Monthly Archives: June 2009

The First Chapter of The Van Alen Legacy!

So many people emailed us that we couldn’t keep up with the first chapter requests for Van Alen Legacy. So in the spirit of making everything easy for everyone…I’m releasing the first chapter of the Van Alen Legacy here now, instead of in August.

Blue Bloods:
The Van Alen Legacy
By Melissa de la Cruz

“The murdered do haunt their murderers.”
-Emily Bronte, “Wuthering Heights”

“I’ve been sleeping a thousand years it seems, got to open my eyes to everything…”
      -Evanescence, “Bring me to Life”

A Conversation

“It is said that Allegra’s daughter will defeat the Silver Bloods. I believe Schuyler will bring us the salvation we seek. She is almost as powerful as her mother. And one day she will be even more powerful.”

“Schuyler Van Alen…the half-blood? Are you certain she is the one?” Charles asked.

Lawrence nodded.

“Because Allegra had two daughters,” Charles said, in a light, almost playful tone. “Surely you have not forgotten that.”

The elder Van Alen’s tone turned cold. “Of course not. But it is beneath you to make sport of such a serious matter as Allegra’s firstborn.”

Charles dismissed Lawrence’s rebuke with a wave. “My apologies. I meant no offense to the dead.”

“Her blood is on our hands,” Lawrence sighed. The events of the day were tiring him, as were the memories of the past. “Only, I wonder…”

“Yes?”

“As I’ve wondered all these years, Charles, if such a one could ever be truly destroyed.”

New York Times
Obituary
Lawrence Van Alen, 105, Philanthropist and Philosopher, Dies

Lawrence Winslow Van Alen, a professor of history and linguistics at the University of Venice, died last night in his home on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. He was 105. His death was confirmed by Dr. Patricia Hazard, his attending physician. The cause of death was listed as advanced age.

Professor Van Alen was a descendant of William Henry Van Alen, known as the Commodore, an American icon and one of the richest men of the Gilded Age, whose wealth came from steamships, railroads and private investment and brokerage businesses. The Van Alens founded the New York Central Railroad Line and what is now Grand Central Terminal. The family’s charitable trust, the Van Alen Foundation, was a cornerstone in the development of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, and the New York Blood Bank.

Lawrence Van Alen is survived by his daughter, Allegra Van Alen Chase, a coma patient since 1992, and one granddaughter.

1. SCHUYLER

There had been little time to mourn. Upon returning to New York after Lawrence’s murder in Rio (covered up by the Committee with a proper obituary in the Times), Schuyler Van Alen had been on the run. No rest. No respite. A year of constant motion, barely one step ahead of the venators hunting her. A flight to Buenos Aires followed by one to Dubai. A sleepless night in a youth hostel in Amsterdam followed by another in a bunk-bed in an auditorium in Bruges. 

She had marked her sixteenth birthday aboard the trans-Siberian railway—celebrating with a cup of watery Nescafe coffee and several crumbly Russian tea cookies. Somehow, her best friend Oliver Hazard-Perry had found a candle to light in one of the suharkies. He took his job as human conduit pretty seriously. It was thanks to Oliver’s careful accounting that they had been able to stretch their money so far. The Conclave had frozen his access to the well-funded Hazard-Perry accounts as soon as they had left New York.

Now it was August in Paris, and hot. They had arrived to find the city mostly a ghost town: bakeries, boutiques, and bistros shuttered while their proprietors absconded to three-week vacations in the beaches up north. The only people around were American and Japanese tourists who mobbed every museum gallery, every garden in every public square, inescapable and ubiquitous in their white sneakers and baseball caps. But Schuyler welcomed their presence. She hoped the slow-moving crowds would make it easier to spot their pursuers.

Schuyler had been able to disguise herself by changing her physical features, but performing the mutatio was taking a toll on her. She didn’t say anything to Oliver, but lately she couldn’t even do as much as change the color of her eyes.

And now, after almost a year of hiding, they were coming out into the open. It was a gamble, but they were desperate. Living without the protection and wisdom of the secret society of vampires and their select group of trusted humans had taken its toll. And while neither of them would ever admit it, they were both tired of running.

