Interview: Saundra Mitchell

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Saundra Mitchell, the fabulous author of upcoming YA historical romance The Vespertine and last year's Shadowed Summer (which I'm ashamed to say I still need to read). Historical? Romance? STUNNING cover? What else do I need to say? ;)

The Vespertine officially releases on March 7th, though it's currently available through almost all online vendors.

Clickable links: {Saundra's website}{blog}{The Vespertine website}{goodreads}{amazon}{book depository}

1. Can you think of three words beginning with the letter "v" that in some way relate to The Vespertine?

Visions-- Amelia has them, everyone wants them-- at least, they think they do. Visitation-- you can't have a clandestine meeting with a completely inappropriate boy at home, now can you? And voluptuary-- exactly the kind of person Nathaniel is, and the sort that Amelia wishes she were brave enough to be.

2. What exactly makes the sunset so special and vision-evoking?

It's not the sunset, so much as the fire. Amelia's ability is directly tied to her affinity with the element fire, and-- well, I though having her gaze into sunsets was more interesting than staring at candles. Since sunset lasts only a few moments each day, and it's no guarantee that it will be visible, it also limits her-- which keeps the story working. If she could just see the future any time she wanted to, that would take all the tension out. (And leave people wondering "why doesn't she just...?")

3. Can you give any historical insight on why the 1889 society is so receptive to Amelia's visions (versus run screaming and lock her in an asylum)?

The Victorian period (in America, it's generally considered the Gilded Age,) was born out of multiple wars, a still devastating infant mortality rate, an age of plagues and fevers and just enough science to understand that something was causing them, but not enough to realize what, and a Queen in England who venerated her late husband and brought mourning to an art-form. It was a tumultuous time, filled with sudden leaps of technology.

It was also a world growing smaller-- with the telegraph, news no longer took months to travel from place to place. With photography, people in Baltimore could see distant places like Cairo and Bombay. The Western world became fascinated by the Eastern world, with customs that seemed to Westerners at the time as exotic and magical. Occidentals were especially taken by the death rituals of the Ancient Egyptians, and the Hindu conception of reincarnation.

Blend all of that together and you get an age where people actively seek out the unknown. Where people romanticize death, and the possibility-- scientific or magical-- of bringing loved ones back from the other side. While that became a movement of very earnest spiritists and spiritualists, the average person's fascination with the occult and Orientalism became a fad. It was entertainment to go see a medium perform. It was entertainment to have a seance. It was entertainment to try your hand at the techniques.

During the 17th century Dutch Tulip Craze, nobody thought it was weird that everybody was suddenly collecting flower bulbs. During the 1990s, no one thought much of adults and children going wild over Beanie Babies. And in the late 19th century in America, talking to ghosts and trying to find your psychic mind's eye was, for most people, a pasttime and diversion. That's why people initially take Amelia's gift very lightly: she fit right into the fad of the day *and* her predictions seemed to come true. It was a party trick writ large!

4. Who's your favorite character in The Vespertine and why?

Oh man, I can't pick just one. I love them all, I really do-- even the evil and the unhinged ones. However, I personally find Agnes Castillo totally hysterical. She's just so creepy!

5. Who would you cast for Nathaniel and Amelia? A combination of celebrities is fine. :D

No combination needed-- in my head, Nathaniel is played by Ed Westwick, and Amelia is played by Malese Jow. It makes my heart go pittapittapitta just thinking about them together!

6. If you were in on the 1889 Baltimore scene, what kind of girl would you be? The shy debutante, the social climber, etc.

I'm pretty sure I'd be Bridget, the maid. Most of my ancestors left Ireland during the Great Famine. In the book, Sarah Holbrook talked about wanting to marry a boy who worked for a living-- my people have always been the ones working for a living!

7. If The Vespertine had a theme song, what would it be? (or playlist, whatever you prefer)

Uninvited by Alanis Morissette. No seriously. I do actually have a playlist of the music Amelia and Zora would have been familiar with (that I listened to while writing the book) right here, but Uninvited is totally Amelia and Nathaniel's theme in my head.

8. How has prepping for the release of The Vespertine been different from your first book, Shadowed Summer?

The second time around, I understand what's happening. I understand where my book is in the system, and how the system works. So instead of wasting a lot of time freaking out over stuff that's completely normal, I'm busy freaking out about stuff that's important. All the same level of anxiety, just more appropriately focused!

9. Any heads up on what's next for Saundra Mitchell?

I have a really busy year this year!! THE VESPERTINE comes out March 7th, and I'll be doing a series of events for that including a Hoosier Author Bookfair, Houston Teen Book Con, and probably Capital Bookfest in Charleston.

Writing wise, in May, I have a story in the forthcoming TRUTH AND DARE anthology, edited by Liz Miles, followed in the fall with an adult love story in Trisha Telep's MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE. I'm also honored to be part of Carrie Jones and Megan Kelly Hall's DEAR BULLY anthology, also due out this fall.

Then the madness starts over next year with the companion novel to THE VESPERTINE, THE SPRINGSWEET!

10. And, finally, what is the Saundra Mitchell, patented saying (either to writers or in general)?

Well, my personal motto is, "It's not a book until it has a body count," but that's not very uplifting, is it?

I think my actual saying for writers and people in general is, "Be afraid, but do it anyway." Whatever it is you're wishing for, working toward-- you're going to hit scary spots, and hard patches, and setbacks. It's okay to be afraid-- but you have to keep going if you want to succeed. Be afraid but do it anyway!

Thanks to Saundra for being such fun to interview!

I've already ordered The Vespertine from Amazon last week, so get your move on. *drools some more over the gorgeous cover* And for those of you that want to wait, come join in on The Vespertine Goes Calling tour. It starts tomorrow, and there are some awesome prizes for to win. Hope you're as excited to read The Vespertine as I am! :)