Yearly Archives: 2009

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!



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!

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!


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!

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!


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!


Book Q&A’s

Hi all!

I remembered! Ha! And I have a plane to catch tomorrow so I’m going to post this now.

Maddie, Frances, Julia and a lot of other readers want to know what’s going on with THE ASHLEYS. (One reader said “On your blog it’s all about Blue Bloods this and Blue Bloods that, and I want to know about THE ASHLEYS!”) Is Lipgloss Jungle the last book in the series?

I really, really, REALLY hate to disappoint you guys. But it very well may be. I don’t like to say ‘never’ but right now I don’t have plans to write a fifth book. But I don’t want to leave you guys hanging, so I will write an online short story this summer that will resolve and end the series. I know you want to know what happens to our favorite 12 year olds and so do I! The story will be available online in a few months. I know it’s not great news, but this is the best I can do with my schedule.

A lot of you Ashleys-fans write me and tell me about the cliques in your school and how much they suck. I know. Been there. Outcast’d that. Sigh. The good news in life is that at some point, you will blossom into your own person and find wonderful, fabulous friends who are as wonderful and fabulous as you. And those kids who were mean to you in middle or high school—you’ll forget all about them, or you’ll remember, but it will be funny—because you’ll be at your class reunion and you’ll be this awesomely happy and successful person and those guys who shoved you in the hallways and those girls who never spoke to you are now working at the Burger King or as managers at the GNC.

And I know this because this happened to many people I know including some people I am related to or married to. (Heh.) I believe in late bloomers, in working really hard, in being yourself and finding your niche. I also believe in trying to fit in, having a lot of fun, and getting away with it. I’ve been unpopular and popular at various stages of my adolescence. Popular: you don’t even notice. You’re just hanging out with your friends and having fun. Unpopular: you notice. It stings. It hurts. But it is survivable. And temporary. I just read that Zac Efron was a “drama geek” in high school, and that he was “the most popular of the unpopular guys” Can you imagine? How cute is that? If it happened to Zac, it can happen to anybody. Hang in there, find a few friends who make you laugh, and cruise through it. And if you still really, really want to be popular? In my experience, if you want something BADLY enough it will happen. But you know what they say about wishes coming true…I always think about David Sedaris, who writes so poignantly about popularity in his childhood, (in one of this stories a popular guy hits him with a rock and David doesn’t get mad, he was excited that the guy had noticed him enough to bean him! And his sister, who understands, asks him if he kept the rock). David Sedaris is now one of the most popular writers on the planet, if not one of the planet’s most popular people. You can’t even go to one of his readings—they’re so packed! And he lives in France! Where all writers should live! (You know what I mean: it’s the dream.) So you know, living well really is the best revenge. But I understand. I was 12 once. And I remember what it was like. But I found myself a bunch of fun, smart girls for friends, and let me tell you, we had a blast.

Christen and a bunch of other readers want to know what happened to the Angels on Sunset Boulevard books?

I’m happy to say I’m working on the sequel now, and the first book AND the second will be published in ONE fabulous paperback edition called ANGELS LIE. The book will be available this November! I’m revising this book as we speak. So yeah—I should go back to working on it!

Just a reminder: I’m not going to be answering any PLOT-related questions about the books. So please don’t ask me. I mean, you can ask me—I like to know what you guys are curious about—but I won’t be able to answer them. Because, c’mon, some of the fun of reading a book is finding out what happens, right?

Also, for those in New York, I’ll be at Book Expo this Friday! It is an admission-only event, and I think it’s about $95 for one day admission. A bit high, so I totally understand if you can’t make it. (Although you make up for it in free books!) But librarians and booksellers—looking forward to seeing you!!

May 29, 2009 (1:30-2:30 PM, Table 13)
BookExpo Appearance!
655 West 34th Street
New York, N.Y. 10001
I will be promoting Blue Bloods: The Van Alen Legacy at BookExpo! This is an industry event, so you will need to pay admission (which is high) to get in to see me. But you will receive MANY free books while at the Expo. HOWEVER, we will not have copies of Van Alen at Book Expo because the book is not even printed yet. I will be signing the paperback copy of Revelations. Yeah, I know. But still: free Revelations! Good stuff!

