Jana Chats with Melissa de la Cruz

Today, Melissa de la Cruz stops by Fantasy Literature to celebrate the paperback release of Vampires of Manhattan, the first book in her newest series, THE NEW BLUE BLOODS COVEN. She talks about John Milton, vampires and angels, and a martini recipe which sounds divine. And we’re giving away a copy of Vampires in Manhattan to one U.S.-based commenter!

Jana Nyman: In both your BLUE BLOODS and THE NEW BLUE BLOODS COVEN series, there are no vampires as they’re recognized throughout history — they’re actually fallen angels who spread a “Conspiracy” of misinformation to keep humans ignorant of the centuries-old war being fought right under their noses. Was this a deliberate effort on your part to stand apart from the other paranormal fantasy novels in the market, or a consequence of the type of story you wanted to tell?

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Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa de la Cruz: It was deliberate. I wanted to create a new mythology but one that resonated with a story readers were familiar with (Paradise Lost), so that I could twist it to become my own but still keep its roots in something solid. When I wrote Blue Bloods, it was before Twilight was out and vampires were not the hot trend. I just wanted to do something new, but also play with vampire tropes a little.

There are many Miltonic elements in your Blue Bloods series — the fall of Lucifer, his imprisonment in Hell, the war between Heaven and Hell. How strongly were you influenced by Paradise Lost, and were there specific pieces of that epic poem that you wanted to include in your novels?

Paradise Lost was a huge influence, and it was my Eureka moment to base my vampire mythology on the story of the fallen. I love the story of Lucifer, the beautiful angel who falls to Hell, so beloved by the Almighty and then cast out of Paradise.

Why do you think the idea of fallen angels has such an enduring hold on Western literature?

I think we all relate to the story of the cast out, the outsiders, the villains. None of us are perfect, and tragic stories show us our humanity.

Vampires of Manhattan contains many diverging, yet interconnected tropes — high society and marital dramas, cop procedurals, paranormal fantasy, metaphysical interaction with the mundane. Was it difficult for you to incorporate all of these elements within the novel?

Not really. I use my books to pursue my interests, and when I was writing Vampires of Manhattan, I was very interested in all those elements, so they went in the book. It’s the fun part of being a writer, you can write about whatever pleases you.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSince ten years pass between the end of the BLUE BLOODS series and the beginning of Vampires of Manhattan, did you want to use this novel to bridge that gap for readers — either those who are returning fans or those who are picking up your work for the first time? Is that why this novel is light on dialogue, focusing more on internal monologues and reflections on the events which lead up to Oliver’s re-instatement of the Four Hundred Ball?

Yes. I definitely wanted the book to satisfy both hardcore old fans while attracting a new generation of readers. But it’s light on dialogue because I don’t ever write that much dialogue, all my books are quite light on it. It’s been a signature of my writing since high school — I remember my English teacher saying “more dialogue!” J

Chapter titles in Vampires of Manhattan are related to events within each chapter, but many also allude to pop culture references. For example: “Tainted Love” is a song from the 1960s which has been covered many times by different artists, and the chapter itself features Mimi and Kingsley Martin’s troubled relationship — though the song title could easily refer to other paired couples in the novel. Was this intended to be a fun scavenger hunt for readers?

I just like pop culture references. I’m a former journalist, and chapter headings amuse me so I put them in a lot of my books. It’s from writing heds and deks all those years at a magazine.

Immortal creatures with unlimited power and wealth can sometimes come across as self-absorbed to the point of being unlikeable and impossible for readers to relate with. Specifically, I’m thinking of Mimi’s insistence on a life of pampered luxury contrasted with Ara’s more bohemian surroundings. Depending on the character, did you want to embrace those issues in your writing and show the negative aspects of that kind of behavior, or to refute it?

I’m always fascinated by people who seem to have it all and yet don’t really have anything, and I think one of the things I often write about in my books are about how seemingly having it all materially, doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. I’ve always been interested in writing about so-called “perfect” characters who are not at all perfect inside. I think that’s why people find my Blue Bloods addictive — they seem to have it all — wealth, beauty, power — and yet they are not happy. They’re vampires and yet they’re completely human.

I really enjoyed the interactions, growing respect, and gradual partnership between Ara Scott and Edon Marrak. Will readers see more of that in the next book?

So glad you enjoyed that, it’s one of my favorite parts as well! Yes, Edon and Ara’s relationship deepens.

What books or authors do you count as influences, and why?

Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, J.K. Rowling — because I cared for the characters they created and believed in the worlds they inhabited. I wanted to write books that inspired me as much as theirs did, the first three authors whose books I read when I was a teen, and Harry Potter when I was an adult and rediscovered the pleasure of fantasy novels.

Lychee Martini

Lychee Martini

A feature of our Author Interviews is that we like to ask authors about their favorite cocktail recipes — either as they relate to the author’s creative process (as a relaxation aid while writing, for example) or something involved with their work. Are there any drinks which remind you of Vampires of Manhattan, or which you incorporated within the novel?

I can’t remember if I gave one of the characters a lychee martini, but to me, 21st century New York means a lychee martini. An exotic twist on a classic. Cold vodka, lychee juice. Slurp. Yum.

That sounds absolutely delicious!
Thanks for stopping by, Ms. de la Cruz!

Readers, comment below for a chance to win a copy of Vampires of Manhattan, out now in paperback from Hachette Books. U.S.-based addresses only, please.

 


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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L’Engle, and Philip Pullman.

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10 comments

  1. This is such an awesome giveaway! I’d love to read this one so thanks for the chance to win :)

  2. My daughter is reading a children’s book by Melissa de la Cruz. It’s called Isle of the Lost. she loves it.
    Gotta try a lychee martini soon!

  3. Sandy Ferber /

    Not to go all technical on you guys, but wouldn’t a martini also require some vermouth or something? Vodka and lychee juice just sounds like a screwdriver variant….

  4. I will be out of town most of next weekend at a conference, so this Giveaway might be delayed a few days. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten it!

  5. Amber Terry, if you live in the USA, you win a copy of Vampires in Manhatten!
    Please contact me (Marion) with your US address and I’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!

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