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The Vespertine Paperback – March 20, 2012
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Q&A with Saundra Mitchell
Q: Historical fiction meets paranormal romance in your newest book, The Vespertine. This is a bit of a departure from your last book, Shadowed Summer, which was more of a mystery/thriller. Where did you get the idea for The Vespertine and why did you decide to make the switch?
Mitchell: If I'd managed to write my original version of The Vespertine, it would have been a lot more like Shadowed Summer! It started out as another contemporary southern gothic novel--still about a girl who could see the future in the sunset. Her prophecies were supposed to set off a chain of modern-day Salem Witch Trials. It was definitely meant to be a thriller.
I got about sixty pages into it, and it just didn't work. So I tried moving the same idea to a still-contemporary boarding school in Maine. I only got about 30 pages into that. I was starting to think it was just a bad idea, and I should move on.
Shortly after abandoning version two, my best friend and I watched the new BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights. And then suddenly, I had a first scene in my head--Amelia van den Broek, half-mad, returning to her ancestral home in the dead of night, and being locked in an attic by her furious brother. I have to admit, I intended for someone in The Vespertine to be a serial killer--right up until the third chapter, I still thought I was writing a thriller. Then said character decided he'd rather be a painter, and the rest is paranormal romance!
Q: Did you always know you wanted to write for young adults? What do you enjoy the most about it?
Mitchell: Writing YA novels is actually my second writing career--my day job is screenwriting and producing. For fifteen years, I've worked with Dreaming Tree Films on various teen filmmaking programs. I've written screenplays based on teen ideas, and have seen at least four of the young screenwriters I have taught go on to careers in film! It's extraordinary to me how talented, and how dedicated, teens are--and I love the richness and rawness of their emotions and their experiences. Everyone's so passionate and so real.
And now it's an extraordinary pleasure to write books for teens, and connect with them directly, author to reader. I didn't grow up thinking that I wanted to write for young adults--but my whole life has been dedicated to doing just that. I wouldn't want to write for anyone else.
Q: The city of Baltimore in the late 1800s, where The Vespertine takes place, offers a rich and dynamic historical backdrop for your story. Were you always interested in Victorian Baltimore? Why did you choose to set your story there?
Mitchell: Once I realized The Vespertine would be a historical novel, I knew it had to be set in Baltimore. The city has a great history--their soldiers fought in the American Revolution, then in the Civil War, the city offered up both Union and Confederate troops. Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner" about a flag that yet waved over Baltimore's Fort McHenry. Edgar Allen Poe died there, as dissolute as any gothic hero. And Baltimore is also home to one of the first free public libraries in the United States.
Since I wanted to write about middle class girls, I wanted to set the novel in an integrated city. Baltimore has had a free black middle class for three hundred years, neighborhoods that overlap, people from a myriad of cultures and backgrounds working and playing together. It's a major world port, and a working-class city.
Other people have done more than enough justice to the white elite upper class in Gilded-Age New York. With The Vespertine, I wanted to explore the kind of American city that many of the rest of us came from. The fact that Baltimore has fabulous parks and monuments and architecture to set beautiful scenes didn't hurt, either.
Q: Amelia, the book’s protagonist, leads a very different life than most young girls of today; however, a lot of the things that she experiences--friendships, romance, social class issues--have not changed much over the last 100 years! What can a sixteen-year-old girl of today take from Amelia’s experiences?
Mitchell: I know when I was sixteen, I was a lot like Amelia--I didn't know who I was, or what I really wanted. I just wanted my life to be exciting, so a lot of times, I just went along.
Amelia definitely goes along--telling fortunes to get popular, not actually her idea. Sneaking to see Nathaniel in Annapolis, also not her idea. But even though she didn't actively make those choices, those choices have a huge impact on her life and the lives of everyone around her. Amelia ultimately has to own up to the fact that not deciding her own fate is still a decision.
I really feel like this is a book about making a transition from being someone that things happen to, to becoming someone who makes things happen. And I think young women today still need to be reassured that they are their own person, they have agency to make decisions, and they should be the heroes of their own stories!--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
—Aprilynne Pike, New York Times Bestselling Author of Wings and Spells "Sheer pleasure from beginning to end."—TeenReads.com"I savored every word of The Vespertine; I knew it was an amazing book from the first page and I was entranced until the very last."—Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series Praise for The Springsweet:"A lovely historical romance. . . . The author conjures a convincing picture of life on the Oklahoma prairie, painting an absorbing portrait of the landscape and of the people there. . . . A high-quality, absorbing drama."—Kirkus Reviews"The Springsweet will steal your heart. Zora is a wounded heroine who had me cheering as she rediscovers the strength she thought she'd lost. Blend in a smoldering, yet refreshingly subtle hero, and add a twist of magic and you have a perfect romance in the Old West with another of Saundra Mitchell's signature rich and nuanced historic settings!"—Aprilynne Pike, New York Times bestselling author of Wings and Spells"I didn't think YA historicals could get better than The Vespertine. The Springsweet proved me wrong. This is a gorgeous, unputdownable book that will stay with you long after it's through. Saundra Mitchell just gets better and better."—Sarah MacLean, NYT and USA Today bestselling Author of Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake and Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord"With Saundra Mitchell’s trademark evocative and gorgeous language, The Springsweet takes us across the plains, where the people thirst for love just as the land thirsts for water. I never wanted this book to end!"—Carrie Ryan, New York Times best-selling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series Praise for The Elementals:"In The Elementals the worlds of The Vespertine and The Springsweet collide with glass-brittle hopes and devastating consequences. The children of the supernatural must learn what their parents have long known, that even the most innocent magic demands a cost. A sumptuous read, as bittersweet as it is beautiful."—Aprilynne Pike, New York Times bestselling author of Wings and Spells"Saundra Mitchell pulls off a thrilling conclusion to a mesmerizing series! She just gets better and better!"—Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series"Mitchell convincingly portrays the glittering, raucous L.A. of the burgeoning movie industry and the oppressive unease of looming war."—Booklist
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Top Customer Reviews
Her world is filled with making new friends, going to school, trying to become a lady and going to the occasional dance. But that all changes when the sun sets, for that is when the Vespers come to her. As the sun sets into her eyes a fire burns inside her, and she sees visions of her friends or acquaintances. At first it is thought of as great fun and when one such vision comes about to save the beauty of a friend her life is then skyrocketed into Baltimore's true Mystic. Cards coming flowing in from people all over wanted to have their fortunes told and her time comes in high demand. With Zora acting as her `manager' in all of her dealings she takes tea parties around the city giving her innocent prophecies thinking only of them as pure and helpful to those around her.
