The Compulsive Reader: Books That Suck Month: Day Fourteen: Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Monday, July 14, 2008

Books That Suck Month: Day Fourteen: Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

For a high school senior, Quincie Morris is exceptionally responsible and already she is certain in what she wants to do with her life: run her family's Italian restaurant. She and her uncle plan on re-opening the place with a hot new vampire theme, certain to attract business. But then their head chef Vaggio is brutally murdered a month before the re-opening, leaving Quincie and her uncle scrambling for not only a new chef, but the ultimate performer.

Enter Henry Johnson. Skinny, blond, and so not the vampire type. But he can cook. And so he's hired, and Quincie is left with the job of transforming him into an intimidating, dramatic, and convincing vampire performer. All the while, Vaggio's killer is still at large, and the police seem to think that Quincie's werewolf best friend Kieran is responsible, and the question is posed...is it a vampire or wereperson that is truly at fault? Quincie is finding it harder to know who to trust in a world where it is unclear who is the predator and who is the prey.

Tantalize is an elegant, dark, and nicely creepy read. Smith has created a fascinating and slightly chilling world where things aren't all that they seem to be, and it is too easy to fall into an enemy's traps. She cleverly reveals only a glimpse of the whole picture as the story progresses, not too much to allow the story to become predictable, but just enough to tempt and entice readers without frustrating them. Quincie is an engrossing narrator and admirable character who lives up to and beyond her namesake. Polished and sophisticated, if you're looking for a remarkable, unique, and completely mesmerizing supernatural read, this is it.

I got the opportunity to ask the lovely author a few questions about her inspiration for Tantalize and why she wrote it.

Thanks so much, Cynthia! I appreciate it.

Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm!

Why did you choose to write a YA supernatural book?

I’ve long been enchanted with the supernatural, especially Gothic fantasy, the subcategory of horror involving monsters. After a few years off, Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate (1997) was the first YA novel I returned to as a young law clerk in Chicago, about to ditch her day job to write full time.

Having endured my share of speculative stories with clichéd female victims/trophies, I appreciated strong characters like Chris Carter’s Scully and Joss Whedon’s Buffy and Annette’s werewolf protagonist, Vivian.

I’m also fascinated by the classics, and it had intrigued me that, in the novel Dracula (1897), Bram Stoker, an Irishman, had chosen a Texan, Quincey P. Morris, for one of Van Helsing’s vampire hunters.

At the same time, I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at Stoker’s leading female characters, which—true to the fictional norms of the day—were crafted as a sensual monster and “virgin” victim, metaphorically speaking.

So, I decided to revisit the literary Dracula mythology with my more girl-powered sensibility, bring the tradition “home” to Texas, and extend it into the twenty-first century. My gender-flipped Quincie P. Morris is a strong, capable, and passionate Texas girl.

What makes Tantalize unique?

Probably my most remarked-upon twist on the tradition is that the story largely revolves around Sanguini’s, a fictional a vampire-themed restaurant set here in Austin, Texas.
As an older teen, I’d waited tables in restaurants to help pay for college tuition and expenses, and I loved how each was a stage for drama—complete with thematic décor, menu, costumes/uniforms, music, and more.

Most people think of vampires as more drinkers than diners, but that adds a fresh twist.

Do you plan on writing any more books similar to Tantalize?

At the moment, I’m working on a very similar book—a graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize, told from the point of view of Kieren, the werewolf leading man. Because the prose novel is told from Quincie’s perspective, there are plenty of new scenes and insights in the graphic version.
What’s more, Tantalize isn’t a stand-alone story. It’s the first installment—the toe-hold, if you will—of a larger arc. The next prose book, Eternal (Candlewick, March 2009), will feature different main characters, and then my plan is to crossover the two casts in a third novel, picking up again at the end of Tantalize.

The first two novels have sub-arcs of their own, but careful readers should be able to thoughtfully speculate as to where we’re heading for the third.

In the meantime, Tantalize readers may want to take a peek at the excerpt of Eternal in the Tantalize paperback release (Candlewick, July 2009). That novel will be told from two alternating points of view, male and female, and the female protagonist’s is featured in the excerpt. While erring more toward Gothic fantasy than paranormal romance, it’s more of a love story than Tantalize.

Though that will conclude a particular storyline, readers can take slip into the same fantasy world in at least a couple of upcoming shorts—“Haunted Love,” which will appear in Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, August 2008) and “Cat Calls,” which will appear in Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, March 2009).

At the moment, I’m open to writing more stories in the universe, and there’s another that’s whispering to me, but with so much on my plate, I’m taking it one book at a time.

If you could be any supernatural creature, which would you be and why?

I’ll go with the werecat. I’d much prefer to be living, to be a predator, and to have more abilities. Plus, cats tend to be clean and have great agility.

Do you have a favorite word, quote, or a poem that you'd like to share?


Thanks so much! I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say that we can't wait to read Eternal! Best of luck to you in all of your future endeavors!


Anonymous said...

I love Tantalize!! Great review, and great interview too! :)

Moonlight Reader said...

I've been looking forward to reading this one!It seems very original!
I just started a read & review blog any pointers?
Drop by anytime,

Carolina said...

I love Tantalize. Great interview adn review! I can't wait for the sequels! :)