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Interview with a Vampire (Novel Writer) – Beth Fantaskey

YA author Beth Fantaskey

YA author Beth Fantaskey

Back in the ‘80s, teen romance fiction was big business. My bookshelves buckled under the weight of my Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High collection. Then the market fever went off the boil during the ‘90s. That’s about the time I left high school and started buying adult romances–I hope that’s just a coincidence and that I’m not responsible for the downturn!

Happily, the YA fiction regained momentum and we’re again enjoying a boom, with Harlequin Teen among the many houses publishing teen romance.

A new voice emerging on the scene is Beth Fantaskey, a YA author with a thirst for travel and good ketchup. Her first book, JESSICA’S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE, was a biting yet hilarious tale about a girl who discovers she’s a latent vampire princess. In her next book, JEKEL LOVES HYDE, good girl Jill goes bad when a chemistry experiment goes awry. Beth was kind enough to share her path to publication and promotion secrets with me in this interview.

Beth, a lot of us here at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood on are on the cusp of publication. We can just feel it! Some have already been through the whirlwind of a book launch. Tell us about your experiences as a debut author. Was it anything like you expected?

Congrats to everybody who’s already published and good luck to everyone on the cusp. I just gave my fingers a quick “cross” for you all, and know it will happen soon…

My experience was nothing like I expected – maybe because I had no idea what to anticipate? That said, the initial sale went very fast.  I contacted an agent, she liked my manuscript, and in just a few weeks I had a commitment from Harcourt (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).  After that, things slowed down considerably (imagine that last word being drawn out and getting all distorted…) Between holidays and some other complications, it took months to finalize everything.  And then there was a strategic decision to delay publication at one point, which worked out great, but was nerve-wracking at the time, because of course you just want to see the book on the shelves.  But – whew – it all worked out in the end…

Oh, I can imagine how frustrating that would be. But the wait was worth it! Now you’ve got a legion of fans snapping the book off the shelves. How do you involve your fans in promotion?

I love this question, because I am a huge fan of the interactive event!  Of all the things that surprised me about being an author, the one that got me most was how much readers connect with writers.  So when fans of my first book, JESSICA’S GUIDE, asked to see the main characters get married, I “threw” an on-line wedding and invited everyone to be “bridesmaids.” Each week, I would ask readers to vote on things like which dress Jess should wear, where the wedding should be held, and – because they’re vampires – whether the ceremony should be sealed with a kiss or a bite. Response was fantastic, and the “mini sequel” on my website includes all their ideas.

For JEKEL LOVES HYDE, I just held a video trailer contest and also requested input from readers. Some people even acted out the book! I really want to try to make the whole reading experience fun, beyond just the pages of the novel, itself.

The on-line wedding was such a fun idea! And I see almost 1,200 people signed the guest book on your blog! Tell us about your most memorable fan mail message so far?
There are two types of messages that I love to receive.  The first is from readers who say they hurled JESSICA’S GUIDE against the wall, because they got so frustrated with the hero, Lucius.  To me, that says they really got involved with the characters.

Even more than that, I love to hear from girls who say they’re happy that the heroine, Jessica, is a very average size ten – and learns to be proud of her body.  I have two daughters, and I want them to be healthy, but not invisible! If you’re not born to be a size two, with that naturally tiny frame, don’t starve yourself!

That’s a great message, Beth. I’m so sorry about the book-chuckers! Personally, I adored Lucius. Throughout JESSICA’S GUIDE, in which a girl finds herself the object of a vamp’s desire, there’s an underlying vein of sexual tension between the main characters. What challenges do you face in writing romance for teens? Is there a sense of having to censor yourself?
I’m pretty modest by nature, so even the mild romantic scenes in both my books make me blush when my mom talks about them. I will say that I had to be more careful with JEKEL LOVES HYDE, because the characters dabble with a chemical formula that destroys inhibitions.  I tried to make sure things were realistic without getting too intense.  Nobody in either of my books ever has actual sex, though – not even “off-screen.”