So for now, Schuyler was seated in the back of a bus, wearing a pressed white shirt buttoned to the neck over slim black pants and flat black shoes with rubber soles. Her dark hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail and except for a hint of lipgloss she wore no make-up. She meant to look identical in every way with the rest of the catering staff who had been hired for the evening.

But surely someone would notice. Surely someone would hear how hard her heart was beating, would remark on how her breathing was shallow and quick. She had to calm down. She had to clear her mind and become the blasé contract caterer she was pretending to be. For so long Schuyler was used to being invisible. But this time her life depended on it.

The bus was taking them to the Hotel Lambert in the Ile-St-Louis. The most beautiful house in the most beautiful city in the world. At least, she had always thought so. Although “house” was putting it mildly. “Castle” was more like it, something out of a fairytale, its massive river walls and grey mansard roofs rising from the surrounding mist. As a child she had played hide-and-seek in its formal gardens, where the conical-sculpted trees reminded her of figures on a chessboard. She remembered staging imaginary productions inside the grand courtyard and throwing breadcrumbs to the geese from the terrace overlooking the Seine.

How she had taken that life for granted. Tonight she would not enter its exclusive, exalted domain as an invited guest, but rather as a humble servant. Like a mouse creeping into a hole. Schuyler was anxious by nature, and it took a tremendous amount of self-control to keep it together. At any moment, she feared she might scream—she was already so nervous she couldn’t stop her hands from trembling. They vibrated, fluttering in her lap, like trapped birds.

Next to her, Oliver was wearing a bartender’s uniform, handsome in a tuxedo with a black silk bowtie and silver shirt studs. But he was pale underneath his butterfly collar, his shoulders tense underneath a jacket that was a little too big. His clear hazel eyes were clouded, looking more grey than green. Oliver’s face did not display the same blank, bored look as the others. He was alert, ready for a fight or flight. Anyone could see it if they looked at him long enough.

We shouldn’t be here, Schuyler thought. What were we thinking? The risk is too great. They’re going to find us and separate us…and then…well the rest was too horrible to contemplate.

She was sweating under her starched shirt. The air-conditioning wasn’t working and the bus was packed. She leaned her head against the windowpane. Lawrence had been dead for over a year now. Four-hundred forty-five days. Schuyler kept count, thinking that maybe once she hit a magical number it would stop hurting.

This was no game, although sometimes it felt like a horrid surreal version of cat and mouse. Oliver put a hand on top of hers, to try and stop her hands from shaking. The tremors had begun a few months ago, just a slight twitching whenever she did something with her hands, and later she realized she had to concentrate whenever she did something as simple as pick up her fork, or open an envelope. Anxiety made it worse, and nothing seemed to help.

She knew what it was. Dr. Pat had told her the first time she visited her office: she was the only one of her kind, Dimidium Cognato, the first half-blood, and there was no saying how her human body would react to the transformation into immortal, there would be side-effects, obstacles particular to her case.

Still, she felt better once Oliver held her hand in his. He always knew what to do. She depended on him for so much, and her love for him had only deepened in the year they had spent together. She squeezed his hand, intertwined her fingers around his. It was his blood that ran through her veins, his quick thinking that had secured her freedom.

As for everyone and everything they had left behind in New York, Schuyler did not dwell on it anymore. All that was safely in the past. She had made her choice and was at peace with it. She had accepted her life for what it was. Once in a while she missed her friend Bliss Llewellyn very keenly, and more than once wanted to get in touch with her. But that was out of the question. No one could know where they were. No one. Not even Bliss.

Maybe they would be lucky tonight. Their luck had held so far. Oh there were a few close calls here and there—that one evening in Cologne when she’d run abruptly from a woman who had asked for directions to the cathedral. Illuminata had given the agent away. Schuyler just caught that soft imperceptible glow in the twilight before booking it the other way. Disguises only went so far. At some point, your true nature revealed itself.

