Author Alyson Noel was here last year to meet her fans and to promote the first book from her “Soul Seekers” series, “Fated,” when she and the folks of National Book Store got to talking.
“It started off as a joke between myself, Miguel and Xandra,” says Alyson. Miguel and Xandra are Miguel Ramos and Xandra Ramos-Padilla of National Book Store. Alyson adds, “I was telling them about authors I knew and they were like, ‘Oh we’ve been trying to get Melissa for years. We’d love to have Margie here.’ And then Miguel was, ‘Maybe we could have all three of you here.’”
Last year’s casual conversation became last week’s reality when National Book Store brought in three of young adult (YA) literature’s heavyweights: Melissa de la Cruz, the Filipina author behind the “Blue Bloods” universe, Margaret Stohl of “Beautiful Creatures” fame and Alyson Noel. Says Alyson, “I thought this would never happen, and then everything just fell into place. It was going ‘to be’ epic.”
The three are not just writing contemporaries, they’re also the best of friends, as evidenced by the laughter and banter during Super’s interview with them. They flew here to sign books for their Cebuano fans and were guests of honor at the recently concluded Manila International Book Fair.
For Melissa, the trip was an emotional homecoming. She and her family left the Philippines over 20 years ago and this is her first time back.
Super caught up with the three girlfriends before they hit the beach for their epic “all-girls trip.”
How did the three of you become friends?
Melissa de la Cruz (MDC): We met on a “Smart Chicks” tour.
Margaret Stohl (MS): We became friends because she (Melissa) went to the college my oldest daughter goes to. I was asking her all kinds of advice ’cause she worked in the housing office. We’re all from southern California, we live near each other. We go to each others’ apartments; we just really like each other, and I think because we have a lot in common. Mostly they like me.
MDC: (Laughs) We’re just the minions.
Between the three of you, you’ve created entire universes with beloved characters. How does it feel to say good-bye to such well-loved series?
MS: I did not do a great job on that, because we’re returning to that world with “Dangerous Creatures.” But it’s very sad and you cry a lot when you’re ending a series.
MDC: It took two years to get over knowing that “Gates of Paradise” was going to be the last book. It was hard. But I have a spinoff, too.
Alyson Noel (AN): For me, “The Immortals” was the first series I ever ended and it also happened fast. That was six books in two years. I thought I would be dancing on my desk when I wrote the end, but I needed an hour of silence in my office because those characters were such a huge part of my life; I speak to them more than my husband! The realization that we were done with each other, that I was not gonna spend time with Ever and Damen … although Ever and Damen were really glad to get rid of me, because I’ve put them through hell.
MS: And you’re excited to write other things, you wanna keep experimenting, but there’s a little bit of attachment to your cast. And then your readers are working through it differently. I get the funniest questions, “Did so and so get married?” I’m like, “You know what, when we left them they were 17. Now they’re like 18. Let’s let them date first.”
AN: “Were Damen and Ever married?” I get that a lot. Well I just wanna let them get through college.
MDC: (Laughs) I gave them all of it. I predicted the future because I didn’t want any of those questions.
What interaction have you had with your Filipino fans?
MDC: I’m expecting the crying. They said that authors are like rock stars here, and there’s gonna be screaming and crying, so bring the noise.
AN: They are really warm, generous, enthusiastic, lovely. I had such a great time here last year, so I was thrilled to return, especially with friends; makes it even sweeter. And I think it’s sweeter for the readers, too.
MS: I think our Filipino readers are the most vocal fans we have. I’ve known I was coming here for four years. Whether I brought myself here or a bookstore brought me here, we’ve always known we owed it to our Filipino readers to come.
MDC: I’ve been invited many, many times. It’s hard because it’s an emotional thing; I haven’t gone back here with my family. My mom’s not here, my brother’s not here, my dad passed away so I didn’t wanna go back just alone. I was kind of resisting because I wanted to go back as a personal person, but coming back with billboards on the street, it’s quite nice. (Laughs) Why was I resisting for so long?
The YA community is pretty small. Does it feel like high school sometimes?
MS: It’s a pretty supportive community, we’re not the only friends. There are other groups of friends who go and write together and support each other.
You guys are very prolific writers. How do you manage to stay focused?
AN: I have no life.
MDC: We have lives!
MS: I have never worked so hard in my life as right now. We were jet-lagged and writing on the plane. Mel was planning a launch party on the plane.
AN: I’ve taken the first break I’ve taken in eight years. I haven’t taken a break, I’ve written 21 books in seven and a half years; I can’t even count the tours. At first it was really hard for me, ’cause I’m kind of a workaholic, so it was a bit hard to disengage, but now I’m used to it. I need the new experiences. I think as a writer you’re always working, I don’t care where I am; I’m casting, I’m thinking, I’m making up stories about everyone I see, because the world is material.
MS: When you cast me, I want to have really good cheekbones.
