An interview with L.J. Smith

Recently I got the chance to interview L. J. Smith, after her latest Vampire Diaries release. So just click read more to find the interview in it’s whole and after the interview a special message from L.J. about how to read the Vampire Diaries for free (before March 27th so hurry and read now)! If you haven’t yet pick up the books, and if you have read the Vampire Diaries, next I suggest picking up the Night World or Secret Circle sagas!

I have recently discovered your novels and have so much fun reading them. I have a hard time deciding which set are my favorite but right now I am leaning toward the Night World with Ash as my favorite character. Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea of the Night World, who your favorite character is from these novels and a bit about your black flower system that identifies the races?

Hey, that’s three questions in one! Oh, well, who’s counting? ^_~
I came up with the idea for Night World as a series because I was tired of writing trilogies. I wanted to be able to write eight to ten books that would fit together, starting off with a vampire story (and the idea for Secret Vampire just popped into my head, full grown, like Athena bursting out of the head of Zeus) and then going on to write stories about witches, shapeshifters, vampire hunters, and so on. And most especially, I wanted to write a series where there was a rule, punishable by death, that a Night Person could not fall in love with a human. I wanted to counter that with the idea that the next Apocalypse was coming and the Old Magic, which had run rampant before human beings had taken over the planet, was forcing couples together—using the soulmate principal. The couples that were being drawn together were, inevitably, a combination of Night Worlder and human. I thought that that would make for some nice forbidden love concepts—like the Hatfields and the McCoys, afeudin’ and afightin’—and alovin’ when they find they can’t help it.

My favorite character! Out of all the Night World? To be honest, my favorite is one that you haven’t seen yet, because he’s in Strange Fate (670 pages so far and still only halfway done). His name is Kierlan, he’s a wild and crazy guy, and—to say more would be to give the plot away. BUT soon, when Night World 3 comes out (in April I think) you can see him for yourself, because the teaser in the back is from Strange Fate and it’s all about him—and Sarah, the heroine.
I think Ash would be a very close second, though—that’s why I put him in so many books. He’s in Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness, Dark Angel, and Strange Fate.

The black flower system? I just wanted something to identify hangouts and otherwise-disguised characters as Night People. As for which flower for which race:

  • Vampires: roses and irises
  • Witches: dahlias
  • Werewolves: foxglove
  • Shapeshifters: often lilies, but depends on the type; tigers use tiger lilies, etc.
    Lost (now found) witches: violets

2. I picked up the first vampire diaries in a airport book store at Heathrow, I was on a flight to San Francisco and I read both of the first novels in this twelve hour flight. I was absolutely in love with the characters especially Damon. I grew up right outside of Falls Church in Virgina, is Fells Church based on this town?

Well, yes and no. I have many relatives in Virginia and so knew it pretty well. But Fall’s Church was, obviously, a known town with a known history. I couldn’t just bend it to my wicked will. And I wanted a tiny, tiny town, barely a village, so that you could feel that you knew all the townfolk by the end of the first book. (I think in Nightfall I doubled the size of the town by introducing a shopping area.) I even had a little passage where Stefan meant to apply to the high school at Fall’s Church, but the letter goes astray to Fell’s Church and he gets stuck with that. But I cut it from the original books and later developed the importance of the ley lines of force in the ground in drawing Stefan, Damon, and villains to the town.

3.Your most recent novel is a continuation of The Vampire Diaries “The Return: Nightfall”. I was very excited about the way Damon’s character evolved in this story. The fact he was able to have even a miniscule feeling about a human other than Elena was an awesome twist. Seeing Bonnie develop into a stronger person was also some icing on the cake of this already innovative novel. After all the years between the books, how did you pick back up and evolve the characters so well?

Well, believe it or not, it wasn’t hard at all. I had been negotiating with Harper to write an adult book for the series, but the YA department didn’t want to let go of it. So there was about a year and a half which ended with the negotiations going nowhere, but with me writing scenes for an adult book.

Then my mother got ill. After fighting bravely for an entire year, she succumbed to lung cancer. And—I have always considered it her parting gift to me—after her death, I was suddenly able to write again. Once the repackaged Vampire Diaries hit the NY Times Bestseller list I knew I would never be able to write my adult book. I realized that YA had changed a lot since I wrote the original books, and that I could, essentially write my adult epic as three decent-sized YA books. And I was offered a great deal of money to do just that. It’s wonderful, being able to do what I wanted to do and to get paid so much for it. Humble YA authors—which is what I am—don’t have that happen to them very often.

