I had the amazing opportunity to be one of four bloggers to interview Melissa de la Cruz before her book signing at Indigo Yorkdale this past Sunday. With 15 minutes of one-on-one time, me with a cappuccino and Melissa with her sushi lunch, I got to sit down with the ever-gracious author to chat about her Blue Bloods series. (A bit of a spoiler warning! This interview discusses some revelations about characters!)
(Transcribing this & listening to myself was painful! I realized I was rambling a bit, in an attempt to prolong my questions so Melissa could have more time to have her lunch before the signing …that plus the nerves! )
Did you always know you wanted to do such an epic 7-book series? Or was it to go on indefinitely until you felt the story had been sufficiently told?
No, I planned it all. I knew that I wanted to do a big arc.. a big saga. I knew the story I wanted to tell.. I was just trying to figure out how to tell it. And I thought at the beginning I would do three trilogies. I’d do three books in the forward trilogy, with Bliss finding out who she was. I knew who she was from the beginning. And then a prequel trilogy about Michael & Gabrielle’s story and then pick up the story again at book 7 and do a wrap of everything. And as I was writing it, at book 3 Revelations it was actually supposed to be much bigger and I cut it in half because I thought the story was so big, it’d be hard to do it in one novel.. so now I did a FOUR book trilogy for the first one.
And then around that time too, I kinda decided I didn’t want to do the three trilogies.. I wanted it all to just kinda be together. I didn’t want to do a prequel trilogy anymore because I watched the Star Wars prequels and they sucked! So I didn’t want to do that and that’s when I kinda decided to consolidate the story and show what happened in the past with what’s happening right now.
The series started like a vampire version of Gossip Girl for me, with the socialites & extravagance in New York City. But it very quickly develops into something much darker. The history and back story of all the characters are so intricate and intertwined. How in depth were your notes in plotting out this whole series?
I think I figured out a lot of the background so you need to do a lot of the pre-writing to get to that point. I kinda figured it all out before. The writing is the end part of the journey because I do a lot of outlining, I do a lot of character arcs, I do a lot of figuring out who they are in the past so it’s very methodical. And the storytelling of Blue Bloods, because I planned it out so far in advance, it’s really easy to flesh it out.
Understanding the reasoning behind it with their past lives and everything… but the whole thing with Jack and Mimi… it’s a little bit weird! It’s really interesting to take that idea that they were spouses in their past lives and now they’re siblings.
I’ve always liked The Secret History by Donna Tartt and I liked Game of Thrones… I was reading it in the 90′s.. and then Flowers in the Attic, so I always joke to my editor that it’s all about blonde incestuous twins. They’re always blonde and incestuous! So it was a bit of a joke, but she’s like, but they really can’t be REALLY brothers & sisters and I was like, they’re not…..!
With the bonding ceremony and the Sacred Kiss.. they’re very interesting metaphors that you use to take on significant human moments. How much of that was a conscious effort to tie those rites of passages together or was it something that came out that way and you ended up running with it?
No, it’s all very deliberate. I feel like if the vampires were the oldest creatures on Earth, the humans would be the ones aping their ceremonies!
What initially drew me to the series was actually the covers. I love the skylines and I love that the design of it hasn’t changed between each book. (I especially love the Paris cover!) What was your inspiration to set each book in a different location? And they’re very well researched so have you been to all these places that you’ve written about?
Not all of them. I feel like books have to take you somewhere. I feel you have to learn something about the world, about another place, that’s the most fun… writing a book. That’s why I’ve always had it in these fabulous places because when I was growing up and reading about New York and Europe, books are the ones that really opened my eyes. I read Jay McInerney and I wanted to live in New York. I don’t know, I just feel like they’re aspirational.. it’s fun for kids to read them and be like “I want to go to Paris one day! I want to go to Venice!” So that was always a big part of it and since the Blue Bloods kinda ran the world, of course they’d have to be in all these fabulous places!
I usually hire a local researcher, who’s local to the city and can write up… like in Egypt I had a friend of a friend who had lived there. Her husband worked for the ambassador, so they were Americans stationed in Cairo, so yeah it was really cool. She had actually grown up in the Middle East and they’re very cosmopolitan people so I really like to.. and then Brazil.. my friend had lived in Brazil so I hired her to write all my Brazil notes, so I really want to get it right. And then we traveled to Florence, we were finally able to do that.. to travel a little.. because at first I couldn’t leave the country [laughs]. My husband had gone to Venice and he had spent a year in Italy so Masquerade came from that. And we lived in New York so the first one was kinda an homage to the city. And of course Paris.. we had to write about Paris. It’s always fun when somebody tells me you got a city right that I’d never been to, and I’m like [sighs with relief]
There’s a lot of vampires out in the mainstream right now, each with their own characteristics. What led you to create Blue Bloods in such a different light? Like creating off of this well known existing idea & mythology, which you do play with with The Conspiracy. What led you to go in the direction that you did?
