Friday, September 28, 2012

Liz DeJesus: First Frost

Poet and novelist Liz DeJesus stops by The Plain today to talk about her passion and inspiration for writing her magical tales. She’s also sharing an excerpt from her latest release, First Frost, a delightful young adult fantasy.

Welcome, Liz. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born in the small island of Puerto Rico. And when I was seventeen years old my family and I moved to Delaware.
You’ve written several well-received books. What sparked your interest in writing?
My mom. She’s a writer as well (still unpublished but we’re hoping to change that soon) and all throughout my childhood, I remember waking up to the sound of her typing on her typewriter. I remember the day that she bought a new one and gave the old typewriter to me. She was explaining to me how one key stuck and sometimes the capital letters are a little higher than the other but I didn’t care. All I knew was that I had inherited something extremely important. Mom gave me a stack of paper and at twelve years old I wrote my very first short story…about twin brothers that turned into dragons.
A wonderful start! What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
Great characters. I don’t care if all they are doing is going to the supermarket, I wanna care about those characters and why they’re doing what they’re doing.
How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
I would say fantasy. But then within that genre I would also include magical realism. I love the idea of magic happening during a normal, routine-like day. Sometimes I’ll write fiction but lately not so much.
Do you set your books/stories in your hometown, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
In The Jackets (a collection of short stories) all of the stories take place in Newark, Delaware. But in my latest book First Frost I try not to use a specific place because I want the reader to use his/her imagination.
What inspired you to write First Frost?
I was watching a commercial for a local children’s museum while feeding my son his bottle and I remember thinking ‘Why don’t they have themed museums? Like a pirate museum or a fairy tale museum. Hmm, how would that work? I guess they could get fake items and get kids to think they’re real.’ And then it sort of took off from there. It was almost like being struck by lightning once I got to thinking about it. I was still holding my son in my arms and my notebook was on the other end of the couch. LOL I was so desperate to get to it but I didn’t want to interrupt my son’s feeding. Anyway, I managed to grab my notebook and I jotted down a few ideas. It sort of wrote itself once I had the pen in my hand.
How did you come up with the title?
When I first started writing the novel the original title was The Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts. The title stuck until I wrote a part of the story where Bianca finds a letter written by her mother Rose and in that letter she leaves her a clue as to where she can find a spell book that is hidden in the museum.

Black veins are hidden under the First Frost

I’m not going to give too much away, but it was those words First Frost that stuck with me and it made me change the title.
What was the hardest part of writing the story?
Time. Always time. Especially for me since I have two little ones that I take care of full time. I write in between naps, while I’m waiting for my son or my nephews in the school parking lot, in my head while I drive, before I go to sleep…I steal little moments here and there whenever I can. How I managed to write a whole novel in a year while I do everything I do is a miracle by itself. Safe to say my house is a mess…but it’s worth it. J
What was the easiest part of writing the story?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it easy, but the fun part of writing for me is listening to my characters. It’s a little like being schizophrenic…except the voices in my head are hilarious (to the point where I’ll laugh out loud). And that’s what I enjoy the most, listening to my characters tell me their story. All I do is jot it down as fast as I can before the voices grow silent.
Was there much research involved?
If you can call reading fairy tales research, then yes I did a lot of research. LOL. But I looked up other things, like fairies, witches, spells, and castles.
Reading fairy tales is definitely research! What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
Hmmm. Good question. I know a lot of people have commented on my imagination. So I’ll go with that. J
When your first started writing, did anything about the writing process surprise you?
What surprised me was the amount of detail I needed to put into the page. I’m basically trying to paint a picture with words. It might surprise some of you that my first language is Spanish (I went to school in Puerto Rico…everything is in Spanish), so I basically taught myself how to write by reading books in English and reading instructional books on writing (how to write a novel, etc.). I was determined to write English books and I was going to do everything I could to make my dream happen. I guess the message here is that if you have a dream… you have to work hard to make it happen. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
I celebrate by taking a mental break. I do something completely silly like stare off into space or play Angry Birds with my son. I’m pretty sure smoke comes out of my ears as I get closer and closer to the end of my book, but that mental break lasts a few days and then I’m back to writing again.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I do. I listen to everything. Imogen Heap, Florence and the Machine, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park (can you tell my tastes are all over the map?), Mozart, Beethoven, Butterfly Boucher, Vanessa Mae and so much more.
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story in the near future?
I just finished the sequel to First Frost now titled Glass Frost. It picks up right where the first book ended; this book is a little more serious and a bit more complicated than the first one. Bianca does a lot of maturing in the second book and finally decides how to use her magic and what she’s going to do about her love interest, Terrance. Safe to say I put them both through the ringer. And I just started working on the third book in the series…still haven’t figured out what the title is yet.

