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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ten Tantalizing Questions for Jeff Sampson, Author of Vesper!

Today I'd like to welcome Jeff Sampson. Jeff is the author of VESPER, which releases in just a couple of days (January 25th)! Jeff stopped by to give us a little more insight into the murky, dangerous world of Emily Webb, writing for teens and much, much more!

Jeff Sampson is a pop-culture fanatic with an abiding love of TV and movies, much like his main character, Emily. Vesper is his first novel for young adults. Jeff lives in Tukwila, Washington. You can visit him online at www.jeffsampsonbooks.com.

1. Vesper: A Deviant’s Novel is a story about Emily Webb, a girl who finds she is changing into something that just might not be human. Can you tell us a little more about the book and share with us a favorite line, scene or passage?

Vesper is hard to explain without giving too much away because as you read the book, it takes you down avenues I hope you don't expect. But in the beginning it's essentially a Jekyll and Hyde tale about a shy and geeky teen girl who doesn't quite know who she is or how to fit into everyday life at school. She finds her refuge in books and movies and TV, escapist entertainment where she can imagine she's a girl who's confident and kick-ass. Except, one night, the same night another girl at school is murdered, Emily finds herself becoming that kind of super-girl. Only this alternate, "nighttime" personality is brazenly sexual, flagrantly disregards rules, and makes scenes daytime Emily would never dare to do.

At first, Emily can't help but feel a bit freed by this weird personality shift -- but then the consequences of her nighttime actions, and the secrets they uncover, take the whole alternate personality thing to places she never could have imagined . . . and into the sights of someone who wants her dead.

As for favorite line/passage/scene, I have a hard time picking anything that isn't, like, a whole chapter. So I'll just share one of my favorite one liners. To set the scene, Nighttime Emily has just met her best friend's brother's band -- which consists solely of him and one other guy. Both are blond; one is on the pale side:

Rounding the drum set, I sat on the stool he’d just vacated. “A gentleman and a drummer, huh? So does this band only have the two of you?”

“You got it. We’re the Bubonic Teutonics.”

“So, what, you’re like an albino White Stripes or something?”

What can I say? Sometimes I crack myself up.

2. What three words would you say best describe Vesper?

Blubber. Oddment. Tweak.

No, wait.

Geeky. Surprising. Fierce.

3. When comparing Vesper to books such as Remnants, the sci-fi series about the end of the world or Monster Slayers, an action-packed monsters and magic novel, would you say that Vesper was more challenging to write than your other books? What was your favorite aspect of constructing your book?

Well, to clarify, Remnants wasn't my series, I just created the stories for two of the books that someone else then wrote. So I couldn't say how easy it was to write. But compared to Monster Slayers or any of the Dragonlance books, it was actually much easier to write. Mostly because Vesper is the type of book I always wanted to be writing -- something genre and action-packed but with a modern, relatable character story. Not to knock the fantasy books I wrote, but having to conjure up fantasy worlds or write within an existing fantasy setting is a lot more difficult than just basing the location on where I live and renaming it Skopamish, WA. Plus, Emily Webb is the first character I got to write about that I felt truly connected to.

My favorite aspect of creating Vesper and the entire Deviants series was just getting to take everything I loved reading and watching and blending it together into a big, insane sci-fi/paranormal story. It's like the series I always wanted to write, finally come to fruition. And I'm excited people will soon be able to read it!
4. If Vesper was to be made into a movie, do you have certain actors you envision in the lead roles or do you think unknowns would be best suited to play them?

I don't, actually. Though I did scour sites like Model Mayhem to find visual references for all the characters, so I do have photos of these made up people. Weirdly enough, even though I have a clear mental image of Emily Webb, she was the hardest to find a reference photo for -- and I still don't think the ones I have quite fit. Anyway, I'd be perfectly happy with unknowns inhabiting the roles -- that way we can see them all as these characters without any baggage from their previous parts.

(A friend of mine did cast Julian Morris as a character named Patrick, even though he's a bit too old to be playing a teenager. Otherwise, not a bad choice.)

5. If you had to pick a theme song for Emily, which one would you pick and why?

Well, let me open my mostly-not-at-all-hip iTunes playlist, wade through the pop music and musical soundtracks, and see what I can find! I actually write in silence, so I don't already have anything picked out. Let's see....

