Interview with P.C. Cast
by Michele Lee
P.C. Cast is the co-author with her daughter Kirstin the popular young adult vampire series House of Night books and is the author of the Goddess Summoning and Partholon book series.
ML: Before I ever read any of the House of the Night books I stumbled upon a picture of your covers and I have to ask, how many people did you have to sacrifice to get such gorgeous covers?
PC: I know! I have seriously excellent cover Karma - always have. It makes me smile. A lot!
ML: It took me a few months to finally pick up Marked, the first book in the series because I read the blurb and thought "Oh, it's another vampire high school series." With all the competition out there like Nancy A. Collins' Vamps series and Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, what do you think makes your books different?
PC: My world is the only one that is based around a matriarchal belief system. The message of empowering young women really resonates with teenagers. Also, I try hard to keep the kids real, which means that quite often I push the envelope with the themes I tackle in the books, and while that can be difficult it also reaches my audience and means a lot to them.
ML: All the students in the House of the Night series are marked by the vampire goddess Nyx, destined to become her representatives in the world. Can you tell us a little about how your vampires are different from the ones we're more familiar with and why you made them that way?
PC: Well, as I said, I've based their belief system on a Pagan, matriarchal society. I choose to do that because I believe in empowering women. It's a theme on which I've focused my adult books, too. Also, carrying through with the Pagan ideology, I've made the journey of my teens Changing into vamps more biological with a touch of paranormal, versus the other way around. I did that because I like the earth-based aspect of it, and my father is a biologist, so research is a family affair!
ML: Also a large part of the series is an amazing mixture of ancient and modern myths. How did you manage to modernize multiple ancient pagan cultures yet keep everything so familiar?
PC: Practice! I used ancient myths in my adult books, especially the Goddess Summoning Series, and wove a modern slant throughout them. It's something I'm very comfortable with. For as long as I can remember, I rewritten history/myths/stories in my head.
ML: You write this series with your daughter, Kristin, which is just amazing. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of writing a series with a close relative?
PC: Writing is usually such a solitary job that it's nice to have someone in it with me. I write the entire first draft, and then send it to Kristin for her to go through. It makes me feel like I can relax and write, knowing she has my back. Believe me, she'll let me know if I've messed up and made Zoey sound 40-something! I guess the down side would be that she's the only person in the world who can tell me (and has), "No, Mom. You have to change it 'cause that sucks."
ML: The House of the Night series isn't your only series. Can you tell us about the other books you have out there?
PC: I write an adult paranormal romance series for Berkley called the Goddess Summoning Books. They're fun, sexy retellings of ancient myths/legends, with a modern twist. I also have an adult fantasy series I've written for LUNA, and two YA books for Harlequin Teen written in the same world. And this past fall I joined the Nocturne team with THE AVENGER, which was part of a cool Time Raiders collection.
ML: Your books seem to have a focus on women who are chosen in some way for wild, magical destinies, almost like modern tales of power or fairy tales for women. Do you think you purposefully set out to be an inspiration to women, and do you think younger girls need more magic and encouragement in their lives?
PC: I did set out to empower and inspire modern women, young and old(er). I love so much about today's women - we're strong and independent, well educated and wise. I love that we step out and live life with confidence, and that many of us won't be bound by outdated societal chains. Yes! Young women need to understand how valuable they are, and magic and encouragement does help with that!
ML: Another wonderful aspect I've found in your books is how the characters all, after figuring out the plot and defeating the bad guys, seem to be on a quest to find something and someone to connect with. Zoe Redbird, from the House of the Night series, for example, leaves a family that doesn't seem to want to connect with her, who are fueled by a religion about control and, in becoming what used to be considered a monster, she finds people who care about her and support her and a connection to something greater than her that inspires and strengthens her. Do you think this reflects a growing disconnect from things and people in the world today, or do you feel that this is a universal position that people find themselves in, which makes it easy to relate to?
PC: I think it's universal and timeless, especially with teenagers. And don't we all wish we could take the negatives in our lives and turn them to positives? Or at the very least, use them to empower us to make better decisions and to work for change?
ML: Paganism features very strongly into your stories and your characters are also very upfront and honest about drug use, drinking and sex (and might I say for the most part your characters seem to have very good heads on their shoulders about these issues). Which aspect do you think has led to more school libraries banning your books?
PC: Sex! When I taught high school I actually had parents tell me that they didn't care about the amount of violence their kids read/watched, but no sex. Great lesson for our young people, huh? Violence = acceptable. Sex = horrid, bad, dirty. Teenagers deal with sexual issues on a daily basis. I believe in facing those issues and opening a dialogue without judging and condemning. I think many teenagers do have good heads on their shoulders, especially when they're allowed to talk about their feelings honestly and without incrimination.
ML: Finally, as both an author and a former high school teacher inspiring a love of reading in people is clearly something you enjoy doing. What books, other than your own of course, do you think inspire teens to a lifelong habit of reading? What can parents, and librarians, do to encourage children and teens to read?
PC: Parents and librarians and teachers can encourage kids to read by setting an example and reading! Books should be a habit at home as well as at school. Kids should grow up seeing their parents read. They should frequent libraries and bookstores, and be raised knowing the power and magic of the written word. Some of my favorite lifelong books: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, BEAUTY by Robin McKinley, FAHR 451 by Ray Bradbury, THE SILVER METAL LOVER by Tanith Lee, DRAGON FLIGHT, DRAGON QUEST, and THE WHITE DRAGON by Anne McCaffrey, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd - to name only a few!
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