Sorry this is a short Q&A… but I have to pack, am leaving for New York tomorrow and am already feeling sad about leaving the kid! Wah!


Writing Friday

I was at the spa! So relaxed I almost forgot it was…Writing Blog Friday!

Lindsey asks: I am writing a book based on something that happed to me in my life. It is very personal and I am worried about what a few people might think or do if I get it published and they got their hands on it. It is also very hard for me to sit down and write it. Almost every time I try to write, I get emotional. I have tried to finish it for two years and I only have two chapters done. What do you think I should do?

Thanks Lindsey, for a very interesting and important question. I myself was in this very same boat for the longest time. I wanted to write about what happened when my family moved from the Philippines to America. But every time I tried to write it, I just couldn’t—I hadn’t been able to process it yet, I hadn’t been able to really think about what happened to us, and how to make it compelling fiction and I just didn’t have enough distance from it yet to look at it and write about it objectively in a way that other people might want to read about it.

I was finally able to write this story, and it became my novel Fresh off the Boat. The book is based on the year my family moved to America, when I was fourteen years old. I was able to write about this when I was THIRTY-FOUR years old. TWENTY years had to pass by before I could really WRITE this story.

So it takes a LONG time to process experiences and turn them into fiction. I’m not saying you have to wait twenty years, but one day, you will figure out how to write this story and it will just flow out of you.

At this time, I suggest taking notes, writing about it, and thinking about it, but don’t FORCE yourself to “Finish” it. In the meantime, there are other things you might want to write about.

For instance, I used to cover fashion shows for magazines and newspapers, and I turned that experience pretty quickly into my first novel, Cat’s Meow. The turnaround time on that was quite short.

But if your story is close to your heart, and makes you feel very emotional, it will take a long time to get it on the page. And that’s Okay. Because, unlike supermodels, we writers have an almost infinite time to get published (Frank McCourt was what, in his sixties?) and no one cares what we look like or whether there’s someone new and hot nipping at our heels.

As for the fear about what people will think who are based on the people in your story—well, I always tell my family and friends if they are ever so flattered to think that they made their way into my pages: It’s FICTION! I also advise disguising people to the point where they cannot recognize themselves.

For instance, I once did not like a girl named Eunice Chang* (name changed of course!) who used to be this editor at a magazine and had this fake laugh and this really annoying way of worming herself next to every cute boy I liked, so I made her into the character “Teeny Wong” in my novel Cat’s Meow. Teeny was a magazine editor at a magazine who had this fake laugh and wormed her way next to every cute boy my heroine liked. See? Fiction!

At this point all of my characters are based on some aspect of my personality or just come full-blown into my head. I have given up disguising nemeses in fiction. For those with huge egos, it’s just another way to pump up their resumes. “I once inspired a character in a book!” You don’t want annoying people to get even bigger heads. Sigh.

However, if the characters are based on people you love, like my family who kind of ended up in Fresh off the Boat, because it’s fiction it’s not really a portrayal of them per se. Sure, the parents in Fresh off the Boat are very much like my parents, but in a way, they are also very much not and their own people. They might have been inspired by my parents, but they are not my parents. At least, that’s what I keep telling my mom and dad. Heh.

Also, when you write about your parents, they are usually pretty forgiving. As some of you may have noticed, neither my younger sister or brother appear in the book. There is a younger sister in the story, but she is completely unlike either of them, which is 100% deliberate. I did not want to get into that kind of situation! Parents might forgive you, but siblings might give you a rug burn. ☺

It sounds like what you are writing is a bit darker and more serious than the stuff I write, especially your comment of “what they might do”—I don’t really have experience with that kind of writing, but I do recommend you check out Ellen Hopkins, who writes those verse novels about dark issues—-her first book was based on her daughter’s experience with meth. She might have some better thoughts on that kind of matter than I do, and I’ve met her and she’s so great at reaching out to young people with these kinds of questions. Tell her I sent you!

Good luck with your book!


Book Q&A

Jessica asks: If Schuyler’s mom will ever get out of her coma?

