1) What was your inspiration for Abandon?
Answer: It was the myth of Hades and Persephone. I came across it in high school. I was hooked right away. It is one of the few Greek myths involving a female character who doesn’t get turned into a plant, tree, or animal after her run-in with a god. Plus, there’s something so compelling about a guy who falls so desperately in love with a girl that he’s willing to allow the earth to be destroyed rather than give her up, because he’s doomed forever to rule over the dark Underworld, and he can’t stand to be without her.
2) Why did you find the myth of Persephone so compelling?
Answer: Everyone can relate to that scary feeling of falling in love for the first time. You really do think you’d be willing to do anything for that person. And then there’s that sense a lot of teenagers have of never feeling quite like you fit in. I was always longing to find that one special person who would not only understand me, but come and take me away to a place where, not only would I finally belong, but I would be wholly and completely loved.
3) What else about the myth of Persephone do you like so much?
Answer: I think it was the idea that there is someone out there–maybe even living beneath your feet–who adores you just as you are and wants to take you away from the crummy place where you live (and away from your boring school and the bullies who torture you every day). The fact that the guy lives in the Underworld and has the power to smite those bullies is a total bonus. I also liked the fact that love is a very complex emotion in the myth of Persephone. It's overwhelming and scary, but sweet and true at the same time.
4) Do you have a favorite "telling" or version of the Persephone story?
Answer: Well, Edith Hamilton's Mythology was the first one I read, and that is the one that stuck. I loved the illustration that came with it of Hades coming up through a chasm in the earth and carrying Persephone off to the Underworld in his chariot.
There are several versions of the myth in which Persephone clearly eats the pomegranate seeds that force her to stay in the Underworld for 6 months of the year on purpose (in other versions, Hades tricks her into eating them). I could totally relate. Persephone went from being forbidden by her mom from going to Olympus (her mom was always a worrier) to being Queen of the Underworld! Why would she want to leave?
5) Is Isla Huesos, the setting for Abandon, a real island?
Answer: No. But it is based on a real island, Key West, which is the southernmost point in the USA. When the Europeans discovered it, Key West was actually covered in human bones (Cayo Huesos is the original name for Key West).
6) Is Coffin Week real?
Answer: Key West's Coffin Night Night–when the senior class and hides a coffin somewhere on the island, and the junior class has to find it—is a real event. As far as I know, it is the only event like it in the United States.
7) Is it true that in tropical cemeteries the dead have to be buried above ground?
Answer: Yes! Like in Abandon, bodies buried underground can be washed away in hurricanes so they have to be entombed above ground.
8) What made you decide to incorporate the Gulf oil spill into the story?
Answer: So much of the Keys is the rich eco-environment in which it exists, and the people who depend on the water for their livelihood. The oil spill has irreversibly effected that eco-environment—and will continue to effect it—and to ignore that when it is now a part of the day-to-day life of so many people who make their living on the waters there would not be realistic.
9) In your mind, how are Pierce and the "original" Persephone alike? How are they different?
Answer: I feel like we really don't know anything about Persephone. In so many versions of the story she plays a very passive role, and the myth is really more about her mother, Demeter, and the trials she goes through rescuing her daughter after she's kidnapped by the Lord of the Dead and taken to the Underworld.
I always wanted to know more about the journey of this very human character, who manages to tame the Lord of the Dead and then ultimately becomes empowered by ruling over the Underworld herself, at least part time. (Although that's just what happens in the myth, I'm not telling what happens in my book series.)
10) Why is the relationship between Pierce and John so dark?
Answer: Abandon is about the kind of love where you can't stand to live apart from someone and you'd do anything for that person. That kind of love and longing is often dark and scary, like in the myth of Persephone. And so that’s how it turns out in Abandon, too.
11) Are John Hayden and Pierce Oliviera actually Hades and Persephone reincarnated?
12) How did John die?
Answer: More about John's death will be revealed in the sequel, Underworld.
13) What more can you tell us about your character Pierce Oliviera?
Answer: Pierce is definitely a heroine who has been through a lot, even though she’s only seventeen. She’s already died (and been revived), but she can never forget what she saw during the short time she was dead. Pierce also really cares about other people. Her desire to protect and defend others often comes into conflict with the fact that she is also drawn to John, who is mysterious and, perhaps, dangerous.
14) Why does Pierce seem afraid of John?
Answer: John is the only person who understands what Pierce has been through. At the same time, she can’t understand him. It’s almost like he hasn’t had any kind of human contact in years . . . which is dangerous, especially since everywhere Pierce goes, trouble seems to follow, and he seems determined to protect her. But people can be extremely compelling when they seem dangerous, especially when they’re as dark and mysterious as John. Pierce is drawn to him in a way she can’t understand. And that might be what scares her most of all.
15) Is Pierce Latina?
Answer: Pierce does not self-identity as Latina, but her friend Kayla does. There is a lot of ethnic diversity in Key West and in Isla Huesos.
16) In the book, Pierce has a near death experience (NDE). Is this a real phenomenon?
Answer: Yes, some people, after being pronounced dead, have come back to life and reported such experiences. You can read all about it here.
17) Pierce's doctors insisted that her NDE was just a "lucid dream." Is this a real phenomenon?
Answer: Yes, lucid dreams happen when the dreamer is aware he or she is dreaming.
18) What do you hope readers will take away from Abandon?
Answer: All of the main characters in Abandon have actually been abandoned in some way, often because they’re unwilling — or unable — to conform to societal norms. But it’s okay not to be normal. What some people may consider “different” or even “crazy” may actually be the thing that ends up making you special, and saving you in the end.
19) Do you have any stars in mind who could play the characters if the movie rights to Abandon get sold?
Answer: Not really, although I enjoy hearing who fans picture in the roles. I only pictured Morgan Freeman in the part of Richard Smith. Ha!
20) Will Abandon be a series?
Answer: Yes. More books are on the way. The second book, Underworld, should be in stores in summer 2012.
21) Why is there a decoration on the 'A' in the title on the book cover?
Answer: It represents the necklace that John gave Pierce to protect her.
22) We know you can't give away too much, but can you tell us a little about what we can expect from books 2 & 3 in the series?
Answer: Readers will find out why Pierce's cousin Alex is so mad at everyone, why Pierce's Uncle Chris went to jail in the first place, how John got stuck being the Lord of the Underworld beneath Isla Huesos, and why Pierce may be the only person in the world who can save him–and the entire island of Isla Huesos–from being destroyed by the forces of evil. Readers will also learn why John keeps appearing at important moments in Pierce's life, how she really feels about him, and how she finally deals with those feelings.