Everything seems to change around her suddenly when her vespers seem to take on a mind of her own.Read more ›
So, this book wasn't exactly what I was expecting - which I liked. I like when I'm able to let my mind wander and try to fit some of the pieces together. Especially when I'm not always right about things. Nathaniel wasn't what I thought he was. Even Amelia wasn't what I thought she was.
I admit, I'm not one for "historical fiction" (The only book that I've read that takes place outside modern times is Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.) but I really enjoyed The Vespertine. The prose is simply amazing; really written like an 1800s classic. The descriptions of the elaborate fabrics and dresses and clothing - it took me away to a 1889 Baltimore. Interestingly enough, I knew exactly where some of the places mentioned in the book were since Baltimore is only a 45 minute drive from where I live. And to imagine those places more than 100 years ago was really great for me.
The most chuckle-worthy part of this book for me:
"The point is that he'll be able to keep a wife soon, which means he'll want one."
"Does a man ever want one?"
Oh, how things have not changed much since then.
Now with all of the good things said, I will say that I can understand some people who might not like this book due to its..slow pace? non on-the-edge-of-your-seatness? This book isn't "action-packed" and there's not a lot of anything going on other than everyday life, but I ENJOYED that. It was a nice read for a holiday weekend and would be great for a beach trip!
I really liked that this book began towards the end of the story, at a point where Amelia is not doing so well, then we are taken back to see how it came to be this way. It sucks you in instantly and makes you want to get to the bottom of it!
Amelia and Zora bond really quickly and their friendship is really endearing. They act like sisters, teasing and playful but also protective of one another. One of the things that was different in this book, which I immensely liked, was that both Amelia and Zora had a love interest, and it wasn't the same guy! They each had their own sweetheart to swoon over. No fighting with your best friend over a guy in this book! I loved that!
Zora's love interest is the tall, blond, handsome, gentlemanly Thomas Rae. Zora and Thomas follow all the appropriate courting rules. They are the prime example of how courting should be in this time period. Unlike Amelia and Nathaniel, who have a more daring attraction, Zora and Thomas's is more sweet. Nathaniel Witherspoon. A painter with a very interesting face and an even more intriguing personality. He is mysterious and his manners, for this time period anyway, are scandalizing! He is also off limits to Amelia, which of course makes him way more enticing to her.
Another thing that was different was the supernatural elements in the story. I haven't read anything like them before. I do wish we would have learned more about what makes Amelia and Nathaniel the way they are though.
Amelia is having a great time in Baltimore, with her new friends, the dances, Nathaniel, her new found fame...until one of her premonitions, a bad one, comes to pass. That was unexpected and it left me in shock! Then came more shocks!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really good historical paranormal romance! I actually had no idea what it was about when I picked it up. I think it was either free or under $2. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Elyse
This wasn't a bad book, but it just didn't click with me and ultimately, it's forgettable.
Amelia is staying in Baltimore with family for the spring. Read more
This book was a little confusing for me at the beginning. I didn't realize that the prologue happens after the events of the rest of the book, and that everything following the... Read morePublished on July 16, 2013 by Kelli Nash
The description intrigued me, but it didn't deliver. It is very choppy, as some reviewers have said, and there is no depth to any of the characters, including the narrator. Read morePublished on May 22, 2013 by Erin
The sophisticated prose drew me in before the characters, but then I became engrossed and gripped to the page because of the gothicky, lyrical twists and turns of the plot. Read morePublished on January 25, 2013 by Girl Friday Reader
I have to admit, there is something about the synopsis for this book that doesn't quite do it justice. Read morePublished on May 10, 2012 by A Journey Through Pages
So this book was pushed on me by Lynn at Bringing the Epic. She has always pushed really great books on me so when she was like, " you have to read this book! Read morePublished on May 2, 2012 by Laci Crawford
The Vespertine is a lovely historical, paranormal novel set in 1889 Baltimorre. Amelia is new to the area and is quickly swept up into society life by her cousin, Zora. Read morePublished on April 22, 2012 by kelfuller77
Also reviewed on my blog, The Vintage Bookworm. ([...])
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I really liked it, but I didn't love it. Read more