Lauren: I'm still trying to figure out what "I mean" means. That's the hot thing to say at the end of a sentence. I mean, I think it is.
HR:Who are the actual kids in the photos, and how did you find them?
Lauren: Hannah Grosman, who plays Natalie, and Olivia Wherry, who plays Jenna, are both students at St. Ann's School in Brooklyn, where I went to school way back when. We were put in touch by a neighborhood friend. And my friend who works at Teen Vogue introduced us to teen eco-activist-cum-runway-model Erin Schrode, who plays James, the vampire book cover model.
HR:What did you think about when creating James, the villain in the novel? Are there particular psychodynamics that make for an excellent villain?
Laura: A good villain knows exactly how to seduce her prey. James reads Natalie perfectly from the outset. She registers her every emotion and feeds off her every insecurity. Natalie has never felt more understood. What's more irresistible than that?
HR:What about the heroine, Natalie? Were you trying to create someone who was mostly innocent but just knowing enough to be interesting?
Lauren: We'd already started writing the book when we met Hannah, who "played" Natalie. Having a real-live adolescent in our corner was a major advantage—Hannah reminded us that teenagers can be smart and cool without having sitcom-ready rejoinders for every stupid thing people say to them.
Laura: And, more generally, we played a lot with the city-country/innocence-experience dynamic when developing the relationship between Natalie and James. We had this idea that a girl from the suburbs would somehow be more vulnerable to the seductions of a worldly-wise city slicker like James. Natalie's naivety was essential to the whole psychodrama coming off.
HR:How have YA novels changed since you guys were teens?
Laura: There was really no such thing as a YA novel when we were teenagers, and adults certainly didn't read them as they do now. In sixth grade, I went straight from Lois Duncan to Gone With the Wind. If you wanted a trashy summer read, you weren't going to find one starring kids your own age.
HR:What's the most interesting thing happening in the YA world these days?
Lauren: Back when Gossip Girl ruled the seas, the prevailing YA flavor was 15-year-old schoolgirls who acted like 25-year-old call girls. Then this whole dark thing set in, and over the last few years all the big teen books seem to be about dead siblings and dead boyfriends and prom in the afterlife. It's getting a little, er, unlively. I'm curious to see what the next craze will be.
HR:Do you think there's any formula for YA novels: two parts sex to three parts suspense? Make-out scene in the first chapter? Anything that's a hard and fast rule?
Laura: No more than there is to "A" novels. The one big difference is the importance of something happening at every moment. There's very little tolerance for four-page interior monologues or characters that don't have a hand in the plot. The story has to start in the first paragraph, not the 12th chapter. In a serial novel, it's even more important to keep the plot moving briskly along. We tried really hard to have some sort of intrigue going down in every single installment.
HR:What advice do you have for people who want to get into it?
Lauren: Before attempting to write a YA book, I'd say make sure you actually really like YA. Because even when it's fun, writing a YA book is hard, and if you don't truly love the material, it's a stupid slog. Very few books are published (and yes, I say that with a few unpublished masterpieces under my belt). And an article I recently read said that of those that are published, only 1 percent sell more than 1,000 copies. And I learned this the hard way: Do not make one of your protagonists a middle-aged poet with a day job at NPR. (Sorry, Gary!)
HR:Do you love vampire novels or hate them?
Lauren: I don't like them but I'm fascinated by them. It's like watching porn … for goats.
Laura: I've always been more of a werewolf girl myself.