Yet, you still manage to maintain a delicious undercurrent between your lead characters, and that made for a good page-turning story. Speaking of inhibitions, you’re a college professor but have a fear of public speaking. What enables you to feel the fear and do it anyway?
I am a big believer in conquering my fears if there’s something I really want to do.  And I really wanted to try teaching.  The beginning of each semester is always rough for me, though.  I actually break out in hives and get sick sometimes.  But after about a week, I calm down, and I’m proud of myself then. I’m sure my students think I’m crazy in those first few days, though, because I’m sometimes visibly shaky.  Which in turn erodes my confidence further.  It’s a vicious cycle for a while!

Beth, I admire you for tackling the very things that frighten you. That takes a lot of guts. Thanks again for sharing!

Beth is generously giving an autographed copy of her latest YA, JEKEL LOVES HYDE, to a lucky blog reader. Post a comment and you could win! Rubies, my question to you is—what scares you? Have you conquered your fears? Or perhaps you’d like to share your thoughts about teen fiction.

37 responses to “Interview with a Vampire (Novel Writer) – Beth Fantaskey”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Hey there, Vanessa, and welcome, Beth!! Thanks so much for joining us. Your books sound terrific, and WOW, I love the genius of the interactive on-line character wedding!

    People talk a lot about “adding content” to one’s website to make readers eager to keep coming back, but I’m always baffled about what that’s supposed to consist of. I think social-networking/marketing is what scares me!

    Your approach is brilliant!

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    • ‘Genius’ is the right word to describe the on-line wedding. This is a great way to satisfy readers who want to know what happens after The End. I mean, how many books have you read where you get to see the hook-up, the black moment, the re-hook-up, but don’t get an invitation to the wedding, eh?

      I hope this has sparked a few ideas for you, Elisa. Don’t be scared!

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    • Thanks for your nice comment… social networking scared me a lot, too… Now I find it really fun. Once you dive in, it’s really great…

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    • Shea Berkley says:

      Oh my gosh, I would have never thought about throwing and online wedding. That’s totally inspired. I love the way you think. Congratulations on the books, Beth. They sound fun and I’m totally into fun. I’m going to have to get myself to a bookstore and find them.

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  2. Beth and Vanessa, what a wonderful interview! Beth, congratulations on all your success! Wow, 1200 signatures on your guest book is a major achievement! Your readers obviously love interacting with you. I laughed at your description of getting published – hurry up and wait about covers it, doesn’t it? It’s VERRRRRRRY bad on the nervous system, snort!

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    • Hi, Anna! Publishing isn’t for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure. Sometimes it moves so fast (exhibit A – Emily Ryan-Davis’s six-day turnaround!). Other times, it’s as slow as molasses on a Sydney winter’s day.

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  3. Annie West says:

    Hi Beth and Vanessa,

    I love the premise of this story. It sounds extremely readable! Congratulations on your first sale. It’s so exciting, isn’t it?

    What am I scared of? Hm, well, though I can stand on the top of a cliff and look down, I hate abseiling. Absolutely dislike the feeling of leaning out horizontally over a void. Maybe if they’d tried taking me down a learner’s drop instead of 70 metres sheer drop…

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    • Totally understand not wanting to abseil down a drop like that on your first try, Annie–eep! Intellectually, I know the ropes are there to stop you from free-falling. But the nerves Anna mentioned would take over, not to mention an overactive imagination. Now, standing on the top of the cliff, say at the Grand Canyon, that would be breathtaking in a good way.

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  4. Fantastic interview, Vanessa and Beth!

    I have Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side teetering on my TBR pile begging to be read! As soon as I’ve whipped my w.i.p. into shape, I’m going to be sitting for weeks diligently reading – I can’t wait!

    As for what scares me… PUBLIC SPEAKING! EEK! I am in awe of your method of conquering your fear about that, Beth! You’ve grabbed it with both hands and put yourself in the position of college professor where you HAVE to do it! Golly, I’m having a hive or two for you!

    What a clever idea about the cyber-wedding for Jess and Lucius! Very inspired!

    🙂
    Sharon

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    • You’re in for a treat with ‘Jessica’s Guide’! I chortled all through Lucius’s letters to his evil uncle Vasile. And the cyber-wedding–what a cool idea, huh?

      I’m with you–public speaking is scary. But, Sharon, you’ll have to prep yourself for the day Oprah calls you up and begs you to be a guest on her show!

