Rosemary’s Fresh Takes from YA | Meet Gwen Hayes

The book landscape in March is in full bloom. Lots of great releases this month, so you should hit the Teen section of your local (or online) bookstore early and often.

Gwen HayesFALLING UNDERIf I had to pick one Don’t Miss book for March… Well, it would be really hard, but I am most excited to tell you about FALLING UNDER, by Gwen Hayes (March 1, from NAL), not least, because I was privileged to read it already and I. Love. This. Book.

If you are a fan of gothic, romantic, paranormal romance with a strongly developed fantasy side and a deeply satisfying romantic side, you will love it, too. I caught up with Gwen and asked her to tell me more about writing the book.

Gwen Hayes: Thank you for inviting me to Fresh Fiction. I’m really happy to be here.

RMC: I think when I read FALLING UNDER, I described it as a “Lushy romantic gothic fairy tale.” How would YOU describe it?

Gwen Hayes: Well, lushly romantic gothic fairy tale is pretty awesome. I’m not sure I could top that. I don’t even want to. When I was writing it, I knew it wasn’t like anything I’d written before. I hope readers find Under as evocative as it is creepy. It’s a very Tim Burtonesque place.

RMC: I can definitely see that. I found it macabre, but never gross. There are so many marvelous things going on, from the otherworldly threat, to Theia’s relationship with her father and the little bit of mystery surrounding her mother, to the romantic relationship that is so central to the book. What’s your favorite aspect of this story? What drew you to write this book?

Gwen Hayes: Haden is really what drew me to this tale. The book is written as Theia’s story, but for me, it was the mystery that was Haden that kept me writing. I didn’t know what he was about either–I found out when Theia did. Each twist and turn surprised and shocked me. Also, i enjoyed writing the friendship between Theia, Amelia, and Donny. Oh, and it’s a kissing book. I love kissing books.

RMC: Cannot argue with that. I noticed a lot of literary and folklore motifs (to use a pretentious word because I can’t think of a better one) in the book, and some things that were wildly original. What sort of books do you think influenced you as a writer? What are some of your favorites?

Gwen Hayes: Some of the writers who have influenced me are Joss Whedon, Nora Roberts, John Hughes, and Madeleine L’Engle. I’m sure that Under was partly influenced by the great imaginations of Frank Baum and C.S. Lewis, and the Bronte sisters really know how to write an anti-hero.

RMC: Speaking of the Brontes–Let’s talk about Haden. He’s a delicious mix of Edwards–Cullen and Rochester. (And just to be clear, I mean that as a compliment, as I do love a brooding anti-hero.) Am I wrong? What else went into the pot when you created him?

Gwen Hayes: I knew Haden would be compared to Mr. Cullen, and I’m okay with that. He’s similar but different and if every Twilight reader in the world wants to buy a copy of my book to compare Edward and Haden–I’m all for it. Also into the Haden Stew went: Angel from Buffy, J.D. from Heathers, a dash of Willy Wonka, Logan Echolls, Jack Skellington…Count Dracula…Haden is heavy on the Byronic hero plus guyliner.

RMC: Byronic! That’s the perfect word for him. Then there’s Theia, who is a good match for him. She’s someone that readers will identify with, but you gave her a uniqueness and a strong will that makes her stand out in my mind. Tell me how her music plays into to the story. (I loved that!)

Gwen Hayes: Thank you. Not everyone loves Theia–me included sometimes. She was hard to write because she portrays herself one way but in her heart she’s something completely different. Which is fine, but she lies to herself a lot, which meant she lied to me too.

As for her music, Theia is a violinist but she feels conflicted about her talent. When she plays for other people, they feel the magic of her talent, but she feels drained almost. When she allows herself to get lost in the song and plays for herself, she is rejuvenated. I suppose there is a metaphor in there– and I suppose also that writing can be the same way. I know that when I just let go and let it happen, my writing feeds me–but sometimes we writers have to deal with the “have to”s –deadlines and contracts sometimes make it hard to find that magical place where you can let go.

I love that comparison. And I love this book. It was satisfying to both the romantic and the fantasy geek in me. And it’s available now.

Here are just a couple of the other picks for this month:

WitherWITHER, by Lauren DeStefano. (March 22 from Simon & Schuster) This is my dystopian pick for this month. I have heard nothing but rave reviews for this book, from people who’s opinions I completely trust. The subject matter may polarize people over this book, but the writing and characterization is fantastic.

In the world of WITHER, a genetic mutation has made it so that no one lives past the age of 25. To keep the human species going, society has become polygamous, and 16 year old Rhine has been taken by the Gatherers to become a bride. Despite the world of wealth and privilege, the genuine affection of her husband, Lindon, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape, find her twin brother, and go home. Imprisonment, however, isn’t the only threat to Rhine, in this book that is part The Handmaiden’s Tale, part Hunger Games.

The quality of the writing really sets this debut novel apart. Rhine is a complex character–so are the other players– and her choices are not easy ones. If you only had a short life to live, would you spend it in a life chosen for you, or would you fight to spend it with someone you love?

Sean Griswold's Head SEAN GRISWOLD’S HEAD, by Lindsey Leavitt (March 1, from Bloomsbury). For those of you who love contemporary (i.e., non-paranormal) books, check out this book. Payton Gritas’s guidance counselor tells her that she needs a focus object, something to concentrate her emotions on when things get tough–which they are, because her father’s been diagnosed with M.S. Payton picks the back of Sean Griswold’s Head, because they’ve been alphabetically linked since the third grade. (I so get this. I, personally, never saw the front of Ralph Clifton’s head until graduation.)

As a result, Payton finds out the rest of Sean Griswold is pretty interesting too, in this sweet novel of first love, growing up, dealing with family issues, and just getting through the day. Payton is an endearing heroine, and the story is insightful, funny, and ultimately uplifting.

Happy reading!

Rosemary Clement-Moore writes Young Adult books because she loves to read them.
Visit her webpage or blog to find out more about her award winning Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series, and her gothic romance, THE SPLENDOR FALLS (now in paperback). Next up is TEXAS GOTHIC.