Andrea Cremer spent her childhood daydreaming while roaming the forests and lakeshores of Northern Wisconsin. She now lives in Minnesota, but she thinks of her homeland as the “Canadian Shield” rather than the Midwest. Andrea has always loved writing and has never stopped writing, but she only recently plunged into the deep end of the pool that is professional writing. When she’s not writing, Andrea teaches history at a very nice liberal arts college in St. Paul. In the little spare time she can find, Andrea stares up at trees, rescues infant rabbits from predatory cats, and invents names for pug puppies with her husband. She has an unfortunate tendency to spill things – white carpets beware! Her debut novel, NIGHTSHADE, the first of a YA fantasy series, will be published in fall 2010 by Penguin (Philomel). NIGHTSHADE (October 19, 2010, Philomel) While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all.
I love getting to know my characters and the world they occupy – it’s fascinating.
When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
I have always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t give myself permission to try writing full-time until I was in a horseback riding accident two years ago. I ended up with a broken foot and couldn’t do anything all summer. Since I was stuck on the couch 24/7 I decided it was now or never in terms of giving writing a novel a real shot. Once I started writing I was hooked and there was no going back.
Writers (much like actors) get a lot of rejections. What was your most memorable rejection? What made you keep going?
I’d say what’s memorable about rejections are how unremarkable they are. None were particularly memorable. The path to becoming an author will be full of rejections – but if you really work on your craft and are persistent, it’s just a matter of finding the right home for your manuscript. Whenever I received a rejection I called my brother or a close friend and they would reassure me that the world wasn’t ending.
Who are your favorite authors and what is something that you have learned through them and their books?
I have a number of favorite authors, but I’d say the two that have had the most profound impact on my writing are Marion Zimmer Bradley – for her strong female characters and reinterpretation of mythologies – and Joss Whedon – I know he’s not technically an author, but the writing on his shows, particularlyBuffy the Vampire Slayeris brilliant and offers a remarkable way to learn how to create fast, addictive dialogue.
Before you became an author, what other jobs have you had? Which job was the hardest and why?
Ha! I still have another job. I have a Ph.D. in history and I’m a professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m juggling writing, research, and teaching so my life is very busy. The hardest job I ever had was being a teaching assistant in graduate school because I was making very little money while racking up loans, learning how to teach, and taking Ph.D. coursework at the same time.
How do you keep your writing fresh? By that I mean, how do you make your writing so real?
Thanks for saying my writing is real – what a lovely compliment. I don’t have secret formula or anything, but when I’m writing I always focus not on the action that’s occurring but the emotions/conflict/motivation occurring inside a character that’s setting the plot in motion. I think that lends a sense of urgency to both the character development and the events that are taking place.
Tell us about the very first book you wrote. Do you have some never-to-be-published book lying around somewhere?
I do! It’s a fantasy novel that’s based on an imaginary world my brother, best friend, and me created when we were kids. It was a great book for me to start with because the world and the characters were so close to my heart, but it was definitely a practice novel that only my family gets to read.
Other than writing, what do you enjoy doing on the side?
I have two dogs – a pug and a border collie – and I love taking them for walks. My husband and I play World of Warcraft, which is a blast. I also like cooking and doing yoga.
I noticed that while you are not writing teach history in St. Paul. How does teaching help you when it comes to writing?
My teaching and research focuses on early modern history – a time when religious and occult ideologies clashed and changed human societies significantly. I draw on this history and the mythologies tied to them to create the worlds I write about.
What inspires you to write?
Music. I always create playlists for my books and I listen to music constantly for inspiration. Right now I’m listening to a lot of Florence and the Machine and Rogue Valley.
Many YA authors are writing about werewolves and vampires right now so what makes Nightshade stand out from the rest?
A few things. First – there’s Calla. She’s a forceful and dynamic heroine who takes control rather than watching the world pass her by. Second – the world of Nightshade is a unique take on history, wolves, and witchcraft; it’s not what you’ll usually find in terms of werewolf tales. Third – Nightshade is told from Calla’s point of view, but it’s the story of her whole pack. Readers who’ve contacted me tend to comment on how much they loved the stories and lives of the supporting characters – they aren’t sidekicks, what happens to them is just as important as what happens to Calla.
What do you think makes a good love interest in your writing?
Tension. It can come in a variety of forms – forbidden desire, teasing, annoyances. Smooth sailing all the way doesn’t create much of an interesting story. I also think true romance has to occur between equal partners – their attraction should build from the way they building on each other’s strengths and challenge each other to become a better person.
Where did the idea for Nightshade come from and why did you chose to have your main character be female?
Nightshade is Calla's story and she was the inspiration for the book. I tend to write from characters and Calla was floating around in my head for a week or two before I started putting her story onto the page. I knew she was a girl who was also a wolf. I knew she was strong, but also in serious trouble. I couldn't figure out how someone so powerful could be in that sort of a fix. That's where Nightshade's world emerged it was all about building a history and society that explained Calla's predicament.
Calla started it all because I wanted to write a story about a female character who wasn’t being pulled into a magical world – she was already in the middle of it, a leader and a warrior. The world of Nightshade came as I tried to figure out how someone like Calla, a girl who I knew was incredibly powerful, could be afraid and angry. What was controlling her? Why would she be fighting against her own destiny? I realized that she was facing off with something even more powerful than herself. That’s where my background as a historian came in. I teach early modern history (1500-1800) – a period of immense, violent change in human societies. This is the time of witch hunts, religious warfare, colonization, the Inquisition; all types of cataclysmic social transformation that turned the lives across the globe upside down. The more I thought about Calla I thought about the ways in which wolf warriors and witches could have intertwined lives. The mythology in Nightshade is a blend of history and lore plus new twists I imagined along the way.
Many authors place a piece of themselves into their main character. How are you and your main character alike?
Calla and I really aren’t much alike at all. She’s stoic where I’m an idealist. I’m a hopeless romantic and she’s tough as nails. We both are addicted to black coffee, she and I both have a younger brother, and have the same favorite book:Watership Downby Richard Adams.
The first thing readers notice before picking up a book is the cover. What are your thoughts on the cover and do you think that it conveys the tone/story of the book?
Writers generally have little to say about their covers and just keep their fingers crossed that they don't hate it. That absolutely WASN'T my experience. My editor called me very early on to tell me what they were envisioning. When they asked Suza Scalora to photograph the cover I was thrilled. She is incredibly talented and a lovely human being (I got to meet her when she was on her own book tour in Minneapolis). At each stage in the process they sent updates and asked for my input. Being included in the process was fun and wonderful, but Penguin had a phenomenal vision from the start and I pretty much just kept saying "that's fantastic!" along the way. I do think it conveys the tone of the book well – mysterious, seductive, and deadly. Plus, the flowers are calla lilies covered in blood – they couldn’t be more perfect!!
And finally, what can you tell us about your next book?
Unfortunately very little without revealing too many secrets. What I can say is that readers won’t have to wait a full year to read it: Wolfsbane is scheduled for publication in summer 2011 and Bloodrose, the third book of the trilogy will be published in spring 2012.
In conclusion, is there anything you would like to tell the readers?
Thanks so much for sharing Calla’s journey with me! I love hearing from you.
I want to thank Andrea for taking the time to do the interview with me! I'm really excited for Nightshade to be released and for everyone to be able to read it! In order for one lucky person to read it, I have a copy to giveaway right now!
1. You must be a follower of this blog.
2. You must leave a comment on the interview (don't forget to leave your email address)
3.The giveaway ends Friday, July 30th at midnight EST.