Quotes from the teen queen

20 September 2010

I have just completed my article on young adult literature, so once its published, I’ll post it on my blog in its entirety. But before that, I wanted to post the leftover bits of the interview I had with young adult novelist extraordinaire, L.J. Smith.

Firstly, I’d like to say that L.J. Smith is an influence to me, my hero, and really one of the coolest writers alive. She’s also really nice. When I sent through some questions to her literary agent, Smith replied personally, adding a sweet little note at the top, just for me.

A little bit of history.
L.J. Smith has been writing teen fiction since 1987, which means she has more than 30 books under her belt. She isn’t done yet. Night World: Strange Fate is scheduled for 2011, plus there’s another Vampire Diaries trilogy on the cards.

As a teen, I didn’t read much youth lit. (These were the days before Harry Potter and Twilight) One series that I did read (over and over again) was Smith’s Night World series. In the Night World the soulmate principle dictates that each person has just one other in the world that they are meant to be with. If that person happens to be a vampire, then so be it. As a teen, who had just discovered the opposite sex for the first time, I was hooked.

I was completely obsessed with Ash Redfern, the bad boy vampire hellbent on catching out his human-loving cousins, and making them pay dearly for their misconduct. That is, until he meets feisty Mary-Lynette.

At 28, I rediscovered Smith, this time through her Vampire Diaries series, which has also been adapted into a hit television series. Vampire brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore are both after the same girl, high school student Elena Gilbert. Stefan is the good guy, while Damon is very very bad. It makes for highly tantalising reading.

Smith says she enjoys creating strong female characters, but even more so, the bad boys, although she maintains they are not completely bad. “These bad boys are playful creatures, who, despite all the evil that they perpetrate, enjoy their kind of life to the fullest and are always looking for new kicks,” says Smith. “This makes them boys I would never want my niece to run into, but deliciously fun to write.”

According to Smith, these guys can say exactly what they want, break hearts, mess with other characters’ minds, and generally wreak havoc all around them, while they sit in they eye of the tornado unaffected. The author isn’t sure why exactly, but she can always write from their point of view.

So what makes a bad boy? Smith explains, “My bad boys cannot have done something so evil that it is completely irredeemable-like being a Nazi SS officer, for example. This puts them beyond the pale. They must also be attractive in some way—whether physical or even philosophical. The Beast in Beauty and the Beast is a good example of the latter.”

She says these characters must also have redeeming qualities. After all, what’s the use of a bad boy if he can’t change? “They must do something to stir our sympathy. Every girl or woman reading about a bad boy must feel that she could change him with the simple offering of her love.”

She uses Ash from Night World as an example. “He goes from being a male chauvinist who has crossed the United States to either catch or kill his three sisters who have broken Night World law. But as soon as he meets Mary-Lynnette, his soulmate, all kinds of sparks fly. The book ends with Ash going off to atone for the evil he’s done in the past, while Mary-Lynnette waits to see if he can really change himself so radically for her sake,” she says.

To read more of my interview with this utterly fabulous writer, stay posted for the full article. In the meantime, grab a copy of Night World for some utterly addictive vampire romance.

Love Sally

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