Marta Acosta is visiting She-Wolf Reads today. I write that very solemnly but inside, I’m squealing. You see, Acosta is one of my favorite authors. From the feisty Milagro of CASA DRACULA, to the lonely, practical Jane of DARK COMPANION, and, finally, to the geeky-awkward but wholly capable and kickass Jennifer (aka She-Hulk) of THE SHE-HULK DIARIES, Acosta never fails to write engaging heroines that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the book. Of course I was geeked when she agreed to come on the blog today.
So, ignore me while I have my fangirl moment and please welcome Marta to the blog!
SWR: I’m a longtime fan of your CASA DRACULA series and just recently read DARK COMPANION. I loved it. The tone between the two series is different but the witty, smart writing is the same. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the story and its unusual road to publication?
Hi, She-Wolf, and thanks so much for having me here! Charlotte Brontë’s JANE EYRE, which has been a favorite novel since childhood, and other gothic stories were the inspiration for DARK COMPANION. After writing comedy, I really wanted to return to a darker style. My story is a modern gothic about an abused orphan in the harsh foster care system who’s offered a full scholarship to an exclusive girls school in a wealthy enclave. She believes she’s escaped the violence and danger of the inner city, and doesn’t realize that she’s being manipulated by those more powerful.
I wrote the book ages ago, but my agent couldn’t sell it and then another agent couldn’t sell it. I think most editors were hungry for the teen paranormal romances that were the trend, but DARK COMPANION deconstructs the paranormal theme in a way that’s disturbing to many readers. They told me to forget about it and move on to other projects. I moved onto other projects, but my story was a labor of love and I couldn’t give it up.
I posted it as a free read on Scribd.com because it was important to me that people read it. When it became the top Young Adult novel on the site, I told my agent who shared the news with an interested editor. The popularity of the free read helped me get the book deal and DARK COMPANION was nominated as Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association’s YALSA committee.
SWR: I loved the gothic tone of DARK COMPANION and its Jane Eyre-esque story. The use of epigraphs at the start of each chapter was also effective at setting the tone. Did you do a lot research on Gothic literature prior to starting and what books or authors influenced you?
Originally, most chapters started with a “quote” from The Birch Grove Student Handbook and only a few of the epigraphs were taken from classic gothic literature. My editor suggested that I use more gothic quotes and I happily took them from stories I was studying.
I was influenced primarily by Brontë’s JANE EYRE and VILLETTE, Daphne DuMaurier’s REBECCA, and Barbara Michaels, who also writes as Elizabeth Peters. Her books are often called romantic suspense, but they’re an evolution of the gothic. I loved Edgar Allen Poe stories when I was young.
I’ve always been fascinated by gothic tropes: the isolated setting, a large building with mysteries, twinning of light and dark, supernatural elements, social class, blood, a vulnerable person who is being manipulated by someone with dark motives… I love the creepiness and sense of foreboding.
Eerie Victorian faery poetry, such as Charlotte Mew’s “The Changeling” also inspired the way I thought about Jane.
SWR: Don’t leave us hanging…will there be sequel to DARK COMPANION? (please!)
No, I wrote it as a stand-alone. However, I have started a gothic mystery featuring Jane’s best friend Mary Violet Holiday. I’m thinking of calling it MARY VIOLET & THE MYSTERY OF THE SILENT SONGBIRD. There’s poetry!
SWR: Masterpiece Theatre or HBO calls and they want to adapt DARK COMPANION for television. Who would you want to cast as Jane, Lucien, Mary Violet, and Jack?
These questions always perplex me. I never imagine my characters as anyone but themselves. I can see them in my imagination, but they don’t look like any celebrities. I see girls on the street who remind me of Jane, though: small, sharp-eyed girls who see everything.
SWR: Ok, THE SHE-HULK DIARIES! Please tell us how you got involved with such an iconic character?
My agent heard about the Marvel/Hyperion project and suggested me because, as she put it, “You can write chick lit in your sleep.” I was thrilled, but also nervous, because I was stepping into over three decades of canon—all written by men, by the way. Even though I was writing a humorous story, I wanted to give the character dimension, authenticity as a woman, and add my own spin.
SWR: Had you been a fan of the She-Hulk comic series before starting the book?
I wish! But as a kid, I didn’t have the money to buy comics, magazines, or books. A cousin would occasionally share whatever he had. I always grabbed any issue of MAD MAGAZINE because even as a child, I went for the laughs.
I could go to the library for free, and I devoured books. I’m a word person, and my preference is for words over images.
SWR: I just started reading THE SHE-HULK DIARIES and it has your trademark wit. How did you approach taking such an established series and making it your own?
She-Hulk is big, green, badass, and snarky, so she was a cinch for me. The challenge was giving depth and authenticity to Jennifer Walters, Shulky’s “painfully shy” human alter-ego. Jennifer’s also a top-notch attorney. How do you put those extremes together? Then I thought of a friend of mine who’s very shy and affectionate and also a complete brainiac. She’s a district attorney who would put on a Kevlar vest to interview murderers. She always speaks up for those in need.
I also considered the character of Mary Richards in the groundbreaking The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was a kind, affectionate, bright young woman who moves to the big city and develops a circle of eccentric friends.
SWR: What are the future plans for the She-Hulk series. Is this the first of many?
Let’s see how this one does first! I’m hoping readers will really enjoy this prose venture and want more.
SWR: Tell us about your upcoming projects.
I’m working on the Mary Violet young adult mystery and also another more serious project for Hyperion Books. I’m also venturing into self-publishing and have new ebook editions of my CASA DRACULA novels and NANCY’S THEORY OF STYLE, a romantic comedy set in San Francisco.
I’m also about to self-publish a guide on how to write a query letter. Aspiring writers often ask me to review their queries, and I thought there was a need for basic, straight-shooting information on the topic.
SWR: What was the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend?
I read an advance copy of the delightfully funny THE ROSIE PROJECT (to be released in October) by Graeme Simsion. It’s an odd couple love story and very sweet in the best way. I think it will be a hit with fans of The Big Bang Theory.
SWR: Finally, I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire series in which every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” What is the Marta Acosta motto?
Since I’ve been a writer, my motto is “Let the other person pick up the check.”
SWR: Thank you so much for the interview!
Thank you again, She-Wolf, for having me here to talk about my books!
Check out DARK COMPANION, which releases in paperback today, and THE SHE-HULK DIARIES, Marta’s take on the iconic Marvel heroine which also releases today. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below!
Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true.
The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?
As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove and what she would risk to stay there..because even the brightest people make terrible decisions when they are offered the things they desire most.
CURRENT STATUS: No job, no boyfriend, no permanent place to live, no car, and most of my clothes are held together with staples and duct tape. Bank account almost wiped out. Many of my former associates have expressed a desire that I never darken their doorways again for legal and financial reasons.
She-Hulk got us got us kicked out of the Avengers Mansion. People keep posting videos online of her New Year’s Eve shenanigans: twirling, flaming telephone poles in Times Square, climbing the Empire State Building while dangling Anderson Cooper…
Saying there are two sides to Jennifer Walters’s personality is an understatement. When she hasn’t morphed into a 650-pound, crime-fighting, hard-partying superhero, she’s a single lawyer trying to get her act together. Hilarious and action-packed, The She-Hulk Diaries tells her story, as she juggles her intense legal career by day with battling villains and saving the world by night. Maybe bad guys will stop trying to destroy the planet so she can have a real social life and even meet a guy who isn’t trying to take over the universe.
Marta has been very generous in offering two giveaways today! Fill in the Rafflecopter widgets to enter.