Cover Reveal: “Reaping Me Softly” by Kate Evangelista

Filipino author Kate Evangelista’s follow-up to her debut novel, Taste, is yet another YA paranormal romance with an interesting premise.

Ever since a near-death-experience on the operating table, seventeen-year-old Arianne Wilson can see dead people. Just as she’s learned to accept her new-found talents, she discovers that the boy she’s had a crush on since freshman year, Niko Clark, is a Reaper.

At last they have something in common, but that doesn’t mean life is getting any easier. All while facing merciless bullying from the most powerful girl in school, Arianne’s world is turned upside down after Niko accidentally reaps the soul of someone she loves. This sends them both into a spiral that threatens to end Arianne’s life. But will Niko break his own Reaper’s code to save her? And what would the consequences be if he did?

Publication Date: 30 October 2012

Wow, this is yet another exquisite work by artist Liliana Sanches, who also created the cover of “Taste”. I like that the aesthetic consistency with “Taste” despite the different publishers gives Evangelista’s books a signature look and feel.

But what’s with guys named Niko and themes of death/the Underworld? (See also: Nico di Angelo) 😉

More info on Kate’s website: click!

Add to Goodreads:

“Fallen In Love” by Lauren Kate

Title: Fallen In Love
Author: Lauren Kate
Read Date: March 2012
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: Something fun to read while waiting for “Rapture” (no, not the doomsday thingy.)
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Unexpected. Unrequited. Forbidden. Eternal. Everyone has their own love story.

And in a twist of fate, four extraordinary love stories combine over the course of a romantic Valentine’s Day in Medieval England. Miles and Shelby find love where they least expect it. Roland learns a painful lesson about finding—and losing—love. Arianne pays the price for a love so fierce it burns. And for the first—and last—time, Daniel and Luce will spend a night together like none other.

Unexpected. I wouldn’t say Shelby and Miles’ romance was entirely unexpected. Okay, let’s just say that a good number of Fallen fans have been shipping them since Torment, but of course only Lauren Kate had the power to make them a couple or just have them remain good Luce-chasing time-traveling buddies. But I really like that Lauren went there because this series needs an uncomplicated romance—something sweet and fun and affirming amid all the doom-and-gloom surrounding everyone else. Hurrah for Miles’ Rogue Cap!

Unrequited. I still cannot shake the images of Roland going all tower-climbing Romeo on us (and falling), or of him being so clumsy while attempting to kiss a girl, or of him being a failure at poetry. It’s different from the confident Roland of the present, but then again, it seems like the common theme with Roland, Arianne, and Cam is that their great loves have had such a profound effect on them and we can see how much it changed them.

I like that even though I am conditioned to believe—because of religious prejudice, I think—that Roland is “evil” because he’s a demon, Lauren still managed to convince me that he is capable of acting honorably, and that it’s an integral part of his character.

Throughout the series, the portrayal of the “demons” often surprised me. They don’t seem inherently “evil,” they’re just beings who chose the other side in an epic if-you’re-not-with-me-you’re-against-me battle, and Roland’s story here attests to that.

Forbidden. Arianne’s story has got to be the most heartbreaking one in this book.

Tess tempted Arianne, challenged her, and questioned who she was and what she really believed in. And if it were possible, Tess would have died for her. Theirs is a love that began before they made The Choice, so really, if you’re keeping track, their relationship is marred by big double heartbreaks.

The forbidden aspect of their relationship—Tess is a demon—mirrors Luce and Daniel’s romance, so it’s telling that when Arianne walks away from Tess, scarred, she goes to find Daniel and Luce “to fight for the kind of love I believe in.” Arianne believes that Daniel and Luce’s love does not “require the other to betray her nature,” but in a way, Daniel already made that choice and committed that betrayal, and if we take all the hints seriously, soon, Luce would also have to make a choice that may just be as important as the one that Tess wanted Arianne to make.

And yes, I was surprised that Arianne’s great love was portrayed as a woman. I’m sure there are strong reactions to this revelation, ranging from “Lauren is just pandering to the call of character diversity” or “yay!” or “ugh!” But I do remember from my interviews with her that the angels in the Fallen-verse are more like souls who take up whatever form they fancy (“Passion” Spoiler Alert! – come on, The Evil One took up gargoyle form).

…their physical traits don’t really matter that much—they matter to the readers, they matter to me as a writer, to be able to visualize them—but literally, they don’t matter. Their bodies are sort of just shells—they can change it anytime and look like something different, like when we see Daniel in China, he’s Chinese. It’s really what their soul looks like, which is a hard thing to describe. And so I think that it manifests itself in their physical characteristics so that I can paint a picture for the readers and for myself. I think probably the closest that I get to who they really are is when I describe what they look like. I think that’s how I get closest to what their souls look like, if that makes sense.