Thank you so much for having me today. These were amazing questions.
My pleasure, Liz. Glad to hear you’re working on sequels to First Frost. And now, let’s have a peek at First Frost.

For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to "family only."

Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is.

Bianca got out of her car and ran inside the house. She called for her mother as she searched for her upstairs in all of the rooms. Nothing. She quickly ran downstairs and was ready to go down to the basement when a strange turquoise light caught her eye. She looked out the kitchen window; she couldn’t believe what she saw. Her mother was throwing what Bianca could only describe as balls of turquoise fireballs at a woman wearing a black hood. Bianca couldn’t see the woman’s face, but she could see her pale hands and slender fingers.

Bianca tried to make sense of it all. She kept expecting to see a special effects crew to come out from behind the trees and tell her that it was all part of an elaborate prank. But no such thing happened. All she knew was that a strange turquoise flame was coming out of her mother’s hands.

She knew that her mother sometimes read old dusty books on witchcraft, but she didn’t know she had actual powers. She thought about all the little quirks her mother had. Things that Bianca thought were essentially Rose. Her mother talked to plants and trees. She would sometimes stare off into space as though she were looking at something in another world. Something only she could see. She read tarot cards to random people and would tell them things about his or her life as though she were reading an open book. Bianca always thought she just made really lucky guesses. She chose not to believe in this other world and everything it stood for. Magic represented a life out of the norm, and Bianca desperately wanted to be normal. Just like everyone else.

Bianca pulled herself out of her thoughts. As she looked at the blue and green flashes in the backyard, she quickly realized that this was something she couldn’t escape. Normal was no longer a part of her world. Normal was no longer an option for her.

Bianca didn’t know what to do. She was frozen in place. She was afraid to distract her mother for even a second. She ducked behind the screen door; at least this way she could still hear what they were saying to each other.

"Did you really think I wouldn’t come?" the witch shouted.

"Oh, I knew you’d be back," Rose replied.

Bianca slowly lifted her gaze and peeked above the screen. She saw her mother standing behind the shed on the left side of their backyard. The witch was still too far away for her to get a good look at her, but Bianca could tell that she was on the far right corner of their yard.

"Where’s the book?" the witch demanded.

"I have no idea what you’re talking about," Rose replied with a smirk.

"Don’t be coy with me. You know very well what I’m talking about."

"Sorry. I can’t help you." Rose’s breathing was becoming more labored and she was drenched in sweat…obvious signs of exhaustion, but Bianca could tell by the look on her mother’s face that she wouldn’t give up.

"The ward in the museum are impressive. I couldn’t get past them. But maybe…she’ll know where the book is," the witch said as she looked in Bianca’s direction and threw a sickly olive-colored fireball at the screen door.

Bianca shrieked and jumped out of the way. The screen door fell off its hinges and landed on the kitchen floor with a loud thud.

"Bianca!" Rose screamed.
* * * * *
About Liz DeJesus:
Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico. She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi'er Publishing, October 2007) The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 31st 2011), and First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 2012). Liz is currently working on a new novel.
 * * * * *
First Frost / Available from


  1. Love the title, Liz. Good luck with your book!

    1. Hi Dawn! Thanks for stopping by. I love the title as well. It's always tricky trying to find one that sounds good and fits with the story. :D

  2. Another good interview, Liz.

  3. Great interview, Liz! I'll just add, First Frost was a really entertaining read.

  4. Just wanted to take a moment and say a big thank you to Pat for setting this up for me. I had a wonderful time answering all of your questions. :D I had a great day answering everyone's comments to the blog post. *hugs* :D

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and your work, Liz. Thanks for visiting The Plain, and a big thank you to everyone who stopped by!

  6. Great title. Like that cover.