Wasn’t that what the Inquisitor had argued during the official investigation into the events in Rio? That maybe Schuyler wasn’t who she was supposed to be?

Outlaw. Fugitive. That’s who she was now. Certainly not Lawrence Van Alen’s grieving granddaughter.

No.

According to the Conclave, she was his killer.

You are order the book from Target, B&N, Amazon, Books-A-Million and IndieBound!

It is out October 6, 2009!

More sneak peeks to come!

xoxo
Mel

One Question. Many Answers.

Jenna asks, “Out of the three Blue Bloods books, which was your favorite to write and why?”

Thanks for asking! I have to say, the current book is always my favorite one to write, just because it’s so fresh in my memory. But I will say that Van Alen Legacy, while exhausting, taking a LOT out of me and my family and my sanity, was mostly pretty fun and I felt I had a good rhythm to my days when I was writing it. Work proceeded well, from outline to first draft to final draft.

The hardest book of the series to write was Revelations, mostly because so many more people had read the series by then, and I felt the WEIGHT of anticipation and the PRESSURE of having to deliver a book that pleased my editor, my readers, and myself, very very keenly. I was a bit paralyzed by all the attention. I would stare at my computer screen and do… nothing.

But this time: I felt a lot freer, just to enjoy the story and to enjoy the work, and to be able to shrug off the pressure a little bit. I don’t know if I got used to the pressure and adapted to it, or I just did what my family always does in times of stress: HIDE IN DENIAL. But somehow, I just didn’t worry so much anymore about what people would think of the book, I just worried about the book itself. And I’m quite pleased with it. It has everything I enjoy in books, in that it is very book-y in its pleasures. You will see.

I don’t remember writing Masquerade as being particularly easy, although I tell everyone it was the easiest book of the series to write. I was very pregnant when I wrote it and I remember HOISTING myself off the couch and LUMBERING over the computer and GRUMBLING while I wrote. I was pregnant! I wanted to nap! I was tired of my book! But it worked out okay in the end.

For Blue Bloods—at this point I don’t even remember what writing it was like as it was so long ago. Once a book is done it kind of fades from my memory. But I do remember writing it when I was a member at The Office, this swanky little writer’s office in Brentwood, and going shopping during breaks at the Country Mart, to Calypso and James Perse and coming back with shopping bags. The Office was filled with Hollywood screenwriters and it was kind of fun to see the sign-in sheet and see writers’ names I recognized, (and some faces too). Chris Henchy, EP of Entourage and hubby of Brooke Shields was always there. As was Sarah Dunn, whose books I love but I was too shy to say hi to.

Right now I am enjoying revising Angels Lie, the sequel to Angels on Sunset Boulevard.

xoxo
Mel

Booklist Girl Review!

Girl Stays in the Picture.
de la Cruz, Melissa (Author)
Jun 2009. 416 p. Simon & Schuster, hardcover,  $16.99. (9781416960966). 

De la Cruz provides perfect summer reading for celebrity-obsessed teens in this story of four girls—two
celebs, one fresh from rehab; a naive assistant; and a film producer’s suddenly svelte daughter—during a
summer film shoot in Saint-Tropez. Each girl has a boy to yearn for, and each gets the fate she
deserves. Along the way, de la Cruz deftly skewers many of today’s young celebrities and adds a Gossip
Girl feel with tabloid articles and tidbits from movie magazines. The rapid pace, thinly disguised parodies
of current teen celebrities, and “big fat summer read” look fairly plead for this book to be taken to the
beach.

— Booklist

YAY! Booklist! Woohoo!

I love a good review—and I love being called “perfect summer reading.” I grew up on big fat beach novels. Yeah!

xoxo
Mel

The Girls Behind Girl

I know some of you can’t join S&S’s Pulse It site as there are age requirements, so I thought I would re-post my blog from last Monday. I’ll do the same all month.

One question I get a lot on my book tour, is, where do you come up with your ideas?

