t allow myself to get it.  Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I grab a notebook and pen, and get away from the computer.  I start taking notes on my work in progress – where I am in my story, what I know for sure, and where I need to be.  I remind myself of my main character’s motivations and obstacles, and try to think of new and interesting ways to throw my reader off track.

Catastrophe scenario: imagine you wake up tomorrow and find out you’re not an author anymore. What will you do?
I love health and nutrition.  I think I might go back to school to become out a holistic nutritionist.  I’d also take a trip to Maui.

If you had a faerie in a bottle granting you three wishes, what would you ask for?
To end suffering, poverty, and intolerance.

Do you know a scary urban legend you’d like to share?
Yes, when I was writing PROJECT 17, I did a ton of research on the former Danvers State Hospital, the abandoned mental institution on which the novel is based.  When I was in high school, the hospital would get broken into on a regular basis.  Kids would go up there at night, searching for adventure.  The hospital, now mostly condos, is rumored to have been haunted as a result of all the suffering that went on there.  The hospital was also built on the land where Judge Hathorne’s, (the judge for the Salem Witch Trials), house had been.  I spoke with a psychic claiming to have gone to Danvers to do a séance shortly after it’d been closed down.  According to her, when she climbed the main steps of the Kirkbride Building, she got violently ill, completely disturbed by what she’d sensed.

If you could trade places with anybody for one day, who would that be?
Seriously?  My cat.  She sleeps for most of the day, stops for a little playtime, eats really well, and gets lots of attention.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how? Can you remember your best/worst Halloween memory? Who would go as this year?
Yes, I celebrate by taking my kids trick-o’-treating.  We hit the retirement home first, and then make our way around the neighborhood.  We decorate the house with faux-cobwebs, spiders, a black cauldron that gives off fog, and jack-o’-lanterns.  We also play scary music that blares out the windows, so passersby can hear.  My worst Halloween story?  I spent the evening in Salem – it’s like Mardi Gras in Salem on Halloween.  Some guy wearing a Michael Myers hockey mask (from the movie Halloween) followed me all over the city.  He never said a word and I couldn’t get away from him.

Could you advise some good Halloween-themed reads for those who want to feel All Hallow’s Eve magic during whole October?
Anything by Stephen King.

What are you working on next? Do you wish to add something, Laurie?
I’m currently working on DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES.  I’m also working on DO YOU SEE, the third book in the Amanda Project.

I’d like to also inform readers about the contest I’m currently running, the winner of which could have their creative writing critiqued by my editor.


1.  Go get yourself a copy of BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS.
2.  Read it.
3.  Come up with a playlist of at least 10 songs based on BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS. The songs can be of any music genre and of any time period you feel is most suitable (feel free to mix things up).  Send the list, along with a brief explanation for each song, as to why you think it’s a good fit for the book, to:  Winning entries will reflect an understanding of the book’s themes, characters, issues, scenes, and overall story.  The winning playlist will appear on my site, along with your first name.

FORMAT: Your entries should appear like this:  “Name of Song” by “Artist.”  I chose this song because it reminds me of the scene where Stacey blah, blah, blah…
DEADLINE: Midnight, EST, October 15, 2009.
NOTIFICATION: Winners will be notified no later than November 1st, 2009.
PRIZE: The winner of the contest will get to have up to ten pages of his or her creative writing, (12-point font, double-spaced, standard margins), critiqued by Brian Farrey, my amazing and talented acquisitions editor at Llewellyn/Flux Publications (the publisher of my BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series).
ALTERNATE PRIZE: If you are not a creative writer and would prefer an alternate prize, my publisher is having some BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS apparel made up (we’re thinking it might be a T-shirt or sweatshirt – details coming soon).  It’ll have a graphic from “BLACK” on there, and if you’d like I can autograph it for you.


Also, I will be announcing a TOUCH SERIES contest very soon, the winner of which will get a minor character in DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES named after him or her.  Details coming soon, so please keep checking my website:

And here comes the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question” I’ve been asking for three years: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
I’d use it toward a day at the spa. It’s been way too long since I’ve treated myself to a seaweed wrap and massage.