When I was writing Blue Bloods, it was before the whole vampire thing. I actually turned in my book and then I saw Twilight, the first book, on the shelf and was like “Ohmygod! They used my idea!” and I was really kind of annoyed and then I realized that we were all tapping into the zeitgeist of a lot of people like P.C. Cast & Richelle Mead.. we were all writing in our own cocoon and we had no idea that we were onto something. And I wanted to write about a different kind of vampire because I was very familiar with Anne Rice and Stephen King, and I just felt like I wanted to do something new to the mythology. And I wanted to do an origin story which is why I have the angel mythology because I wanted to explain why vampires were in our world. Then when the whole vampire ‘tsunami’ happened, I’m like “oh wow!”
Without giving anything away and regardless of who Schuyler ends up with, are you Team Oliver or Team Jack?
I’m Team Everybody! I feel like they’re my kids.. It depends on which book. I think it’s some books I’m like Team Oliver .. I kinda go back and forth.
Which has been the most fun for you to write, between Blue Bloods, Au Pairs or your other series?
Definitely Blue Bloods is my passion. I think fantasy, now that I’ve got a couple more fantasy books under my belt, like Witches and a new one with my husband – Frozen – we really enjoy the fantasy. I kinda want to write something different, do another reality-based book again. So we’ll see where my feeling takes me. Like when I was writing Blue Bloods, fantasy was not big. Definitely with Harry Potter, we all remember how awesome it was to read those kinds of books. and Harry Potter, for me, really reminded me.. the joy of reading those books.
After so many books and so many years of writing, what continues to surprise you?
Hmm.. it’s just really fun to work on them. And I feel like for a while I felt I had to apologize for having so many series, doing so much work and people were like “omg you’re a machine”, or “omg how do you write so many books?” but I actually enjoy it! It’s what I like to do. I don’t watch a lot of TV, I like to spend time with my family and I like to write my books. And I think that surprises… I don’t really think that’s a surprise.. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I find I’m at the stage where I’m not surprised anymore, I mean not that there are no surprises, I think it surprises me how wonderful it is when everything kicks in. And that same joy when the story and the characters are clicking. It’s like off to the races again, it’s all exciting. No, it’s not boring. And when you’re working, you always have new projects and everything’s always surprising where my obsessions will take me to my next idea.
Lastly, do you have anyone in mind when you write these people in terms of how they look. Especially now that your first book is a graphic novel. I love that style of drawing and I wonder if that’s how you imagined them to look and how involved were you in that process?
She showed me a lot of sketches. We picked Schuyler, Mimi, Bliss… I like to have a lot of control and when I was writing Blue Bloods in the beginning. I used to be a journalist and I would cover fashion, the world of New York and I was in the bathroom at a party once and Nikki Hilton & Paris Hilton were there. And they were 15 & 17 and were SO young and they were so old at the same time. They were so kind of jaded and sophisticated and they had these 30-year-old boyfriends,it was really wow. And I thought, ohmygod they’re vampires. And so Mimi was a little bit based on Paris Hilton from when she was 17, not so much when she became like this big reality star. When she was more like a socialite in New York.
And then Schuyler, I remember there was a lot of articles about Mary Kate Olsen ’cause she had just moved to New York and she kinda looked like a ragamuffin with all the layers, so to me Schuyler kinda looks like Mary Kate Olsen. Oliver was kinda inspired by, at least looks-wise, Adam from The O.C.? Do you remember that guy? You know, the best friend.. I always liked that guy.. I can’t remember his name… so far back.. And then Jack was inspired by these guys.. I used to work at Condé Naste and they were New Yorker editors and from these rich, WASPy families.. beautiful, blonde and had their squash rackets in the elevator. Very charming, very privileged.
A huge thank you to Melissa de la Cruz and Hachette Book Group Canada for this fantastic opportunity!
I’m excited to read the other interviews to see what everyone else talked about (and hopefully not have asked the same ones!!)