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  5. Rubies, it’s bedtime where I am now, but I will be back to hang out in the morning. Have a good Thursday!

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  6. Hey Beth and Vanessa. I have a YA that gets mixed reactions from contest judges and only one agent request ever, but I gotta admit I don’t get it out there as much as I should.

    There are so many things I’m afraid of. Public speaking comes to mind. Will I overcome it? I don’t even want to. I simply do not want to speak in a public forum.

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    • Diana Layne says:

      Oh, me neither, Kelly!

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    • Kelly, I’m happy to leave public speaking to those who really like to do it. Isn’t it nice that we can still “speak” a large group of people through the internet and not have to worry about getting tongue-tied?

      Good luck with your YA. It can be difficult to find contest judges who “get” teen fiction, but they are out there!

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  7. Diana Layne says:

    Welcome, Beth and thanks for inviting her Vanessa! Your stories sound wonderful and I love the online wedding idea, how creative! Continued good luck to you!

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  8. Shoshana Brown says:

    Hi Beth and Vanessa

    I loved JESSICA’S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE and I can’t wait to read JEKEL LOVES HYDE.

    I have that same fear of public speaking. My job requires me to give talks fairly regularly, so I’ve gotten it under control. I know I can get through the talks–and most of the time even sound half way intelligent–but I still don’t like doing it. 🙂

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    • Shoshana, I’m glad you’ve been able to tame your nerves. I guess when you have no choice, you’ve gotta get up there and do it.

      I loved Jessica’s Guide too. A cute take on a vamp story.

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  9. Enjoyed your interview, Beth. The online wedding is brilliant. Congratulations and thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  10. Anne Barton says:

    Great interview, Beth & Vanessa! The on-line wedding idea is really fun. And the titles of your book are so catchy. Looking forward to reading both.

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  11. Hey, I just wanted to say thanks to everybody for all your kind words… I wish you luck not only with all the stuff you’re working on, but with those fears… although I gotta say, none of you sound half as neurotic as me, LOL… It’s been really cool reading your comments, and I hope I can continue to be part of your community here…

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  12. Darynda Jones says:

    Thank you so much for being here, Beth!!! I only recently discovered you and just ordered your books. I’d read a review by someone. Maybe Tez? Anyway, I can’t wait to get them.

    Super congrats on everything! I’m so excited for you. And thanks, Vanessa, for dragging…er, inviting Beth to our blog.

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    • They *are* catchy titles, Darynda. You’ve got quite a knack for creating zingy titles yourself, Ms ‘First Grave on the Right’! I hope you enjoy Beth’s books as much as I did. Jekel Loves Hyde gets rather intense!

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  13. Shea Berkley says:

    What am I scared of? Heights. I hate flying and looking into deep rifts like the Grand Canyon close up.

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  14. Liz Talley says:

    Little late to the party. But I’m here. Fashionably, of course.

    I love YA. SOme of my favorite reading. I’m not into dark paranormals; I like a bit of humor and gravity in my paranormals. These sound fun. I’ll be on the lookout. Thanks for visiting us 🙂

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    • Hi, Liz! Enjoying your launch week?

      It sounds like Beth’s books, especially ‘Jessica’s Guide’ might be right up your alley. I’m also a fan of the lighter paranormals. YAs are so diverse these days. The romantic comedies are my go-to books whenever I need to relax.

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  15. Vivi Andrews says:

    Great interview, Jessica! Your books sound like fabulous fun. I must check them out!

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  16. Hi Beth and Vanessa
    Great interview! Beth, both your books sound amazing. I find I buy YA for my daughter but enjoy reading them myself.
    What a clever, clever idea to stage an online wedding!
    I am scared of of scary rides at funfairs–always have been, probably always will be!

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    • Kandy, I love that you’re enjoying YA fiction. I imagine the books you and your daughter share generate some great discussions around the dinner table. I won’t talk you into going on any rides at DisneyWorld in July, I promise!

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  17. Thank you all for commenting, and an extra special thanks to Beth Fantaskey for sharing clever marketing techniques!

    The winner of a signed copy of JEKEL LOVES HYDE is Shoshana Brown–yay! I’ll be in contact soon, Shoshana.

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