I'm gonna go with "Wake Up Exhausted" by Tegan & Sara. I always loved this song, and it just seems to fit.

6. What were you like as a teenager and did you have any books in particular that were your favorites? If your teenage self was to read Vesper, what do you think he’d say?

I too was a recluse geek who escaped into books and TV as a teen, just like Emily! Though I promise I didn't entirely base her on myself. But the similarities are definitely there. I actually went to this strange alternative school where I only had to go for a few hours a week and then essentially taught myself everything at home, except for my senior year where I took classes at a community college. All of my friends were from my job at a movie theater, so I got a weird truncated high school experience and ultimately spent a lot of time at home just devouring genre media.

When I was a teen I was all up ons the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate, and even ran a fan site for it for years and years (which, btw, led me to eventually write for Remnants, also created by Applegate). Aside from indulging in that mid-grade series, I also read a lot of YA sci-fi and fantasy. It's hard to remember off the top of my head when I read what, since I still read a lot of YA today, but I remember loving books like Neal Shusterman's Star Shards trilogy and all the stuff by William Sleator. I had a big fetish for kids with Brain Powers and stories involving Other Dimensions and such. (In fact I remember some book about a kid who went between dimensions and it made ketchup taste like chocolate. Also, one about a bunch of telepathic kids with leaf-shaped birthmarks. I can't remember what either book is called so if anyone knows, let me know!) But I think the book I loved the most at the time was Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I just remember hitting the middle, reading a certain revelation, and sitting there DEVASTATED. It is my goal in life to have readers respond as strongly to what I write as I did to that scene.

I think teen me would have loved Vesper. I basically wrote it for teen me, who was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all those crazy sci-fi books. 

7. If you could inhabit the life of one literary character (your own included) and dive into their world for just one day, who would you choose and why?

I'm gonna say one of the side characters in Harry Potter, anyone who Voldemort wasn't always trying to kill. Because I would love to wave a wand and make my house clean. So handy! Plus, those stylish robes.

8. When you have a free day with no responsibilities looming overhead, and your only mission is to enjoy yourself, what do you like to do for fun?

I never don't have responsibilities looming over me. I am drowning in a sea of responsibilities ohhhh noooo! Actually, when I'm pretending I don't have work to do and am procrastinating, I break out video games, books, and TV and just veg. I have lots of TV series especially that I need to marathon through, I am so behind. Since my only job is writing, I do this most of the time, but when friends are available we like to live it up by going out to eat or to movies or having a viewing party of a so-bad-it's-good movie, ala Troll 2 or The Room. I'm such a geek, but I swear I'm cooler now than I was as a teen! I swear!

9. What would you say is the best advice you’ve been given as an author?

"Don't worry about writing THE book. Write A book." This helped immensely when it came to just powering through the first book I ever wrote. Once you free yourself from the stress of trying to write the best book EVAH and just worry about writing a book, it becomes easier to do. At least, it did for me.

Also, "write every day." I don't actually follow this advice, but I constantly wish I did. So, any aspiring writers out there, take heed!

10. Vesper is the first book in an exciting new series. Can you give us any insider scoop on what we can look forward to next? Any other upcoming projects in the works?

Yes, Vesper is the first book of a three-book series called Deviants. The first book is very close to Emily Webb throughout, it's a more personal and perhaps smaller book than the other two will be. That's because as Emily uncovers more about her situation, the scope of the story becomes bigger and bigger. People who seemed like offhand side characters in book 1 are in fact major players. The stakes get raised like woah. I won't say TOO much at this point, since book 1 isn't even out yet, but just expect the sci-fi/paranormal craziness to reach new heights . . . and also know that my focus will still always be on creating relatable emotional journeys for the characters. What's the point of all the thrills and action if you don't care about the characters whose lives are at stake?

At the moment I'm also writing the sequel to Monster Slayers, under the pen name Lukas Ritter, and a secret project that I can't really talk about. And, of course, Deviants book 2.

Vesper (Deviants, #1)VESPER BY JEFF SAMPSON 

Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely— something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

1 comment:

Jessie Harrell said...

so awesome - thanks for posting this information and sharing a great interview!