Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus. Shadow Hills tells the story of Phe Archer. 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... (You can read her review HERE).
We were delighted to be invited to interview Anastasia for our blog, and Aaron's Books welcomes her here today to answer some of the questions Vicky was dying to ask her upon completing Shadow Hills!
How long did it take you to write "Shadow Hills"?
Initially it took me about two and half months to write, but after getting a less-than-enthusiastic response from a few agents, I did a major rewrite that took me about two or three more months. This time an agent wanted it, but asked for a few more changes, which took me another month or so. So all told, it took about six or seven months of writing, but from the start of the book to having it ready to send out to publishers took about a year.
What part of the book was the easiest to write and why?
I guess the easiest things for me are the scenes between Phe and her friends and Phe and Zach. I love creating characters and dialogue. I feel sort of like I'm watching a TV show or movie in my head when I write a scene. Embarrassing as it is to admit, I even smile and make other 'character appropriate' expressions as I'm writing scenes.
What part was the hardest and why?
The hardest part for me is structure---putting everything together so that it makes sense and the timeline is right and the pace of the story doesn't lag in certain areas. Just in terms of putting words on paper, probably the most difficult thing for me to write are action sequences. Again, pacing is very important and I have to find precisely the right words to paint the scene. You want the reader to be able to clearly picture it, and yet you don't want to slow it down by describing things at length. I usually rewrite those scenes several times.
Which character in the book is your favorite and why?
Oh, no! That's like asking a mother which one of her children she loves the most! I suppose I would have to pick Phe. Not only is she is the focus of the book, but I just find her really likeable. She's fun, and she's not someone who is always trying to act some way that she thinks she should act. She's not perfect---she is a bit of a music snob and she's also very impulsive. But I really admire her bravery and spontaneity.
Of course, I also love Zach…a lot. He's sweet, stable, and family-oriented---and that is exactly what impulsive Phe needs in her off-balance life. But Zach's also tired of always having to live up to other people's expectations, and a part of him wants to break down that wall that the townies have built around themselves.
Adriana was a character that took over and asserted her personality the moment she stepped onto the page. I hadn't really planned for her to be such a big part of the book. But she was just so much fun to write, and I began to see the possibilities in her character, the things that had shaped her personality and the ways in which she was vulnerable. Before I knew it, she was Phe's best friend.
Brody is one of my favorites, too. He's had a very hard life, but he manages to survive everything without losing his sense of humor or kind heart. I really want to develop more of his story. Also, I was surprised---but thrilled---at how Brody and Adriana just clicked when I wrote a scene they were both in.
I guess I better stop now or I'm going to name all of them. But I love Toy and Graham, too!
What do you believe are your greatest strengths as a writer?
Hopefully, my strength as a writer is characterization. I love to try and figure out why people act the way they do. I'm also really interested in how people got to be the way they are in the first place. I have this habit of making up histories for people I see in restaurants. I'm all, "Maybe the father recently got remarried and the reason the girl isn't talking is because she hates going out to eat with her stepmom." And my boyfriend's like, "Or she could just be busy eating her food." But that's not as much fun.
Will there be a sequel? When?
I really hope so, but nothing is official yet. I think it has a lot to do with how well Shadow Hills does. I'd love to explore the town and the people more, and, of course, I'm very interested in where Phe and Zach go from here. But right now, I'm kind of waiting to see, like everyone else.
Do you think social media (facebook, twitter, myspace, etc.) are important to book promotion and why?
I think it's very important, especially in YA, where readers are more plugged into that. I really didn’t know much about bloggers until I sold Shadow Hills and joined the Tenners. I was astounded when I saw how much work bloggers put into reviewing and supporting books, just because they love to read. I really value my friendships with bloggers, not only because they are vital to promotion, but because I've come to know and like so many of them. I love connecting with readers, and facebook, Goodreads and twitter make that much easier. Twitter is great for keeping people updated on interviews or reviews or chats or signings. But you can also go back and forth with your friends on important topics such as "What's your favorite Buffy ep?" and "Who do you think is hotter, Stefan or Damon?".
Thanks for stopping in here, Anastasia. We look forward to the possibilty of more Phe in the future!
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.