Author & Book: Can’t pick just one, but one of my favorite books of all time is The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  As for what I’m reading at the moment, I’m currently on an Ellen Hopkins spree.
Movies: Never Been Kissed, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Juno, Green Card, Once, The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones Diary, Thelma & Louise, Mean Girls, Moonstruck, Clueless, Under the Tuscan Sun, and anything with John Cusack.
TV shows: The Hills, The City, Real Housewives of (wherever), The Real World, America’s Next Top Model, and Supernatural.
Food: Indian food – onion chutney, curried vegetables, and kashmir bread. I also love cheeseless pizza from Bertucci’s.
City: Paris.
Music: Fergie, James Blunt, Tori Amos, Sting, Sarah MacLachlin, Gwen Stefani, Black-eyed Peas, Gavin Rossdale
Hobbies: Walking, napping, cooking, shopping, interior decorating.
Place to write in:  My office.
Quote or Motto: Perseverance is key.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee.  Bold and black.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant with friends.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Crazy Megapolis.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Depends on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Wannabe couch potato who does dance-aerobics, yoga, Pilates, and plays tennis.  I do love my potato time, though.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Both.

Thank you, Laurie!
You can learn more about Laurie Faria Stolarz and her books at

Laurie’s Reading List for Halloween
Anything by Stephen King.

Darren ShanBest-selling horror author (think about the “Saga of Darren Shan” or “Demonata” series) Darren Shan answers my questions about vampires, horror and writing – and tells us more about his upcoming movie…

Hi Darren, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers? How would you describe yourself (then your works) with three words?
I’m the author of horror books for teenagers (primarily) and adults (previously as D B Shan, although they are to be rebranded as Darren Shan books from this point forward). My books are on sale in close to 40 countries around the world, and have sold somewhere in the region of 13 million copies, give or take.

Me — light, happy, genial.
My books — dark, twisted, demented.

“Hell’s Heroes”, the tenth book in the “Demonata” series, is out this month (October 2009). Can you share a few spoilers (what is the “Demonata” series about, by the way)?
The Demonata is a ten book series about demons. The backdrop to the overall story is that there is a parallel universe to ours, populated entirely by demons. They have been biting away at humanity for thousands of years, but are now posied to break through and wipe us out. Three teenagers have the power to stop them. Sounds cliched and straightforward, doesn’t it? But trust me, it isn’t! Hell’s Heroes is the final book in the series, when everything hits the fan!

“The Vampire’s Assistant”, (a movie blending the first three books of “The Saga of Darren Shan” together), is due to be released on October 23, 2009. Have you already seen it and were you fully involved in the project?
I wasn’t involved in the film in any real way. I did read through the script just before they started shooting, and made some suggestions, a few of which they heeded, but for the most part this is writer-director Paul Weitz’s baby, a re-imagining and re-invention of the story told in the books. It makes all sorts of major changes, so it isn’t a fiathful adaptation, but I have seen it and I do like it. As much as they changed, it keeps the dark, twisted, freakish elements of the books, which for me was the most important thing.

You said you started writing when you were fourteen years old. Were you already writing horror, fantasy and dark comedies then? Why did you pick the horror genre?
Yes, my work has almost always been focused on matters dark and grisly, although I have written some lighter books in my time. I didn’t pick the horror genre — it’s just what I was naturally drawn to. I always think it’s a matter of simple tastes. Some people like steak, some prefer pork. Some people like romance, some prefer horror.

Why do you think people are so fond of horror stories? How do you explain your success?
I think for the same reason they like roller coasters — it’s scary, but safe. We get a buzz from being scared, an adrenalin rush. As long as that happens in a safe, controlled environment, that can be hugely enjoyable.

Do you plan on writing something non-horror related? Or, to say it another way, if you had to choose between writing in another genre or not at all, what would you pick?
I’ve written all sorts of books, many of which have yet to see print. Fantasy and sci-fi themes crop up in most of them, but I’ve written some straight-up thrillers too, a direction I might be exploring a bit further in my adult books over the next few years.

I understood, from online articles (and your Wikipedia page, for that matter), that your first books weren’t really successful. What made you start over, write a new book, send it again, in one word: fight?
I didn’t actually start over. I spend an average of 2 to 3 years working on any one book, but I juggle several books around at the same time. So, I might work on a first draft of a book this month, the third draft of a different book next month, and the final draft of yet another book the month after that. My first book to be published was for adults. It picked up some decent reviews, but didn’t sell very well. But I’d already written and sold the first few of my vampire books for children while waiting for it to be published, so it wasn’t a case of failing with one type of book and then trying another — both were created during the same time period. My children’s book took off — my adult books didn’t. Although they’ve sold significantly better since they were republished recently!