AN: You’re already so photogenic, I would not change a thing.
MDC: (Points to self) Lucy Liu. I’ll take Lucy Liu.
What were you guys like in high school?
MDC: We would not be friends because I was a loser.
MS: I was the queen of the nerds.
MDC: (Laughs) OK, so Margie would’ve been my queen.
MS: I was the AP hottie.
AN: I cut class a lot.
MDC: Oh, really? Were you a bad girl?
AN: Yes and no. I would cut class and either go up to LA and hang out, or sit in the library. It was one or the other. I was very unhappy and really lost in my life.
MC: I missed valedictorian by one hundredth of a point, and it is the bitterness, the resentment that’s carried me through. I was basically a loner. I’ve always been kind of a loner until I grew up. And now I’m really social, I go to parties, I have the best friends I’ve ever made. They came after I was 40. It took a while to fill my own skin.
MS: We found our tribe, YA writers who we can connect with.
AN: You get this question a lot at parties: “Do you write about high school because you loved it so much?” It always makes me laugh, ’cause I’m like, “Oh, God no, you couldn’t pay me to go back.” And then my husband goes, “Honey, you are being paid to go back. Every day.” And I never thought about it that way. Oh my God, I make a living reliving the worst time of my life.
Margaret, you started writing “Beautiful Creatures” to win a bet with your daughter. When you finished it, was it a “Booyah, bitches!” kind of victory?
MS: It was exactly like that! I honestly didn’t care what happened to the book. I don’t think anyone believes me when I say this, but let me actually say this: I had no publishing plan. We weren’t writing a book. I was literally just trying to win a freaking bet, because my oldest daughter was so crabby, and there’s a way a teenager can talk to her mother that’s just like, “You’re dirt, man, you can never do that!” Now she’s so nice, ’cause she’s a junior in college, and she’s like “I was such a little jerk.” And I’m all, “Yes. And thank you.”
MDC: If she weren’t, you wouldn’t be sitting on this couch today.
MS: I always tell people that teenagers are so critical, they’re so genuine that you just can’t get any crap past them. I’ve always had my daughters read everything and be so nasty, and then I fix it. I really did keep my daughter home for three days before we turned in the final draft just to make her edit it. She was so mean, and then she finally said, “Mom, I have to go to school. It’s the law. Don’t be so selfish!”
Melissa, “The Witches of East End” was picked up to become a TV series and will air this month. Are you psyched?
AN: I can’t wait to see the hotness.
MDC: The guy who plays Killian tweeted me with a photo of him reading the sequel. The photo of him was so hot, but my husband was in the room and I couldn’t scream.
Melissa, you worked with your husband on your new “Frozen” series but you mentioned that he was always your secret collaborator. How is it like working with your husband?
MC: It’s kinda great. It’s one of the wonderful things we share. Sometimes we sit down at dinner though, and he’ll go into a plot point or character thing and I’ll be like, “I don’t wanna work right now. I just wanna eat my chicken fingers.”
MS: Even when I made video games with my husband it took over everything.
AN: My husband is my business manager and he helps me with plotting; he reads everything first, we talk about characters; when I get stuck, he always talks me through it. He is a huge part of my books.
MS: So is my husband.
AN: I have a few friends whose husbands have never read their books, and probably never will, and I find that so weird.
Melissa, how Filipino was your upbringing when you moved to the States?
MDC: When we moved, we brought our values and culture, but our parents definitely wanted us to be American, ’cause we’d immigrated and they wanted us to assimilate, and you kinda have to say goodbye to that part of you a little bit. My parents encouraged that because they wanted us to deal with the new normal, to not keep looking back, to not be nostalgic for our life before. They wanted us to see this as an adventure. And before my dad died … now I’m gonna cry … he said, “You think I made the right choice?” And I said, “Yes, you did.” I don’t think I would be here on this couch if my dad hadn’t decided to take us to America.
MS: Finally, we’ve been waiting for you to cry.
AN: I almost gave up on you, Mel.
What’s next for you guys?
AN: Something top secret I can’t share yet.
MS: The next book is our new “Beautiful Creatures” series book, which will come out May 6th. It’s called “Dangerous Creatures.”
MDC: “Vampires in Manhattan.” It’s a spinoff of “Blue Bloods,” they’re a bit older. I’m working on that, then “Frozen 2,” plus a new series I’m working on.
How do you guys deal with violent fan reactions?
MC: Fanemies? You know the ones who are so excited whose expectations are so high you’ll never meet them? Fanemies.
MS: I think once you put it out there, it belongs to the fans. I don’t get to decide. We got a lot of flak about the movie because they changed a lot of things, but I respect that. I’m passionate about my fandoms, you should be passionate about your fandoms, too.
AN: I think it’s flattering, especially the extreme reactions; they care about it so much that they hate you. (Laughs)
The three authors’ books are all available at National Book Store. Follow @nbsalert on Twitter and Instagram for updates.