It’s Freaky YA Friday here on YASQ! Today we’re dishing about honorary Scream Queen April Genevieve Tucholke’s brilliant BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA. If you haven’t yet read this sumptuous novel, you must, and we’ll be giving away a signed copy to one lucky reader today!
Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):
You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand . . .
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town . . . until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery . . . who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
Doesn’t that sound killer? (Literally and figuratively!) I’ll refrain from waxing too long and poetic about this book, simply because my librarian-and-bibliophile heart doth overflow for certain titles, including this gem. April hooked me with her opening line (“You stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand”), and as a writer, I tend to be hypercritical of first lines. So many authors waste their openers on dross; not April. Upon reading that line, I had to hop on Google to see if it was some adage I’d missed, because it had such a such a shrewd ring to it (but it’s original, of course)!
The first thing that captivated me about the book was the voice; the second? The quirky, intriguing character of Violet White. In all my wanderings through YA-land, I’ve never met a heroine quite like her: artsy, intelligent, and plucky, with a poet’s voice plus a penchant for good food and vintage fashion. At the novel’s outset, I did not expect this girl to have the grit necessary to deal with some of the novel’s more dangerous and gruesome situations . . . but I was pleased to be proven wrong, time and time again. Readers will find a stellar gothic heroine in Violet, who I believe manages to both define and challenge the general conception of the gothic heroine.
Thirdly, I love how easily this book crawled under my skin. I’m nigh unto impossible to scare, but as the pieces of the mystery surrounding River began to fall into place, my heart rate began to rise. The novel’s violence is gritty, uncompromising, and in stark contrast to the novel’s dream-like quality . . . and it will have you sitting on a knife’s edge until the final line slips out of sight.
In short: five stars. Read it, and read it soon!
Now without further ado . . .
Interview with April Genevieve Tucholke:
1. As gothic horror relies heavily on setting, what were your inspirations for Violet’s ancestral home, the Citizen Kane, and the surrounding sleepy, seaside town of Echo? The house is so vividly imagined, I feel like it’s a compelling character in its own right.
AGT: Citizen Kane is a combination of The Biltmore (a grand manor in Asheville, NC), a decaying art deco mansion in Portland, OR, and my own childhood fantasies of what the perfect house would be.
The town of Echo is also a concoction of the bits and pieces of places I’ve lived . . . with some Lovecraft thrown in. No one does eerie, small towns, better than Lovecraft.
2. Violet is anything but . . . well, a shrinking violet, insofar as heroines go. How do you feel she stands apart from the roles women have traditionally played in gothic horror, from Shelley and Stoker all the way to Du Maurier and beyond? What is the significance of the name Violet White?
AGT: The significance of the name Violet White–well, several characters in Devil are artists. And so. And so I have characters named: Violet White, Blue Hoffman, Sunshine Black, the Reddings. This is what authors do when they are bored–leave a trail of breadcrumbs in their book for clever readers to find . . .
You know, I think Gothic heroines include some of the wildest characters in fictional history. Jane Eyre is definitely no pushover, neither is Cathy Earnshaw. The main character in Rebecca is meek and mildly annoying, but the housekeeper, as well as the title character, are fascinatingly wicked and complex. I think the original Gothic heroine involved some version of a wailing virgin* — but this is definitely not the case anymore.
*I don’t mind a wailing, virginal MC, as long as her character arc is interesting and she grows by the end into a something more deserving of the word “heroine.”
3. Talk to me about Ouija and its influence on you as a writer, and how you made a tired, oft-used horror trope utterly fresh and harrowing.
AGT: I wanted to include a ouija board scene in Devil because it’s such a classic horror trope. As I bombastically told my editor, “every good book I read as a teenager had a ouija board in it.” I like the challenge of taking something that is potentially eye-rolling and making it scary again.
4. Gothic horror is known for featuring mysteries that turn deadly . . . and BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is no exception. What is your advice for horror and mystery writers looking to create a similar feeling of intense, heart-sick suspense?
AGT: As you stated in your first question, Gothic horror relies heavily on setting. I’m sure a talented author could create a suspensive Gothic mood in, say, a bland, modern apartment complex,* but I wouldn’t try this, personally. Gothic suspense, in my opinion, thrives on a combination of these things: decaying mansions, secret passageways, gray skies, oceans, moors, and a steady, dark, un-modern mood.**
*Let the Right One In did this well, though I think the addition of an aggressively dark Scandinavian winter helped.
**Other things to consider: family secrets, lost and found diaries, ravens, moody, tortured men, gypsies, ghosts, mad people.
5. Finally, who would you name as your literary godmothers and godfathers, and how have they influenced BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
AGT: When describing Devil to people I often say it’s Jane Eyre meets Stephen King (I spent a good portion of my early years reading nothing but King, Poe, Hawthorne, the Brontes, and Daphne du Maurier). A few years ago, I stumbled upon Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, and I began to wonder if I could write a voice-driven contemporary-ish YA, but make the premise Gothic horror (just as Rosoff made her book post-apocalyptic). And this is how Devil came to be.
Thanks, April, for hanging out with us here on YASQ, and for writing BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA! For those of you who have already read the novel, I’m sure you’re eagerly looking forward to August 2014 and the next installment in the series, BETWEEN THE SPARK AND BURN!
The Rafflecopter entry form for the giveaway is here
! Enter between 11/22 and 11/30 to win a signed copy of BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA! Good luck!
Stay afraid of the dark,
Categories: Books, Writing, YA