Monday, August 4, 2014

Interview: Suzy Vitello, Author of The Empress Chronicles

Today, I'm excited to host my first, ever, author interview! And I get to interview Suzy Vitello, who has a fabulous looking new book coming out called The Empress Chronicles! Check out the cover reveal to be posted simultaneously on my blog this morning!!

Now, onto the interview:

First, tell us a little about yourself:

I was born in Vienna, Austria, and lived there through first grade – then we moved to the U.S. – first the East Coast, then the West Coast. I’ve lived in dozens of cities, and probably honed some “spy” tendencies just trying to fit in (accents, clothes, social norms, etc…). I’ve always been fascinated by strong girls/women who follow the beat of their own drums, and those are typically the characters that I am most interested in creating.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What was your first story about?

True story: my mother used to entertain me by throwing newspapers and magazines into my playpen. I’ve been creating fairy tales in my head since infancy. I got my first diary (with a lock/key, the whole deal) at six, and have written ever since. The first actual “book” I wrote was in sixth grade; it was called “A Plot to Kill a King” and was set in the jungle. The heroes were a giraffe named Gerald and his best friend, a hippo whose name I can’t recall. The antagonist was a lion named Rex. He was a slaver. He had this army and these underground tunnels. Gerald, of course, prevailed.

What's your writing process? Do you plan (outline) everything out, or just write as it comes? Do you have any special requirements or quirks about your writing process?

I’m a “pantser” by nature, but because of the complexity of Empress (two narratives; two arcs) I did plot out possible scenarios. Also, the historical context of the novel had me referring to a backlog of notes and source materials, so the process for this book was involved and messy. But so much fun!

My mind is a tad chaotic: many possibilities, voices, potential events for the given characters. It’s always helpful, at some point, to keep a running document of plot points. That doc gets revised many times as I move through the drafts.

Who are some of your writing inspirations?

I love the humor of Lorrie Moore, the ironic voice of Antonya Nelson, the imagination of Beatrix Potter, the courage and intelligence of Laurie Halse Anderson, the energy and generosity of Leigh Bardugo, the authority of Junot Diaz, the heart of Tom Spanbauer … I could fill a book with my inspirations!

What's the last best book you read?

I am nearing the end of THE GIRLS OF CORONA DEL MAR by Rufi Thorpe and I’m so hungry for her next book!

What literary character do you most identify with, and why?

Harriet the Spy. It was my favorite book as a child. I could so identify with hiding and eavesdropping.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

To turn fear into positive energy.

What's your favorite movie, or what TV show are you addicted to?

Loved TRUE DETECTIVE until the final episode. Total fan of first two seasons of DOWNTON ABBEY. MAD MEN, I think, has been my consistent fave. I’ve loved every season.

Films: my favorite of all time is YOU CAN COUNT ON ME.

The Empress Chronicles is your second full-length novel, was it easier or more difficult to write than The Moment Before?

Oh, thanks for asking! I wrote Empress before THE MOMENT BEFORE! I wrote several drafts of Empress, got an agent for it, revised with the agent’s notes, and still the sucker wasn’t quite ready. So I put it in a drawer, wrote Moment in a couple of months, my agent sold it, and then I hired an independent editor to help me restructure Empress. Which I did. I probably wrote ten drafts of Empress and only two of Moment.

What are you working on next?

I am tweaking a sequel to THE MOMENT BEFORE, and have aged the characters to be “millennials” – Brady and Connor are now 22, and they are involved in a complex love triangle.

Is The Empress Chronicles a stand-alone novel, or will it be part of a series?

Oh, thanks for asking this, too! I would love to continue on with the Empress. If the book does well, I will absolutely write at least two more “Sisi” books.

What's a two-sentence summary of The Empress Chronicles?

THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES is the story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria's teenage years when she frolicked through the Bavarian forest recording secrets in a tiny leather journal, and the present-day Liz who, while battling her own inner demons, discovers the journal along with a locket that has the power to rewrite history and both young women make alarming discoveries about humanity and the power of words.

What was your inspiration for The Empress Chronicles?

My fascination for Sisi – Austria’s “reluctant” empress. Having spent my early years soaking up everything “Vienna” – the interest in this iconic figure blossomed, and eventually, I found a way to capture what I believed to be her spirited childhood.
Also, I had a distant relative (Wassmuth) who painted the last portrait of Franz Joseph (though I didn’t find that out until I was well underway with the novel).

Did you need to do a lot of research for the historical aspects of the novel?

Oh my, yes! I’ve been to the Sisi Museum in Vienna twice, have all sorts of translated source material, and my office is its own Sisi Museum.

Did you have a lot of input on the cover? What's your favorite thing about it? Who designed it?

I can’t tell you how pleased I am with this cover!! It’s absolutely perfect. The publisher hired the cover artist, so I don’t know who came up with it, but the only input I had was a suggestion to figure out a way to blur the contemporary/historical narratives. I love how the cover gives context to the story – and provides a sort of “teaser” to the relationship between the characters. It’s up-market and provocative while aesthetically quite beautiful. Don’t you agree? (Yes! The cover brings to mind one of the DVD covers of The Princess Bride - one of my all-time favorite movies!)

Without spoilers, can you tell us what your favorite scene to write in The Empress Chronicles was? The most difficult?

Favorite would be when Liz (dear Liz!) does something near the end that is incredibly heroic because it pushes all of her OCD buttons.

Difficult: Figuring out the agenda of the historical anti-heroes. It’s much easier for me to envision what the “good guys” want. Harder for me is to plot out the motivations of deceit.

Is there a question I should have asked? (Anything you want to share about your book?)

Gosh, you were so thorough! Thanks again for this chance to speak about my book a little. I do want to let readers know that I’ve maintained a whimsical blog in the voice of “The Empress” for many years. If anyone wants to check it out, they can visit: http://empresschronicles.wordpress.com/

Many thanks again to Suzy for being here and answering my questions!

The Empress Chronicles releases 4 September 2014!

Amazon | BN | kobo | Goodreads

1 comment:

suzy vitello said...

Thanks so much for the interview!

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