So whether it’s all deliberate or contrived or Arianne whispered to her that this is how it has to be, I’m excited to ask her about this, and I hope to be given the chance to do so if she ever comes back here. 😉

Eternal. Of course the Daniel and Luce story here was sweet, but forgive me when I say that it didn’t make much of an impact after those first 3 stories, especially Arianne’s. *hangs head in shame*

The novelty of Fallen In Love is that we experience these stories within the same backdrop of Medieval Valentine’s Day, and they are structured in such a way that the transition from one story to the next is natural and continuous, it almost feels like we’re reading a single tale if not for the story divisions.

If you absolutely can’t wait for Rapture, then this is a good way to pass the time without leaving the Fallen-verse.

For those who keep landing here on my blog after googling “lauren kate rapture excerpt,” here’s some Search Term Indulgence. Of course I can’t post the excerpt which was included in Fallen In Love, but I’ll give you an idea.

It’s the prologue and the first chapter of Rapture, which is exactly where Passion left off, in that little cabin near Sword and Cross. The angels, Shelby, and Miles helped smuggle Luce back to her home so that her parents didn’t notice she was even gone. The next day, everyone’s gathered at the Sword and Cross library to figure out their next move when an earthquake happens. Oh wait, no, according to Cam, it’s a “seismic shift in time,” which could only mean that The Great Evil Gargoyle (sorry, can’t help it) is getting closer and that their time is running out.

♥ ♥ ♥
Special thanks to Leia, who loaned me her copy of the book. 🙂

“Taste” by Kate Evangelista

 

Title: Taste
Author: Kate Evangelista
Read Date: 30 April 2012
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Advice: Read this while munching on some pork cracklings! *insert evil The Count laughter here*
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At Barinkoff Academy, there’s only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

One of the things that I look for in romance stories, especially when they decide to go down Love Triangle Lane, is a certain amount of uncertainty about the story’s One True Pairing (OTP). It doesn’t matter if there seems to already be a fated OTP (see Korean drama “The Moon That Embraces The Sun”); what’s fun for me is watching the second lead be his awesome self enough for me to re-think which team I want to be on. I hate it when writers make the second lead despicable or strangely unattractive just to steer us towards the direction of the main hero. I want to be able to choose who to root for. Occasionally, I even want to be able to chastise the heroine and tell her “I told you so.”

I mention this because it’s one of the things I liked about Kate Evangelista’s new YA novel, “Taste.” The two heroes who are vying for Phoenix’s heart are equally attractive, yet any girl could likewise conceivably have doubts about them both. The OTP eventually becomes obvious as we go further into the story, of course, but the second lead remains a worthy choice.

Kate Evangelista created a vivid world and detailed mythology for “Taste” that seems both fresh and familiar. I’m sure that when readers start to talk about the primary conceit of the book—what the Night Students like Demitri and Luka turn out to be—there will be numerous invocations of certain popular YA titles and how those have also re-invented particular mythologies.

If I sound like I’m skirting this Creature Issue, I apologize. I don’t want to spoil that revelation for other readers because it’s fun to see all the guesses that are floating around in Goodreads, Twitter, and book blogs. Apparently, vampires are leading the survey. *chuckles* As for me, I’ll just say that I didn’t see it coming. I suspected in the beginning that maybe Ms. Evangelista invented a totally new supernatural creature, but apparently not. So yeah, it’s certainly a fascinating twist, although, to be honest, I’m not sure if everyone is going to drink this mythological Kool-Aid.

While I like Phoenix’s courage and inquisitiveness and Demitri’s intensity, it was Luka and the secondary characters like his sister Yana, and Demitri’s younger brother Dray, who captivated me. Their personal stories and their motivations make them easy to root for.

Overall, “Taste” is an entertaining read that will appeal to fans of paranormal YA romance. I look forward to seeing what other stories Ms. Evangelista has in store for us.

p.s. Filipino readers should keep their eyes peeled for a Pinoy reference in the story! (Oh, great. Now, I’m hungry.) 😉

➵ ➵ ➵
Disclosure: This review is based on an ARC provided by Kate Evangelista.

“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor

 
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Final Cover
Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 11 September 2011
Goodreads Status Updates: None. I couldn’t stop reading long enough to go online and post status updates, but my favorite quotes are here.
Review in a nutshell: A fantastic new perspective on popular YA paranormal themes, with memorable characters brought to life by Laini Taylor’s evocative writing.
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Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

 
This is my first Laini Taylor book, but I can already tell that she and I are going to have an enduring “I will buy every single book you write” kind of relationship.