I always answer: “From the In and Out Burger!” And it’s not even too much of an exaggeration, since my book Angels on Sunset Boulevard, was actually inspired by a trip to the local In-and-Out on Sunset Boulevard. My husband and I walked in at around midnight, and I was just shocked by all the kids in the place—every kind of teen from Beverly Hills princesses to Echo park skaters…it was a really cool scene. And some of the kids looked REALLY young, like eleven or twelve years old (which shocked me: I came from a family where we were ALWAYS in the house, there was no “It’s 10:00 Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?” kind of thing. My parents knew the answer to that question: IN FRONT OF THE TV! In fact, I don’t even remember being allowed OUT of the house at night until…well, until they dropped me off at college in the middle of New York City and said “HAVE FUN!”). Anyway, seeing all the kids out made me think…what are they all doing here? And what if the reason why the kids are all out at midnight is…THEY’RE IN A CULT! So Angels was born…

For GIRL STAYS IN THE PICTURE, for the character of Livia, the producer’s daughter who gets stomach-stapling surgery and becomes a hottie, I was inspired by a girl I interviewed for Seventeen magazine. I used to be a freelance journalist before I wrote books full-time, and one of my assignments was to write about a teen who had undergone gastric bypass or stomach stapling surgery. I met with her and her mom right after they had performed the surgery—they were staying in a hotel near the hospital, since they lived far away from a good doctor who wold do it. The girl was sixteen years old and over three hundred pounds. She’d had a trauma in her childhood—a major operation on her spine, where she was confined to her bed for almost an entire school year. The doctors explained that that kind of experience can lead to obesity, when you’re a kid and you go through a major operation like that, and bed rest for a year, you can get depressed, and you can begin to lose your ability to figure out when you have to stop eating…

Anyway, I was very moved by this girl and her story. And one thing that always struck me was that at sixteen, she had to GIVE UP all her favorite foods: because her stomach wouldn’t be able to digest different kinds of fats and carbohydrates—for instance, she could never have ice cream EVER, without getting sick, or chocolate, or potato chips. I thought that was a HUGE sacrifice to give up at sixteen years old, don’t you? But that’s what you have to do..Anyway, the weight came off so fast…she was down 90 lbs six months later and now is a normal weight of about 115 lbs or so (she is five-foot-two). Healthy, happy, and never able to eat ice-cream again.

It just stayed with me…what if you could have the body you always wanted, but you had to give up some of the simple pleasures of life? Would it be worth it?

As for the other girls who inspired girl, well it’s not too big a stretch to figure out Devon was inspired a little by Rihanna with a little of the Lindsey Lohan-mess in her, and Casey came from reading about Jessica Simpson and her BFF and assistant, CaCee Cobb. That relationship always struck me as so interesting… work as a slave to your best friend? Really? Aren’t friendships more “equal” than that? There had to be some kind of power politics in that, didn’t there?

Hope you enjoy the book and see you next Monday!

xoxo

Mel

First Chap Goin’ Out Tomorrow, Question Answered, Other Books You Might Like!

A couple of admin things!

We will be sending out the first chapter of THE VAN ALEN LEGACY tomorrow (Friday, June 19)! Yeah! Sign up to the mailing list here.

If you don’t make the mailing list on Friday, email me at melissa (at) melissa (dash) delacruz (dot) com. (Spammers I hate you! This is why I have to spell out my email address. Every Friday until September 1st, we will send out the First Chapter to anyone who wants it.

Also, if you have emailed me in the last six months, you will be receiving a copy of the May 2009 newsletter. I’m sorry I cannot personally respond anymore. But I sometimes do on TWITTER. So follow me and I might surprise you!

Today’s question comes from Mariles: “Do you choose the covers of your books? How involved are you in the covers?”

