Ella Martin Author of Westgate Prep Series
I really took liberties in rewriting Sleeping Beauty as a realistic contemporary story. Moreover, the idea that sparked this novel was “What if Sleeping Beauty doesn’t want to wake up after True Love’s first kiss?” I mean, here’s this princess who has everything happen to her. What if she had a choice in the matter?
Early in the drafting process, I had the good fortune of meeting Roxanne St. Clair at a workshop she was leading for my local RWA chapter. She asked about my current work in progress, and when I explained it was a contemporary Sleeping Beauty, she wondered how I’d pull that off. After all, sleep isn’t terribly exciting. But I knew I was using sleep as a metaphor for Talia’s desire to keep her emotions guarded and to keep things at status quo. I really needed to shake up her world and take her to a place she wasn’t comfortable in order to wake her up, so to speak.
2) Where did you get the idea for Jake to use different ring-tones as a way for him to leave clues for Talia? I thought that was very clever.
When I first got my iPhone, I programmed different ringtones for different people. My sister’s was “My Sister” by the Julianna Hatfield Three, for example, and my friend Thomas’s was “Roll with the Changes” by REO Speedwagon. It didn’t last very long because I kept dropping my phone and needed to reprogram it every time I got a new one, so the only ringtone I use now is “Kids and Heroes” by the Bouncing Souls, but for someone as musically inclined as Jake, I’d figured he’d mess with Talia’s phone and program super-obvious ringtones into it.
The real trick was figuring out which songs it made sense for a 16-year-old boy who’d been studying guitar and drums for at least seven or eight years would know. I turned to my own son’s music teacher for that and chose songs Jake would either have had to play for recitals and such or had been covered by a more current artist.
3) Who does Clover represent to Jake? And Talia? Are we going to see more of her in other books?
Without getting too spoilerish, Jake sees his future music career in Clover. Talia sees her as a threat to her friendship with Jake.
I absolutely adore Clover, and we will probably get another glimpse of her in the third book. Right now, I’ve only got three books of the Westgate Prep series under contract, and this next book will be from Ally’s point of view, so I don’t have any plans to give Clover her own book at this time.
4) You wrote WILL THE REAL PRINCE CHARMING PLEASE STAND UP for you nieces. Have they read I LOVE HIM, I LOVE HIM NOT? Did they like it?
I know my sister loaded I LOVE HIM, I LOVE HIM NOT onto everyone’s Kindles, but I don’t know if they’ve read it yet. My older niece just stared high school, and my younger niece is in seventh grade, and both of them have insanely crazy schedules, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it hasn’t crossed their radar yet. I know I didn’t have a lot of time to do fun reading when I was their age.
5) With the wide variations of YA novels, some are clean and others having more adult content, what helps you keep your series from crossing into a mature teen audience?
I write for 13-year-old me. When I was that age, I had a 17-year-old sister whose life I caught glimpses of but was never really privy to. And when I was 13, I was all about romance and butterflies in your stomach when Cute Boy looked your way. That’s not to say I won’t write about some of the bigger and more serious issues I saw when I was in high school, but I try to introduce these issues in a tactful way that lets readers figure out underlying lessons on their own.
6) Will you write more in the series about Bianca and Tim, once he heads off to Stanford?
I don’t have plans right now to write more about Bianca and Tim as main characters, especially once he goes off to college. I’m leaving that story open-ended on purpose. I certainly have an idea of what I expect everyone’s lives to be like in fifteen or twenty years, but I’d rather leave that to readers to envision for themselves.
7) You think you will ever branch out into other genres of YA?
Right now, I’m writing contemporary romance because I love it, but it’s not to say that I don’t have ideas that fall under other genres. The story I want to write after I finish the third Westgate Prep book isn’t really a romance, though it still falls under the contemporary umbrella, and I’ve been toying with a mystery for a while, but for right now I’m kind of loving the romance.
8) You live a busy life – a wife, a mom, a day-time job, and a writer – what do you do in your spare time, when you have any?
What is this “spare time” of which you speak? Actually, staying busy keeps my mind active. I’m an analyst by profession, so I activate the logical part brain while I’m at work and give my creative side a rest. I’ve recently learned to sew, which is a lot of fun even if my stitches aren’t exactly straight, but most of my spare awake time is spent reading. Right now I’m rereading Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, and it’s a whole other experience studying her craft now that I’ve written a couple of my own books.
9) Do you use any personal situation from your own prep school days in your books?
Oh, there are so many stories from my own prep school days in my books. There are also nods to friends’ stories peppered throughout it, too. I think there are a lot of universal experiences that transcend time and place; the only things that change are the people involved. Funnily enough, after my first book was released, a former classmate said she and another classmate were wondering how much of it was a thinly veiled account of my life. For the record, while I’ve borrowed from real-life events and made references to actual incidents (like releasing pepper spray while in the house), my high school days weren’t nearly exciting enough to put into a book.
10) Which of the 3 girls do you connect the most with? Why?
I think every character I write includes some element of me, so this is tough to answer. At any given time, I have Bianca’s wistful romantic optimism, Talia’s jaded cynicism, and Ally’s dramatic flair. Bianca was pretty easy to write, but I’d also spent the most time getting to know her before I began writing Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?, whereas I Love Him, I Love Him Not was more difficult because I had much more trouble connecting with Talia at her core. But now that I’m working on Ally’s story and understand her zany, dysfunctional family, I might have to say I connect most with Ally. There are a lot more layers to her than we’ve seen in the first two Westgate Prep books, and I’m really having fun exploring her story.
Fun/ Random Questions
Which book can you read over and over and never get bored of?
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
Favorite TV series?
Freaks and Geeks. It only lasted one season, but that was a seriously amazing show. Or My So Called Life. But if I have to pick something more current, I’d have to pick ___.
Favorite Disney Movie?
Mulan. I like how romance isn’t the central part of the story, and that it’s all about earning respect and making her family proud.
What is your favorite fairy tale?
The Princess and the Pea. But I simultaneously love and hate this story, so I have hopes to retell it—but with my own twist, of course.
What is your favorite Ice cream flavor?
Rocky Road. (Finally an easy question!)
If you could have lunch with anyone dead or alive who would it be and where would you two go eat?
Anyone? It would be my mom. She died almost 8 years ago, and I miss her so much. There are so many things I want to talk to her about, stuff I want to get her opinions on, things I want to show her. I’d even be happy to cook for her and eat at my house, even if it meant listening to her criticize my cooking.
But if it had to be someone famous, I think I’d like to meet Margaret Mitchell, if only to find out what she’d planned for the sequel to Gone With the Wind!
ELLA MARTIN, for taking the
time answer some of your
questions! We are looking forward to the next WESTGATE PREP book.