By the way, thank you so much for your kind words about Nightfall. It was a rough book to write—my editor was laid off from Harper about halfway through, and the new editor—well, it was a very rocky start. Not my best book, but I did try very hard to show how Damon presents things to himself. I’m not sure whether everyone understood that Damon lies to himself continually. For example, after rescuing Bonnie he tells Stefan that he did it on a whim. But of course that’s a lie he’s made up to explain his own behavior to him. As soon as he threw off the haze of possession, Damon went down to the car and perceived that Bonnie was in deep trouble—and he immediately sets off and did everything a human—or a vampire—could do to save her. He cuts himself twice to feed her his own blood. He doesn’t even stop to think what other people might think of him. But when Stefan does praise him, Damon is caught and, not realizing that even at that moment he’s possessed, he comes out with the “whim” lie.

It’s hard to imply all that without just saying it. I think the next two books will show Damon’s evolution much more clearly. But thank you for your comments!

4. As an acclaimed and experienced novelist of the Supernatural, how did you begin the ideas for these stories. Do you believe in or have had a personal experience with the supernatural, or just think its a fun subject to write on a fictional subject that is kind of spooky?

Since I was too young to really remember, as a child I looked for magic. There were so many books about magic and I read all of them, from C. S. Lewis’s Narnia to E. Nesbit’s wonderful late 1800s books about magic carpets and wishing beasts. I knew that magic existed, and I was sure that if I searched hard enough I would find it.

Finally, somewhere in my teens I began to suspect that I was going to have to make magic up on my own. That was when I realized that I might have to write about magic instead of actually finding it. I was already constantly making up stories about magic in my head; I had even “written” some of them (illegible scrawls illustrated by me and my best friend). Now in high school, it seemed a good time to begin a novel—and that’s basically how I started on a career of writing supernatural books.

5. How did you do your research for the Secret Circle. The book had a lot of fantastic spell text and rituals, I think that were mostly Wiccan or Pagan.

Like all my books, I researched every aspect I could for Secret Circle. I even went to Massachusetts and drove up the coast with a friend, identifying exactly where everything in the book would happen. Since the schools were so different there than in California, I arranged to have a tour of a typical small town high school. I visited Salem, went to all the witchy shops there—saw the real Witch Museum—which was a very moving experience, I have to say. I spoke to witches, read huge books with various theories about what happened in Salem, as well as New Age books on gemstones, genuine old herbals, and modern books about plants that are completely safe to eat, rub on your skin, etc. (That was the only kind I was allowed to put into the book, on advice from the publisher’s lawyers.)

But all the poetry I wrote myself, basing it on either unrhymed genuine spells to achieve some purpose or on my own fancy.

6. How do you as an author react to others definitions of your characters?

Oh, people have some crazy ideas. Some people really think they are the characters. But most of my readers seem like well-balanced, tolerant people. My official opinion is that once I make up a character and then put him or her into a book, and that book is published, the character is the property of everyone, to do with as they please. But inside, I laugh a little sometimes.

7. Do you have any opinion on the new Amazon Kindle Reader? Particularly the negative feedback from marketing execs because the book can read text to you without buying an audio file?

I’m sorry; I don’t own one, and I’ve never seen one! I guess it would affect the audio rights to my books without seeming to, and that would be bad. But, just as a human being, an ex-special ed teacher, and a volunteer for the vanLobenSels/RembeRock Foundation, which tries to promote the rights of persons who have disabilities (like blindness) I would have to embrace it.

8. What prompted you to write your first novel and advice for new or aspiring novelists?

Well, as I’ve said, looking for magic prompted my first, And advice: there are so many books out there, I would advise a new author to get a copy of Writer’s Market and to read the articles carefully. Then I would suggest that they look online for writer’s blogs and just see if there’s someone who is more articulate than I in explaining how you put a novel together. Mine just sort of come to me—that doesn’t mean that I don’t work had, but usually I get an idea for the main premise of a story and then I think: how do I start this? How do I introduce the characters. Then I think, and how does it end? Usually that much comes easily, naturally. I do an outline and then I begin to do sample chapters, either the beginning, the end, or a high point I may have thought out. That’s the start of the real book. I look the whole thing over and evaluate whether or not I have a good enough grip on the material to write a novel. If I do, I plunge into it. If not, I save it because I may get another idea later that would fill in whatever problems it has.

But for young writers, while they’re kind of scoping out the field, the really important thing is to be investing as much time as they can afford in writing every day. Write poetry, articles, stories; write in journals (I kept a running journal from the age of 10 until I was in my 30s!), or letters to friends or just sit there and stare at you computer screen and write “I have no ideas for writing and this is what happened to me today.” Write, write, write.

Then there’s software out there supposed to help new writers. My niece really wants to write, so I got “New Novelist” and I’m going to try it out to see how it works.

9. Your favorite book that you did write and your favorite that you didn’t write?

My favorite book is always the one I’m working on at the moment! That means, it’s not out yet. But, as a second favorite, hmmm . . . Withlight would be one, because of Keller. I like Keller. Soulmate might be one because I like Hannah and Thierry. Secret Circle Omnibus Book II might be one because I like the very end. But at the end of the day I suppose I have to say the first Omnibus of The Vampire Diaries, because I put my entire self into the Vampire Diaries books. It’s like the old maxim, “Writing’s easy. Just sit down at the keyboard and then open a vein.” Singularly appropriate, yes?