Taylor turns the popular supernatural/Angel romance theme on its head in Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  In Taylor’s mythology, the Angels are not your usual supernatural beings from Heaven (although they still are winged, beautiful, and powerful); they’re flesh and blood creatures from another world, whose civilization is at war with “demons”–the Chimaera, creatures whose body parts are from several different animals.

The story delves deep into the long, violent history of these two races, but no matter who started the conflict, what stands out, for me, is how the line between good and evil blurs as both sides commit acts of war against each other.  Yes, we often associate Angels with the good side, but the Seraphim in this story are just as culpable as the Chimaera, and just as guilty of pride and prejudice.
 

It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.

 

The character at the center of this dark and grim backdrop is Karou, an art student in Prague whose only family are a group of Chimaera headed by a bull-headed “trader” named Brimstone.  She has no memory of her real parents or where she really came from; the only thing she knows is Brimstone raised her from infancy.

Karou exudes a certain otherworldliness–perhaps further amplified by the blue hair that grows out of her head that color–but remains grounded as a character because most readers will at least be able to sympathize with her loneliness and her quest to learn more about herself.  We may not experience everything that Karou does, but her emotions are easy to understand.
 

Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.

 

As if things weren’t complicated enough for Karou, she encounters Akiva, a Seraph who was sent to the human world on an important mission.  The Seraphim are capable of using glamour to hide their fiery wings, but you can still tell they are not of our world because their shadows show their true form and they are too “breath-stealingly beautiful” to be human.  

“Breath-stealingly beautiful”–Taylor’s words, not mine.  It was only when I read that that I realized just how important an author’s choice of words can be, because someone who can steal my breath away is vastly different from someone who can just take my breath away. Taylor’s prose is evocative and lyrical, and this is what makes the book something more than just a good story.

(Taylor’s description of Akiva evokes a non-traditional image of an angel in my mind.  No, wait, actually, he does not look angelic at all.  Truth be told, the image of Akiva that my mind conjures is the form that the devil will take if he wanted me to willingly follow him to hell. And so he joins Fitzwilliam Darcy in my list of Literary Boyfriends, which is probably TMI for you, but well, you did come here. 😛 )

It’s common in the genre that the supernatural character tends to be distant, aloof, and unreachable.  Case in point: Daniel Grigori in the first 2 books of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series, and even Edward Cullen, to a certain extent (and please don’t raise your eyebrows, okay?)  Well, they’re not human and the aloofness is expected, but I personally look for something in a character that I can connect with so that I can emotionally invest in the story and the romance aspect, in particular.  Taylor managed to provide that in how she wrote not only Akiva, but the Seraphim and Chimaera in general.

On hindsight, Taylor’s world and characters have less of the mystical supernatural flavor of Fallen; the book actually feels more like a Neil Gaiman urban fantasy.  And as with most good urban fantasy, the setting is a character in itself.  Here, Prague really comes alive, and I’m sure that if I’m lucky enough to visit it one day, I will recall Taylor’s words as I see it with my own eyes.
 

Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theatre with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

 

Taylor takes great care in building her world and developing her characters, and despite there bring some slow sections, overall, she exerts good control over the pacing of the book. Her control even extends to the romance aspect, which was plausible and thrilling without being suffocating. The scale of the world and the overall arc is epic, but she maintains a feeling of intimacy between the reader and the characters and their personal stories.

[SPOILER WARNING: Don’t read this paragraph until you’ve read the book. I don’t spoil a plot point, but my reaction might give too much away.] There’s one scene, though, that disturbed me a little because I felt it almost bordered on bestiality. Okay, not exactly that; I think this is more about me thinking about the circumstances too much.  To Taylor’s credit, that scene was subtle and well-written, and it’s likely other readers won’t think twice about what happened. There’s just no getting around it because the Chimaera and the Seraphim are what they are, and the scene is needed to make a point. I immediately got over it, though. It’s not a deal-breaker at all for this book, it’s just a personal reaction that I felt I had to mention because I wanted to know how others reacted to that scene.  (If you read the book, please let me know in the Comments if this became an issue for you or not. :D) [END SPOILER]

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first in a new series by Taylor, who’s already written a handful of other works. She has a modest but dedicated following, but I think more people should read her books. So if you’re into paranormal romance or YA fantasy or if you’re a sucker for star-crossed lovers or maybe just looking for a different read, give this a try. Heck, even if you hate YA, you should give this a try! It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Here are the links to the lovely book trailers:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Part 1: Main Trailer
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Part 2: Brimstone
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Part 3: Akiva (The illustrations of Akiva are… ♥♥♥)


This review, including the quotes featured therein, is based on an Advance Reader Copy provided by Hachette Book Group USA (Phils.)
U.S. Street Date: 27 September 2011

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Chris of Ficsation

 
 

Lauren Kate: On Rapture, writing, future projects, and fan fiction

 
This is the last installment of the transcript of my interview with Lauren Kate, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Fallen series.