You said you own thousands of films. Which movies can we find in Darren Shan’s collection?
Just about everything. I have over 4000 films in my collection, from short silent films made around the turn of the 20th century, to classic Hollywood productions of the 30s and 40s, to modern blockbusters, to foreign-language films, to… I’m not too fond of true-life made-for-TV dramas, but I’ll give just about anything else a go.

How do you work? Do you have special rituals or habits that help you? Is the writer’s block a problem?
I’ve never had writer’s block, though some books certainly do come easier than others. An idea can come from anywhere. I’ll play around with it until I’m ready to start writing (that can be anything from a couple of days to several years), then jot down a brief synopsis of the book. Then I’ll usually break it down into chapters, to give myself a firm starting point. Then I sit down at my PC and write an average of 10 pages a day until the first draft is finished. After that, I’ll usually leave it alone for several months, go and work on other books. Then I’ll do an edit, leave it for a while, work on other books, return and do another edit, etc. I’ll usually do at least 6 or 7 edits of a book before I’m happy with it.

If you could be a hero or a creature from one of your books, who would you be? For that matter, if you had to choose, would you be an Evil Fighter or a Dark Creature?
Well, my first series for kids, The Saga of Darren Shan, was based on a character who shared my name, and who might indeed (if you read the series all the way to the end) actually BE me, so in a way I already AM a hero from my books! 🙂

If you had a special power, what would it be and why?
The power to eat as much as I liked and never put on any weight!

What about your projects?
Next up is a one-off fantasy book called The Thin Executioner. Then a four-book series about Mr Crepsley, the main adult vampire from my vampire series, telling his back-story.

Do you want to add something (or perhaps wish a happy Halloween to our readers? And while we’re at it, do you celebrate it and how?)?
I’ll be celebrating Halloween in Orlando this year, and checking out their Cirque Du Freak scare zone in the Uuniversal Halloween Horror Nights theme park — I’m intrigued to see what it will be like!

And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Buy some more films, probably!


Author & Book: Stephen King. The Secret Garden.
Movie & TV show: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Boys From The Blackstuff.
Food: Sweet & Sour chicken.
City: London.
Music: Pixies.
Hobby: Collecting art.
Place to write: My office.
Quote or Motto: Don’t let the bastards grind you down!!

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Neither — I’m a hot chocolate man!
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Usually home, watching a movie.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both — I live in the countryside in Ireland, but have a flat at the heart of London, and I love bouncing about between the two.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Either, depending on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Love travelling, except when I’m in the middle of a first draft of a book, when I barely even stick my nose outside my front door.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? I like watching soccer, but I don’t play any sports.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Shy.
Serious or Funny? Seriously funny!!

Thank you, Darren!
You can learn more about Darren Shan and his books at

Darren’s Reading List for Halloween
“Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King.
“The Books Of Blood” by Clive Barker.
“Let The Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Bertrice SmallBestselling and award-winning romance author Bertrice Small answers my questions about the romance genre and market and tells me more about her novels & favorites…

Hello Bertrice, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! At first, a little bit of Astrology: you’re Sagittarius, aren’t you? The stars say they are usually intellectual and honest, but also careless and restless. Do you think you’re a typical Archer?

Yes, I am a Sagittarius.  We are outspoken creatures and say exactly what we think.  We are said to be intellectual, and we don’t tolerate fools easily. However we are loyal to those who are loyal to us. We like to travel, but we travel as much in our heads as we do in the world around us.  Careless is not a word I’ve ever heard used in relation to a Sagittarius.  Some of my best friends share this sign with me, notably Kathryn Falk, the founder and CEO of RT Book Reviews, Morgan Llywelyn, the best-selling author who is my anam cara, and author Virginia Henley.

Your latest book, “The Border Lord and the Lady”, will be published in October 2009. What is it about? Can you share a few secrets? Will there be another book in the “Border Chronicles” series?

The series known as “The Border Chronicles” has been distinguished not by a single family, but rather by 2 things. The Border country of Scotland, and the families who lived in it.  Book 4, THE BORDER LORD AND THE LADY is set in the early years of James I of Scotland, 15th century, and the book opens in 1424. I have a lovely video trailer on my website at right now that gives you just a hint of the story.  Enough, I hope, to encourage people to purchase the book.  James I returned to Scotland after being held captive in England since his boyhood.  He returns with an English wife, Lady Joan Beaufort, and the young queen brings with her Lady Cicely Bowen, a girl with whom she has been raised.  Cicely is our heroine.  Desired by 2 men, a powerful Gordon laird, and a rough Border laird, she is kidnapped by the latter when the Gordons block his every attempt to court Cicely.  But of course with a Bertrice Small novel you can’t expect the usual storyline.  I love to twist and turn my plot before getting to that happy ending.  And yes, there will be 2 more books in “The Border Chronicles.”

