Monday, August 30, 2021

#Interview: Phantom Heart (Phantom Heart #1) by @Kelly_Creagh

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Stephanie Armand doesn’t believe in ghosts or spirits. Despite her six-year-old sister, Charlie, insisting a masked figure is hiding in her closet, and the rumors at school, Stephanie isn’t convinced her father’s latest renovation project–a crumbling Victorian mansion–houses the soul of a monster. 

So when the very charming (and paranormal obsessed) Lucas Cheney takes an interest in both Stephanie and her notorious home, the supernatural and romantic activity escalates to an all-time high. And that doesn’t even take into account the dashing, British-accented eighteen-year-old boy, Erik, who’s taken up residence in Stephanie’s nightly dreams. A boy who may have something to do with the man in the mask, and the strange occurrences taking place at Moldavia.

A steamy YA romance with Twilight vibes, inspired by Gaston Leroux’s classic The Phantom of the Opera


Where can readers follow you?

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website

  1. What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?

Phantom Heart just released with Viking (Penguin/Random House) and it is a modern gothic YA retelling of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Instead of a theatre, though, Phantom Heart is set in a crumbling Victorian mansion—one which houses the shattered soul of a tortured genius.

  1. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be?

Though I have always been a writer, even from a young age, I have not always wanted to pursue writing professionally. When I was in grade school, I wanted to be a baker. In middle school and high school, I wanted to be an actress. I began to get serious about writing in college, and that led to my decision to pursue a master’s degree in writing from Spalding.

  1. Do you work another job as well as your writing work?

I have worked many jobs while pursuing my writing career. I even once drove the library bookmobile, a job that I was ill-suited for since driving such a large vehicle always intimidated me. I did, however, enjoy reading to kids during storytime and creating fun library programs for teen patrons. In addition to being an author, I am also a professional bellydancer, and I have performed and taught classes for many years. I also hand-dye silk veils for bellydancers, and my silks have traveled to dancers all over the world.

  1. How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?

It all depends. My first book, Nevermore, took me about three years to write. Including all drafts and revisions, Phantom Heart was a five-year journey. This year, due to having more time to write, I was able to draft two books. One is still pretty messy!

  1. Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?

The second and third books in my Nevermore trilogy were difficult to write because they were sequels, but also because I was on a deadline while working several jobs. Phantom Heart was difficult, too, but in a different way. There are a lot of moving parts in the book, including multiple point-of-view characters. Ultimately, though, the hardest part about writing Phantom Heart was deciding what belonged in the story and what didn’t. This was something I worked on from conception to completion, and with multiple sources of feedback. Though much of the book has transformed over the years, it is interesting to note that the first chapter changed the least.

  1. What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?

My next YA will be another stand-alone retelling of a gothic classic. I love revisiting and recasting classics. I’m writing a few other things, too. Always, I am writing something.

7. Do you have a favorite character from your books? and why are they your favorite?

Concerning Phantom Heart, I think Zedok is my favorite character. He’s grumpy, British, Victorian, and cursed. What more could you want in romantic interest? Another character who holds a special place in my heart is Pinfeathers from the Nevermore Trilogy. He is a character I miss writing. I guess I have a soft spot for monsters. 

8. How long have you been writing? And who or what inspired you to write?

I have been writing most of my life. Recently, I was humbled when my young nieces requested that I read to them my first book, The Garden that Grew Pink Lettuce. I must have been near their age when I wrote it! I wrote fiction through all of my school years. In middle school, I remember passing along whole spiral-bound notebooks filled with my latest chapters to my classmates who would return them later, asking for more. In high school, I enrolled in playwriting and wrote and directed my own plays, one of which I recently reimagined into a middle-grade book. My inspiration comes from my family, my friends, music, art, and literature. My greatest literary influence has been, of course, Edgar Allan Poe, who is a central focus in my Nevermore Trilogy. There are nods to Poe in Phantom Heart as well. For instance, the name of the Victorian Mansion my protagonist, Stephanie, moves into is Moldavia, which was the name of Poe’s childhood home in Virginia.

