Name sound familiar? It should. Nancy has made a name for herself in Silhouette Nocturne as well as written many books in these settings: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Smallville and you'll find the names of Jeff Mariotte and Chris Golden right alongside hers for many of those. She's also delved into the highly acclaimed TNT series, Saving Grace. To say she enjoys scary and paranormal stuff would be an understatement, as you'll learn in my interview with her.
The end of these shows definitely didn't stop her from writing. She put her talents to use with her friend and co-author, Debbie Viguie in creating some very interesting and magical characters in their Wicked series, which recently had its movie rights purchased by Dreamworks, so hopefully we see those movies hit soon! Congratulations to both you and Debbie for the success of your series!
Nancy continues to scare in her Possessions series. Possessions is currently out now and book 2 in the series, The Evil Within, is scheduled for release in June 2010!
Possessions is just what it sounds, a story about demons possessing humans. While this might seem like a familiar tale, these demons are anything but that, especially to Lindsay, the girl they are trying to kill! Yes, not one demon, but a clique of them!
ME: Do you make resolutions for the New Year? Why or why not? If so, please share one or more of them with us!
NANCY: This year, I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution. I was too busy watching my daughter play Disney World-opoly at a party to remember to make a resolution. Plus, there was California onion dip and Ruffles potato chips—the food of the gods. Verily.
One year, though, I did resolve to reread the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I finished plowing through them just before midnight on the following December 31st!
ME: Now that the busy holiday time is over, what do you do to recharge?
NANCY: On the day after Christmas, I took my daughter and our Corgi, Panda, to a cabin in the snow. We took walks, sledded, made moccasins, and watched lots of episodes of Hustle, a British series about a “family” of con artists who play the long con. There were Corgis in one episode, and a big Bollywood dance number in another. It’s a great show.
ME: Do you have any holiday memories from 2009 that you would like to share with us?
NANCY: This was one of the best holiday seasons in my life. I took time to really do things with my daughter. We had a party for her friends. We made six gingerbread houses to give away as gifts. We went to Disneyland (twice!) to see the decorations. We baked mounds and mounds of cookies and watched lots of Christmas movies, including We’re No Angels with Humphrey Bogart and my hero Basil Rathbone (who was the villain.) And of course, the inspiring A Christmas Story as well as the equally inspiring Die Hard. (Inspiring to me, anyway, since Alan Rickman is in it.) We hung our Nightmare Before Christmas decorations and trimmed our black Christmas tree with shiny bats and spiders. And our “regular” tree was the most beautiful one we had ever had. Outside, we put up our version of a Victorian graveyard, complete with carolers and headstones for Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge.
ME: What area of the country/world are you from? What are the average temperatures where you are? What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today? What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?
NANCY: I live in Southern California, where it’s usually about seventy degrees most of the time. We just had a week of severe storms, resulting in flashflood warnings and mudslides. So we all traded in our bikinis and board shorts for galoshes. The most important thing to wear around here is sunscreen. And a hat. For us, “formal” means “shoes.”
ME: Do you have any favorite outside hobbies? Can you perform any of these hobbies right now? If not, why not, and is weather a factor?
NANCY: I love to walk my Corgi and except for our week of rain, it’s usually not a problem. My daughter and I are going to start him on the track to competitive obedience, and we’re getting another Corgi in March. We’re very excited about that!
ME: Do you prefer your hot tub inside the house or outside the house? Why?
NANCY: I’ll take my hot tub anywhere I can get inside one. I just finished teaching in Maine for two weeks, and there was a Jacuzzi bathtub in my hotel bathroom—and a fireplace in the bedroom. I didn’t want to leave, ever.
One summer, my daughter and I checked into a motel in Spokane, after visiting our cousin. The only room available was the honeymoon suite. We had a two-person Jacuzzi in the bedroom facing the TV. It was boiling hot in Spokane, so we filled the tub up with cold water, poured the little motel shampoo in it to make bubbles, broke out some cans of ginger ale, and watched a Mythbusters marathon all day.
ME: If you could be any character/creature, who/what would it be and why?
NANCY: I would be a Corgi, so I could be fussed over all day long. On Midsummer’s Eve, the fairies ride the Corgis, who are their traditional mounts. You can buy very beautiful velvet saddles on Etsy and I would have a purple one, since purple is my favorite color.
Now, let’s get to your writing:
ME: Why YA Fiction? What was the draw for you?
NANCY: I’ve written middle grade, young adult, and “adult” fiction (which sounds suspicious, doesn’t it?!) My daughter is a young adult, so it’s very exciting to be writing books that she and her friends can read. She’s an author in her own right (pun, sorry) and we have published two short stories together. My books are in her school library, which makes me the coolest of the cool. I ROCK!
ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
NANCY: Um, “good”? That’s a hard question. It’s a cliché to say “honest” but I do try to be honest. Or authentic. I try to stay in deep emotion and let my readers know that they’re not alone if they’re feeling sad, or scared, or overjoyed.
ME: Do the holidays disrupt your writing schedule? If so, how tough is it to get yourself back in writing mode and what have you found that seems to help?
NANCY: YES, the holidays definitely disrupt my writing schedule. My daughter is on break then, and I don’t want to miss a minute of the fun we have together. I try to write a little every day and to do things I can multitask, such as organizing papers, light research reading, etc. The catch is that a lot of times, editors are trying to get projects in so they can read them over the holidays. Editors work so hard. If I could get Jacuzzis installed in their offices, I would. They deserve them.
When it’s time to get back to work, I’m usually ready because I miss the intensity (and the quiet) of long stretches of work. It also takes my mind off my sadness that my daughter is back in school.
ME: Do you prefer hot chocolate with marshmallows or whipped cream? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
NANCY: Whipped cream, because there is gelatin in marshmallows, which is gross. I really should resume a vegetarian diet. I have a very complicated and uncertain relationship with meat. I recently treated myself to room service at a hotel that specializes in locally grown food. I had driven past a barn loaded with cows. I ordered the beef brochette, and got to thinking about the cows, and I couldn’t eat it. I had very expensive rice that night!
This kind of rampant anxiety about gross things shows in my work. I’m sure of it.
ME: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one pouring the soap in the Jacuzzi?
NANCY: My muse waits for me to ask her for help, and then she really delivers. Sometimes she’s lollygagging in the Jacuzzi but if I whine enough, she’ll dry off and come help me. If we both get stuck, then I take a bath (or a shower) and usually one of us can come up with the solution.
When I was writing WICKED, of course I had my fantastic coauthor, Debbie Viguie, with whom I am working again, on CRUSADE. It’s great because we can trade being stuck. Debbie and I had a great time in the Disneyland Hotel Jacuzzi, by the way, at the end of our WICKED author tour. We are both Disneyland freaks, and we’ve met up there a few times—a pretty neat trick, since she currently lives in Hawaii!
For POSSESSIONS, which is my YA horror series for Razorbill, my muse is often too scared to help me. This is because I watch a horror movie every morning, then lock myself in a small, dark bedroom, and work in a near-constant state of fear. She’s not so keen on that, and I’m often on my own. During these times of abandonment, she usually goes off to help someone who is more well-adjusted.
ME: What creature/character did you have the most fun creating and why?
NANCY: In WICKED, it was Holly. I identified with her because she is a reluctant leader. I’ve been in that position—especially in Girl Scouts. (A little GS humor there. In reality, my troop was awesome. You haven’t lived until your troop cooks an entire meal of Tanzanian specialties and puts on an evening presentation about Tanzania in a youth hostel. Seriously. It was incredible.)
In POSSESSIONS, Lindsay, since, like her, I often doubt my sanity and don’t like to look in mirrors at night. Or first thing in the morning, come to think of it.
In CRUSADE, it’s Antonio. I don’t want to give too much away but he’s named in honor of Antonio Banderas, and in my opinion, if Antonio Banderas doesn’t make your heart beat faster, you haven’t got a pulse. I can’t wait for the new Shrek movie. Puss in Boots is my main man.
ME: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why? Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
NANCY: Antonio, because he’s so sexy. I would just swoon. I would never, ever want to meet Mandy Winters, the queen bee in POSSESSIONS, because she’s just too twisted and bizarre. And mean as a snake. Someone should drown her. Oh, wait…
But I can’t end on that note. The best, most fun character I’ve ever written about was Lightning Merriemouse-Jones, named after my daughter’s mouse, now sadly in mouse heaven. We wrote about her together, and those are memories most dear.
Be on the look out for the next book in her Possessions series, The Evil Within! [I already like the new look, in fact, you just might see a very different and very cool cover for Possessions at your local library or bookstore!]
This is POSSESSIONS: THE EVIL WITHIN,which will be out in June of this year.
It’s about Lindsay, a “regular girl” who has escaped her messed-up life and the humiliation of a very public nervous breakdown….to Marlwood, a posh boarding school up high in the snowy mountains of Northern California. The mean girls are not mean, they’re possessed…and so is Lindsay. She has to fight not only for her life, but her soul,while the terrible secrets about what went on there a hundred years ago still haunt—and torment--the living.
To those who walk in darkness.
There is light. I promise.
October: The Search
All our possessions are as nothing compared to health, strength,
and a clear conscience.
and a clear conscience.
The man who seeks revenge digs two graves.
