1. This interview thing is a little awkward. What made you think this was a good idea?
At least this time, there’s no intimidating tape recorder. And I can skip the hard questions, right? I’ll just exclude them, and no one will be the wiser. We’ll do eight – that’s a significant number for Ella in Black Flowers, White Lies, my young adult thriller (published by Sky Pony Press).
2. Why is the number eight significant?
Ella’s father was born on August 8th, and when she was eight years old, she could have died, but didn’t.
Here’s more about the story:
Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a connection that transcends the grave. Since her mother disapproves, she keeps her visits to the cemetery where he’s buried secret. But when Ella learns that her mother may have lied about how Dad died sixteen years ago, it’s clear she’s not the only one with secrets. New facts point to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not a car accident as Mom always claimed.
When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger, as he did once before, or if someone’s playing unsettling tricks on her. But as the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, she finds herself terrified about who—or what—might harm her.
Soon the evidence points to someone new: Ella herself. What if, like Dad, she’s suffering from a mental breakdown? Ella desperately needs to find answers—no matter how disturbing the truth might be.
3. Why did you become a writer?
Growing up, I was an avid reader. There’s a certain joy to losing yourself in a good book. That love of story inspired me to write, because it allows me to recreate that experience for other readers.
In college, I double majored in computer science and English, but it wasn’t until after I graduated and left my corporate job that I decided to seriously focus on writing. I transitioned by writing about technology first, followed by more general nonfiction, but creating a novel was always my ultimate goal.
4. Why write fiction for young adults?
It’s an interesting age to write for and about, because the teenage years are filled with both potential and uncertainty. It’s also what I enjoy reading.
5. I’m an adult. Will I like your YA fiction?
That depends. If you enjoy other young adult novels, or you like reading stories set during the main character’s teen years, then it’s more likely you’ll like this story as well. There was an interesting article in The Atlantic in December about the general appeal of young adult novels.
6. Black Flowers, White Lies is set in Hoboken, NJ. Are all of the places mentioned real?
I used to live in Hoboken, and it was fun incorporating real restaurants, landmarks, and trivia into the story. Ella and her family live in the 77 River Street building, and I put her boyfriend in an apartment on Bloomfield. There are also scenes set at Stevens Institute of Technology, The Brass Rail, and the PATH station.
But I did fictionalize some aspects of the city, adding a cemetery, an animal shelter, and a bookstore on Newark Street. (The story was written before the arrival of Little City Books.)
By the way, I created a collection of my Hoboken photos on Pinterest which I referred back to as I was writing to remind me of specific setting details.
7. Are there themes that you think are common to all of your work?
I’m drawn to the idea of creating scary situations in our ordinary world. For example, in Black Flowers, White Lies, a series of unsettling events occur during an otherwise normal summer. This book also combines the frightening and the ordinary when Ella starts to question her perception of reality. When I wrote Pandemic (about a deadly contagious outbreak), it seemed natural to use the town where I live as the setting, because it underscored the idea that disasters could happen in regular places. I did rename the town in the novel, because it felt like bad karma to unleash deadly bird flu on my neighbors, even fictionally.
8. Last question: Tell us about the Black Flowers, White Lies cover. Did you have any input?
The cover images were inspired by the final book title. (It was originally called In the Dark, but my editor and I realized there were already several books out with that name, so we changed it.) I loved the cover concept, created by Sarah Brody for Sky Pony Press, since its inception. My small bit of input was to suggest more tombstones in the cemetery at the bottom of the cover, since an early version only had one. The paperback cover is essentially the same as the hardcover, with a different blurb and the addition of the award seal (the 2017 Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal for YA fiction) on the front.
That’s a wrap!
Excellent! If you’re interested in more information, you can learn about me and my books at YvonneVentresca.com.