Rummanah Aasi
  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Andrea Cremer's debut novel, Nightshade, last year. The complex world building, intriguing characters, and a fresh new take on the paranormal romance genre had me captivated. When I finished the book, I was left with numerous questions and not only because it is the beginning of a series but rather the books themes and the decisions that the characters make. I contacted Andrea and hoped I would score an interview with her. I am very lucky that she made time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about the world, characters, and themes of Nightshade as well as what we should expect next in Wolfsbane, book 2 in the Nightshade series. Below is our chat. Enjoy!

Rummanah: Hi Andrea! Welcome and thank you so much for stopping by! I love the names you have given to your characters. I grew up with people mispronouncing my name all the time, so I’m sensitive in mispronouncing names. How do you pronounce them? How did you come up with them?

Andrea: Thank you - finding the right name for a character is incredibly important to me. I can't write if the name isn't working. Calla's name is like the flower 'cal - lah,' Shay is just like it's spelled, and Renier is 'ren - yay'. The names tie in to the origin of the Guardian packs. The Bane pack is of French descent and the Nightshade pack of English.

Rummanah: I knew that the Bane pack must be connected to the French in some way, but I wasn't sure of the Nightshade pack. It's uncanny how these two packs are from the countries that have a long rivalry. As I mentioned in my review, Nightshade is the most interesting paranormal romance book I’ve read in 2010. The blending of tumultuous history and lore created a world that sucked me in right away and which I loved discovering in your book. Did you always know what themes you wanted to address in Calla’s world or did you include them as you continued to write the book?

Andrea: Thank you so much for the great review! I don't plot my books, but let the story unfold as I'm writing. I love being surprised by what characters say and do and turns in the plot that I wasn't expecting. I do tend to know the answers to big questions while I'm writing though. I knew how the series would end while I was still writing the first book.

Rummanah: I don't think I could handle letting the story unfold. *Grin* I'm much more an outline kind of person. If I don't have one, I tend to go off track and forget about the point(s) that I'm trying to make. The idea that the Guardians are made from magic is fresh and original. Were you always intrigued about witchcraft and magic from a young age?
Andrea: Fantasy has always been my favorite genre and as a historian I focused my research on a period of history where magic and the occult played a dominant role in society, so yes I'm pretty sure I've always been drawn to those subjects.

Rummanah: What I love about Nightshade is that you learn what makes history. There is a well known quote that says something to the fact that the victor is the one who writes history, which is what Shay alludees to in the book. The questions of what the real history is and why Callah and others in the pack are in the dark about it is what drives the book. Nightshade is filled with various hierarchies of political and social power. In Calla’s world, how does one become an alpha? Is this status also designated by the Keepers?

Andrea: Alpha is an inherited role. Alphas can only be born, not made. Keepers influence the role by setting up alpha mates but they couldn't force a non-alpha wolf into the role - the others wolves wouldn't recognize a non-alpha as their leader.

Rummanah: I had a feeling that would be the case, but since the Keepers have such a strong hold in Callah's society I wasn't completely sure. Speaking of Callah, she is such a wonderful, strong heroine, who also happens to be a female alpha. As we get deeper in the story we see the negatives of being an alpha, especially female, doesn’t seem all that great. For instance, she loses individual freedoms, but most disturbingly, she is overshadowed by the alpha males. I couldn’t help but wonder if the label of a female alpha is an oxymoron. What are your thoughts of a female alpha? I would like to believe that Calla will still be a strong and powerful heroine even if she wasn’t an alpha. Is this possible?

Andrea: I love this question! The term 'female alpha' is an oxymoron insofar as the social hierarchies in Calla's world force her to always submit to a male alpha. However, that submission isn't a reflection of weakness on Calla's part it's simply a result of the restrictions set up by her masters.

