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Interview: March 5, 2014

We all know the story Persephone --- Hades captured the young goddess and brought her to be the queen of the underworld, much to her mother Demeter's dismay.  Along with a Death Cab for Cutie song, Bree Despain used this famous myth as the inspiration for THE SHADOW PRINCE, where young Haden is sent to bring Daphne, an aspiring singer at a California private school, back to the underworld to help continue the line of Hades, who was killed in the Thousand Year War with the Skylords. But when Haden and Daphne develop feelings for one another, they might not only change their own destinies, but the destinies of the entire universe. In this interview, Bree explains why the word "darkness" is in both of her series titles, advice for aspiring writers and her lack of musical talent.


Teenreads: Can you tell us about your inspiration for the Into the Dark series?

Bree Despain: The inspiration for this series came over seven years ago. At the time I was kind of obsessed with this song called "I will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab For Cutie. I used to listen to it on a loop in my car, and wonder about the sentiment of someone promising to follow the person they loved into the dark. Or into the unknown, as I like to think of it. Pretty soon I had characters and a story filling my head every time I thought about that song.

TRC: Out of all the Greek myths, why were you drawn to Hades and Persephone?

BD: I love mythology and I drew from many different myths when working on this story, but Hades and Persephone stood out to me in particular when I was thinking about the whole "I will follow you into the dark" idea. What's a darker and scarier place to have to face than the Underworld? I also pulled a lot of inspiration from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, about a great musician who braved the trials of the Underworld in order to save his dead wife. I like stories about people who do big scary things for the sake of love.

TRC: Modernizing a classic Greek myth can’t be easy...what was the process like?

BD:  First it started with doing a lot of reading and note taking. I have mythology books that look like they barfed up a package of post-it notes. But most importantly, I used the myths as a jumping off point, pulling themes and ideas, but felt free to write my own stories. Haden and Daphne are based on Hades and Persephone, but they are definitely their own characters, and their story ends up taking a very different path than one might expect based on what they know about the myth.

TRC: You play around with the idea of destiny in THE SHADOW PRINCE. How much of this is influenced and inspired by your own life experiences?

BD:  Destiny and fate are a big deal in Greek mythology. Many of their stories were created to express their belief that people can't fight fate or "the will of the Gods." I personally believe that everyone has more than one path that their life could follow --- all based on the choices we make. The idea of destiny vs. choice is one I explore a lot in this series.

TRC: One of the main characters in THE SHADOW PRINCE is drawn to music.  Is music an important part of your life? If so, what do you like listening to? Do you listen to music when you write? And if so, is that the same as what you listen to for pleasure?

BD:  It might surprise my readers to know that I have absolutely no musical talent. I took four years of piano and all I can play is the right hand to "When I Fall in Love." But even though I am not musical myself, I enjoy listening to and have a great appreciation for the music other people create. I am mostly drawn to indie rock. I've been known to make playlists for my books that I listen to before or during writing to help me get in the right emotional state for the scenes I'm working on. I don't know if I'm capable of listening to music for pleasure --- because my brain is almost always thinking about my stories. I love hearing a new song and being like, "this reminds me of my main character!" or finding a new song that will help me work through a difficult scene.

TRC: Are any of the characters in THE SHADOW PRINCE based on real people?

BD: Probably not any real people, but certainly some fictional ones. I love this book so much because it's like the perfect mishmash of everything that I love: “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “Supernatural,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Percy Jackson, Greek mythology, Thor and Loki, “Dance Academy” (an Australian teen drama about ballet dancers) and even a touch of “Veronica Mars” --- all mixed together with some Bree Despain style romance.

TRC: We can’t help but notice that the word “dark” is in both of your series’ names --- The Dark Divine and now Into the Dark. What about darkness intrigues you?

BD: Yeah, apparently I really like the word "dark." Maybe that's because it's the opposite of my personality. I love light and bright colors and can't stand being in the dark. (You should see my house, almost every room is painted a different color!)  But really, I think it's what darkness represents in my different books that really intrigues me. My Dark Divine series is about redemption, so my characters have to be in a dark place in order to find the light again. And Into the Dark is about venturing into the unknown.

TRC: I saw that you let your readers pick a “fantasy cast” for The Dark Divine movie that’s coming out. If THE SHADOW PRINCE were to be made into a movie, do you have any fantasy cast members in mind?

BD: My only request would be for David Tennant to play the part of Daphne's father --- a quirky middle-aged British rockstar named Joe Vince. I wrote the character with Tennant in mind --- all so I might be get to meet him if ever there were a movie made! This is my diabolical plan.

TRC: Is there anything that you hope your readers will specifically take away from THE SHADOW PRINCE?

BD: A really big crush on Haden Lord! Oh, and maybe a little bit of empowerment to take their destinies into their own hands.

TRC: You balance a realistic setting with supernatural elements in THE SHADOW PRINCE. How do you do that so it comes off as believable for your readers?

BD: I think it all comes down to the characters. If they are believable and experiencing emotions and inner conflicts that feel real, then it helps the rest of the experience feel authentic as well. It also helps to have a sense of humor. Haden experiencing the mortal world for the first time provides some good opportunities for comic relief and a chance for the reader to be "in on the joke" with some of the ridiculousness of the supernatural colliding with the real world. 

TRC: THE SHADOW PRINCE is the beginning of a series. Did you plan out the whole series before you wrote the first book or did you just focus on the first one?

BD: I had the first two books pretty well planned out --- mostly because I thought I was writing one book but the story turned out to be way too big for only one novel. I had to go back to the drawing board and plan it out as a series. I have ideas for where I want the final book to go, but I am also open to the changes that come along during the writing process.

TRC: If you planned this as a series, what were some things you did in the first book to set up the future volumes?

BD: I can't really tell you that --- spoilers, you know! Okay, here's one: the rock opera that Joe is writing for Daphne doesn't play a big part in book one, but is pretty important in book two.

TRC: What advice would you give to writers who are interested in retelling well-known myths or fairy tales?

BD: Have fun with it. Figure out a way to turn the original story on its head and do something unexpected.

TRC: What advice would you give to aspiring writers, in general?

BD: This is the advice I always give because it's pretty much my mantra: "Great books aren't written, they're revised." My first drafts would send just about anyone running for the hills. The magic happens during the revision process. You have to be open to reworking and reworking your writing until it sings.

TRC: Can you give a little preview of what’s to come in the next book in the series and when we can expect to see it?

BD: The next book will definitely have more Haden, more Daphne, more romance and even more epic adventure. (Did I mention more Haden?) I believe the next book in the series is slated for March of 2015. Now I just have to get back to finishing the manuscript!


Bree Despain is the author of The Dark Divine trilogy: THE DARK DIVINE, THE LOST SAINT adn THE SAVAGE GRACE, as well as the first book in the Into the Dark series, THE SHADOW PRINCE. She rediscovered her childhood love for creating stories when she took a semester off from college to write and direct plays for at-risk, inner-city teens from Philadelphia and New York. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, two young sons, and her beloved TiVo. You can visit her online at www.breedespain.com.