Random Interview: Melissa de la Cruz

This week, Melissa de la Cruz joins us. Yay! Her newest, Revelations (Hyperion Books), hit the stores Oct. 28. Following is how she treats her job like a, well, job and how her publisher got her to start thinking about writing YA.

1) What is your typical writing day like?

Right now my writing day means I get up at 7AM, feed the baby, hand her over to her nanny at 8, then there’s about two hours of surfing the web, eating breakfast and answering e-mails. Then I go over to my office (my husband’s office down the street where I have a desk) and write from about 10AM to 1PM, then we have lunch until 2, and then writing again from 2PM till about 4PM. Then I’m home by 5PM to take the baby back, and we play a bit, wait for my husband to walk home too, dinner at 6, bath at 7, bedtime by 8 for the kid. Then about two more hours of surfing the web till 10, then watch Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert and then bed at about midnight.

If I get a good four-hour day in, and good pages produced, I’m pretty happy.

2) Why did you decide to write YA?

Simon & Schuster asked me, since I had written an adult book for them, and my response was “Omigod! Totally!” It seemed like the perfect thing for me–I feel so much like I am still a teen, still sticking my tongue out at the world, and totally obsessed with things like crushes and popularity. And the books that are my favorites today are the ones I read when I was fourteen: Dune, The Lord of the Rings, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, anything by Stephen King but especially It and The Dark Tower books. I still re-read these books every year or so.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?

It surprised me that my career wasn’t locked up just by selling the first book. That nothing is guaranteed. I published my first (adult) novel and I thought, “Well, that’s done, I’m a novelist now, the offers will pour in.” Which I find so hilarious now. I had to hustle and sell the next books, and even then, it was still iffy. It surprised me how much sales count in an author’s career. I guess I was just naive! I didn’t want to be the kind of writer who published a book and still had a day job. I wanted to write full-time and be able to support myself financially by writing, but it was a bit of a puzzle to figure out how one goes about that.

Anyone who thinks that just because you publish one book means you’ll be able to publish another needs to realize it doesn’t work that way. You’ve still got to work…and get lucky. Like having your publisher ask you to write in a genre you hadn’t realized yourself you would be perfect for. 🙂

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

I’m a pretty upbeat, cheerful person. My college roommate called me “merry” – that I had an almost old-fashioned cheerfulness. I strive for dark glamour and intrigue, but really I’m pretty goofy and don’t take anything too seriously. But yes, I do have those nasty dark days…usually not even about writing but career competitiveness, like, why did that other author get that: advance, award, bestseller list, whathaveyou. Why should I even try, poor me, poor me. Then I give myself a good shake and count my own blessings and realize I’m being incredibly ridiculous! I think my work ethic is: do your best, work as hard as you can, and then don’t take anything too seriously. Least of all yourself.

I don’t have too many doubts about being a writer, or writing, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and it’s a childhood dream come true that I have this life. I used to be very depressed BEFORE I was published–when it seemed like it would never happen, never get a book sold, I was not much fun to be around.

These days I have doubts when I’m writing about whether a certain plot point is working, and I hate all my books at a certain stage, but as for those dark days of the soul where I wonder if I’m doing the right thing…not really. 🙂  Another friend said if anyone is wondering what I am really like, “Mel is like Garth from Wayne’s World especially in that scene where Garth dances to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady.'” I want to project tortured angsty glamour…(Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City was another huge influence) but in the end…I am Garth. Foxxxy!

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?

By far the best call is still the first one: “We got an offer!” That was for my first novel, Cat’s Meow. I was in D.C. on a business trip, and I was actually in a meeting, in a conference room with the client, and my cell phone rang. And it was my agent. The book had gone out the week before (to several editors who were expecting it) and she was pretty confident we would get an offer the next week. I remember booking out of the room, not even really explaining myself to my co-workers or the client, and taking the call in this little lobby–and just knowing, right then, that my life would change. It was exhilarating, and I knew the corporate life that I absolutely despised (I was a software developer back then) would soon be in my rear-view mirror.

Of course, a few months later, I would realize, yes, my life has changed…but I still needed to MAKE the changes. When my first novel actually published I was unemployed and broke, the poorest I’d ever been in my adult life. Not quite the fabulous life of an author I’d envisioned! But even then, I was so much happier.

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