Rummanah: I completely agree and I think she's also realizing this as she gets closer to her union. Two of my favorite scenes in Nightshade revolves around philosophy: Shay’s philosophical debate regarding Hobbes’s exclusion from the school’s curriculum and the clever use of Plato‘s Caves. I would love to take Calla’s Big Ideas class. I was wondering, do you have a favorite 17th century or classic philosopher?

Andrea: Part of the reason I chose Hobbes as the central philosopher in the series is because I find the his concept of the state of nature fascinating. I'm also a fan of Immanuel Kant (18th century) and the 19th century Transcendentalists.

Rummanah: Very interesting picks because their ideas are so different from one another! Okay, I'm going to ask you a question which I'm sure you've been asked a million times before, but I can't help it. I am really conflicted about Calla’s love interests. Ren and Shay have both good and bad qualities.  I know that Shay is popular with lots of readers and he has his own website, but I’m intrigued about Ren. There is more to him than his bravado. Ren, to me, represents the status quo for Calla yet he isn’t happy with their world either. Shay represents the unknown to Calla, but his insistence to support his way of thinking irritates me. I’m leaning towards Ren. Without spoiling anything, can you give us any teasers about what will we learn about these guys in the next two books?

Andrea: You'll learn more about who Shay really is and the importance of Ren's past.

Rummanah: I can't wait! I wonder if my loyalties will shift. There is just so much I don't know! It seems like YA is filled with paranormal books lately. In your opinion, what is the best and worst thing about writing in the paranormal genre?

Andrea: The best thing about writing paranormal is creating new worlds and mythologies or giving traditional myths fresh twists. The worst thing is when anyone assumes you're only writing paranormal because it's popular with readers right now. It breaks my heart anytime that assumption is made.

Rummanah: I can understand that. I know that in addition to the Nightshade series, you are also working on a steampunk series as well. I'm really looking forward to that series as well. Can you tell us more about that? What interests you about steam punk?

Andrea: The steampunk series is a work in progress so I'm not sure when you'll see it in stores, but hopefully in another couple of years! Steampunk intrigues me because I love alternate histories and that I'll be able to invent all sort of ridiculous machines and gadgets.
Rummanah: I will definitely will be on the look out for it. Andrea, thanks so much for stopping by.

Andrea: Thanks so much!

Readers you can learn more about Andrea and the Nightshade series by visitng her website. If you are Team Shay, be sure to fan him on his very own Facebook page! Wolfsbane comes out July 26th, 2011. 
6 Responses
  1. What a great interview! I have this book on my TBR list esp since I just found out their Breathless Reads tour will be coming to a city near me.

  2. Tina Says:

    What an awesome interview! You ask great questions, Rummanah! I never knew Renier was "ren-yay". I was just mentally pronouncing his name as "Ren-ne-yuh". Oops! I liked reading Andrea's reponses too.

    How do you pronounce your name, by the way?

    Tina @ Book Couture

  3. Debbie: Thank you! I'd love to hear your thoughts when you finish the book and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :)

    Tina: Thanks! I was mispronouncing Callah's name. Glad we straighten that out! My name is pronounced: Rum (as in the drink)- man (as in 'it's Jamaica man!)- nah. It's actually quite simple despite all the letters. ;)

  4. Jenny Says:

    What a wonderful review Andrea and Rummanah! It's so interesting that she doesn't fully plot the books out before she writes, she just lets things happen as she goes. I'm way too OCD to work that way, but it definitely seems to work for her, I loved Nightshade! I can't wait for Wolfsbane and more of Shay's history, and I'm so excited to know she's working on a steampunk series, that's one of my new favorite genres:)

  5. Great interview! I particularly like her writing process. By letting her characters develop organically, the book didn't need to be plotted upfront, and it was still a fantastic story!

  6. Jenny: Thanks! I'm really curious about Shay's past too. I can't wait to learn more.

    Linds: Thank you! I'm so dependent on an outline that not having one makes me nervous. It's so interesting to learn about people's writing styles.

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