How and when did you start writing? What sparked the idea for “The Kadin”, your first novel? Finally, why the romance genre?
I wrote my first novel in rhyme when I was 13.  It was about an Inca princess who threw herself from the heights of Macchu Picchu rather than succumb to the advances of an evil Spanish conquistador.  LOL!  High drama for a little girl in convent school.  But I had been writing poetry since I was 7.  When I was in college I became friends with a girl from Turkey whose grandmother had  been in the harem of the last Ottoman sultan.  She had grown up with the tales her grandmother told, and since I had had a very close relationship with my own Irish grandmother, we shared the tales of our different ethnic heritages. That sparked my interest in Ottoman Turkey, and when I learned that the mother of Suleiman the Magnificent (also known as the Lawgiver) was a Western European by birth, and in her old age had been called Hafise, the wise one, I knew I had to write her story.  Since nothing else was known about her I did my research, and then let my imagination run wild.  However back when I wrote THE KADIN, the Romance genre as we know it today didn’t exist.  I wrote a Historical novel in the mold of Anya Seton, Taylor Caldwell, Jan Westcott, Frank Yerby.  I spent at least 2 years writing the novel, and another year re-writing it.

You said “The Kadin” sold very quickly. How many publishers did you send it to before hitting the right one? Is there a secret? Would you have carried on with your writing if it hadn’t sold that easily (let’s say, if it was unsold after two or three years)?
THE KADIN was sold to the first publisher it was given to, and that was G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a hardcover house.  It was February 1973.  However 6 months later the editor on the book, and the publisher got into a quarrel.  Long story short, he fired her, and cancelled the contracts on the three books on which she working.  My then agent loved the book, and believed it was a hardcover.  The original paperback novel was just coming into prominence then.  He insisted on taking THE KADIN to every hardcover house in the U.S. of A. at the time, and there were a lot of them.  They all said the same thing.  Unknown author. Too risky.  Finally 2 years later he did what I had been advising ever since we had lost the Putnam’s deal.  He took it to Nancy Coffey at Avon Books, and she bought it immediately.  And while he hauled the manuscript about, yes, I continued to write.  I finished LOVE WILD AND FAIR which was published the same year as THE KADIN.  If you’re a writer, you write.

What do you think makes a good romance novel? Could you share a piece of advice with aspiring (romance and non romance) authors?
The Romance genre is so varied today.  I think what makes a good novel in any genre is good writing, a story that keeps you turning the pages, and sympathetic characters that you can root for, or hate.  My only advice to aspiring writers is to believe in your work, but be willing to accept criticism, and act on it if the criticism is valid.  If it isn’t just keep going straight ahead.  There is no magic formula I regret to say.

A very strange thing happens to the romance genre: it’s always criticised for being samey and boring (not literature, some people say) and some romance author say they nearly have to “apologize” for writing it when asked about their job. But, at the same time, millions of copies are sold every year. What can you say about it? Would you try a different genre or will you stick with romance forever?
I write Romance in 3 sub-genres.  Historical, where I made my reputation. Fantasy which I very much enjoy because I can do as I please without the restraints of Planet Earth’s history; and I write Erotic Contemporary, my least favorite because I am not really a 20th or 21st century person.  I am proud to be considered one of the Romance genres “pioneers”.  I’ve never denied my genre. Those who bleat about real literature don’t get it.  These days literature is  divided into 2 catagories.  Fiction and non-fiction.  And fiction is divided into 2 sections.  Literary fiction which deals with serious or scholarly subject matter, and popular commercial fiction such as mystery, romance, thrillers, etc.  I find it interesting that romance, written predominently by the female of the species get criticized but the other fiction genres which are either all or half written by the male of the species is not. Hmmmm.  Can you spell jealousy?  After all we authors in the romance genre sell more books than all the other popular commercial fiction genres combined.  And yes, I will always write in the romance genre as long as my publishers want Bertrice Small novels.