The answer is VERY. I have cover approval on my books, and I work with my editors and the art director to figure out the best cover. For Blue Bloods, we all agreed we would have to have a lovely girl’s neck with vampire bites. The first version of it had a painting of a girl’s neck with the bites. There was something generic about it, and we agreed we would have to change it. Luckily, my editor Jen Besser, has a LOVELY neck, so our art director shot her and that is Jen’s neck on the cover! Doesn’t she have a gorgeous jaw line? We also very much wanted the pearls. One of the big book buyers did not like the pearls but we stuck with it. For Masquerade, I said we had to have a Venetian mask, and Elizabeth Clark, our genius art director, happened to have one from Venice! (The Masquerade mask is now in my office, framed.) I said we had to make sure you could see how blue her eyes were so everyone could see it was Schuyler. For Revelations, the whole idea of the girl’s back with Lucifer’s mark came from me as well, Beth worked on the star for a long time until we got it right. (Too pentagram-y, too plain, too small, too big, etc.) I was in fact TOO involved when I think about it, because now that I think about it, the size of the star which I thought was too big on one of the later drafts, was that size so that readers could see it from across the bookstore, according to the sales team who really liked the big star. But for some reason I really wanted that star SMALL. I think they were right on that and not me. For Van Alen Legacy, we hired a model for the shoot and I had approval over that and I said she had to have a veil covering her face, something mysterious. And let’s hide the hair color but have the eyes very green. (Green eyes is a big hint no?). It’s my FAVORITE of all the covers—-there’s something so beautiful about it, with those juicy red lips and the veil. For GIRL STAYS IN THE PICTURE I was very involved as well, I picked out the models and looked over the clothing choices and the background shots. I feel really lucky I get to have a say in my covers.

Thanks for your questions! Email them to melissadlcoffice (at) gmail (dot) com. Subject line: BOOK QUESTION WEDNESDAY

Let’s talk about other books now! Have you read any of Elizabeth Scott’s books? My favorite is PERFECT YOU. But they are all awesome. Her new book LOVE YOU, HATE YOU, MISS YOU is out now and I cannot wait to get my little hands on it. (Amazon shipping: Hurry up!) I also cannot wait to read Kate Christensen’s TROUBLE(S?) and GIGI LEVANGIE GRAZER’S Queen Takes King and apparently since I like cooking memoirs I should read Suzanne Pirret and Adrienne Kane. (Ordered!) One of my best friends has a book coming out in the fall: SECRET SOCIETY by Tom Dolby is a ripping read and kept me up WAY late. And I just finished THE STRAIN by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Good stuff! I love a scary vampire read. I devoured CATCHING FIRE after the nice folks at Blue Willow (Hi Cathy!! And Valerie!! And Becky!!) gave me their ARC since I was unable to get one at BEA. Good stuff!! Can’t wait for the third book which is taking TOO LONG but as usual, so do mine, so you know… 🙂  And I am still reading I WAS TOLD THERE WOULD BE CAKE. I was told it would be a cooking memoir. Joking! I am enjoying it a lot even though there is not a lot of cooking in it.

Happy Thursday!
xoxo
Mel

Houston, We Have a Problem…

It is 95 degrees in your city! Aaaah!! But I have packed all my linen. I am good to go!

Hope you come see me tonight and tomorrow!

June 12, 2009 (7:00 PM)
Reading at the Blue Willow BookShop
14532 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77079
I will be reading, signing and chatting about Revelations, Girl Stays in the Picture, sneak-peek at Van Alen Legacy, whatever you want to talk about!

June 13, 2009 (3:00 PM)
Barnes & Noble Signing
1201 Lake Woodlands Dr., #3008
The Woodlands, TX 77381
Reading, signing, chatting about Revelations, Girl Stays in the Picture, sneak-peek at Van Alen Legacy, whatever you want!

xoxo
Mel

You Send Questions. I Have Answers.

Lots of questions pouring in. A lot of them are PLOT-related as in, asking what will happen to Sky and Jack, Sky and Ollie, Mimi and Jack, Bliss and Jordan, etc. I will not be answering those kinds of questions. But feel free to keep sending them! I like knowing what you guys are curious about. But I won’t answer them here. You can find answers to those questions by reading the book.

Okay…to the questions!

Kate asks: “Would you ever consider writing something like the Au Pairs series again? I loved those books and I love that style but there doesn’t seem to any books for the older teen range, they are more pre-teen and adults, not even many young adult books. Are there any you would recommend to read?”

