Q: Your new book, All the Way to Heaven, takes place in Italy, and in particular, the city of Lucca in the heart of Tuscany. What made you choose Lucca for your location?
A: Several years ago, I visited Italy with a friend, and we opted to “take the road less traveled.” By that, I mean we were on a slightly restrictive budget. So we spent most of our time in youth hostels, guest houses, and bed and breakfasts rather than hotels and resorts. And we looked for cities that were highly rated by tourists, but that weren’t necessarily highly populated by them. Lucca was our first stop on our trip, and I fell in love with the city. There is a sense of being “out of time and place” in Lucca. The core of the city is completely encircled by a Renaissance period wall wide enough to race cars on—and at one time, people did! Nowadays, it’s carefully preserved, and limited to only pedestrians and cyclists. It’s essentially one huge park that hugs the heart of Lucca, as though protecting it from the ravages of the real world. A daily promenade on the wall is essential to experience life in Lucca. In fact, in Italy, there is a custom, passeggiata, a term which means “evening stroll,” and it’s a national tradition for people to take a walk after work hours and before dinner. If you live in Lucca, the wall is the place to experience passeggiata at its finest. What better place to fall in love?
Q: You reference opera quite a bit in All the Way to Heaven. Are you an opera buff?
A: I’m pretty much a fake fan. I love listening to the arias (that would be like saying I’m a Van Halen fan but I only listen to their ballads) really, really loudly when I clean house. It kinda drowns out my bad attitude—I hate, loathe, despise, etc., cleaning—and turns my chores into something dramatic and otherworldly. But I do think the stories told in operas are some of the wildest and craziest ever, and originally, I intended to write a whole series of modern retellings of various operas. Unfortunately, my fake fandom started showing while doing my research, and I realized I didn’t know enough about opera to base a whole series on it. So I kept the opera elements in All the Way to Heaven because they worked, but moved toward other themes in the rest of the series. Music, however, remains a key player in all three (maybe four) books!
Q: Are there cliffhangers in The Fallout Series?
A: In every book there are some loose threads that will lead into the next book, but no real cliffhangers. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers, mainly because I’m the kind of reader who needs closure. I love books that leave a few loose ends to tie into the next book(s) in the series, but I need to be able to close the book and spend some time looking back on the story and reveling in what I’ve just read, rather than feeling like I need to charge ahead into the next one. For instance, I loved The Hunger Games books. Even though there were many threads left loose, and even some cliffhanger elements, the premise of each individual book was brought to resolution. As much as I enjoyed Kiera Cass’ The Selection series (don’t get me wrong – I gave it 5 stars!), it actually became frustrating to me as I closed the cover on each book and still had no closure on some of the relationship issues. I kept thinking to myself, “So choose already, and let’s get on to saving the kingdom!”
Q: Speaking of other authors, do you have a favorite author or authors?
A: I’m an avid reader, and I don’t have any major genre preferences or hang-ups, so I tend to have a flavor-of-the-month thing when it comes to authors. Right now, I can’t get enough of Amy Harmon. Her novels have a depth to them that many NA/contemporary romances don’t. She writes about ordinary people with extraordinary circumstances or gifts or curses in a way that’s believable and culturally timely, and her ability to thread spiritual elements through her stories is so refreshing. I have yet to read one of hers where I don’t turn the last page with bittersweet relish. John Green always wins with me, Rachel Marks, Jessica Parks, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the TV show “Shadowhunters” based on Cassandra Clare’s The Immortal Instruments… It would seem my flavor of the month is YA/NA at the moment. I’ve also been a fan of Diana Gabaldon for most of my adult life, some Stephen King I love (and some I hate), and many, many others.
Q: I notice you call The Fallout Series “Sweet New Adult Fiction.” Can you tell us a little more about that?
A: Nothing like saving the tough stuff ‘til last. Okay. I have this unquenchable belief that “coming of age” is not synonymous with “testing all boundaries.” I love, love, love the New Adult category, but I think it’s kind of gotten a bad rap since its debut on the market. I’ve asked many NA authors what they consider is criteria for NA, and the answer across the board is character age. That transitional period between living at home and living independently. So they’re typically set on college campuses or at new jobs, or around new experiences (such as traveling alone, like Ani in All the Way to Heaven). So often, the expectation is that the characters in these novels will indulge in extreme sexual exploration (the covers alone do much to propel this conception), among other things, but many of these books are about so much more than that. And in fact, many of these books include very little of it, dealing more with how their characters handle new seasons in their lives, and sometimes get bypassed because they’re lumped in with what is often considered “erotica.” Rumor has it there’s a growing demand for “sweet” fiction about this particular transitional period – by “sweet” I mean relatively mild in regards to violence, language, and sex, even if the storyline deals with some of these very real issues--and I want to be a part of that new subcategory of New Adult fiction.
Q: One last question. Is this why you’re publishing through Clean Teen Publishing?
A: In a roundabout way, I suppose it is. I submitted to Clean Teen Publishing NOT because my books are clean, but because Clean Teen is known for the content analyses they do on all their books. They do not believe in censorship, but in full disclosure. Movies and television are rated for content, so why not book ratings?
Q: Thank you for being here today, Becky.
A: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to share a little about me and my books with you, and I hope you’ll find something in my stories that resonates with you! I’d be happy to answer any other questions you might have!