— Ken Kesey,
Sometimes a Great Notion
Tibetan prayer beads
Mem’s UCSD sweatshirt
used black leather boho bag (thrift shop in Poway)
Converse high-tops (from Target)
Dad’s socks (too big, but they’re his)
tattered jeans (origin forgotten)
tortoiseshell headband (plastic)
five single-subject notebooks
regulation Marlwood Academy planner
six #2 pencils, one missing eraser (panic attack)
cell phone (no bars, no reception here AT ALL)
Jason’s St. Christopher medal (thanks, Cuz!)
me, Lindsay 2.0 (or so I hope)
haunted by: my past
listening to: my heartbeat—too fast again! don’t forget to
mood: frozen to death (not a mood?!)
is there anything they DON’T have???
haunted by: not seeing any haunting
listening to: each other
mood: excited? they can pay for any mood they want.
Fog had crawled up the mountain, like a wounded animal on pine-tree claws, and bled all over the campus. I stopped and squinted at my map with its handy printed stats—a hundred developed acres that included hiking paths and bike trails; thirty buildings, including a brick gym with a plaster frieze, which really needed updating, of ancient Greek athletes (male)—who could also have used some underwear, if I remembered the picture correctly.
The campus was rolling in white mist, and I wasn’t sure of the way to the classrooms, which were clustered on the north side of the campus. I had thought there was a shortcut through Academy Quad, my quad, but it was hard to be sure when I couldn’t see more than ten feet ahead of myself.
Then a stiff wind blew, thinning the fog. Sure enough, my building loomed on top of the small hill to my left. Grose was a creaky, scary-looking rectangle made out of brick, with a slate roof. Another dorm, Jessel, crouched at the bottom of the hill like it was waiting to pounce. It was three stories tall with a slight-L-shape, where a back porch jutted out like a hunchback.
Jessel was prettier than Grose. It had towering stone columns on either side of its brightly painted red front door, and four turret rooms, one on each corner, covered in slate shingles. The windows of the turrets were arched, completing the castle-tower effect.
Everyone else in both Grose and Jessel had already movedin, made friends, and started right on schedule—September 5th. I couldn’t believe they’d let me start so late. Maybe nervous breakdowns came with benefits. I was here to reinvent myself in a major way. No one here knew I had gone bonkers. No one here knew me at all. I could be anyone—Lindsay Anne Cavanaugh 2.0. I really hoped I would like the remix better. I was optimistic; I had started out well as a person—had normal friends, liked animals, did pretty well in school. I used to kick butt on the cello. Okay,
my mom died. And Jane Taylor seduced my boyfriend. In our house. On the throw I knitted for my mom in the hospital.
And yeah, I’d pretended I didn’t care. I’d acted like it was no big deal. Because I wanted to be one of Jane’s cool chicks.
That was called cognitive dissonance, when you wanted two opposing things—such as self-respect and popularity. A broken heart and a shot at riding in Jane’s limo to Homecoming.
A second chance and all my insecurities begging me to get the heck out of here. . . .
Sometimes, wanting those two opposing things made you fracture, like two tectonic plates crashing together beneath the surface of the ocean.
“So what do you think, Botox? Or a deal with the Devil? I
heard Ehrlenbach’s sixty-eight.” A girl’s voice wafted out of the
billows of horror-movie white. I placed her at maybe twenty
yards to my right—my Jessel side, where a private hedge hid
their front yard from view. Dr. Ehrlenbach was our headmistress,
and I had yet to meet her.
“Did you spend your summer in rehab? No one does Botox
anymore,” someone else shot back. “But if she’s really that old,
my money’s on the Devil. My dad would do her in a heartbeat.
I’ve heard him say so. All right, blindfold her.”
I blinked. Slowed. Waited to hear more.
“That’s too tight. Ow,” a third voice protested.
“You know, Keeks, you don’t have to do this,” the second voice said, but there was a silent but you’d better tacked on the end, sharpened with the familiar edge of an accomplished bitch. I knew then and there that I was eavesdropping not only on a mean girl, but a leader of same—a queen bee. I was an expert on queen bees. Unfortunately.
Nothing to see here, Lindsay, I told myself, as my face prickled
from memories and apprehension. Move it along. Even better,
They could have their fun. I was not there to have fun of any kind, especially that kind.
“I’m not so sure about this.” That was Keeks again.
“Tie her hands.” Her Majesty.
“Maybe we’d better wait.” The first girl I’d heard. Not in charge.
“Just do it, Lara. Oh, forget it. Give me the rope and—”
“God, Mandy, chill. I’m on it.”