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Meann: I read on Twitter that you tried balut. How was that?

Lauren Kate: Oh my gosh. It was scary. But it actually tasted pretty good. I was not able to eat the serious parts, but I had the broth and the yolk. This one came with a little bowl of salt and a little bowl of vinegar with chopped onions. So that was good; that was a good compliment to it.

M: How is your Asian Tour so far?

LK: It’s pretty wild to be over here. And actually, coming to the Philippines…coming back here kinda feels like a really nice homecoming. I’m still very familiar with it here, and the people are so warm. And meeting the people last year, I have kept up with so many of them on Twitter and Facebook, so it feels like familiar territory.

Whereas Singapore and KL, I’ve never been there.  It’s all new experiences, but I love it. The people are wonderful, the food is so good, and it just feels really crazy to talk about your books on the other side of the world.

In Malaysia, they actually sell the books in a number of languages: Chinese, German, and French, I think, and Japanese. There was a couple of Chinese girls, and I got to sign their books, which were in Chinese…

M: What has kept you busy these past few months?

LK: I’ve just finished the 1st draft of Rapture. I’ve been working on that the whole winter and spring. After this tour, when I get home in August, I will do the revisions—probably two or three more rounds of revisions.

M: Can you tell us anything more about what to expect in Rapture?

LK: We have this main threat that all of the angels have to band together to prevent from happening; it’s something that both sides would hate to see happen. Their entire existence is being called into question. Everything is threatened. So we’ll see all the characters together again, which I missed a little bit in Passion.

For the first time, we see Luce and Daniel together in the present and in a good relationship for the whole book. That was fun to explore because, for all sorts of different reasons, we never saw that in any of the other books. Rapture is the first time…when I was writing it, it’s the first that I’ve ever been sitting at the keyboard and actually cried during the writing of a scene. It’s going to be a very powerful book.

M: Will there be more Shelby and Miles?

LK: Yeah, definitely. I really like their dynamic.

M: When Rapture is released, do you plan to go back here (to the Philippines)?

LK: I would love to. Next time, when I come back, I’ve got to spend more time here, and I’ve got to go and see some of the islands, have a vacation. I need to do it right.

M: I wasn’t able to ask about this before, but do you have any particular reason for choosing the titles of the books? Because we just keep joking about how Rapture is going to be released in 2012.

LK: Right, right. I always knew that Fallen was gonna be the title of Fallen, and that Rapture was gonna be called Rapture. I didn’t know what the two middle ones were gonna be; my publisher helped me find those titles. We had brainstorming sessions. Between my editor, my agent, my publisher, we probably came out with 300 titles and then chose the best ones for the books.

I wasn’t sure about the title for Passion or Torment at the time; now they seem very fitting. I think I was too close to the story during the time we were thinking about the titles to think that they were right. But I trusted that my team at Random House knew what they were talking about. I think titles are often very hard on writers for that reason, because you can be too close to the story to see what it’s about.

M: Did you have a working title or like a pet name for Passion?

LK: Passion, I was calling it Chaos for a long time. But Passion’s better, it’s a lot better.

M: We’ve seen your Passion playlist online, but some fans are asking if there’s a particular song that you associate with Fallen or Torment. Were there playlists for those?

LK: I didn’t do playlists for those. I should go back and do that, maybe.

I think for Fallen, the song by The Jayhawks called “You Look So Young”. I listened to that a lot when I was writing Fallen.

For Torment, I think a lot about the Bridezilla album. One of the songs, “Beaches”, I think, is on the Passion playlist, but the whole album… I’d just gotten it from my Australian publisher when I was working on revising Torment, so I listened to that a lot.

M: What’s your daily writing routine like?

LK: Usually, when I get up in the morning, I go for a run. I take my dog for a run. In the fall, I was training for a marathon, and so I was running a lot to do that. I’m done with the race now, but I’m still running; I’ve found that it’s really helpful to clear my head, and to focus myself.

By the time I’m finished running, usually I have the first paragraph of what I’m gonna write that day mapped out—that’s usually the hardest part for me, to get a little bit of momentum. So that way, when I sit down, I’m ready to go.  I turn off my phone, I turn off my e-mail alerts, I turn off everything, and I just write for about 6 hours and then I’m totally brain dead.

