Three words: interviews, interviews, interviews! They just keep comin’ … Vivian VandeVelde!
C: I’ve read several of your fantasy novels, but I’ve been looking forward to the getting the opportunity to read “Remembering Raquel.” Based on the description, it sounds as though “Remembering Raquel” is very different from your other books. Would you agree with this? If so, what inspired this change in genre?
VV: Most of my stories are fantasy, or sometimes fantasy with a bit of science fiction thrown in. I write in that genre because often that seems the best way help me examine the questions I want to explore. "Remembering Raquel" is only my second foray into the world of realistic fiction. So, yes, it involves a dead girl – which is rather typical for me – except that she stays dead throughout the story. How that started was by noticing those roadside memorials (maybe a cross, flowers, picture, mardi gras beads, stuffed animal) set up right where someone had died – usually a car accident, often involving a young person. This struck me as such a public expression of grief that I decided I wanted to write about someone who was the object of such a memorial; and I wanted to do this – not by showing her directly – but through the words of those who knew her. And those who didn't but still felt they had something to say. In this particular case, fantasy elements would have been distracting rather than helpful.
C: What was your journey to becoming a published author like?
VV: I can't remember a time before I wanted to be a writer. I always loved other people's stories, and I always loved making up my own stories. After working as a secretary, I became a stay-at-home mom when my daughter was born. As someone who hates housework, I had to have SOME excuse for how I was spending my days at home but not having time to clean. So I chose the well-please-excuse-the-messy-house-but-I've-been-busy-writing route. My first story was A HIDDEN MAGIC, a story about a princess who would love to be a typical princess, but instead finds herself in a situation where she needs to rescue a prince. My mother assured me it was brilliant, but 32 editors disagreed with her. Fortunately, editor # 33 bought the story. Trina Schart Hyman provided a lovely cover and black & white illustrations for each chapter. I don't want to say that writing (or publishing) became easier after that--but at least I knew it could be done.
C: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Nancy Drew PC games, too! Which one is your favorite?! (And to all my readers out there, you should, without a doubt, check out these games. They are awesome.)
VV: Hmmm, I'm going to go with "The Haunted Carousel." I didn't need to call Bess and George to get hints for that one. :-)
C: What books are on your list of 5 Books I Couldn t Live Without?
VV: T.H. White's "The Once and Future King." I already knew I wanted to be an author, but that book showed me what kind of stories I wanted to tell. (Sneakily combining 2...) William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead." In both cases, I read the play before ever seeing it performed. "Hamlet" is my favorite work by Shakespeare because, depending on how it's read, it can be open to different interpretations; then along comes Stoppard's play, where he makes the minor characters into the main characters, and their story takes place between the scenes of Hamlet's story - yet another interpretation. Not only is this very clever, but it opened up for me the possibilities of how a different point of view can give an entirely new perspective. (Yet again sneakily combining 2...) Susan Campbell Bartoletti's "Hitler Youth" and Jennifer Armstrong's "In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer." Growing up during the 1950's, hearing the adults talk about the war, seeing movies and TV series about the war, I thought I knew everything there was to know about World War II until I read these books meant for young readers of today. Alexander McCall Smith's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." Nothing earth-shaking here, but these characters are so real and so congenial, I want to spend time with them. Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird." I happened upon this and read it on my own when I was in 7th grade; read it again in high school; have read it several times as an adult; depending on where I am in my life, I've concentrated on different elements, but in my opinion it is simply the richest and best book I've ever read.
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF?
VV: I always enjoy getting together with Terry Trueman. The man is totally crazy--but he has a beautiful heart.
Thanks for taking the time to give us these great answers, Vivian! We can’t wait to meet you (or see you, for those of us who’ve attended the festival before) at TBF 2010!!