Mandy. How typical. I wondered if Mandy was half as mean as Jane; and if she was, I pitied Lara just for being there almost as much as I pitied Keeks, whoever she was, for agreeing to be blindfolded and tied up in the middle of a fog bank when they
should be in class. Obviously, Keeks had to prove herself to get into their exclusive little club. So not worth it.
By then I was at the hedge. Just a peek, I told myself, just to make sure she’s okay.
The privet leaves were wet and small, covering branches that grew together as dense as an actual fence. I smelled wet earth and my own sugar-free cinnamon gum. Wind toyed with my crazed ringlets as I raised myself up on my tiptoes in an attempt to peer out of a thinned-out space above my head. I’m only five-foot-two, and it was out of my reach. I crept to my left, still unable to see anything.
“Let’s get started. Breathe in, breathe out, center. We gather to welcome you. Kiyoko, let go, let go of yourself, and become one of us.” Nervous laughter drifted from a thinned section in the hedge, a circle of broken branch endings that looked as if someone had clipped them, like wire cutters on a chain-link fence. The opening emitted fog—as if it were breathing— and it creeped me out. I hugged my UCSD sweatshirt around myself as I moved in quietly and peered through. My high-tops
sank into mud.
“Come to me, come to me,” Mandy urged.
The fog rolled and churned; then I saw them. Two girls flanked a third, who was blindfolded. The tallest wore her light, nearly white-blonde hair in a messy bun. She had to be Mandy. Her full lips were curved in a smile I knew well—calculating,
cruel, enjoying the distress of her victim.
Maybe-Mandy’s neck was fashion-model long, and she was wearing glittering diamond earrings as big as pencil erasers. I assumed they were real. Her clothes were so fine—a long black coat hung open, revealing a knee-length black cashmere sweater-dress over black pencil-leg woolen trousers above highheeled boots—and I saw a thick gold bangle around her wrist as she smoothed a wisp of hair away from her cheek. Everything looked designer and real.
“Become one of us,” Mandy said again, her voice papery, and she exhaled, sending condensed breath all over the blindfolded girl’s face.
“Become one of us,” the other girl—Lara—chanted. She was grinning like a coyote that had stumbled on a nest of baby rabbits. Her emerald eyes (definitely contacts) gleamed as Kiyoko stood statue-still. Lara was a classic redhead with ivory
skin and a few cute freckles, her hair short and her clothes tasteful but boho—a man’s plaid suit jacket in olive green and chocolate-brown, an extra-long white shirt, and the skinniest of skinny dark jeans.
Standing blindfolded in the center, Kiyoko’s hands were tied behind her back, which was the part that made me extrauneasy for her. It was going a little too far.
Kiyoko was rail-thin, the kind of thin that was too thin even for a model, and black silky hair cascaded over her shoulders. A gorgeous silvery sweater grazed the thighs of her gray jeans, but it hung too loose on her. Her legs were like sticks. She was chewing her lower lip; her golden-hued features displayed her concentration and eagerness.
“Become one of us,” Mandy and Lara whispered together, their breaths spiraling up toward the sky.
Fog rushed all around me, wrapping me up in cold sheets of blank whiteness, and I couldn’t see a thing. The chill seeped through my clothes straight through to my bones, and I shivered, hard. It felt as if the cold were creeping under my hair,
straight into my brain.
I shuddered, and for a few seconds, I couldn’t even think.
For a quick moment, I thought I smelled . . . smoke? Then the sensation passed. Another strong wind whipped through the fog and thinned it out again—just as Mandy and Lara both stiffened and quickly inhaled. Their faces went slack, with
their eyes still open.
I wondered if they were having some kind of infectious seizure. I waited for them to exhale, but it wasn’t happening. Then I realized I was holding my breath, too, and forced myself to let it out. I felt shaky and weird.
I almost called out to see if they needed help. Before I went nuts, I had done some lifeguarding, and I was still certified in CPR.
Slowly, Mandy turned her head in my direction, as if she knew I was there. Probably not a good thing, spying. Before I realized what I was doing, I stepped to the right, where the branches grew closer together, blocking her view, although I
could still see her sick little game.
Mandy’s forehead creased in apparent frustration. I squinted as more fog rolled between us; when it wafted out of the way, her eyes looked completely black. No pupils. No white. No color. Just black.
Whoa, how high was she?
“Number Three,” she intoned, and her voice sounded different.
“Come to me.” Higher, shriller, with a little Southern accent. Her laugh was high-pitched, and a tad OOC . . .
“Number three, come to me,” Lara added, and her voice didn’t sound the same either. Maybe a little lower . . . meaner . . .
“I’m here,” Kiyoko murmured. She sounded unsure, more like she wanted to please them than anything else.
A deep chill ran through me, the fog moist and cold on my face. What exactly was I witnessing?
Then someone tapped me on the back, and I gasped and whirled around.