Shadow Hills is a Young Adult mystery with a paranormal twist. After the death of her sister, my main character, Phe, has been having cryptic dreams, much like the ones her sister had before she died. Phe decides to go to Devenish Prep, the boarding school that her sister mentioned in her last diary entry, but Phe soon realizes that the secrets of Shadow Hills are even darker than her own.
Can you tell a little about how you got interested in writing?
My mom started reading to me when I was very little, and fiction has always fascinated me, whether it's books, tv shows or movies. As a teen, I worked on writing screenplays, but after high school, my focus turned more to the acting part of film. Eventually I got back into writing, and this time it was novels, which seemed to be a better fit for me than screenplays were.
Tell us about your ideal writing space.
Since I can get distracted very easily, my ideal writing space would be quiet, clean, and organized. In my home office, I've pretty much got the quiet part down, and I'm working toward the clean part, but the organized part may just be a pipe dream. ;)
What is your inspiration for Shadow Hills and the characters in it. Along with the main characters, one of my favorites was Toy---was there a specific inspiration for her?
The prep school was sort of based on Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, MA, as far as its structure, curriculum, and the location. The town of Shadow Hills is just my own conglomeration of many of the beautiful places I visited in the Berkshire area, but it's not really modeled after one specific town.
Almost all my characters have one or two aspects of my personality and often a few aspects of my friends' and family's personalities, as well. But the only character who is really inspired by one certain person is, funnily enough, Toy. Being a girl and being really good with computers is all her, but a lot of her other interests--collecting music on vinyl, graphic novels, Frank Kozik toys--- are the same as my boyfriend Brent's.
How would you describe your writing style?
I would hope that people find it readable, as that's what I aim for. I'm not a fan of really dense narration, and I really enjoy writing dialogue, which I think comes partly from my original interest in screenwriting. So I hope dialogue is one of my strengths, too. I really love lyrical novels and greatly admire that kind of writing style, but the most important thing to me is that my book is a fast, fun read.
What kind of books did you love to read as a child/teenager?
When I was a kid, I really loved Anne of Green Gables and the Alice books by Phyllis Naylor (though, regrettably, I haven't read the most recent ones). When I was a little older, like middle school and high school age, I really enjoyed Rob Thomas' young adult novels and Francesca Lia Block's whole Weetzie Bat series. My copy of Dangerous Angels looks like it's been through a war.
Which of the characters that you've written is your favorite?
The person I would most want to hang out with is Phe. She's easy to get along with and fun. But my favorite girl character to write is probably Adriana. I tend to over-analyze and think about the future impact of everything I do and say, but Adriana just does and says whatever pops into her mind. It's really fun to write without an inner censor like that.
I also really love writing Brody because even though in the beginning, he might come off as dumb or a one-note slacker, there really is so much more to him and his background and personality, and I really enjoy exploring that.
There was some great music mentioned in Shadow Hills---were you listening to it while you were writing?
Pretty much all the music mentioned in Shadow Hills is stuff that I myself love and listen to, but, as I said earlier, with my tendency to get distracted, I really have to have it silent as I work. I truly envy those people who can listen to songs as they're writing, but I start dancing and singing along, which isn't very productive.
Favorite snack while writing?
I don't really eat while I'm writing. I'll get so involved in a scene that I don’t realize I'm hungry, but when I finally do, I often pop a frozen dinner into the microwave, only to go back to writing, where I'll get wrapped up in a new chapter and totally forget about my food. By the time I get it out, it's a congealed, cold mess that no one would want to eat.
That's really an impossible question for me to answer since I have so many, but the tops would be any of the early John Hughes movies, such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Sixteen Candles. I also really, really loved Garden State and Adventureland. But probably my most recent favorite movie is Kick Ass.
Favorite band and song?
Again, this is a really impossible question for me to answer. But I'll give you my favorite songs of two of my many favorite bands: Wonderlust King by Gogol Bordello and The Sweat Descends by Les Savy Fav.
Favorite teacher from your school years?
Mr. Van Dyke, my fourth grade teacher. Spacy became my nickname from him because I was always daydreaming, but he was the most challenging, fun, and interesting teacher I had in elementary school.
Check out more about Shadow Hills and Anastasia at her website: http://anastasiahopcus.blogspot.com/
Look for Shadow Hills on bookstore shelves this Tuesday, July 13th!
Also, check back here in a few days, where I'll be giving away four awesome books that release this week---including Shadow Hills!