Usually, to unwind, on an average night, I love to cook. It’s very hands-on and also mindless. I don’t have to think—I can just zone out, watch TV, do something with my hands—it’s very different from writing. Then I wake up the next day, and do it all over again.

It’s pretty boring when I’m working on a draft. I see friends sometimes, but I’m sort of hard to reach, and I’m just like in a little cave with my computer. So I’m happy when the first draft is over and I can go out, see friends again, and be a real person.

M: You don’t go to any special place?

LK: I like to write in my office—it’s quiet, there’s a window that looks out on this canyon where I live. I don’t like to go to coffee shops because I like it to be very quiet, and you never know what kind of distractions there’s gonna be.

I have a lot of writing friends in LA who go to coffee shops. It’s a big scene: everybody has their computers up, and you sort of look around and everybody’s writing. I can’t deal with that. I just have to be alone. It takes me so long to get into that place mentally that I would just be too distracted.

M: How much of Luce is based on you?

LK: Just very very little things. Probably on every page, there are little tiny details that have something to do with me. Something like her relationship with her grandmother. A very small detail—things that she remembers, or some kind of food that she likes or doesn’t like. Those things are sometimes based on me, sometimes they’re based on other people I know or no one at all. But the core of her character is not at all based on me. I can relate to her, I feel like we’ll be very good friends, but it’s a completely different… a separate entity for me.

M: You mentioned when I spoke to you last year that Luce is not initially how you envisioned her in Fallen. Now, has she developed more into what you envisioned?

LK: Yeah, definitely. And now I really care about her a lot, I think she’s wonderful. And actually, now, when I go back and read Fallen, I feel very differently about her. I went back and read the whole series to prepare for writing Rapture and I see her as something very different than I did before. I think that having different perspectives of her character changed everything.

I think that when we talked last time about some issues I have with Luce, it’s probably just issues I was having with my writing and with the story; it wasn’t her. So I can see her now as her own entity, and I enjoy her very much. I love the way she’s grown over the series. I’m really very proud of her right now.

M: Are there any developments with the movie?

LK: They are very close to finishing the script. They had written one script and it wasn’t good enough, I think, so they found a new writer.  So they’re just finishing a new script, and everyone’s really excited about it.

M: Also you mentioned the idea for the new series? Can you tell us more about that?

LK: I can’t share anything about it yet ‘cause I’m still working on it with my publisher. But it’ll be a trilogy–there’ll be a new world, new characters. It’ll still have some otherworldly elements.

M: Have any of your fans sent you fan fiction?

LK: Yeah, I got one the other day, actually, when I was in Kuala Lumpur. I don’t go to the websites where they are posted, but I see every once in a while on Facebook, like a new one has been added.

M: Are you okay with that?

LK: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s very flattering, yeah, I think it’s really cool.

M: Some authors are very protective about their characters, and—

LK: Really?

M: Yeah, I think Anne Rice doesn’t approve of it.

LK: I think it’s amazing, actually, that people can imagine your characters well enough that they can see them in scenes that you haven’t written about. That means you’re successful in writing something that’s real and vibrant, so I think it’s really flattering.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Acknowledgments:
Thank you to National Book Store, esp. to Karla and Chad, for giving me the chance to be able to talk to Lauren again.  Thanks to my talented photographer, Gary Mayoralgo. 😛  And thank you, Lauren, for being such an accommodating and funny and non-frightening interviewee. 😀

Image Credits:
– Lauren Kate: The Passion Tour photos by Gary Mayoralgo
– Front page feature image: lib-art.com

Related Articles:
– Previous excerpt — Lauren Kate: On the WSJ debacle and writing for teens
– Previous excerpt — Lauren Kate: On visual inspirations and angel wings
– Previous excerpt — Lauren Kate: On Luce’s lifetimes and writing bad guys
An epic, romantic journey with Lauren Kate (on GMA News Online)

 

Lauren Kate: On Luce’s lifetimes and writing bad guys

 
This is the penultimate installment of the transcript of my interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Lauren Kate last July 15th. Here, she talks about Luce’s past lives, free will vs. destiny, and Bill. (Muwahaha!)

Spoiler Warning: Some plot lines and outcomes in Passion were discussed here.

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Meann: In Passion, how did you go about choosing which time and place you would like to include in the book?

Lauren Kate: There were different reasons. Some of them are vacation spots that really affected me, like her life in Chichén Itzá. I went there 2 or 3 years ago, I think. I always thought the culture is so startlingly different from anything I know—it’s so fascinating how violent they were, but how much they value their lives. That strange juxtaposition of those 2 things really startled me.

