Monday, May 10, 2010

Author Interview: Beth Fantaskey

To celebrate the release last Tuesday of her latest book Jekel Loves Hyde, I have Beth Fantaskey here today for a little Q&A Session.

AGA: Which character did you have more fun writing and developing- Tristen or Jill?

BF: I’d have to say Jill was more fun to develop. I’m very shy, myself, and I had a good time “helping” her become stronger – without losing that integral part of her personality. And it was also fun to live vicariously when she really unleashed her wicked side. I would never act like that!

AGA: How much deliberation went into Tristen's inherent violent side, both in terms of pairing him with Jill and as his core personality?

BF: It was really tricky to show Tristen’s violent side while still making him a sympathetic character. I tried to make it very clear that this was something he battled, and that he vanquished it at tremendous cost to himself. Still, I wanted readers to cringe a little when he nearly loses control with Jill at one point, because there is a part of him that’s very bad. I hope the fact that he ultimately maintains control of – and defeats – his evil nature, primarily for love of Jill, makes him actually noble, in the end.

AGA: In my personal opinion, Jill's character goes through a stronger overall change by the end of the book over the course of the events. Were the personality differences planned or something that happened along the way?

BF: Jill’s evolution was more planned, because I wanted her to stand up for herself by the end of the book, without having to become a completely different person. She’s still shy and quiet, but with more power over her life.

Tristen’s trajectory was much more obvious. His basic personality doesn’t change – he just sheds a part of himself that he never wanted to begin with.

I had both those goals from the outset of the book.

AGA: What was the hardest part about developing the actual formula used in the original Jekyll and Hyde experiment?

BF: Although I remember very little about chemistry, it was fairly easy to develop most of the formula. The hard part was finding the last toxin, which needed to be readily available in 19th century British pharmacies – but which we definitely wouldn’t expect to find in a modern drug store. I did quite a bit of research on that.

AGA: Can you tell us something about Tristen or Jill's past that didn't make it into the book but was still a big part of their life?

BF: Tristen had a good life in England – complete with friends, which he has few of in America. He was actually a popular guy before his grandfather started telling him terrifying stories about their family, at which point he began distancing himself from society. None of that makes it into the book.

As for Jill – she used to have a very tight and traditional relationship with her mother. Her mom was one of her closest confidants, until the murder of Jill’s father and her mother’s subsequent collapse. I hint at their closeness, but by the time the book starts, Jill is more of a caretaker than a friend.

AGA: If you could pair Jill and Tristen with any character from any book (romantically or otherwise, your pick), what would be your choices?

Fantastic question!

Jill would be best friends with Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price. They are both shy but morally strong, and would completely bond - especially over their sometimes brooding boyfriends.

Tristen would be close friends with Athos, of The Three Musketeers. They both share a very private inner turmoil, which they endure quietly – and the slightly older Athos would serve as a kind of father figure for Tristen, just like he did for the Musketeers. And Tristen definitely needs a father figure!

AGA: If Tristen and Jill were to meet Lucius and Jessica, how do you think that would play out?

BF: I think Tristen and Lucius would respect one another. They’d recognize the darkness in each other, and – although they’re guys and would never talk about it – have a shared understanding of how hard it was to control that side of themselves. They’d also share a privileged European sensibility and an appreciation for music. I think they’d be friends, with Tristen being the more serious foil to Lucius’s humor.

Jill and Jessica are more difficult to predict. They’re both academically oriented, but Jess gravitates toward more outgoing people. I think she’d sympathize with Jill, but not really understand her very well. After all, Jess’s best friend is the very bubbly, kind of ditzy, Mindy Stankowicz.

AGA: Were there any habits, secrets, etc you learned in writing/publishing Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side that helped you when starting and working through Jekel Loves Hyde?

BF: Oh, gosh... I learned so much from writing Jessica’s Guide. Most importantly, I think I learned about how important it is to understand not just where you want the plot to go, but how you want your characters to grow over the course of the action.

I also learned that I’m a really goal-oriented writer. I like to finish a chapter, then give myself a reward, like playing a computer game or calling a friend for a minute. Then I start again. I’m like mouse in a lab maze, always headed for that treat!

AGA: If you had one day to step into the shoes of someone else, who's life would you want to experience?

BF: I’d like to live one day as my husband. First of all, I’d like to see how he perceives me – and take note of all the stuff I do that I’m sure drives him insane, although he never lets me know. Aside from that, I’d like to see what his life is like when he’s not with me, because I think he has a whole private world! He’ll walk into the local mini-market and ask the clerk about his band, and I’ll be thinking, “How did you even know that guy’s a musician? Where have I been?”

AGA: What is the most fearless thing you have done to date?

BF: Oddly enough, for me it’s teaching. It’s not the most perilous thing I’ve ever done, but I suffer from a pretty strong fear of public speaking, so it’s really difficult for me to take charge of 30 students for a semester.

AGA: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

BF: Just “thank you” to all the readers I’ve been lucky enough to come to know. I never expected to make so many friends around the world, just by writing a few books, and I really want everybody who’s contacted me to know how grateful I am for the support and friendship.

Thank you Beth and congrats again on your latest release! If you haven't pick this one up yet, I recommend it!


  1. Amazing interview! You ask the best questions, Kari :)

  2. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side looks like a fun read. I'll definitely be looking into it. Thanks for the great interview! And I agree with pirate penguin; you do ask good questions.

  3. Fantastic interview...great questions and of course responses from Beth, I loved your question about who they would be friends with, and thinking of Beth's answers about Fanny Price and Athos were perfect!