A little while ago I was given the incredible opportunity to interview three amazing authors. This is the first of those interviews with Ashley Poston, author of Geekerella, The Princess and the Fangirl and Heart of Iron (with sequels on the horizon) and Kristina Perez author of Sweet Black Waves, Wild Savage Stars and The Tesla Legacy. I cannot begin to explain how much fun I had chatting with these two lovely people.
Firstly, a huge thank you to you both for allowing me to interview you and pick your brains a little. Let's get straight into it?
How do you both go about crafting your characters? They are all so well rounded and feel like real people. If I'm honest I'd just like to be friends with them.
Ashley: For me, it's a bunch of trial and error because I know how I want a story to feel and I know how I want certain characters to act. For Geekerella, I wanted Elle to be not like the normal Cinderella type character. She's not very meek, she's very outgoing, she wants to save herself, basically. I didn't want Darien to be the stuck up actor that's in everrrrry single retelling of Cinderella that features famous people, so I was like "I'm gonna make a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor." I always sort my characters into houses as it helps me craft them better and I knew for The Princess and the Fangirl I didn't want Jess to be unlikeable but I wanted her to have a lot of different experiences than Imogen who is incredibly likeable because she is just like anyone who has ever fangirled over anything and when you read her you're like "YES HER, I KNOW HER I KNOW WHAT THIS IS LIKE." Then Jess is like "I don't really know what it's like to like a fandom." It's a lot of drafting.
Kristina: I think I'm the crazy plotter and I tend to think of like what is the formative thing that happens in each character's childhood and how would that work through the story as I think that happens to us when we're kids and helps form our personalities. Even if it doesn't make it onto the page I have a childhood anecdote for each of them which sometimes are sad and sometimes they're good. (Me: Which you can use as bonus material!)
Oooo, going off what you said about Harry Potter, Ashley, what fandom do you both think your characters would be in if they were in our world?
Ashley: Jax and Robb would always critique the Great British Baking Show, they would be relentless and they'd love it so much. I know Ana would probably like Firefly, she'd be really into it and Star Trek! Di probably wouldn't be a part 0f many TV or film fandoms he'd be more of like Neil deGrasse Tyson and very 'intellectual' fandoms.
Kristina: Lucy from the Tesla Legacy is a very precocious scientist so she would definitely like any of the space operas like Battlestar Galactica and she would probably be hanging out with Chief trying to fix things going wrong on the ship whilst the cylons were attacking.
I love The Great British Bakeoff! This is definitely my biggest fangirl moment, getting to meet yourselves. What has been your biggest fangirl moment?
Kristina: I have a really embarrassing story, I met Ethan Hawke when he was in his Reality Bites phase in New York and I just fangirled all over him coming out of the show he was doing on Broadway. He was very sweet and took a picture with fourteen year old me and then I had to wait a month until all of the film had been used to get it developed, this was 1994, then my mom was like "Who is this strange man you took a photo of and why is he with you?" I was like "Mom, that's Ethan Hawke!" and I blew it up and put it on my wall. That was my fangirl moment.
Ashley: That is amazing! When I was living in New York I used to write in a coffee shop near Union Square all the time and I think it was on a weekday, I went in and sat down and there was a guy sitting behind me and we were typing, just in our own worlds, it was a really good writing day. Then a barista drops a cup and you know, you just have to look real quick and then go back to whatever you're doing. So I jumped, looked and then went back to my screen but the guy was still looking and I managed to see him out of the corner of my eye and I was like "No that can't be him" because he had a hat on and I was still like "No it can't be." So I went to google, I pulled up google on my laptop and I typed in Zac Efron and the image search and I hit enter and I saw him look over at my screen, then at me slowly close his laptop and he just left.
Me: That is brilliant. It certainly makes me feel better about mine.
Ashley: What was yours?
Me: It was the first time I'd met one of my favourite authors...Victoria Schwab and I just word vomited at her. I tried to say something along the lines of I love your books and your writing so much, they make everyone feel seen and it just came out as one long sound. Which she smiled at and very politely said thank you whilst nervously looking at the girl stood in front of her with crazy eyes.
The worlds that you've created are so so rich, similar to your characters, how do you go about remembering all the rules and details you put into them?
Ashley: For me, before writing Geekerella I knew I wanted to create an organic fandom, I wanted to create a TV show, and I knew what kind of TV show. I opened up an excel spreadsheet and I decided on 54 episodes because Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is 54 episodes and that's one of my favourite animes (Me: mine too). So I was like I have to do 54 so I did and I labelled out each of the episodes and I plotted each episode because Starfield is cannon in syndication meaning any episode can be aired whenever and don't need to be aired in a particular order. I had to craft every single story to be part of itself but also part of a bigger cannon, a bigger story and it took a loooong time. I still have the spreadsheet and my publisher was like "Can we use that for something?" and I was like "Nooooo." It's terrible, there are entire episodes where nothing happens but then for Princess and the Fangirl I got to bring in a villain I wrote into one of the episodes as a villain for the second movie basically. That's General Sond and he has an even bigger role in the third book coming out, which is a Beauty and the Beast retelling.
Kristina: For The Sweet Black Waves world which is a Tristain and Isolde retelling I went back and looked at all of the different medieval versions of it and figured out which were the recurring episodes and how they would look from my main character's point of view. She's the Lady's maid who is usually just a very minor secondary character. I had a lot of source material to work with then I created a framework to keep everything straight.
Coming to the few final questions, one I always love to ask is what do you want to see next from the YA world? Are there any themes or issues you'd like to see explored more?
Kristina: I think more women in STEM, for sure. More science books, more diverse fantasies from all over the world and more f/f pairings.
Ashley: I want to see more fandom books but I want to see them from diverse authors. I want to see a broader range for fangirl and fanboy books and books that involve geek culture because it's really different depending on how you're raised and where you're from. I want to see more voices in the mix.
A few little quick fire questions to finish:
Ashley: Peanut Butter.
Kristina: Veal Parmesan.
Ashley: Beauty and the Beast, the animated one.
Kristina: Maybe, the Neverending Story.
Night or day? Are you a night owl or an early bird?
Summer or winter?
Ashley: Winter night at Disney world in the magic kingdom. (Kristina: Very specific!)
What are you currently reading?
Kristina: I really enjoyed Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan.
And that's it for this interview, thank you both for your wonderful and insightful answers and for all the giggles.
A huge thank you to Waterstones Manchester Deansgate for hosting the event and allowing me to interview these two brilliant authors.
Have you read either of their books?
What did you think?
Thank you for reading,