My favorite book in the world is Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. I can’t say enough about this man, or that book. I was bawling (the good kind of bawling) from the very first line (early in the book) “All the little angels rise up, rise up, all the little angels rise up high. . .” I knew that I would be sobbing out loud by the end, because there are no angels in Terry Pratchett’s books until he turns the world upside down and suddenly there are. If you want to study writing, young writers, study his. I’ve literally worn three copies of that book to pieces with re-reads.

10. What are your muses? What gets you in the mood for writing?

Oh, writing. Writing interviews! I’ll write today after finishing this question. But what I like best is to go to this wonderful cabin in Inverness—if you’ve moved to the Bay Area you may know Pont Reyes National Seashore Park—or some long ungodly name like that. What it is, is a peninsula, where you can drive all the way down a long, long one-lane road to the lighthouse, and the beaches on either side are so wild and beautiful and nothing puts me in the mood for writing than going there, walking the beaches or hiking with a friend or two and then going back and sitting in front of a fire and writing. That’s absolutely ideal.

Message from L.J.

I’ve got to tell this or burst! I’m delighted to say that my publisher is offering a look inside some of the Vampire Diaries books—on a very time-limited basis.

This means that you can take a look inside even the newest book in the series, Nightfall, right now!

Here is the link to the Browse Inside for Nightfall: harper teen browse inside.

And there’s more, believe it or not. There is also a limited time Full Access Browse Inside of the first Vampire Diaries Omnibus (featuring The Awakening and The Struggle). That means that you can read the first two of the Vampire Diaries books—absolutely free!

The Full Access site for Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle can be viewed here.

This feature will be online until March 27th. Then it’s gone, friends, so please take a look right away if you’re at all interested!

Lisa

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14 Responses so far

  1. Gravatar

    I love L.J. Smith!!!! she has so many great books I love them ALLL!! It’s so cool that you got to interview her, finding out all of the flowers for each night world race was a really good question, I’ve always wondered about it. If you havn’t yet there are two really great short stories (untold tales) from the TVD on her site now, one is a really sweet story about Matt and elena’s first date, the other a Bonnie/damon story, about how they first met. I just love those stories and wanted to tell others where to find them.

  2. Gravatar

    Oh I will hop over and have a read. I read some of the shorts already from books I have already read. Waiting no so patiently for the Night World 3 book to come out. Thanks for the info.

  3. Gravatar

    Great, great interview! I loved the insights LJ Smith gave into writing Nightfall.

    I was expecting her to say Ash was her favorite character. :D He does appear in a lot of her books….

  4. Gravatar

    Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. I have been a fan of LJ Smith for so long; all these years later I’m still desperate to finally read Strange Fate. Great insight into what makes her tick – especially loved the comment about Ash, who is also my fave character. I kinda had a feeling he was LJS’ fave character too, simply because of his frequent appearances (I loved each one!) and what do you know, she confirmed it :-)

  5. Gravatar

    L.J. Smith is the best! I am totally in Loooveeee in the Night World series!!!

  6. Gravatar

    This is a great interview! Exactly what I needed for my paper I need to do for my literature/composition. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to read her next book!

  7. Gravatar

    [...] years ago when this blog was a tiny 20 hits per day machine I got the okay to interview L.J. Smith. I had recently found and fell in love with her Vampire Diaries series and was eager to make my [...]

  8. Gravatar

    i cant wait but ill try

  9. Gravatar

    L J SMITH IS POSSESSED!!!! SHE HAS A DEMONIC AND EVIL SPIRIT WITH HER AND SHE ALMOST RUINED MY LIFE!!!.

    How do u think she comes up with all this? She is working with satan.
    I was obsessed with her books and even when i stopped reading them i began to see demonic men in my dreams trying to sleep with me.(google incubus) Nothing in real life was going well for me, until i realised that i had invited these demonic spirit into my life by reading her books without realising.

    SINCE WHEN DID IT BECOME OK TO LOVE ALL THINGS DEMONIC, EVIL AND SATANIC??

    TURN TO GOD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

  10. Gravatar

    i would absolutely love love love it if L.J. Smith would continue Poppy and James story from Night World The Secret Vampire. i’m like going through withdrawl. write a book continuing their story & make it into a movie!!!! pretty please? theres such a fan following. p.s. i love the vampire diaries and the secret circle <3 amazing. you make my life lol

  11. Gravatar

    I enjoyed reading your review , and i can’t wait to by the vampire diaries books and the secret circle books.

  12. Gravatar

    I have read your first 2 books and I like to read them over and over because they are intresting to read.
    Best Friend!

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