You will have to read the rest of the series to find out! 🙂 I promise this question will be answered in the series. But I can’t answer plot-specific questions on Book Question Wednesdays. I think it’s so much more fun to find out through reading the books, don’t you think? For instance, I would like to know if everything on Lost got re-started because they exploded the nuke. But I’m going to have to wait until next year to find out, just like everyone else. I actually screamed “THIS IS PAYBACK FOR WHAT I DO TO MY READERS!” at the season finale. So you know, karma, I am her byatch. Heh. Do not worry, all questions will be resolved at some point in the series.

Felisa, Maliha and Michael and many others who sent emails in the past before BQW started all have roughly the same question: They want to know if the Van Alen Legacy is the last book of the saga? And are there any plans of this saga to be put into film?

Not the last book by far. Right now I have ideas for at least a gazillion Blue Bloods books, but I don’t know if I can write a gazillion. I will most likely write at least ten. If not more, I can’t say a final count because I kind of really like writing this series, and I’m the type of person who reads every freaking sequel of everything that I love, so um, if you love it, you will have many Blue Bloods books to read from me. I aim to please. Mostly myself. But I’m SO GLAD there are others along for the ride too.

As for film, there are many bites (as in producers interested) but nothing concrete yet. I’m patient. I just hope I’m still alive when it happens. Not holding my breath but keeping a hopeful optimism. I find if I really want something bad enough, I usually get it. And I’m starting to get really itchy about seeing the characters on screen, which I never felt this huge compulsion to before. I am and forever will be, a the-book-is-better-than-the-film person. (Although Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings comes soooo close.)

I think I kind of really want to see Blue Bloods on the big or small screen right now because so many people ask me if this is going to happen and then when I say, “I don’t know”, they look at me with disappointment or maybe pity. As if I haven’t really “made” it as an author until it’s been made into a movie or TV show. And that just REALLY annoys me. Because there are many many LAME books that sold bupkes and made into other media and lots of GREAT GREAT books that have never been made into anything.

So I just don’t think it’s a barometer, whether it gets made. Because here’s what I want to happen: it gets made into a TV or movie. It is INSANELY popular and becomes a POP CULTURE PHENOMENON. That is what people are asking. (And by people I mean, my peers and frenemies and cocktail party chit chatters – not you—not my readers—you, like me, really want this to happen.) The people who ask me this question just want to figure out how successful/how much money I have. You know? And really, as my mother always said, The answer to that kind of nosy, rank-y question is Very Successful and A Lot of Money. Which was the answer to that question ALL THE TIME, even during the times when the answer is Quite a Failure, Actually, and Not A Lot of Money At All.

And here’s what I don’t want to happen: It gets turned into something. No one watches it. It gets canceled after an episode. Meh. What’s the big deal then? You know? And how many pop culture phenoms are there in one lifetime? We already have Twilight and Sookie…not to say there’s no room for the Bloods, but you know, it’s a crowded (or as Mike says: crow-dread) field.

Anyway…that’s a long vent-y tangent. But I’m just a bit tired of that question. But not from you guys. More from the status-obsessed people I come in contact with. Sigh. Next!

Rebecca’s question is related to the above. She wants to know: Are you in the process of writing a new book for a new series or thinking about it?

Yes! I am currently writing the first book in the Blue Bloods spinoff WOLF PACT. I also have several ideas for new series that I am kicking around…I always have 1000 things I want to do/write. Hopefully some of them will be coming to a bookstore near you in the not-too-far future. The great thing about being a voracious reader is that I am also a voracious writer.

Thanks everyone for your questions! I will answer more next Wednesday.

Also: I just read about Charlane Harris in the New York Times. I love me some Sookie Stackhouse, don’t you? And this line stuck in my craw: “Like many a commercial writer, Ms. Harris wishes the literary establishment would pay more attention. “I think there is a place for what I do,” she said. “And I think it’s honorable.”” Miss Harris—it is more than honorable!! You write books people actually READ! And there’s no reason to apologize! I for one, as a commercial writer, have never felt that way. I like Stephen King’s answer to how come he’s now a huge figure in the bonafide literary establishment when he started out as a horror writer totally trashed by critics. He said “Those critics who hated my books have died. The young generation grew up reading me and they’re in charge now.” So you know, you just have to OUTLIVE your fiercest critics. Heh. So all you young people out there, don’t you, forget about me…ok? OK.