9. Where do you get your book plot ideas from? What/Who is your inspiration?

I love going back to the classics and fairy tales. I grew up on tales like Beauty and the Beast and classics like The Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, and Jane Eyre. I’ve also always had a soft spot for retellings, or books that revisit classic literature in some way. 

10. Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?

I always have noise-canceling headphones on. Music helps me to focus and tap into the mood of a project. Other than that, there isn’t anything that I must have to write. Well, other than coffee. 

11. Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them? ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?

My books typically go through rigorous revision before they land in the hands of readers. My critique group provides initial feedback, and every member helps me along the way as I develop a new project. I have non-writer beta readers, too. My agent as well provides invaluable feedback. Then, of course, my editor provides an editorial letter. Often, I’ll go through several rounds with my editor as well. So, my books will typically go through five to ten drafts in total. Writing, I have learned, is re-writing, and revision is probably my favorite part of the process. Which is good since I do a lot of it! 

12. How much input did you have on the cover?

Typically, authors who publish with traditional publishers don’t have a lot of input on their covers, though publishers will always pass cover designs by authors and agents. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have amazing cover designs for all of my books. Phantom Heart is no exception. I love how one look at the book and title lets readers know exactly what kind of story lies within. I particularly love the roses and the colors, which convey a romantic and gothic feel. 

13. How do you come up with character names and place names in your books?

I’m a bit of a name nerd. Names are one of my favorite things to assign, think up, and play with while writing. For example, in the Nevermore Trilogy, the main love interest is a goth boy named Varen. “Varen” is a scramble of the word “raven,” which is appropriate since so much of the trilogy centers on the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe.

 In Phantom Heart, many character names from Leroux’s original novel show up in some form. These aren’t always overt, but fans of the classic will catch those names right away. Though I named my main character Stephanie after a strange but cool song of the same name by the band El Radio Fantastique, I also love that the name has a strong “I” in it like “Christine” does. Naming my main character after Leroux’s heroine didn’t feel right for this retelling, especially since Stephanie and Christine are so different in terms of personality. Not all my names have deeper meanings or tie back to literary sources, though. I got the name Lucas for example off a name tag of a waiter at a wedding reception.

14. Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?

I might try! In the end, however, the characters always tell me who they are and what their personality is like. For instance, there is a secondary character in Phantom Heart named Wes. During the first draft, he floated along with my group of teen ghost hunters—the one fuzzy face in the mix. As I waded farther into the story, though, he began to do and say outrageous things. His specific role became clearer and clearer with each draft, and his responses more unpredictable. Wes grew to be such a big personality that I halfway wish he could have his own book.

15. Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?

I do a bit of both. I started out writing fiction as a straight “pantser.” Meaning I always wrote from the seat of my pants and with no plan. After a close study of structure, though, I now strive to mix some plotting with some “pantsing.” After I finish the first draft and I know how a book ends, I find I can zero in on the structure and tear down and rebuild what I need to. And no matter how much I plot, the books I write always hold big surprises for me. I think this is because my subconscious understands symbolism, archetypes, and theme in a different way than the more logical and planning side of my brain. Because of that, I feel my subconscious makes really great in-the-moment suggestions that make strict plotting, for me, a hindrance. For example, Pinfeathers, one of the most popular characters in the Nevermore trilogy, popped up randomly late in the first book. My logical brain tried to tell me that this was too late for a new character to just cruise on in, but my subconscious knew he belonged, so I let him stay. Later, I realized he actually appeared in an earlier scene that I’d written. I just didn’t realize until draft two that it was him. Perhaps, though, my subconscious knew all along.

16. Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?