I am writing a series very much like Au Pairs called Girl Stays in the Picture. It is about three girls and their summer in the South of France. There’s a lot of gossiping, a lot of shopping and lots of cute boys! If you liked the AU PAIRS, you will love GIRL STAYS IN THE PICTURE. You can order it now from Amazon or B&N! Other books of that style: have you tried Elizabeth Scott’s books? I really love the love stories in them. Especially Perfect You. I loved Perfect You. What about Secrets of my Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita,  Alyson Noel’s books (Kiss & Blog, Cruel Summer), Hailey Abbot’s (Summer Boys series) and Aimee Friedman (South Beach, French Kiss). Try those! They’re all really fun and sweet.

Mai asks “What inspired you to write Blue Bloods? How did you start your writing career? Did you ever write a fanfic about any of your favorite characters? How did you deal with harsh criticism?”

I was inspired to write Blue Bloods because one day I was procrastinating on the computer and I found this website that listed all these famous and rich and influential Americans who could all trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower, and I thought, what if the reason all these people are so famous and rich is because…they are vampires??? And Blue Bloods was born.

I started my writing career by writing incendiary essays for the New York Press, I wrote about the Barneys Warehouse sale, strippers who were in Mensa with genius IQs, and many other fun and weird things as well as angry essays about being Asian in America. I was a freelance writer for a long time and then I wrote my first novel Cat’s Meow, which was published in 2001, and then I began to write for a lot of women’s magazines: Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, etc. Then I published a non-fiction book with my good friend and now creatix of Purple Lab, Karen Robinovitz, called How to become Famous in Two Weeks or Less (and the Fashionista Files). While we were on book tour for “Famous”, I wrote the proposal for what would become The Au Pairs, as well as Fresh off the Boat. My YA writing career took off then.

I never wrote a book-related fan fiction. I wrote fan fiction starring the members of Duran Duran in Dynasty-style soap opera adventures. There were always tragic rich people in my stories. Oh! There still are. LOL.

How do I deal with harsh criticism? I was blessed with very wise parents, who told me that if anyone did not like me, it was THEIR problem and not mine. Shrug it off, and don’t let it affect you too much. I don’t. I mean: it still stings when I read a bad review, it’s hard not to take it personally. But my dad always told me, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and my mom’s response to people who did not like her children or the work of her children is “TSEH!” Try it. “Oh, you don’t like my book? Tseh!” Hopefully you get some spit in their eye too. Hehe. I guess “Tseh!” is like sticking your tongue out at them. Sticks and stones as they say. I was recently at a party where someone I had met several times was very dismissive of me. I was appalled at their bad manners (and honestly, I used to work at Conde Nast! I worked in fashion – I know all about the eye roll and the one-second convo!) But I had not been prepared for the diss, and was a little taken aback by it. But now, all I can say is “TSEH!”

Jessica asks “Can I get an excerpt from Van Alen Legacy?”

Yes you can my dear. We are sending out Chapter One to the newsletter list and to everyone who has ever emailed me, or requested we send it to them, at the end of the month. It’s going to take a while to get everything up and running, combining lists and all that jazz. But you will have it sooner than later and before the paperback copy of Revelations comes out – which includes a sneak peek at Chapter One. But it’s not the final version of the chapter. It’s an earlier version.

Marian asks “You said that you are going to do a spin off series of Blue Blood called Wolf Pact.  My questions is, are you introducing werewolves into the series?”

Yes but the werewolves will have their own series. They won’t be in Blue Bloods much. You’ll see. Van Alen Legacy will make this clearer.

Jaimin asks “My friend’s birthday is coming up soon and I want to get her an autographed copy of Revelations. How would I obtain an autographed copy of your book? Would you sign it if i sent the book to you?”

The best way to get my autograph on a book is to email your snail mail address to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with BOOKPLATE REQUEST in the subject matter. My assistants will then mail you a bookplate – which is a sticker with my signature on it that you can stick into your books.

Our bookplate department is a bit on the slow side—but should pick up around July when my assistant comes back from vacation.

