"It's the fourth book in the DEAD IS series and takes place in the fall of Daisy Giordano's senior year," Marlene said. "Here's a little blurb. As the creepy little town of Nightshade prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary—on Halloween, of course—many of its paranormal residents are receiving mysterious blackmail letters. Psychic teen Daisy Giordano and her sisters set out to find out who is behind the threats."
Marlene is proud of every single book she's written, she admitted.
"I think it takes a lot to finish writing a novel and anyone who has accomplished that much needs to give themselves a round of applause," she said. "And after a book is written, it takes guts and persistence to submit that manuscript. And then there's reviews! So far, I've had the most fun with the DEAD IS series."
She told me that she's always loved teen literature and some of her favorite books are novels for teens. These include Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall and Judy Blume's Forever. She also enjoys Catcher in the Rye, The Outsiders, and Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat.
"It's hard for me to pin down one favorite of anything," she said, "because it's always changing."
Marlene likes writing in longhand for first drafts and the computer for editing. She'll write by hand, then type it up, print out a copy of what she has, and continue this process until the book is completed.
Her first novel, Unexpected Development, was based on her experience working in a pancake house during high school, and she credits Norma Fox Mazer with influencing her writing.
"In the late 90s, I heard her speak about her writing process and stifling that nasty internal critic at an SCBWI conference. She used the 'fedora' method and put a hat over her head, sat in front of her computer, and just typed for an hour, no editing allowed. That was how I was finally able to shut up my own scared, self-critical internal editor enough to finish the first draft of my first young adult novel six months later. I will be forever grateful to her for such good advice. I will be forever grateful to her for such good advice. I sent her an e-mail to thank her, at the nudging of a writer friend, and she sent me the nicest reply back. She died not long afterward. I was glad that I was able to tell her how much that speech meant to me."
"What is your writing process like?" I asked.
"My writing process is different for every book, but it starts with a tiny glimmer of something. Sometimes it's a title or a character who just starts talking to me or maybe when I least expect it, I remember a place I was and it starts me thinking. My problem is I always have lots of ideas and am torn about what to work on next. Usually, one story or the other will eventually win out. I open up a file on the computer and write those little bits down and go from there. I will sometimes show a few chapters to my critique group or my agent, but I like to write a first draft quickly and then I revise it and line-edit and then print it out and do the same thing again."
She working on the first book in a romantic paranormal trilogy and a stand alone right now.
"I'm definitely going in a different direction with the stand alone, but I'm very excited about both projects," she said. "Neither book is under contract at this time."
I wondered what her husband felt about her writing.
"My husband is fabulous," Marlene assured me. "He shoulders more than his fair share of household chores so that I can have writing time. I once heard another writer say that she wrote under her maiden name because her father had been so supportive of her writing. My father was not involved in my life, so it seemed wrong to use his last name for my writing career, but it made sense to use my married name (Perez) because my husband is supportive and always has been. The other reason is my maiden name is an unusual one and a little hard to pronounce."
"If your book was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?" I asked.
"I don't know. It's fun to think about, though! The first three books in the DEAD IS series have been optioned by the Disney Channel for television. I think Danielle Campbell looks a lot like how I pictured Daisy. It was kind of spooky actually. A fan sent me a message on my space and her avatar was a picture of Danielle Campbell and I was like 'That's Daisy!'"
"Writers are known to set their own schedules and work at their own pace," I said. "Do you enjoy that kind of spontaneity in your life? How great is it to be able to take a vacation or just take a day off without calling in sick?"
She laughed. "I don't work at my own pace because I'm a huge procrastinator and I'd never get anything done. I set deadlines, either real or artificial ones and I stick to them as closely as I can. And if you're a professional writer, you can't be completely spontaneous and work at your own pace because you have an editor and marketing people and your agent and a lot of other people who are expecting you to turn in a book by a deadline. I worked at a university for several years, but now I write full-time and I approach it like any other career. Butt in chair works for me."
"Do you think the Internet will ultimately change the publishing industry?" I asked.
"I think it already has. The one thing that really bothers me is the amount of piracy that's out there. My goal is to continue to write and publish books and to be able to make a living doing so. I don't think readers who download an illegal copy of a favorite author's book realize that it's NOT a victimless crime. Ultimately, that author suffers because if the sales aren't there for a book, the publisher might not buy another book. It's different if the author and/or the publisher willingly offers excerpts or even entire novels to their readers. But for someone to just TAKE my work really irritates me, especially when those sites are profiting from something they are not entitled to and legally, do not have the right to distribute."
Finally, I asked Marlene, "If you could give any advice to your readers, what would it be?"
"High school doesn't last forever. And please please be kind to each other."
As the creepy little town of Nightshade prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary—on Halloween, of course—many of its paranormal residents are receiving mysterious blackmail letters. Psychic teen Daisy Giordano and her sisters set out to find out who is behind the threats. But launching an investigation isn’t easy for Daisy with her overprotective father watching her every move. Though she’s is happy to have him back after the years he spent being held captive by an anti-paranormal group called the Scourge, Dad is having difficult time adjusting to home life—and the fact that his little girl is now a senior in high school. He even disapproves of Daisy’s boyfriend, Ryan. Can their relationship take the strain?
And Daisy’s got even more on her plate: A talented amateur chef, she has won cooking lessons with celebrity chef Circe Silvertongue. After nosing around (with a little help from Circe’s pet pig), Daisy begins to suspect the temperamental chef’s secrets aren’t only in her ingredients. . . .
The fourth installment in this favorite series is full of surprises and scares!