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Stuff for the Teen Age
An Interview with Michelle Zink, Author of Prophecy of the Sisters
One of the picks for the 2010 Stuff for the Teen Age list is Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters, a supernatural Victorian novel about two orphaned twin sisters. I got to speak with Michelle about writing, reading, and publishing. Here's what she had to say:
What attracts you to the Victorian era? What made you decided to make your book set in that time period?
Prophecy of the Sisters is the first book I'd written in the Victorian era. I originally chose it because it seemed like a natural backdrop for the dark, Gothic feel of the book, but as time went on, I realized how sensual the era it is. All that velvet! Candles! Corsets! It really is very provocative, though it seems restrained on the outside. It ended up not only reflecting the darkness that I wanted but also lending the book a sensuality that adds richness and depth.
So much of the mythology of the Prophecy seems real! Is your book like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code where some of it is real or did you make it all up?
Some of it IS real! The prophecy itself is based on an old biblical legend about a legion of angels called the Watchers. In the legend, the Watchers were sent to guard mankind, but they fell in love with mortal women, which was against the rules. Because of this, they were banished, or fallen. After that, they weren't called the Watchers but the Lost Souls. As the series continues with Guardian of the Gate, readers will discover more of the prophecy linked to mythological places, creatures, and real-life sacred sites throughout the world. It's a puzzle of sorts, and my hope is that readers are transported both to other places and other times and that they enjoy trying to figure it all out before Lia does.
What is the writing process like for you? How did you move from wanting to be a writer to becoming a published author?
My writing process is pretty organic, which is another way of saying I don't outline! Basically, I get an idea, do the research necessary to start, jot a few notes down so I can remember who's who, and start writing. And this probably sounds weird, but when I'm writing, I feel almost like the story already exists somewhere and it's just my job to tell it. In this way, I feel more like I'm channeling the story than creating it, and I really try to step back and allow the story to tell me where it's supposed to go. When it does, everything falls into place. Everything FEELS right. When I force my own agenda, I can just tell that it's not really working. I spent a lot of years in a career that I hated because that's what everyone always told me I was supposed to do to be "successful." By the age of twenty-nine, I had an important title, an enviable income, a house by the beach, and a full time nanny. But I was completely miserable. I think I had to get what I THOUGHT I wanted to realize it wasn't what I wanted after all. When I finally decided to pursue my dream of writing, it was the first thing in a very long time that made me feel truly alive. I churned out six books in two-and-a-half years, feeling myself get better with every book and determined to write until I got something published. For me, being published wasn't a badge of honor or a brag-worthy accomplishment. It just meant I was writing for a living. And THAT meant I could write more and more and more, which was all I ever really wanted.
I know your son Kenneth Zink creates soundtracks for your novels. How did that collaboration start?
At the beginning of 2009, Kenneth approached me with the idea of creating a film score for my book, Prophecy of the Sisters. Of course, my first response was, "But it's a BOOK!" To which he said, "Yeah, right. I get that. But I think it'd be cool to try and create a score for it like it's a movie. And then the light bulb went on, and I realized once again that my son is brilliant. Not that, yanno, I'm biased or anything. ;)
Anyway, what followed was an amazing, one-of-a-kind collaboration between my son and I. We spent months discussing the book, sitting in the "recording studio" that is our basement, listening to different pieces Kenneth created for different scenes and tweaking them so that they were just right for the book. The result was an 8-song film score that is positively perfect for Prophecy of the Sisters despite the lousy recording equipment we had at the time. It's been truly awe-inspiring both to see my son's creative talent flourish and to hear my story represented by the powerful medium that is music.
What are some of your favorite books?
I have sooo many! I adore White Oleander by Janet Fitch because it's the most heartbreakingly rendered coming of age tale that I've ever read, and it's like a love-letter to the parts of California that I cherish (I'm from Southern California). It's probably my favorite book of all time. I'm also a huge fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game, because he has such a brilliant way with the Gothic genre. I'm beyond excited that Little Brown will be publishing his first US Young Adult novel, The Prince of Mist, this spring. And I have to mention Sarah Waters, because NOBODY does a very dark twist like she does! I didn't think she could top Fingersmith, but last year's A Little Stranger left me breathless. I know these aren't classified as YA (young adult), but I actually find that I'm able to maintain more originality in my ow work if I don't read too much in my genre. I'm so afraid that someone else's language or ideas will creep into mine that I end up reading mostly adult literature despite the fact that I write YA. Books that have wowed me in the YA genre this past year are The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard, This Is What I Want to Tell You by Heather Duffy-Stone, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, and Eyes Like Stars by my friend, Lisa Mantchev.