Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marta Acosta, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula

I was nervous about reading this book because I’m not a fan of things like folklore, mythological creatures, bats or witches although I get drawn into shows about ghosts.

I’m so glad that author Marta Acosta didn’t make Happy Hour At Casa Dracula a big cliché about vampires with dark flowing capes, cartoonish fangs and oily black hair. Marta’s engaging characters and snappy writing style make this book a page turner and towards the end, I couldn’t wait to see what happened to the characters! This book is part chick-lit, part mystery and total entertainment.

Milagro de los Santos is a spicy Latina with a saucy personality who falls for a handsome man named Oswald… trouble ensues after an accidental exchange of blood…

Marta, I'm thinking this book might have been greatly inspired by the 1987 film The Lost Boys starring the unparalleled Corey Haim. What impact did The Lost Boys have on you?

I enjoyed "The Lost Boys" and have a vague memory of shameless mullets and leather jackets with huge shoulder pads. However, I never even thought of it when I wrote my novel, and I wouldn't pay attention to Corey Haim in a movie with Jason Patric. You should be asking me what impact Jason Patric's movies had on me.

Happy Hour at Casa Dracula is a comedy of manners: Milagro, a poor, but smart girl is forced to stay with wealthy people at their country home. I was playing against the romanticization of vampires as emotionally tortured, gorgeous, rich, creatures. My vamps are rich, but also snobby, snide and self-satisfied. They treat Milagro like something the cat dragged in. She more than holds her own against their biases and overcomes some of her own. I was able to have fun addressing issues of social/economic class and ethnicity by using the vampires' interactions with Milagro.

My writing is influenced by the writers I love, including Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse. They were always happy to throw disparate people in a country house and let misunderstandings run amuck. Their snobs are second to none. Austen and Wodehouse lovingly crafted the eccentrics and nuts that populate their stories.

Do you find yourself sizing up people's eye teeth, craving a Bloody Mary or staying out of the sun...

I sometimes get the question, "How long have you been obsessed by vampires, and the answer is that I'm not. I like all sorts of books and movies. There's no way I could limit myself just one genre. I grew up a feral reader. My parents knew the value of books and education, but weren't educated themselves. They took us to the library all the time, and I went through the stacks exploring all sorts of books. I found out that all the really fascinating information was to be had in the adult fiction section.

My paranormal entertainment is generally from television shows. I'm a fan of Joss Whedon's work, but I think that's because his shows are character driven and language is so important to him. I've always liked shows that combine humor with paranormal elements, like Bryan Fuller's "Wonderfalls" and "Dead Like Me." Many episodes of "The X-Files" were often funny and spooky.

I love that combo. Enough creepiness to make you uncomfortable, then the sweet release of humor. It's like drinking a lot of espresso and then having a couple of martinis and repeating that cycle over and over, except that you don't spend all night babbling stupidly and running to the ladies' room

I guess with a book like this, you can really let your imagination go and be as creative as possible. So what kind of research did you do?

I use the internet to learn about vampire mythology, pre-Christian beliefs and language, rituals and celebrations. I have doctor pals who give me medical explanations for vampire-type symptoms. I'm always asking them questions like, "What would cause someone to behave like a mythical incubus?" I never understand their explanations, but I include them anyway.

I think your heroine Milagro could be friends with my character Barrett. They are both sarcastic and witty. Because I know you read my novel, I can ask what might happen if the two women got together?

Barrett and Milagro would absolutely be friends. Barrett is more fashion obsessed, and she might be horrified with some of Milagro's thrift-store boho ensembles. Milagro would be horrified by Barrett's obsession with celebrity. They'd both love to go to old movie houses and see the classics. At home they'd drink cocktails, do make-overs, and plot their road to success as writers. Milagro's more of a flirt, and she'd probably drag Barrett to clubs with lots of good-looking underachievers. Barrett would convince Milagro to try to sneak into fancy soirees with her.

Did you have a happy childhood? What were your teen years like, were you a sullen and grumpy teenager? I was often sad and found solace in books.

It wasn't sad, but it wasn't full of delight either. As a child, it didn't even occur to me that childhood was supposed to be happy. (My mother was pleased if they had enough money to afford a chicken foot in the dinner soup.) I was an odd kid, someone who never fit in with the crowd. For some reason, my best friends were always really popular and I clashed with their crowds. Part of the problem was probably cultural; I didn't know how I was supposed to behave. Another part was simply my own idiosyncrasy. I didn't want to pretend to think and be like everyone else. I was the only girl in a pack of boys, so at home I was isolated and I sought companionship in books. As a cynical and bitter teenager, I listened to a lot of rock, read a lot of books, and planned my escape from sub-urbia. Guess where I am now? Back in sub-urbia.

What is the last movie you saw in the theater? What is the last book you read?

The last movie I saw was "Two Days in Paris," and I thought it was clever and entertaining. I enjoyed the concept that we are different people in different places, or when speaking another language. The last book I read was Armistead Maupin's Michael Tolliver Lives!, which he claims is not a sequel to his famous (and infamous) Tales of the City series. He may be right. I suspect it's an autobiographical tale in disguise.

If you could go back in time, at what date would you set your time machine?

I'm pretty damn happy right now. I married the man I love, have a kid I'm crazy about, and I've published two novels with a third to be released next year. I've got no urge to go back to a time when I didn't have one or more of those things. I also have a nice new rescue dog, Professor Baxter Magee, who keeps me company while I write.

What is the best gift you have ever received?

My husband's last gift to me was a professional quality cleaver than can cut through bone. He said, "Maybe this wasn't a good idea," as I was cheerfully hacking away at something.

I had a friend in college who was a geology major and he gave me a big hunk of petrified tree fern after spring break during my freshman year. He was a handsome, terribly popular, rich kid and it meant a lot to me that he'd remembered me over break and lugged this big rock around for me. It was the first of many presents he gave me. Some were very expensive, but just as often he'd give me a rock that he liked. I usually got a geology lesson with the gift. We were good friends until he died many years later, and I have that one rock in a special place in my garden.

Do you plan on continuing to write about vampires or might you switch it up and write about something else sinister and scary?

I'm continuing the series and The Bride of Casa Dracula will be published in September 2008. If today's insane extravagance on weddings isn't scary, I don't know what is. The commercialization of this ceremony and celebration is quite sinister. I've been forcing myself to watch those wedding shows on television. The horror! The horror!

I've working on a few other things including a gothic YA novel and a romantic comedy. One day I hope to write a book set in San Francisco in the '80s when the epidemic of AIDS first rampaged. Every time I mention my intention to write a book about that plague, people try to dissuade me. I've never been very good at following advice, though. If I was, I never would have become a writer because people told me that it was impractical and unachievable.

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Blogger Crystal Adkins said...
Great Review Marta! You know I love you and your vamps:)
I just wanted to show you some love and tell you I loved your interview :) @ 9:27 PM  
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