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Kids and Teen Blog

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The Mother-Daughter Duo behind the House of Night Series

by Alisha
Fiction + Science Fiction and Fantasy + YA Fiction / October 29, 2014

Jennifer Tammy is a Canadian psychologist and Montessori educator who blogs at Study at Home Mama and In the Kids' Kitchen. In the following interview she speaks with P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, the dynamic mother-daughter duo behind the internationally bestselling House of Night series. 

Everyone must be curious how a mother-daughter team makes it work. Can you describe your working and creative dynamic together?

PC Cast: Writing is usually such a solitary job that it's nice to have someone in it with me. I write the entire first draft, and then send it to Kristin for her to go through. It makes me feel like I can relax and write, knowing she has my back. Believe me, she'll let me know if I've messed up and made Zoey sound 40-something! I guess the down side would be that she's the only person in the world who can tell me (and has), "No, Mom. You have to change it 'cause that sucks."

KC Cast: Writing with Mom is great because for once in my life I get to tell her she's wrong! I serve mainly as her teen voice editor. During the first couple books, we tried to split up the chapters but realized very quickly that it wasn't working. So, she will write the first draft of the whole book and then I go through and fill in gaps she's left for me, edit, and I also cut parts out—but don't tell her I said that.

PC: We do some brainstorming, and then I write the first draft. It's hard for me. I want to call her and talk to her about it sometimes, but she hasn't read up to where I am. I used to send her pieces of it, but I revise constantly. So what I will have sent her before might have completely changed. So that didn't work. When I get done, I'll send it to her. I'll talk to her in the manuscript sometimes. Then she goes through it and fills in the blanks and answers the questions. She makes sure I'm being succinct enough because I tend to do too much description. So she'll write these little bubbles to me. Then she sends the manuscript to me and I see what changes she's made. I re-read it carefully to make sure she's not messing up any of my dominoes, because I have a much better idea of where I'm going than she does. When I'm done, we send it off.

 

When did you start creatively collaborating together?

PC: I brought Kristin in while I was writing the first three chapters of Marked. I kept stumbling over silly little things, like specific slang that I thought I knew, but found out once I started writing about teenagers that MY deeply buried inner teen from the 70s kept trying to resurface and butt in with her slang! Kristin keeps me straight about that. She also says she keeps Zoey from "sounding like a 40-something disgruntled school teacher."

 

The "House of Night" series is incredibly prolific, how did you stay inspired? Did you know ahead of time that you'd end up writing twelve titles in this series?

PC: No! When I began writing Marked I envisioned a trilogy, but by the time I was in the middle of Betrayed (book 2 of the series) I knew I had something much larger. Thankfully, book 3, Chosen, debuted #2 on the New York Times best seller list, and at that time my publisher gave me the go-ahead to expand the world and follow the plot wherever it might lead me.

 

Your books have a really unique premise when it comes to vampyre literature; how do you view your series alongside (or in comparison to) the other books in this genre?

PC: My world is the only one that is based around a matriarchal belief system. The message of empowering young women really resonates with teenagers. Also, I try hard to keep the kids real, which means that quite often I push the envelope with the themes I tackle in the books, and while that can be difficult it also reaches my audience and means a lot to them.

When I decided to write a vampire series I focused on creating a new mythos for my world. Right away I knew I would make it matriarchal, and that automatically was a shift in the traditional vamp lore.  I'm from a family of teachers and they are mostly science teachers. My father is one of the most knowledgeable biologists I know. In my fantasy books he has always kept my ecosystems in check and made sure I didn't create a world that wouldn't really work ecologically. So I turned to him for brainstorming help with my vamps. As the daughter of a biologist, I was always strong in the sciences myself, and took lots of biology electives in college where I was a literature major. I already had an idea about using what science slang calls junk DNA—Dad loved the idea—and we brainstormed from there! The red vampyres developed naturally. Dad and I talked about what would happen if someone tried to bring back a kid who had died when his body rejected the Change. Of course dying and then un-dying would cause a large amount of physiological injury, and many of the more bestial characteristics of the red vamps grew out of that. I then add the paranormal element of Nyx's influence, as well as the earth magic that is alive and well in the HoN world, and I have a whole new depth to my vampyre mythos!

 

Are there any other projects you'd like to try?

KC: I am just a couple days from being finished with my first solo novel! I like to think of it as a fairy tale because it's written as poetry rather than prose. Hopefully, I will have news about dates, etc. for it soon. Mom and I have been discussing a new series. I'm not going to say anything too specific, but we should have more info within the next year or so.

 

Who do you write your books for? Is there anyone you would not recommend your books to?

P.C.: Kristin and I do feel a definite sense of responsibility writing for teens. I've been teaching high school since 1993, and as I’ve said before, I'm from a family of teachers. We know the impact words can have on young adults. Yes, there is bad language in the books. Yes, there is sex in the books. Yes, hard things happen to teens—some even die—in the books. All of those things are going on today with teens, minus the vampyre element. Kristin and I feel it is essential that Zoey and the other characters deal with real issues. Zoey has an excellent sense of honor and integrity, but she's a teenager and she messes up. Basically, the "message" in the House of Night series is one of acceptance and tolerance, as well as the fact that just because a kid makes mistakes it doesn't mean his/her life is over.

 

Vampyre literature comes with its fair share of controversy, how do you deal with that?

PC: I've never been of the mind that I must please everyone, so I don't read reviews and pay little attention to genre-based controversies.  I focus on writing the story I would most want to read and keep moving ahead in a positive manner.

Meet mother and daughter PC & Kristin Cast at our special event to celebrate the release of Redeemed, the final electrifying installment in the House of Night series! 

Tonight, Oct 29 at 7 pm at Chapters Metrotown
Metropolis, Metrotown 4700 Kingsway
Burnaby, British Columbia
(604) 431-0463
Click here for event details

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