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Meet FFF's own Claudia Gray!

When did the dream of being a writer begin?

I always liked to tell stories, either to myself or to friends, but I didn't seriously consider trying to write novels until a few years ago.  So, depending on how you reckon it, the dream began either at birth or around 2002. 

Who is Claudia Gray?

A pseud! I chose Claudia because, while I was trying to think of a name, I had "I, Claudius" in the DVD player.  Originally I chose the last name "Lake," mostly because I thought it sounded nice with Claudia, but then I googled "Claudia Lake" and "vampire" together and discovered that this is the name of a president of the Vampire Lestat fan club.  Obviously I had to rethink after that.  

What drew you to the Young Adult genre?

I tend to think that YA stories are more universal than most other kinds -- our lives all diverge sharply after adolescence, but coming-of-age themes resonate with everybody. 

What kind of reading experience are you hoping to create for your readers?  What do you want the young readers to come away from your books saying, thinking and feeling?

I'd love to have readers (young and old) caught up in the story -- that sense of escape that really only books can provide.  And I hope they're asking what happens next! 

What details can you give us about your release, EVERNIGHT, the first of the four book series?

EVERNIGHT follows Bianca as she begins her first year at Evernight Academy, a spooky Gothic boarding school in the hills where she's isolated from the rest of the world.  The other students are a little too perfect -- though she doesn't mind that when it comes to Lucas.  He's older, more experienced, and almost too protective of her; their romance is rocky from the beginning, because of his hot temper and mysterious demeanor, but they have the kind of connection that can't be denied.  Bianca wonders what secrets Lucas is keeping, but it turns out she has a few secrets of her own --

How would you describe your lead characters in EVERNIGHT?

I think the synopsis gives you a good idea of the two main leads.  Other important characters include Bianca's parents, who are teachers at Evernight Academy; Raquel, a friend who has come to Evernight to escape her troubles but finds new ones instead; Vic, Lucas' roommate, who is "mostly oblivious" but smarter than he lets on; Balthazar, another guy interested in Bianca; and Mrs. Bethany, the headmistress of Evernight Academy, who has deeper plans that will unfold over the course of the whole series.  

Is the female lead, Bianca, anything like you when you were that age?

In that she is, and I was, fairly bookish and shy.  And, of course, she feels like a total misfit -- but I think most people sense that when they're that age.  

Where did the idea for EVERNIGHT originate? 

It began with the idea of a school, really -- I didn't go to a "typical high school" myself, and I'd always thought I wouldn't be able to write YA because I didn't have the kind of high-school experiences I'd need for background.  But then I started asking myself, okay, what's the most atypical high school imaginable?  I thought a student body of vampires pretty much fit the bill.  Evernight Academy, and the story, sprang from that. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing this book?

This was my first novel, so I really had a lot to learn about worldbuilding and pacing.  It took me forever to get things moving fast enough, and I still think I can stand to pace events a little faster.  And the worldbuilding -- you know, it's very easy to admire from the outside, when you have the finished book.  I had to discover how different it is "on the inside," where the author has a very different view than the reader, and you see all the points of tension in the framework.  

How long does it normally take you to write a story?

I don't know that I've been doing this long enough to have a "normally," but I'd say roughly six months. 

It takes a lot of mental and emotional fortitude to write, what do you do to get through the tough spots?

I try to pace myself, to give myself time off if I need it, and always to remain connected to storytelling as a source of fun.  If I can't enjoy writing the story, I don't see how anybody can enjoy reading it.  

How do you structure your writing time?

I write during the week if I can, and I definitely think ahead about what I'm going to do next, but I don't push it.  On weekends, however, while a book is in progress, I'll work 8-12 hours a day, both Saturday and Sunday.  I find that once I'm in the groove, I can get a lot of work done, so I try to get going fairly early and devote the rest of the day to it.  The drafts move very quickly that way, although I get fairly wiggy by Sunday nights. 

Tell us something secret about your book or character.

The name "Evernight" was one I originally came up with for the first novel idea I ever had, a scifi story about a clone rebellion on a world so industrialized that social status was determined by how far you could live from the ground.  A character from the Daybreak level made a journey down through this world until she finally hit Evernight -- the earth itself.  Unfortunately, scifi is really not my strength as a writer, and although I still love those characters, the idea and the novel withered on the vine.  When the time came, years later, for me to think of a good name for a vampire school, I realized I already had one.  So my first book is called Evernight, just like I planned -- but it's a completely different book! 

When you're not a writer, what are you doing?

Most of the time I don't spend writing, I'm at my day job.  But when I have free time, I enjoy travel, hiking and going to movies and plays.  

Who are some of your early influences, inspirations?

I always wish I could answer this differently, but I can't: I spent about three years of my adolescence reading and rereading GONE WITH THE WIND.  It's a book I find very problematic as an adult -- the politics are atrocious -- but in terms of sheer dynamic storytelling, I don't think it's ever been beaten.  And I still think all my writing is somehow influenced by it. 

You've been a waitress, lawyer, journalist, a disc jockey – how is life different now as a writer?

Well, while I'm still working in an office by day, it's mostly different in that I now have two full-time jobs.  I love the writing so much that it's worth it. 

What sneak peeks can you give us about book 2 of this series, STARGAZER?

I can promise that a couple of the supporting characters -- most particularly Balthazar -- will have a lot more to do, and that we'll learn about the supernatural creatures in this world besides vampires. 

How can readers best contact you?

The best way is through my website, www.claudiagray.com.  That gives them a contact form, a link to my MySpace page and to my LiveJournal. 

Book Info: title, release date, publisher, and etc. 

EVERNIGHT, May 27, 2008, HarperTeen

What future project are you working on–what do readers have to look forward to?

I've written the first three books in the Evernight series, so I'll be writing the fourth and final book soon.  I also have stories in two upcoming anthologies -- IMMORTAL, a Borders exclusive, which will be released by BenBella in October 2008, and VACATIONS FROM HELL, due summer 2009 from HarperTeen.  This summer I'll be working on a romantic suspense novel for adult readers, as well as two YA paranormal projects I'm excited about.  

Thanks for visiting with us, Claudia!


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 12th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I tend to think that YA stories are more universal than most other kinds -- our lives all diverge sharply after adolescence, but coming-of-age themes resonate with everybody.

Very insightful! This is probably why I still read YA even though I am technically not a "young adult" anymore. The bildungsroman is my favourite of all narratives, although I would argue that some adult fiction contains "coming-of-age" stories as well.
Jun. 12th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
I agree with this, too. Writing good YA takes an extreme amount of talent--the demands are much higher. I started out writing YA and I have to say it's harder than writing for adults.
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Jun. 12th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
You guys posted this on my birthday. Excellent! :D
Jun. 12th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday, Claudia!

It's mine, too!
Jun. 12th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
Two June 12 babies. :o)

Jun. 12th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday, Mark!!

Hmm, LiveJournal reminded me it was Claudia's birthday today but not yours. Are you hiding something from LJ?? It's futile--eventually the hive learns all.

Jun. 12th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday, Claudia! Great interview. I got my copy of EVERNIGHT (*still bummed that it wasn't there at Balticon for you to autograph*). Can't wait for the summer reading binge to begin!

Jun. 13th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)
I saw your book reviewed on Love Vampires and Darque Reviews and I thought that's one to add to my list of reads. Sounds great. Definitely be one I'll buy in the next few weeks.
Jun. 15th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday a bit late, and congratulations!

Great interview.
Jun. 15th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday and congratulations on your book's release, Claudia!

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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