Our interview today is with Liz DeJesus the author of First Frost. Before we get to the interview a brief book description: For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.” Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist. She’s about to find out how wrong she is.
Interview with Liz DeJesus
1) What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
My novel First Frost takes place mostly in two places: the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts and Everafter. The museum is run by Rose and Bianca Frost. The building is home to a lot of the items that you would find in popular fairy tales. Some of the items on display are Snow White’s poisoned apple, Cinderella’s glass slipper, Rumplestiltskin’s spinning wheel…among other items. And Everafter is the magical land where all of the fairy tales took place. It’s imaginary, so the reader quickly figures out that anything can happen. And that broadens the scope of the story in every way. Even though the museum is in the ‘real world’ there is a whimsical nature to it that lets you know that you are surrounded by magic.
2) What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader?
Honestly, I just wanted to tell a fun story and entertain the reader. But some of the themes that come across in the book are the power of friendship, love and magic. Bianca is very good friends with her mother, which is similar to the relationship I have with my mom. Ming, her best friend, also follows her to Everafter to rescue her mother from an evil witch named Lenore.
I also think that the reader watches Bianca grow up and mature as the story moves along. She goes from being a nice, smart, easy going teenager to a brave, decisive young woman. (Granted she’s still nice, but as I continue writing for her she has much more bite this time around which makes her a kickass character).
3) Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
I think Bianca and Ming are totally believable. I wrote Prince Ferdinand and Terrance to be a little bit more proper due to the fact that they’re in Everafter and it’s still kind of stuck in the 1800’s. But the prince was so much fun to write. Take every stereotype about princes that you can think of and you have Prince Ferdinand. And Terrance (Bianca’s love interest) is sort of the opposite because he’s very reserved, calm and thoughtful.
I can’t relate to their predicaments because this is a fantasy novel after all, but I can relate to the relationship Bianca has with her mother and with Ming. I have the same snarky back and forth with some of my friends. Ming is a combination of all my friends and everything that makes them awesome. I’m very lucky in that aspect.
Bianca is a little bit of me (she has my sense of humor…which is a self-defense mechanism and she uses it the same way I do) and a little bit of who I think Snow White would be if she were in the modern world. But Bianca is who I wanted to be when I was seventeen. I was extremely shy, introverted and very nerdy. It’s gotten better now that I’m older.
4) How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
Bianca’s change begins when her mother is kidnapped by Lenore. She’s completely alone and that terrifies her to no end. The thought of being an orphan and not knowing what will happen to her without her mother’s protection and guidance is what gets her moving and ready to take action. From there, she changes as the story progresses.
5) In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view?
I’m not sure how to answer this question. All I wanted to do was write a fun and entertaining story. I wanted to create a safe place where anyone can escape to, that’s what books are supposed to do. At least that’s what they’ve always done for me.
6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
The scenes where Rose gets tortured by Lenore made me uncomfortable. Rose reminds me a lot of my mom so those parts were tough for me to write.
7. Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
I got the idea for First Frost a couple of years ago while watching a commercial for a local children’s museum. My first thought was ‘Yay! Someplace close by that I can take my son every once in a while.’. My next thought was ‘I wish they had themed museums, like a pirate museum or a fairy tale museum. Because kids are usually into different things.’ And once the idea of a fairy tale museum hit me, it refused to let me go. I remember I was giving my son his bottle at the time and my notebook was on the other end of the couch. It may as well have been a million miles away. My son was falling asleep in my arms and I didn’t want to wake him up so I kept repeating that idea to myself over and over again so I wouldn’t forget. I finally managed to get my son to take a nap and I dove straight for my notebook and wrote a few ideas for the story.
I really had to stop and ask myself:
What’s in the museum?
Why is all this stuff there?
Who works there? Why?
Are any of the items real?
After I figured out some of those answers the story pretty much wrote itself.
8) What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
I started out by reading fairy tale books by The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault. Then I read articles on castles and bears. Read books on spells (no one was turned into a toad…I promise), herbs, and I’m always reading books and magazines on writing.
9. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outline or some other method?
Since I’m a stay at home mom (two boys, one is 3 ½ years old and the other is 11 months old) it’s very difficult for me to have a routine. I basically write when the kids are napping or when they’re playing peacefully in the living room. I grab my notebook and my pen and write until one of my kids needs me (or slaps the pen out of my hands…which is happening more and more every day). But sometimes I do manage to get out of the house and I’ll escape to Panera and write for a couple of hours.
10. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
The internet is a HUGE distraction. Especially Facebook. I’ve had to disconnect myself from my WiFi in order to focus solely on writing. As for writer’s block? I don’t have the luxury of not writing when I have free time. Any moment that I have to myself I’m writing or editing or doing something to promote my book. When I don’t feel like writing I usually doodle until things start looking like words and then I get back into the swing of things. The only time I’m not writing is when I finally finish writing a novel and I give myself a week to celebrate and recover. Then I jump back into it because I’m always working on something, I always have an idea for a story.
11. Favorite book from childhood.
The Curious Clubhouse by Christine Govan
12. What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
I can see parts of my desk so it’s not completely cluttered. J But I have a pile of papers, books, CD’s a day planner and The Writer’s Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card and the Editors at Writer’s Digest. I have a Snow White doll and a Katchoo action figure (from Strangers in Paradise) that I use as visual inspiration. I also have a Dr. Seuss wall calendar and a pen and pencil Christmas ornament that my mom gave me.
About the Author:
Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico. She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi’er Publishing, October 2007), The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 2011) and First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 2012). Liz is currently working on a new novel.
For more information about the author please visit her website http://lizdejesus.webs.com/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/Liz_