Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview with Anastasia Hopcus

Anastasia Hopcus, author of Shadow Hills, has been kind enough to stop by Reading with Tequila to answer some questions.

Anastasia Hopcus wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. It was entitled Frederick the Friendly French Ferret and was seven pages long. During high school she wrote numerous short stories and started (but never finished) three screenplays, all as an alternative to doing actual school work. At the very wise age of twelve her career ambition was to drive a Mack truck, but when that didn't pan out, she tried acting, bartending, and being a receptionist in a dojo before finally returning to writing. Anastasia loves horror movies, Joss Whedon, obsessing over music, and British accents. She lives in Austin, Texas and Shadow Hills is her debut novel. You can visit Anastasia at her website www.anastasiahopcus.com.

Reading with Tequila: Stories set in boarding schools are very hot right now. What do you think it is about these schools that readers enjoy so much? Why did you choose to set Shadow Hills at a boarding school?

Anastasia: I’ve always enjoyed stories that take place at boarding school, and there are a few different elements that I believe make it an intriguing setting for both readers and writers. The first is simply the mysterious quality a boarding school has. I think it elicits a longing in us, as outsiders, to get a glimpse into an unknown world. It has the same allure as a secret society such as Skull & Bones. Another thing that makes it such a fascinating setting is that even though they are only high school age, the students are experiencing a kind of semi-independence close to that of college. There is some supervision, but it’s not like living with your parents. You have friends staying in the same dorm as you, and it’s very likely that the guy you’re dating is sleeping across the quad. I think people also imagine that boarding students can get away with more at a dorm than they could at their house. Whether or not that’s actually true, I don’t know. I seem to remember my group of friends getting away with quite a lot in high school… from the comfort of our own homes. ;)

RWT: The paranormal in Shadow Hills is unlike anything I've ever read before. It's part science, part magic, and even a little part mythology. Were you ever worried readers wouldn't "get" something so different than the norm?

Anastasia: The paranormal in Shadow Hills is unlike anything I've ever read before. It's part science, part magic, and even a little part mythology. Were you ever worried readers wouldn't "get" something so different than the norm?

I didn’t really worry about that, but there were several agents who thought Shadow Hills was too complex for teens. Luckily, I found an awesome agent who feels, like I do, that teens are open to new ideas. I think if anything, they’re more likely to enjoy unusual concepts because they’re still determining what they feel and think about things.

That being said, the scientific basis for my book wasn’t easy to figure out---I had to read a bunch of medical research to grasp the concepts well enough to modify them for my story. But my hope is that since I’m not a science person, I explained things in a way that’s pretty understandable. When a math genius tries to teach me something, I often feel more confused than I was when they started. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the reverse is also true. ;)

RWT: Phe knows her music. Are you a huge music fan as well? Are your personal musical tastes the same as hers?

Anastasia: I am a MAJOR music addict. I actually get grumpy and restless when I can’t find any new bands to listen to. My personal tastes encompass all of the music my characters like; there isn’t a song mentioned in my book that I haven’t listened to and enjoyed myself. But my tastes are even more eclectic than theirs, since I listen to a fair amount of cheesy stuff I would never admit to.

Really. My lips are sealed.

Okay, I’ll give you one name: Tom Jones. I wouldn’t throw a bra at him or anything, but I think Delilah is a masterpiece.

RWT: Can you give us a short overview of your experience from initial idea to publication?

Anastasia: The idea was sparked by the combination of a 60 Minutes segment about a savant named Daniel Tammet and a road trip to Los Feliz (the area of LA where I used to live). The plot really started to take shape when I began researching. Everything I learned seemed to lead to something else that tied in perfectly. The mythology for Shadow Hills just kept growing and folding back into the story and then growing out in another direction. There were actually a lot of details that I had to remove and hold over for later books because it was just too much information for one novel.

Before I found my agent I did one very large rewrite---where I axed several chapters and added a hundred new pages---and a few smaller ‘style’ edits. I was very lucky that my agent, Meredith Kaffel, believed so strongly in my book because it went on submission just as the economy was plummeting. Shadow Hills exists today because she refused to give up, and because Egmont USA was willing to take a chance on a story that some publishers thought was too risky in a down market. I’m beyond grateful to both Meredith and Egmont USA. Having people pick up Shadow Hills and read it---maybe even love it---is so very cool.

RWT: Can you tell us about your next project? Is it a sequel to Shadow Hills? Pretty, please?

Anastasia: I can’t officially confirm a sequel. But there is a very strong possibility that I'm working on developing the story further, especially Phe's abilities and her connection to the town. There might also be some new problems in store for Phe and Zach. But this is all just speculation. ;)

About the Book

After her sister Athena's tragic death, it's obvious that grief-stricken Persephone "Phe" Archer no longer belongs in Los Angeles. Hoping to make sense of her sister's sudden demise and the cryptic dreams following it, Phe abandons her bubbly LA life to attend an uptight East Coast preparatory school in Shadow Hills, MA -- a school which her sister mysteriously mentioned in her last diary entry before she died.

Once there, Phe quickly realizes that something is deeply amiss in her new town. Not only does Shadow Hills' history boast an unexplained epidemic that decimated hundreds of its citizens in the 1700s, but its modern townies also seem eerily psychic, with the bizarre ability to bend metal. Even Zach -- the gorgeous stranger Phe meets and immediately begins to lust after -- seems as if he is hiding something serious. Phe is determined to get to the bottom of it. The longer she stays there, the more she suspects that her sister's untimely death and her own destiny are intricately linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills.

Anastasia on Twitter
Anastasia's website
Anastasia on GoodReads
Anastasia's blog
Anastasia on Facebook

Reading with Tequila's review of Shadow Hills

1 comment :

  1. What a wonderful interview!
    The book sounds awesome, i've immediately added it to my TBR list.

    PS. Tom Jones "SexBomb" best song evah! =D