Happy Wednesday!
xoxo
Mel

Writing Blog Sunday Because I missed Friday

Bianca asks: “How do you keep from revising every time you sit down and write? I have this problem when I try to write. At first, I read through the story to know where I left off and get the feel of it, but then I notice that it doesn’t sound right at all. So I revise it, and sometimes I write the beginning all over again when I get a new idea. When my writing time is over I find out that I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do in the first place which was trying to ‘advance’ the story.”

Thanks Bianca, for again, a very interesting question and one that writers always come up against. I also have this problem a lot, I tend to polish, polish, polish what I have written before every time I go in to write. I find revising soothing (except NOW when I have a real revision I’m doing. NOT SOOTHING AT ALL.) In this I mean, I like the process of polishing up sentences and moving things around and rewriting things I’ve written the night before. Doing that kind of writing gets me “into” the story so that I know WHERE I need to go next. And here’s my secret: my first draft of the new pages are CRAP. I mean: disjointed sentences, just a lot of notes even, skeletal, a mess. But I get my ideas down.

Then you know what happens the next day? All that crap I wrote the night before, is now my SOOTHING REVISION process for the next morning. And I find that even if what I have written the day before is a bunch of disjointed, hastily-sketched scenes, the next day, I can always make it BETTER. And the next day, even BETTER and BETTER and BETTER. But I don’t let myself go to bed without writing at least a LITTLE of the new stuff – so that I have something for tomorrow. In this way, you will find your story advances even just a little bit every day, but by the end of the week, you will see you have done a lot.

The thing with writing is, the process is the one that will save you. There’s no escape from work. The books will not write themselves. You have to dedicate some time to sitting in front of a computer and working it out. Whether this is two hours or ten hours a day, that’s the only way things get done.

Also, as in life, it is best not to be TOO hard on oneself when you are writing. You have to accept imperfection, for me, I still struggle with wanting the first draft to be awesome, because heh heh, if the first draft is awesome, then there aren’t any more revisions to do! Work is done, SPA TIME BABY! But of course, that is not the way of the world. In fact, the more you revise and restructure and polish, the better your book will be. And it takes a long time to learn this, but the more you do it, the better you will be at it. It’s like practicing piano. I had eight years of piano lessons and I can’t play a note. Why? Because I never practiced.

I believe effort and discipline and dedication always triumphs over sloth and pure “innate” talent. If you have talent but you don’t hone it, how talented are you? It’s like when I was in college, all the cool-kids like me thought we were too smart to study, (I was a huge, huge crammer, and I still managed to pull really good grades: from sophomore year to first semester senior year I had all A’s). I always believed that because I was a quick study, and was fast, in that I could think fast, and I could skip over things, that it would bring me all the academic prizes I wanted. But then graduation came, and I didn’t graduate with honors—I did well, but not extraordinarily, and it really bugged me since I was an overachieving little nerd, whereas friends who spent time in the library and working, nose-to-grindstone, graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with an asterisk next to their name in the commencement program. THIS BUGS ME TO THIS DAY. I could have had that asterisk. Or that key. I was as smart as any of those kids who got them if not smarter. But I was lazy, and I cruised through my classes without breaking a sweat. Anything that took effort, I shunned. Who needed to work? Not me!

But I learned my lesson. And the interesting thing is, my husband is not like me, he is a methodical person, very disciplined, very thorough, and works harder than anyone I know. When he was in architecture school most nights he was in the studio until two in the morning, if not five AM during crit time. He graduated top of his class (I’m not exaggerating: he graduated “number one” he won the highest award at the school). And he still works like this. I have come to work like this, and I’ve learned that if you’re smart and quick and lazy, you won’t end up with as much as if you are smart and diligent and try hard and make an EFFORT.

So, writing means making an effort. Putting everything into it, and not phoning it in. You know? Break a sweat.