I remember thinking at the time, I’d love to write about those, but I’m not gonna write a whole book about a character who lives there. So it’s really cool to just drop her [Luce] in for a chapter, let her sit there and deal with it, and then take her somewhere else.

A lot of them actually were based on novels that I really liked and settings that I had read about and wanted to explore, like when she’s in Milan, that’s A Farewell to Arms. So I reread that, and pulled a lot of those images and little bits of the story there into the book. Same thing with the Halston, England chapters; I’ve always loved Victorian novels. Further back, some of them are just fantasy, settings that I’ve always been intrigued by and wanted to learn more about.

M: I really love the Egyptian one.

LK: Do you? I like that one, too.

lauren reads

M: Which one was the hardest to write?

LK: The earliest ones—the ones that appear latest in the books, or earliest in time—those are just so foreign to me. It’s a lot easier for me to write about the 1920’s, the 1940’s, or even Shakespeare’s time because we’re so familiar…or I guess American culture is so obsessed with Shakespeare’s time that we see it a lot in movies, we read about them all the time in school.  But yeah, like the Egypt chapter, and the Shang dynasty chapter—I had to take a different approach to ground the reader and myself in the scenes.

M:  In the China chapter, I kinda envisioned her looking like Mulan.

LK: [laughs] Yeah, me too, me too! I don’t know… That’s funny, but yeah, me too.

M: I like the Mayan one, too. It was kinda scary. And there’s an actual pit where they throw in their human sacrifices?

LK: Yeah, it’s like this very green, acid green water, and you can still see the skeletons there.

M: Did you have any discarded ideas for places or time periods?

LK: Yeah. Yeah, I have a scrap pile that has little bits and pieces from here and there. I’ve gotta figure out what to do with them. Someday, I’ll figure out a format, whether it’s online or something in print.

M: What do you think Luce and Daniel would have been like in a Philippine setting?

LK: [laughs] They would’ve eaten a lot of balut. I can picture them on a little deserted island, one of the 7,000 islands here.

M: Bill. Is he really who we think he is… you know…

LK:  Yeah! He really is. Bill is going to be a force to be reckoned with in Rapture.

M:  He was fun, though, when he was a gargoyle.

LK:  Yeah. He was a very interesting character to write. Obviously, I knew exactly what was going to happen to him, I knew exactly who the readers are going to find out he was in the end.  But I had to make him… I think most readers are suspicious of him, at least in the beginning.  But those characters, there’s always a fine line between how much evil should I show, how much darkness should I show.  We still gotta stick around with this guy for several thousand more years, so you have to make him enjoyable, but also the foreshadowing has to be done just right.

M: And he’s also the guy in the Prologue.

LK: Yeah, he is. Yeah.

It’s hard for me to write bad guys; a truly vicious bad guy is no fun to read about.  You’ve got to give them some sort of charm. And then when I do that, I start to like them and I start to not want them to be quite so bad. I had to figure out how to do that.

Passion Tour Manila

M:  In Passion, we go back to The Very Beginning. I had a sort of Hermione Granger Time-Turner thing going on in my head when Daniel went back to the very start and realized that it was his intervention that changed everything. Can you explain a bit more about how that works?

LK:  I don’t think I should; that’s going to be in Rapture. The first meeting [with Luce] that he thinks he’s going to, he doesn’t end up there. He ends up further back—he ends up in Heaven before he ever met Luce. That moment, that is like the Elusive Mystery Moment of the whole series: when did they actually meet, why did they fall in love originally? And I’ve been teasing and teasing and teasing it, and I gave a little bit in Passion, but still, I’m backing away from it. But we’ll get there in Rapture.

M:  There’s also the element of Luce’s choice alluded to in The Ethereal Monarch’s judgment. Can you also explain that a bit, or is that going to be in Rapture as well?

LK:  Those are probably the biggest issues in Rapture. Because she’s not aware of it yet in Passion, I don’t think I should disclose it to the reader yet.

M:  The choices that the angels and Daniel make, I like that part in the book because the choices themselves are not really black and white, or good and evil, and not exactly a bad choice or a good choice. Someone said before that “Free Will is an illusion,” but is it, in the context of the mythology of Fallen?

LK:  That’s a good question, because even the characters that are operating as if they have free will, it was given to them by God. But I think what Luce and Daniel are proving is that free will is a very very difficult thing to achieve, but they’re always in pursuit of it. Their choice to love each other is constantly being swatted away, and the forces of good and evil are always trying to suppress it. I think, if and when they succeed, they’ll prove something about free will—that it’s possible.

