Fantasy novelist Marta Acosta is coming to Houston as part of the Girl's Nightmare Out tour with fellow fantasy/horror novelists Lisa Desrochers and Kendare Blake. She'll be signing and discussing her latest young adult release, Dark Companion, along with titles from her Casa Dracula series.
"It was a complete fluke that I got into writing paranormal fiction," she tells us. "I was writing humor and happened to use vampires as part of the joke. I was spoofing the romantic convention of these undead creatures, these Europeans who were very rich and very sophisticated. I thought, 'Hey, why aren't there any Mexican vampires?' So I sent my wayward Latina character into their world. She's got a chip on her shoulder and is always asking people, 'Are you saying that because I'm Mexican?' And they're always telling her, 'No, we're saying that because you're ridiculous.' She's got issues."
Acosta's new book, Dark Companion, strikes a different note, although, as with Casa Dracula, her protagonist isn't exactly typical. "I don't like princess stories," she tells us. "That always seemed very entitled to me." Instead, Dark Companion is a modern homage to Jane Eyre. " I [wrote] a gothic, which is a form that hasn't really been written much for young adult fiction. Jane Eyre is a gothic. She's poor, and she goes off to an isolated location. She meets people who are deceiving her and lying to her. The people are much more powerful and richer than she is. So she's got to figure out what she's going to do; she's got to figure out what the lies are, what the deceit is."
Acosta stresses that Dark Companion, which chronicles the adventures of a young girl who wins a scholarship to a posh school, only to realize there's something very, very wrong on campus, is an homage, not a retelling. "I didn't try to do a literal updating of the story because I think Jane Eyre is a brilliant story. If you want to read Jane Eyre, go read Jane Eyre; it's perfect. But I did try to pay homage to Jane Eyre and other gothic novels by using the tropes that I like in gothics. There are elements such as twining, where you've got one thing reflecting another, images of light and dark, symbols of blood, and sinister natural settings. I threw all those in."
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Unlike Casa Dracula, Dark Companion features monsters that are decidedly human. "I show how people have a monstrous capacity to hurt each other, to do terrible things to one another. I create characters who manipulate each other. That's confusing to some readers. They tell me, 'I don't like him,' and I say, 'Why would you like him? You're not supposed to like him.'" (Note to readers: Not liking bad guys is a perfectly acceptable response.)
The Girl's Nightmare Out tour features Marta Acosta (Casa Dracula, Dark Companion), Lisa Desrochers (Personal Demons and Original Sin) and Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares). The trio will sign and discuss their books at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, visit the bookstore's website or call 713-524-8597. Free.