Some authors like to write in Starbucks, others only handwrite. How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits? What is a typical working day for Bertrice Small? What about the writer’s block?
I began writing with a clipboard, a yellow-lined legal pad and a BicClic ballpoint pen.  I switched to a typewriter half-way through UNCONQUERED when I realized my flow would go even faster.  I switched to a computer about 10 years ago  when I could no longer get ribbons for my IBM Quietwriter 7.  The PC I work on isn’t connected to the internet.  Too many hackers for my taste.  I work 6 days a week from about 9:30 a.m. in the morning until about 7 p.m. in the evening with a break for dinner about 2 p.m.  I work about 50 weeks out of a year.  I’ve been fortunate in that I write steadily with some days slower than others, and other days so fast I can barely keep up.  3 pages a day, 50 weeks a year, will give you 936 written pages, enough for 2 or 3 novels.

Your books frequently appear on the New York Best-Seller list, you won countless awards and have millions of fans from all around the globe. Does being a famous novelist make it easier to work with publishers & editors? Or are you still constantly challenged?
I regret to disappoint.  Despite my many accomplishments I am not a celebrity or anywhere near famous.  I’m just a successful working author of popular commercial fiction, genre: romance.  The only real perk I get is the courtesy of having a minor bit of input on my cover which are very important to me.  I let my agent, Ethan Ellenberg, handle the publishers and any problems that may arise. I’ve always had a good working relationship with my editors over the years.

What do you like most in writing a romance novel?
What I like most about writing – and it could be any genre – is the ability to earn my living doing what I love best.

Would you like to see your books on screen? Or maybe a TV series (Bertrice Small’s Romances, for instance)? Why do you think there are so few movie adaptations of romance novels?
I would love to see my work on film, but only if it was done right.  A big “if” in Hollywood.  “The O’Malley Saga” and “Skye’s Legacy” series along with “The World of Hetar would make great television series.  But few movies or television series are made specifically for women.  And with historicals and fantasy there is the problem of transposing the fiction into a screenplay, and the expense of mounting such a production which is why I don’t think I’ll ever see one of my books done in that media format.

You’ve been writing romance novels since 1978. Do you think the readership evolved in any way since (were there more romance lovers before or did their number increase over the last years)?
I think the evolving of the romance genre into so many and varied sub-genres has brought more readers into our sphere.  Readers who had never before read a historical but who have read my fantasies or erotic contemporaries are then curious, and will check out my historicals.   But readers have their specific likes and dislikes.  The bigger the genre has become the more readers we have garnered, and we have kept our readers which is why the genre thrives.

Which other romance author would you recommend? Is there a book you wish you’d written?
I love the authors I grew up with in the 1950s and 1960s.  Anya Seton. Jan Westcott. Sergeanne Golon (the French husband/wife team who write the Angelique series). Taylor Caldwell.  Among today’s authors in this genre I am fond of Shirlee Busbee, Jennifer Blake, Roberta Gellis, Thea Divine and Barbara Bretton.  I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan.  Is there a book published that I wish I had written?  No.

If you weren’t a writer, who would you be?
Someone high up in a creative position in the television industry.

If you had a faerie in a bottle granting you three wishes, what would you ask for?
More time. Good health. And success for my son, Thomas.

And here is the famous “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Put it in the church poor box.

What are you working on right now? What’s next on your “to do” list?
I’ve just begun the next book in “The Border Chronicles”, THE BORDER VIXEN. The manuscript is due in spring of 2010 for publication in October 2010.


Author & Book: One of my favorite books is “Katherine” by Anya Seton, but I also adore the first 5 books in the “Angelique” series by Sergeanne Golon.
Movies & TV shows: “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart, “A Lion In Winter” with Katherine Hepburn, “Cleopatra” with Vivian Leigh and Claude Rains. “Stargate”
Food: Rare beef, good cheese, and chocolate
City: New York and Venice
Music: Mozart, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Broadway Show Tunes.
Place to write: My office
Hobby: My garden
Quote or Motto: I don’t really have one

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea with cream and sugar
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? I live on the Eastern End of Long Island which is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides, but I also like the Adirondacks and Catskill mountains.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megalopolis? Moved out of New York City almost 34 years ago.  Would never go back. Love my small town America.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Like old historicals like “Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn, or comedies like “Tootsie” or a weepy drama like “The Best of Everything” or “Marjorie Morningstar”.  I’ve got eclectic tastes.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Used to love traveling.  Now content to stay put.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato without a doubt.
Leader or Follower? Leader
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going
Serious or Funny? Both serious and funny, but maybe a bit more serious.

Thank you, Bertrice!
You can learn more about Bertrice Small and her books at