M:  So is it more free will or destiny for Luce and Daniel, again, in the context of Fallen?

LK:  It’s very hard to tell one from the other, I think, especially with regard to their relationship. At times, it seems a lot like destiny, but in the end, I’m leaning towards free will. This is what bothers Luce a lot—she’s frustrated by the fact that they love each other because they’re supposed to. That they love each other for the right reasons is something that she’s thinking about a lot.

M:  Which is also part of the reason why she went back.

LK:  Yeah.

M:  Why did Daniel go back to that time with Cam and Lilith?

LK:  Oh.  Ummm…we’ll see.  We’ll see more of that.

M:  Because it was a little different from the other times; Luce wasn’t there.

LK:  There are a couple moments when he sort of loses track of Luce, like in the Greenland one.  I like those scenes where she’s not in it.  I mean, her role is obviously the most important, but it’s fun to show the other characters talking without her there.  That Greenland scene is one of my favorite ones.

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Next time:  What to expect in Rapture, random bits of Fallen Series trivia, playlists, the movie, future projects, and Lauren talks about writing.

Image Credits:
– Lauren Kate: The Passion Tour photo by Gary Mayoralgo
– Gargoyle front page featured image from travelpod.com

Related Articles:
–  Previous excerpt — Lauren Kate: On the WSJ debacle and writing for teens
–  Previous excerpt — Lauren Kate: On visual inspirations and angel wings
–  An epic, romantic journey with Lauren Kate (on GMA News Online)

Lauren Kate: On visual inspirations and angel wings

 
Here’s another excerpt from my July 15th interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Lauren Kate. As promised, we talk about Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, and Lady Gaga. 😛

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Question: The angels are very vividly described in you books. Did you have any specific references or any inspiration for why they look the way they look?

Lauren Kate:   I think so. Like Luce is loosely based on my oldest best friend—the way that her hair is, the way that her face is shaped, the way that her body moved—I think I did that just because I’m very familiar with the way she looks… So it was easy for me to think of her and channel her when I was writing Luce in the beginning. But in terms of personality, she’s not like her.

I don’t know how it happened, but I think I started more with their personalities. Like I started with Arianne—the way that she’s so insane, and the things she says helped me understand what she looks like, how wraithlike she is, the way that her arms flail when she talks, things like that.

I think also that the better I got to know the characters, the easier it is to picture them. Especially with angels, their physical traits don’t really matter that much—they matter to the readers, they matter to me as a writer, to be able to visualize them—but literally, they don’t matter. Their bodies are sort of just shells—they can change it anytime and look like something different, like when we see Daniel in China, he’s Chinese. It’s really what their soul looks like, which is a hard thing to describe. And so I think that it manifests itself in their physical characteristics so that I can paint a picture for the readers and for myself. I think probably the closest that I get to who they really are is when I describe what they look like.  I think that’s how I get closest to what their souls look like, if that makes sense.

LaurenQ: Just for fun, if you were an angel, what would your wings be like?

LK: That’s a great question… They’ll be silvery-white, and probably very long and maybe iridescent like Arianne’s.

Q: Just for fun again, what about famous people like…Justin Bieber?

LK: Oh, what will their wings look like? That’s a really good question. I think Justin Bieber’s wings will be thick, fluffy, white, and not very long…kind of thick and stout…I’m just making this up. [laughs]

Q: What about Barack Obama?

LK: I think they would be marbled, and very muscular, and very broad… I’m gonna write this question down.

Q: Lady Gaga?

LK: They’ll probably be mirrored, with spikes on them.

Q: Have you imagined what Michael and Gabriel and the other angels… what do they look like?

LK: Gabriel is actually the character Gabbe; she represents Gabriel in the books. I don’t have a Michael. Raphael is Roland, and Cam…Camriel is one of the Archangels.

Yeah, I don’t have a Michael because my agent’s name is Michael, and it’ll be weird if I had that be one of the main characters. [laughs]

Q: Do you have specific visual inspirations for Sword and Cross and Shoreline?

LK: I have specific geographical sites where they will be located. Sword and Cross is supposed to be set in a part of Georgia where there’s an old, abandoned military fort called Fort Pulaski.  It’s sort of out on the edge of the sandbars.

But the fort obviously is nothing like the school; the school was a complete invention in my mind. It’s become such a real thing in the books that it’s hard for me to remember how I came up with the little details. But I know that they were just very organic at the keyboard. Like the cemetery having that concave shape, or the gym…the natatory being a church. All of that was just sort of surprises at the keyboard, like whoa, that would be weird if I did this and it becomes reality.

