Stolen, the newest installment (after Frozen) of the Heart of Dread series by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston just came out, and the married couple stopped by to chat about the new book, and much more! You can find out more about Melissa and the series at her website.
Kristin Centorcelli: Congrats on the new book in the Heart of Dread series, Stolen! Will you give us the scoop on what we can expect from Nat and Wes in this installment?
Melissa and Mike: Stolen picks up a few months where Frozen left off, Nat is learning to use her power and Wes is reduced to driving in the death races in Vegas. Wes gets a tip about his missing sister and races to her, only to find himself in the same place as Nat. They uncover more terrible secrets of in both the fantastic world of Vallonis and the gritty world of the RSA.
KC: What inspired you to write the series?
M&M: We read an article about the North Pacific Gyre, how trash was collecting in the center of this massive ocean current. The article made us think about what the trash pile in the ocean might look like in a hundred years. Would the islands of garbage one day form a new continent, a new territory, and who would live there? Much of the drama in the first book plays out in and around a garbage covered landscape and an ocean filled with trashbergs.
KC: How does your collaboration work? Will you give us a glimpse into your writing process?
M&M: We like to bat ideas back and forth. We talk about concepts, then one of us puts them on paper and sends it to other. We argue. It’s lively process that has produced some really great ideas.
KC: What kind of research have you done for the series?
M&M: Aside from the aforementioned research into the North Pacific Gyre, we also thought a lot about food in the twenty first century. The first book in the Heart of Dread Series used humor to both poke fun at and criticize processed the processed food industry.
KC: What have you enjoyed most about writing the series?
M&M: Heart of Dread takes place in a big, violent, imaginative world. It mixes science fiction and fantasy into a kind of mash-up that felt new and exciting to us. It’s a fun world and we are always happy to live within it.
KC: What have you enjoyed most about writing for a young audience, and what do you hope readers take away from the series?
M&M: YA is a demanding genre. We balanced some pretty heavy topics alongside traditional romance and adventure. I think it all worked out well.
M&M: We both read widely in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. When we met, were both thrilled to learn that each of us had read all six books in Frank Herbert’s Dune series. We read everything from classic sci-fi to the books that coming out today. The Heart of Dread Series really reflects our broad interests. It’s a chance to play with everything we loved in books when we were growing up.
KC: What are a few of your favorite books are authors? What are you currently reading?
Mike: I grew up on Asimov, Heinlein, and Herbert. I was a dungeons and dragons geek and loved the old sword and sorcery books (Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber). I still read fantasy, GRRM, Joe Abercrombie, Lev Grossman, and Patrick Rothfuss. Lately I have been obsessed with Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. Its a series you can read a hundred times and still find new meaning on every page.
Mel: I loved Tolkien and Herbert, so that’s where we overlap. Game of Thrones for sure. Right now I read a lot of YA fantasy – Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
KC: What’s next for each of you?
Mike: I’ve been working on an adult epic fantasy novel for the last three of four years (well, actually the last twenty years, but I recently started typing the novel).
Mel: I was asked to write the book series for The Descendants, the Disney Channel Original Movie. I wrote an original prequel called Isle of the Lost. I have another projects I can’t talk about yet. And I have sequels to Stolen, and The Ring and the Crown coming up too.