Boy, have I. I have suffered from severe writer’s block in the past. To get through it, I wrote anyway. That might sound contradictory, but I don’t think writer’s block means that you’re not writing—though it can. I think it means that you find it very difficult to write, you have trouble coming up with ideas or scenes, and the writing itself just wears you out. Whenever writer’s block hits me now, I just write anyway. Even if I think what I’m doing is terrible. Typically, I’ll come back later to realize what I’ve written is not terrible. I can always make my writing better, but I cannot edit a blank page. So, I just write it anyway. Even if I have to go back later and chuck thousands or even tens of thousands of words, I have learned the lesson that, when I’m stuck, it is STILL better to write. Even when I don’t feel like it. Especially when I don’t feel like it. If I’m struggling to write, I will also cut out all TV. This helps me to hear my own thoughts more clearly. I also find that if I dial back on input like TV, movies, and social media, my output increases. Another thing that has really helped me through writer’s block, and life blocks in general, is walking. I’ve recently taken up walking around six miles a day. That’s around an hour and a half of walking. I get a lot done mentally during that time, and I often break through plotting blocks while on walks.

17.  What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?

In addition to being an author, I am a professional bellydancer. I love performing and teaching the art of bellydance and connecting to my community through dance. I love performing with a local Greek band and at weddings, parties, and restaurants. Dancing gets me up from the writing chair, and has given me so much joy over the years. I also love to bake during holidays and special occasions. If I’m feeling stressed, video games are my go-to escape, particularly those titles in The Legend of Zelda franchise. 

18. Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?

I enjoy books in any format. My favorite format, however, is audio book format. I love to listen to audiobooks while I’m on my walks or while I’m working on dyeing silk bellydance veils. Because I have a background in theatre, I also love to see how voice actors interpret scenes and characters. I’m extremely excited, too, that Phantom Heart has been made into an audio book. The actors are phenomenal, so if you’re a reader who enjoys audiobooks, I hope you’ll check out the Phantom Heart audio book! 

19. Did you have a favorite author as a child?

My favorite author in middle school was Robin McKinley. I still adore Beauty, her retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Later, I read her second Beauty and the Beast retelling, Rose Daughter, and loved it, too.

20. Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?

I still have both my middle school copies of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera and Robin McKinley’s Beauty. They are well-loved, and I still return to both stories. 

21. What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?

The biggest lesson I have learned as an author is perseverance. Also, it really does just take one “yes” to get the ball rolling on a project. Phantom Heart received multiple agent and editor rejections, but I pressed on because I believed in the book. When you begin a project that you’re passionate about, you must commit to completing it. Nothing will teach you more about how to write a novel than completing your first draft. When you commit to finishing a book and revising it, you are also committing to yourself as an artist. Plot holes can be fixed, character arcs can be fixed, dialogue and action can be fixed. Books can be revised or, if need be, rewritten. What cannot be fixed is a blank page. 

22. If you could invite three favorite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with? 

Edgar Allan Poe (of course!) Gaston Leroux, and Charlotte Bronte. I’d have all the questions for them. 

23. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I love hiding secrets in my books, and I actually do this a lot. For those readers who are familiar with Leroux’s novel, they will find many references to the source material throughout Phantom Heart. For example, the legendary scorpion and grasshopper from the final scenes in Leroux’s novel enjoy a new incarnation in Phantom Heart. Those readers who are Poe fans will also find Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the Nevermore Trilogy. For example, the last four digits of Varen’s phone number unscramble to Poe’s death date. There’s also a unique chapter in Phantom Heart that features a calligram, also known as a word picture. I wonder who will spot it… 

Did you know that comments are DELICIOUS? Well they are and if you comment on any of these posts you could win some awesome goodies! 

Don't forget to check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and out other social media found on the side bar! 

 Disclaimer: "All opinions are 100% honest and my own."  Thanks to Goodreads and Amazon for the book cover, about the book, and author information. Buying via these links allows my site to get a % of the sale at no cost to you. 

FTC Guidelines: In accordance with FTC guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials for bloggers, I would like my readers to know that many of the books I review are provided to me for free by the publisher or author of the book in exchange for an honest review. If am compensated for any reviews on this site I will state that post has been sponsored. 


Post a Comment

Hateful and Unrelated Comments Will Be Deleted. Anonymous comments are invalid to enter into giveaways.