In the three years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen Rhode Island author Rebecca Maizel wear any color but black. I’ve never seen her sweep in or out of a room without an entourage. I’ve never seen her let anyone stop her from getting what she wanted. And I’ve never seen her sit still long enough to sign copies of books.
That last one is about to change.
Maizel, who moved back to her home state of Rhode Island in 2007 to pursue a master’s in creative writing at RIC, is a rare but deserved success story. A fan and writer of short fiction, she was struck with inspiration for a 300-plus-page young adult novel, and she ran with it. Infinite Days emerged, in which a sultry vampire named Lenah, who’d killed and hurt thousands without remorse for centuries, finally succeeds at what all vampires secretly want—becoming human. Now Lenah’s real adventure begins: trying to fit in as a 16-year-old teenager at a posh 21st-century boarding school, learning about life and love, and realizing that she may never be able to leave her past behind.
Rebecca Maizel’s talent and persistence landed her a three-book contract from mega-publisher St. Martin’s Press. Without missing a beat, she enrolled in an M.F.A. residency program at Vermont College, studying under some of the nation’s top writers. Rebecca also teaches at CCRI (including a Children’s Literature class this fall in Providence). Since the hype about Infinite Days began, she has spoken on literary panels, signed advance copies of her book, and traveled around Europe to research for sequels. Infinite Days has gotten positive reviews from sites like Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Goodreads as well as a saucy write-up at Forever Young Adult, and I’m looking forward to the trilogy’s second installation, Stolen Nights, next year.
But despite being teen lit’s “it girl,” Maizel hasn’t forgotten her roots. The East Greenwich gal makes a hometown visit tomorrow night (how much do I love that it’s on Friday the 13th) for a launch party at Books on the Square. I hear that refreshments will include vampire-themed cupcakes, so come before sundown and wear your good fangs. Follow after the jump to hear more about Rebecca and her sultry new novel.
Friday, 8/13, 7-9 p.m., Books on the Square, 471 Angell Street, Providence
OK, I admit it: I’m not into vampire stuff like Twilight, and I’m not a teenager—but I loved Infinite Days. I think it’s refreshing that it straddles dark vampirey stuff with sunshiny teenage stuff and keeps you on your toes with flashbacks to various scenes and centuries. What inspired you to mix old with new?
I knew readers wouldn’t be able to appreciate Lenah’s transformation unless they saw her at her absolute worst. The world at Wickham Boarding School is given much deeper meaning when the reader is able to see some of Lenah’s history and evil.
Lenah seems to look down on humans, aghast at the wars and misery their religions have caused over the ages and their weakness and mortality. Vampires in Infinite Days, by contrast, seem to be gorgeous, talented, powerful, and rich. Yet she still wants to be human more than anything and celebrates little moments in life in her human form—raindrops, laughter, trying something new—with pure joy. Did you intend to teach teens that some things trump money and sex appeal, or am I reading too much into this?
I wouldn’t say she looks down on human religion at all. She looks down on wars and mass human suffering. Vampires, in Infinite Days, are selfish creatures motivated by their own pain. They look at themselves as victims and only Lenah’s coven are talented and rich. I don’t envision one of Lenah’s coven members, Song, as a very good-looking guy. He’s big, a powerhouse, capable of talented martial arts, and that’s why Lenah chooses him for her coven. What Lenah misses more than anything else is her rational mind and her ability to touch. As a vampire in Infinite Days you lose your ability to feel—the sense of touch is dead as are all the nerve endings. Lenah wants to laugh, and mean it; smile, and mean it. There was so much evil in her past—she wants to escape it.
Lenah, newly awakened at a Massachusetts boarding school, immediately notices how catty teenage girls are, how openly they stare each other up and down, and how quick they are to call each other names and put each other down. Yet Lenah sizes up both boys and girls based on their heartbeats or how their blood would taste. Probably my favorite line in the whole book was Lenah’s reaction after a girl from biology class addressed her: “I did not know her, but she had poor blood flow (dull blue veins—that color was always a clear indication).” Yet as she became more human, she stopped judging veins and pulses, and the teens who initially mock her style end up not only accepting but imitating Lenah. Do you think teens might identify with the message that life’s too short to mock others over little things like clothes or body image?
Thanks! I like that line, too! Lenah’s used to being Queen—she’s used to being the boss. When she enters Wickham boarding school she finds that women judge one another on how they look, what they wear, and everything on the surface. That’s strange to Lenah as she’s judged people for hundreds of years on how quickly she can manipulate them for her own power or figure out how to eat them for dinner. She’s so eager to be human, to fit in again, that she is surprised by the importance of superficiality. When she meets Justin he is gorgeous, yes, and of course Lenah is attracted to that—but he is also dangerous and exciting.
What was your favorite thing about Infinite Days (the characters, the history…)?
I am totally surprised how many people love Tony, Lenah’s best friend at Wickham. I knew he was a great character and that he is loyal and loves Lenah, but people seem to really love him!
Which makes me ask: why is Lenah attracted to tanned, muscular, blonde, poster boy Justin more than to the artsy, Japanese, against-the-grain scholarship student Tony? I know she cares for both of them, but I couldn’t identify at first with her obvious preference for the hot, rich guy. Did you feel conflicted while you wrote the novel, since you made both characters seem attractive to Lenah?
Tony is obsessed with Lenah. His attraction to her is something she’s used to. Also, Tony isn’t a daredevil. Tony’s a kid with an artistic talent and a love for things beautiful. Justin knows how to make Lenah feel alive. He is wary of her at first because she’s different, brooding. Justin wakes her up.
I can’t believe there is a trailer for your book (not that it’s not super cool!). I also have to link to your very first vlog, because you are far too adorable not to share with Dose readers.
Are you finding that publishers and authors have to keep up with a lot more technology to reach today’s teen and young adult audiences?
Yes. I think you have to find a way to stay relevant with teenagers because what interests them and what makes them excited changes ALL THE TIME. The publishing industry has done this especially with book trailers, widgets, etc. Authors are on twitter all the time. I am too! Rebeccajoym
I couldn’t help noticing an awesome character is named Rhode and that Lenah travels briefly to Rhode Island. Were there other little ways that Rhode Island appears in, or influenced, the novel?
I think you’ll have to read to find out!
Maizel will also sign copies of Infinite Days on September 1st, 7 p.m., at Barnes and Noble in Warwick.
Author photo by Olivia Wilcox.