Same thing with Shoreline. Shoreline, I based it on a site in Fort Bragg, California where there’s actually a winery; it looks over the ocean and it’s such a breathtaking sight. But in my mind, I took away the winery and planted this really beautiful school there.

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Next time: Lauren talks about Luce’s temporal adventures

Image Credit:
– Lauren Kate portrait by Gary Mayoralgo

Related Articles:
–  Previous excerpt — Lauren Kate: On the WSJ debacle and writing for teens
–  An epic, romantic journey with Lauren Kate (on GMA News Online)

Lauren Kate: On the WSJ debacle and writing for teens

 
When I interviewed Lauren Kate last July 15th (thank you, folks from National Book Store!), I asked her a lot of questions to cover all my bases for the article that I’m submitting to GMA News Online, but also to satisfy my curiosity as a fan.

The write-up is already with my editor, but I think it’s safe to post this excerpt from the interview even if that hasn’t been published yet because this didn’t make it on to that piece anyway. Update: The piece, “An epic, romantic journey with Lauren Kate” is now live!

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Lauren Kate Question:  You’ve probably heard of that infamous Wall Street Journal article (“Darkness Too Visible” by Meghan Cox Gurdon) about books for teens, right?  Most of the authors I follow online have already said their piece about it.  What did you think about it?

Lauren Kate:  The easiest thing to point out about this story is: whoever this woman is who went to the store and couldn’t find anything obviously didn’t look very hard. She obviously didn’t ask a single bookseller. There are so many different kinds of books.

What’s most disturbing is that the author wrote about a girl who wanted to read dark books that her mother didn’t want her to read…I don’t really know…I think she took the books away instead of asking her “Why are you interested in a book about eating disorders? Is there something that we need to talk about?”

What’s wonderful about the audiences that I have is that a lot of them are mother and daughter. The mothers are reading the books, and the daughters are reading the books, and they talk about them. To have an open dialogue with your mother about issues that you’re having as a teenager is such an amazing revolution; I didn’t have that when I was growing up. My mom is completely supportive and wonderful but wasn’t choosing to embark on the same kind of stories that interested me and were powerful to me so that we can talk about it. And I think that that’s a great thing that parents are doing these days.

It seems silly that the writer of that article, she took for granted that these authors who write dark stories are doing them with teens’ best interests in mind.  Most of us are engaged with our readers and we talk to them about problems. I get letters from people telling me about their broken hearts all the time and I take it very seriously. I think it’s very important that we are open and able to have a relationship with these people. When you write things for this audience, you have a responsibility to them.

There’s a group of YA writers that started an anthology called Dear Bully. I think it was started last fall after a few teens committed suicide because of school bullying. And so now Harper Collins is publishing an anthology, and each [writer] had a little poem or short story or a diary entry or something. I submitted an essay, and it’s coming out this fall [August 2011].

So I think we’re all engaged in a sort of social awareness of what’s going on–what is hard about being a teenager–and none of that was highlighted in this article. It’s just a very stodgy, old way of looking at things.

Q:  Did a reader write you in particular about Fallen having an impact in his or her life?

LK:  Many.  Lots of them do.

There are several different kinds of reader interactions. A lot of them are just like “Love your books. Can’t wait for the movie,” that kind of thing. It’s great when you hear someone who says “I never read before, this book got me reading, and now I’m reading other books.” But then there are the very personal ones that say “This reminds me of my own heartbreak and here’s what I’m going through, and here’s what I’m thinking about.” A lot of times, I’ll write personal letters back to those readers.  But also another thing that I started doing is thinking about the situation that they’re describing with their relationships and finding some way to respond to it in Fallen–writing a scene in the story that addresses the questions and issues that this particular girl or guy is going through.

I just did that with a guy. I got a pretty disturbing letter…a very depressed letter from a guy who is going through heartbreak. I did write him back, but I also wrote a scene about that situation using Luce and Daniel into Rapture.

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Next time:  Lauren talks Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Barack Obama.  Yes, you read that right. 😛

Sam and Grace Versus The Seasons

 
My first thought after reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater was: I was glad the book isn’t trying to be something other than what it really is, which is a teenage romance.  Yes, there is a fantasy element, but that is more of a backdrop and a source of conflict.  There is no huge, detailed fantasy world the protagonists had to play in, and that is refreshing for something from the teen paranormal romance genre.

Shiver is the first book in Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.  It introduces Grace, a girl with a fascination for the wolves that appear in the woods near her house every winter, and Sam, a boy who is fascinated with Grace, but who has to live the challenging double life of a werewolf.  Don’t worry, that last part isn’t a spoiler, as it’s something that is revealed in the first few pages of the novel. Continue reading