Good luck!

xoxo
Mel

Books Q&A

Q: A reader asks (sorry you didn’t put your name in your email): “In the Blue Bloods series, it implies that Allegra is in a coma voluntarily, because she won’t take a human familiar. So, why does Mimi say Jack will end up that way if he breaks the bond? Nowhere in the book does it say Allegra is in a coma because she broke her bond to Charles. So why would this happen to Jack or Mimi if the bond is broken?”

A: This is one of those questions that I get that makes me realize, “OH! The story that is in my head is not making it on the page as much as clearly as I had hoped.” What Mimi means is that when Jack breaks the bond—he will be weakened, and become a broken man…Allegra being in a coma is a RESULT of her weakness, of her moral failing…her coma is how the bond-breaking manifested itself in her life. It doesn’t mean that Jack will necessarily fall into a coma as well, but that, like Allegra, something in him will be broken and slowly destroyed if he breaks his heavenly promise.  Mimi says that Allegra is “useless and destroyed” because the bond-breaking causes a kind of insanity in the bond-break-ers. Because Allegra rebuffed Charles, something fundamental inside her cracked and she became a woman frozen in a bed, not alive, but not dead either…just broken. If Jack breaks his bond with Mimi, something just as terrible will happen to him—whether it will manifest itself as a lifetime frozen on a hospital bed, we don’t know yet—each bond-breaker reacts differently, but Mimi knows that the breaking does create a kind of paralysis, a deterioration in the bondmate. That is what Mimi meant when she warns Schuyler that Jack would end up that way: ultimately, if Jack chooses Schuyler and does not follow through on his word, he will end up just as helpless and tragic as Allegra.

Rebecca asks “What was the first book you wrote? Au Pairs? Fresh off the Boat? Cat’s Meow?”

A: My first novel was Cat’s Meow. You can buy it on Amazon or B&N.  It is a picaresque story of Cat McAllister, a broke fashionista-socialite who adopts a Chinese baby because it’s fashionable (Cat would definitely be adopting Ethiopian these days to be more like Madonna), tries to marry a man with a “von” or “de” in his name—not just a last name—but a country!, and whose best friend is a drag queen named India and whose maid is a Sri Lankan au pair named Bannerjee, who becomes more famous than Cat and goes to all the right parties. It was very much fun to write and inspired by PG Wodehouse, Jane Austen, Paul Rudnick, Spy, Vogue, MTV, and my experiences as a fashion editor and a broke-but-fabulous person in New York. It was well-reviewed in the New Yorker (“a promising debut!”), The Los Angeles Times (“Melissa de la Cruz has created a rambunctious first novel that deserves to have its every page encrusted with sand, its binding ringed with condensation from highball glasses—a perfect beach read.”) Glamour (I can’t remember what they said but it was complimentary) and many others. My friend Simon Doonan declared me “The Jackie Collins of the Moomba generation!” in his effusive blurb. (Does anyone still remember Moomba? I’m dating myself aren’t I?) It’s a blurb that still lives in my daily life today, thanks to my husband Mike, who will declare anything “The Blank of the Moomba Generation!” Like, “That’s the preschool of the Moomba generation!” Or “The mojito is the cocktail of the Moomba generation!” Or whatever. Usually it’s much less glamorous, whatever he is declaring is the Ne Plus Ultra of the Moomba Generation. I swear, Mike has had WAY too much fun with this. See what I put up with? Midwestern sarcasm. Ah. Anyway. I liked being called the Jackie of the generation. Even though Cat’s Meow has NO SEX in it at all. (Simon told me: “I didn’t get a chance to read it, but I gave you a faaaaabulous blurb!” I love Simon.) Long story short: The book launched my writing career. I sold it when I was 27 years old and it was published in August of 2001, when I was 29. I still read it sometimes and it still makes me laugh.

Now one may ask how does one go from satiric-aspiring-yet-shelved-in-chick-lit section author to vampire queen? I don’t know. But I do know that people are complicated and interesting, and that there are many facets to everyone’s personality, and those are mine. And I read everything from cooking memoirs to chicklit to more strenuous stuff, and I like it all. And writing Blue Bloods came as naturally for me as writing Cat’s Meow.

Happy Wednesday!

xoxo
Mel