Friday, January 21, 2011

Author Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith

I am really excited & honored to have Cynthia Leitich Smith with us today! Her newest YA book, Blessed will be out next week and I'm looking forward to attending her release party next Saturday at Book People (you can find out more about that at the end of the post). Recently I was able to ask Cynthia a few questions about Blessed, her series and writing.

When you first sat down to write Tantalize, did you always envision the book being apart of a three-book series?
Actually, I’m working on the fourth novel in the prose series and the second graphic-novel adaptation. So, it’s been a big commitment—a decade of my writing life.

(Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle, will be released by Candlewick in August.)

That said, I had profound hopes of at least a second book…perhaps more. But back when I was getting started, in late 2001/early 2002, it was all so uncertain.

My reputation had been built as the author of Native American stories for younger kids. My writing style was warm, folksy, and family-oriented. And though all of my books have heart and many include humor, the Tantalize series is also filled with thrills, passion, mystery, and serious spooky-ness.

A big departure, but, looking back, I’m so glad that I dared to take those first steps and kept going. Don’t ever let fear stop your art—especially if you’re writing horror.

We are very excited for Blessed's release! What has been the most rewarding and most challenging thing in writing the series?
These novels include a girl empowerment theme. Don’t get me wrong, I have strong male protagonists, too, and that’s not all they’re about. But it’s part of the mix.

I’ve had more than one girl write and say that she was breaking up with her abusive boyfriend in part because of Quincie’s example in Tantalize—and Kieren’s, too (the smart guy who treats you well is sexier than the bad boy who hurts you, I promise).

I don’t know if “rewarding” is it exactly. I was just really relieved to hear that those girls met my characters when they did and found some strength of their own.

What are three things you admire about your characters?
Their humor, their passion, and their obsession with marinara.

What surprised you the most with Blessed? Did any of your characters change from what you originally wanted them to be?
What surprised me the most was how much fun it was to bring together the casts of Tantalize and Eternal. My favorite scenes include when Quincie meets chef Nora, then the guardian angel Zachary, and finally vampire queen Sabine.

In Blessed, Quincie moves in with Kieren’s family. His mother is a werewolf wedding planner, his father is a university professor of engineering, and his kid sister knows Quincie’s secret. It’s a huge change—a lot of attention—to juggle, especially after having spent years in the care of a lackadaisical uncle-guardian.

I’d originally envisioned four-year-old Meghan is sort of the ideal baby sister—adorable, devoted, hero worshipping. But she’s still a baby werepredator, a hybrid Wolf, and that side comes out more in the new book. It also makes me love her more.

Which character has grown or changed the most for you since first writing Tantalize, through the end of Blessed? What do you most admire about them?
I’m tempted to say Quincie. But I’ll go with Clyde, the sarcastic but loyal wereopossum. I admire his sense of humor, his affection for his friends, and his courage—the last most of all, no matter how much he may protest to the contrary.

As a writer, what do you feel is one of the most important things you need (i.e., a great writing group, honest feedback, determination, etc.)?
Discipline. You have to show up to the page. It’s easy to get caught up in the (necessary) business of being an author and (in my case) teacher.

You need to be part of the writing community—to give and receive support and encouragement. But ultimately, hanging out with your author pals isn’t going to get the book finished. (Unless you tell them to bring along their laptops and get busy.)

I’m a writer when I show up to the page again and again and again. And write.

I take my cue from the werepredators and growl at the page until the words come.

Do you have a book you're recommend we go pick up and read?
The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan or Across the Universe by Beth Revis or Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences by Brian Yansky. Or all three.

I'll be posting my review for Blessed later today! In the mean time, you can find out more about Cynthia's Blessed Tour and enter to win some fabulous prizes on her site-

Blessed Central Texas & Northeast Tour Schedule:


Thank you Cynthia for joining us today!!

Bio: Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of ETERNAL and TANTALIZE (both Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include HOLLER LOUDLY, JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins). She is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her website at was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column. In January 2011, Cynthia is celebrating the release of BLESSED, the third novel in the TANTALIZE series. Kirkus Reviews calls it: "Wild and ultimately fascinating"…"..the pages fairly smolder in describing their [Quincie and Kieren] attraction to one another." The Horn Book cheers: "A hearty meal for the thinking vampire reader."


  1. I always enjoy reading Cynthia's interviews. It's nice to see her as the subject :)

    And I have to say, with some recent titles where the MC goes for the dangerous bad boy, I'm glad to hear that Cynthia's books aren't like that. I recently bought Tantalize. Now I'm even more excited to read it!

  2. I'm looking forward to reading Cynthia's books. Thank you for letting us get to know her a bit better.


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