Kristen Strassel is somewhat of an Opening Line alumni nowadays, so when we heard her first novel, Because the Night, was due for release, we immediately tracked her down to spill the beans about her debut publication.
Original interview: October 2013
Tell us a bit about yourself. How would you describe yourself as a writer?
I work as a makeup artist, which influences a lot of other facets of my life. I tend to always be creative, whether it’s my “day job” or if I’m just trying to relax. I notice colors and textures probably more than other people, and it’s my job to be a people watcher. I think that translates into my books, I find that I pay attention to details that other authors might not. Leigh Bardugo is also a makeup artist, and I notice the same things with her books. Not that my books are anywhere near as brilliant as hers, but she uses the same elements. Because The Night is the first book I wrote. I really learned how to write a book with this one. I semi plotted this one, ripped it apart, put it back together, and really learned what my style would become. I feel like I’ve worked the hardest on this book, but because of that it’s also the closest to my heart.
What type of books do you enjoy reading? What type of books do you typically write?
I will give almost anything a try. I prefer to buy books in a brick and mortar bookstore, as I like to do all my shopping. It’s a sensory thing. I like to see what draws me in and actually pick up books. The YA section always tends to be the best merchandised with the best covers, so I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately. I love paranormal reference books for research. I am also a huge fan of rock and roll biographies.
What is Because the Night about, and what inspired you for the story?
Because the Night is about Callie, broke away from her overprotective family to reconnect with her first boyfriend, Tristan, in Las Vegas. Ever since he became the star of “vampire” rock band Immortal Dilemma, he shut her out of his life. She always knew his excesses would get him into trouble, but she never expected they would really lead him into immortality. Tristan’s totally out of control, Callie hates his new life, but she can’t walk away from him. She has to navigate through a world she didn’t even know existed, a world that doesn’t welcome her. Along the way, she meets Blade, who is everything she wishes Tristan could still be, but also has a connection to Tristan. All of the things that Callie fights so hard to save in Las Vegas are the same things that threaten to destroy her. I’ve been a music fanatic my whole life. I’ve gone to more concerts than I can count. As I write this, I’m on a concert road trip. Many of my friends are musicians, or date them. I used to live in Las Vegas and the city holds a place in my heart as my home away from home. Vampire rock stars in Las Vegas seemed like a natural thing for me to write about.
Callie, as your protagonist, obviously has good intentions at the beginning of the story. What would you say is her greatest weakness in dealing with the life she finds herself thrown into?
I think Callie’s weaknesses are also her strengths. She seldom puts herself first. Once she sets her sights on something, she follows through. She lets these things lead her to temptation, later trouble, then disaster. Callie is not a role model. That’s not to say she’s a bad person, but she doesn’t walk on water. She’s real. A lot of people have said that they want to shake her for doing the things she does only because they’ve been in her shoes and made the same mistakes. I want to read about people who don’t always make the right decisions, and I created Callie with that in mind.
You mentioned Tristan is ‘out of control’. Would you say that he is the villain of the story, a hero, or an anti-hero?
Good question! I like that even after people read the book, they aren’t exactly sure what to think of him. I think “anti-hero” fits Tristan best. There’s a line in the book when he says to Callie, “I know I have a funny way of showing it, but I just want to keep you safe.” Tristan has dirt on his soul, but he’s not a bad guy.
Because the Night is your first novel. What did you learn from the experience?
Every day is a learning experience. All of my firsts come with this book. The firsts are the biggest, the hardest, the sweetest. But I know you’re looking for something better than that. The book is never perfect. I learned how to pace, how to create characters that people cared about, how to edit, and how to finish. There are absolutely no guarantees in publishing. Criticism is hard. This came from my imagination, it’s an extension of me. I had to learn what to take to heart and what to let go. [The most challenging aspect of Because the Night was when] I did a massive rewrite of the book. The book that is being published was originally book 1 and 2. I pulled everything apart and put it back together in a very unconventional way. This whole process has been a great experience. Becoming a serious writer opened a whole new world to me. Not only am I embarking on a new career, but I’ve met a whole group of new friends who understand my passion, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. Getting an agent was a huge milestone. Seeing the bookcover was surreal. Having people interested in reading my book…whoa.
On the subject of ‘Supernatural’, I’d like to ask you a bit about your take on vampires. With all the myths surrounding vampires, what do you think is the most important trait to preserve? What is a stereotypical vampire trait you would like to dismiss from the mythology?
The most important classic vampire element for me to incorporate in my books was that they could not go out in sunlight. They are creatures of the night. My vamps are also a bit dangerous, which I think lends to their all around dark lifestyles in the small hours of the night. I challenged the blood mythology, and made it an erotic elixir instead of something they needed to survive. I’m not a paranormal traditionalist. I’m not a huge fan of werewolves or fae. I like gods and people who have extraordinary abilities who don’t quite fit in a neat little category, like ones with the powers to talk to the dead or hear other people’s thoughts. [If I could choose my own superpower] I’d wish I could teleport. Just close my eyes, click my heels, and be where I need to be. It would make my life so much easier.
You share your website, www.deadlyeverafter.com, with fellow author Julie Hutchings. How did your writing alliance come about? What can you tell us about the way in which you work together?
Julie and I have been friends since we were kids. We grew up on the same street, which incidentally is the same street I live on now (don’t worry, I’ve lived other places!). When we were teenagers, we used to entertain ourselves by writing stories. We’d each write a little bit, and then pass the notebook to the other to continue. Now, we treat writing like a business. We’re both alumni of the same large corporation, so we have similar business aesthetics. We get together once or twice a week, talk about what we’ve got going on, plan and schedule. We talk all day via text and see each other often. I think a lot of people think of us in terms of “The Undead Duo” and sometimes maybe as if we’re extensions of the same people. Even though we get along wonderfully and have many things in common, we have a lot of differences. We work differently and our lives are very different despite spending so much time together. We don’t always agree, and sometimes we do argue. No partnership would be worth having if we didn’t have anything to bring to it. We don’t hold anything back. Basically, we are just ourselves. With schedules and goals. We’re not sure why it works, but so far, it does.
After her debut’s success, Kristen Strassel hit the ground running with more releases we think you’ll love.
On Twitter: @KristenStrassel
Her website: www.deadlyeverafter.com