PS-I’m sorry if I sound cranky in this blog! I just am tired of the whole one-upmanship in the striver world. Maybe I’ve been to too many preschool confabs about the “right kindergarten”? Argh! I have made it to the Times Bestseller List. If I never make it again, I will still die happy. Goal: achieved. Everything else is just gravy at this point. I for one, do not need to be on the hamster wheel all the time. I like to work and I like to write books and I like to shop. As long as I get to do those things and have my family around me, that’s all there is to it. See you on Writing Friday!

Your Questions Answered

Hi guys!

I’ve decided to do a more consistent overall blog (random thoughts about shopping will appear once in a while as well of course) but in response to the huge amount of mail I get, but which I can no longer personally answer (which sucks, I know, but there is only a finite time in the world and well, Stephen King never wrote ME back either and I still buy his books) – I’ve decided to try and do a forum where I do get to personally respond to readers’ questions in some way.

I will answer questions pertaining to my books on Wednesdays. Most of your questions like “When is Van Alen Legacy coming out?” can be found and answered easily. October 6, 2009! But if you have other questions, please send your question to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with the heading “BOOK QUESTION WEDNESDAY”.

Also, since I never talk about the writing process that much (mostly because I have this superstitious fear that those who write about writing should just shut up and you know, WRITE rather than write about the process) but I’ve really enjoyed reading Ally Carter and Justine Larbalestiereli’s thoughts on writing and publishing so I thought I would try to answer some questions from my perspective/experience. I will answer general questions about the writing process/publishing industry on Fridays. Please end your writing questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), with the heading “WRITING BLOG FRIDAY”.

And if you have emailed me in the last six months, we are finally wading through the stack and the new newsletter with lots of fun new news is out. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

When I am on deadline, I might not be able to do the Books and Writing Q&A blogs, but I will do my best to deliver every week!

It’s a beautiful day in Los Angeles! You know when I am in NYC I tell everyone how much we miss New York, which is true, also this is what New Yorkers think when people say they can’t imagine how they can live in such a crazy city: “WIMP!!” (Actually it’s a much dirtier word than that and I have a potty mouth but I do try to keep the blog fairly clean.) New Yorkers think NYC is the only city worth living in, I know, because I was a New Yorker and whenever people said this stuff to me, I thought “LOSER!” And telling everyone how great we still think New York is (which we DO!) and how much we miss it (which we DO!) lets our NYC friends say “Oh, but LA is great too!” To which we sigh and say, “Yeah…I guess…” Because it is SO not cool to love LA.

But we do love LA. We were so FRACKING poor in New York. We lived in this crumbly walk-up building and our apartment had this bathroom where if we dropped something behind the sink it was “Gone Forever!” because there was NO WAY we were going to try and fish it out of THAT mold. But the funny thing is we still had this wonderful, great, exciting life…I was a trend/lifestyle journalist and we got invited to all the best parties and had all these perks… and our friends worked at museums or galleries or were starting bands or in a play and there was just so much to DO and you didn’t really need that much money to do all that stuff. It just occurred to me today that when we would go eat at the Four Seasons for birthdays or Le Cirque for anniversaries that back then we made LESS than the waiters who were serving us so obsequiously. And we weren’t poor in that we were trust-fund kids slumming it… (you know the type: dad won’t pay for rent but you can buy anything on his credit card. Yeah. Not us.) We were ACTUALLY poor. I had a good computer job for most of our time there and made good money but I got laid off the last two years we were in the city, and those years when we were scrambling on a freelance writer and an intern architect’s salary are what sticks with me the most. Also, during that time when I was a computer geek making six figures, everyone in the city was a dot-com billionaire, so you know, we still felt poor when we had cash. But those last two years man…when we really didn’t have much at all…those were HARD!

Then we moved to LA and it was like we got lucky…not like someone waved a magic wand, but like we had room to breathe all of a sudden. Although we still miss NYC all the time, it’s a good compromise, living here.

That is the bi-coastal thought for the day. Anyway, send your questions!