Beth Fantaskey Talks Writing Style and Latest Releases!

Author Beth Fantaskey is the one behind writing Jessica's Guide To Dating the Dark Side and recent sequel Jessica Rules the Dark Side and other novel Jekel Loves Hyde. She caught up with me to discuss her three novels and what got her into writing in the first place along with what she does in between writing sessions. Find out what else she has to say by reading it below.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Beth: I’m married with three daughters, and I live in a small town in Pennsylvania. I love to travel, and I collect ketchups wherever I go, testing as many as I can. I’m a big fan of naps, daydreaming and things like running and biking, where I can really push my physical limits... so I can go home and nap again!

2. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Beth: I've been a professional writer ever since I graduated from college, but I didn’t try fiction until I was almost forty. I finished my first (published) book in 2007.

3. How did you choose the genre you write in?

Beth: Actually, I didn’t choose the genre. I chose the story and characters and was later told that I had written a “YA paranormal” book. I was incredibly ignorant about how books are categorized, and had no clue what I was doing! I really love being a YA author, though.

4. Where do you get your ideas?

Beth: My ideas come from all over. My first book, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, is rooted in my family life. My children are adopted, and we sometimes imagine what their birth parents might be like. What if they are doctors? Or farmers? Or even royalty? I just took that game to the extreme by imagining Jessica Packwood’s birth parents as vampire nobility. My second book, Jekel Loves Hyde, is obviously inspired by the classic novel. I really like the idea of re-telling and updating old tales.

5. Tell me about Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side what is the concept about and what can you say that would get readers interested?

Beth: Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is about a young, adopted girl who discovers that her birth parents were vampire royalty – and that she’s betrothed to marry the hot, arrogant, Romanian vampire prince who shows up on her doorstep on the eve of her senior year of high school. It’s an intensely romantic book, but also funny, because readers get to see America through the eyes of a foreign, bloodsucking aristocrat who’s stuck living with vegan farmers.

5. How has the writing style evolved from Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side to Jessica Rules the Dark Side?

Beth: Hopefully I’m always growing as a writer, but I wouldn’t say the two books are different stylistically. The big change is that the sequel also features chapters from the point of view of Jessica’s ditzy friend Mindy Stankowicz, who has her own unique voice.

6. What are your expectations for this series?

Beth: I don’t have any expectations, beyond hoping that the books make some people happy and keep them entertained for a few hours. So far, I feel like they’ve been successful, based on that standard!

7. Was your writing process any different than usual for Jessica Rules the Dark Side?

Beth: No, my writing process didn’t really change. I just sort of sit down at my desk and let the characters start “talking.” If anything changed, it was my understanding of Jess, Lucius and Mindy. They definitely became even more real to me in the second book.

8. Can you tell me about the models used in the three books you have released? Why did you go with them and what do they bring to your world?

Beth: I actually don’t have any say in who’s on my book covers. The models are chosen by an artist who lives in California, so I don’t even see them until long after the design is finished. Sometimes I think they really resemble the characters as I envision them, and sometimes not. I always think his work is beautiful, though.


9. Will we be seeing a sequel to Jekel Loves Hyde?

Beth: No, I really like how that story ends, just as it is. It’s got a hint of mystery – is Tristen really “cured,” of does he still harbor a monster inside of himself – that I find suitable for the novel. I don’t think I’d mess with that.

10. What do you do when you are not writing?

Beth: I’m kind of an exercise fiend – that’s when I psych myself up to write or get ideas, usually while I run on the treadmill. I also like to cook, watch awful reality TV shows, and hang out with my three kids. They keep me pretty busy – enough that I ditched most of the hobbies I used to have.


11. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Beth: That’s an interesting question, because I think people experience that in a lot of different ways. I do have days where the words don’t seem to flow naturally, or I really have to struggle for ideas. I suppose that’s my form of the disease.

12. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Beth: I tend to just go with the flow. I like to know where a story will start and end – especially in terms of how the main characters will develop – but beyond that, I just let the rest come out naturally. I honestly don’t think I could stick to a plot outline, because it seems like new possibilities always open up as I write. For example, I’ll leave a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, and suddenly I see new directions to take. I envy people who can create detailed plots, though. I think that’s probably a more sane way to work.

13. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Beth: Growing up, I loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I still enjoy stories about friendship and betrayal, with epic stakes. As an adult – and a writer – I’m definitely influenced by Dumas. I really try to emulate his use of cliffhangers, and I think my heroes tend to have both dark and light aspects, which I’m sure harkens back to my love of The Count of Monte Cristo.

14. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Beth: It actually all happened really quickly. I pitched my book to an agent (via mail), and within days she’d called me and was working on selling it. The hard part came after that, when I was assigned an editor and had to begin the laborious process of rewriting and polishing my manuscript. I had no idea how much work would go into perfecting the story. I really learned a lot.


15. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

Beth: No... I wouldn’t change anything. Jessica’s Guide is published in about eleven different countries now, and I get messages from readers all over the world telling me that it resonates with them. I feel incredibly fortunate.

16. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

Beth: I goofed around with some novels before writing Jessica’s Guide, but I didn’t love them, and it doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t get published.

17. What project are you working on now?

Beth: I’m just starting a third book about Jess, Lucius, Mindy and Raniero, but to be honest, most of my time is spent working on my doctoral dissertation. I took a break from school to write my three completed novels, but if I don’t finish my degree this year, seven years of education are down the drain. I really want to get that Ph.D., so I’m hustling.

18. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Beth: I always like to work with Jess and Lucius, and as I noted, I’m a big fan of themes of loyalty and betrayal – and, of course, love!

19. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Beth: The toughest criticism has probably come from my editor, who sometimes thinks I get a little melodramatic – which is true! But I love intense drama and a big love scene, so that’s just what it is. I have two favorite compliments. The first is when girls, in particular, tell me that my characters inspire them to be proud of who they are and to stand up for themselves. The second is when readers say they cried or even threw one of my books across the room because they got that upset about a twist in the story. To me, that means they were really invested in the plot and characters.

20. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Beth: I always give people the same boring but sincere advice, which is to treat writing like anything else you want to be good at – meaning practice every day. I get the sense that some people think writing is a “gift” that you either have or don’t have. But in my opinion, it’s also a talent that you can develop with hard work and practice. So I always encourage aspiring writers to sit down and work, just like you’d practice piano if you wanted to be a concert pianist, or do soccer drills if you wanted to be a soccer star. I worked as a professional writer for nearly twenty years before I tried a novel, and I learned something every day on the job.

21. What are your upcoming tour plans?

Beth: I’m afraid I don’t have any. I’ll be home for the summer!

22. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Beth: Thank you, thank you, and thank you for kindness, support and friendship. The best part of writing novels has honestly been meeting people from all over the world who love to read and talk about books. I really, really appreciate all of the e-mails, Facebook friendships, and face-to-face meetings at things like book fairs and book signings. It’s fantastic!

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