Interview with Margie Fuston


About the author: “Margie Fuston grew up in the woods of California where she made up fantasy worlds that always involved unicorns. In college, she earned undergraduate degrees in business and literature and a master’s in creative writing. Now she’s back in the woods and spends all her time wrangling a herd of cats and helping her nephews hunt ghosts, pond monsters, and mermaids. She’s the author of VAMPIRES, HEARTS & OTHER DEAD THINGS (out now) and CRUEL ILLUSIONS (September 2022).” (Bio from the author.)

Find Margie Fuston on the following platforms:

A huge thank you to Margie Fuston for taking time to do an interview with us at Pine Reads! Her debut YA novel Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things is out now, and be sure to check out our review of Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things here!

Erika Brittain: First and foremost, thank you so much for chatting with me about Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things! This is your debut novel, released on August 24th, and it is such an incredible story. Definitely one of my new favorites! How does it feel being a published YA author? Did you do anything to celebrate your book’s release?

Margie Fuston: It feels absolutely wonderful. Sometimes I forget that my book is out there and anyone can read it now. It’s a bit surreal. To celebrate, I got some really good food because I always celebrate with food. My love of good food probably comes across in the book too! 

EB: To ease into talking about the book, I thought it’d be fun to do some vampire-themed “Would You Rather”!
Would you rather… Fight David from The Lost Boys or Damon from The Vampire Diaries?

MF: Damon. He’d definitely kill me, but I’d be okay with it. 

EB: Interview Louis de Pointe du Lac from Interview With a Vampire, or interview Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr from What We Do in the Shadows?

MF: A hard one! I have to go with Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr.

EB: Be a Slayer like Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or be a Death Dealer like Selene from Underworld?

MF: Death Dealer! I love Buffy, but I really want Selene’s outfit. 

EB: Now let’s jump right into the book! Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things revolves around Victoria, whose father is dying of pancreatic cancer, and her quest to find a vampire to save her dad. How did you come up with the idea to combine a really difficult topic, such as a parent dying from cancer, with the supernatural element of vampires?

MF: I always knew that I would write about grief and losing someone to cancer, but I really wasn’t planning to tackle that topic so early on in my writing career. This is very unromantic, but there was a moment when agents were starting to ask for vampire stories again, and I asked myself how I could make a vampire story really unique, and this very desperate character popped into my mind, and I loved the idea of vampires representing hope and life. 

EB: In a similar vein (no vampiric pun intended), there’s a great blend of heartbreak and humor throughout the book. How did you balance the emotional moments with moments of comedy? Did you find yourself leaning more one way as you were writing?

MF: Thank you! To be honest, that just came pretty naturally to me. If I’m going through something terrible, I’m probably cracking a lot of jokes about it, so I really wanted to show how those moments of lightness can help someone get through something awful. 

EB: Something really unique about this novel is that you open each chapter with a quote from a vampire movie, TV show, or book. I had so much fun reading the quotes you chose! Do you have a favorite quote that you used? Alternatively, did you have any quotes that you really liked but had to let go?

MF: I love this question because I had so many I didn’t get to use! It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but I love Chapter 18: “If you kiss me right now, will I live forever?” from Byzantium. One of my favorite quotes I didn’t get to use was also meant for Chapter 18: “This isn’t some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don’t wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They both really suited that chapter, and it was torture to choose between them. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that I had too many Buffy quotes. 

EB: To switch things up a bit, let’s talk about ROMANCE. While this book is definitely about Victoria’s relationship with her father, her relationship with her childhood best friend Henry is also pretty important (especially for fans of the “friends-to-lovers” trope!). Did anything surprise you when creating Henry’s character or his friendship with Victoria?

MF: The depth of their bond really surprised me. Victoria’s going through something extremely difficult, but Henry’s watched his mother go through a similar pain, so I think he understood Victoria’s actions on a level that not everyone is going to understand, which is why he sticks by her even when Victoria makes some bad choices, and Henry gets hurt in the process, but he understands why she’s doing those things better than she does at some points. His love for her surprised me in the best way.

EB: Victoria also finds herself getting close with another character in the story: Nicholas. I don’t want to spoil too much, but Victoria’s interactions with Nicholas had me huffing in annoyance but also swooning (just a bit!). How did you come up with Nicholas’ character and the challenges that he gives Victoria? 

MF: Nicholas is a character that came to me pretty quickly. I knew I needed someone to offer Victoria something else she needs in this moment of her life, and that needed to be more than just the secret to immortality. He challenges her to live and feel when she’s trying desperately to escape her emotions. Henry’s challenging her to feel things too, but he wants her to feel the grief she’s running from, and Nicholas wants to show her she can feel joy too. They’re both so essential to how she grows as a character, but I think Victoria and Nicholas end up opening each other up in a beautiful way. 

EB: Now we can’t discuss your book and not talk about the setting. The way you describe New Orleans was so immersive and alive— I’ve never been, but I felt like I was walking through the humid streets right next to Victoria and Henry! What was the appeal of New Orleans as your setting, and what was your favorite part of doing your research in New Orleans?

MF: I knew pretty quickly that New Orleans was going to be the perfect setting because not only is it a place full of vampire legends, it’s also a place that’s full of life. I wanted a setting that challenged Victoria’s desire not to feel.  I absolutely loved every second of researching this book. I actually had no idea what the plot would be before I went to New Orleans, but all the challenges that Nicholas gives just fell into place as I experienced the city. But my absolute favorite part was the food!

EB: Another prominent part of Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things, outside of the mouth-watering beignet descriptions, is poetry. Nicholas communicates with Victoria through a poetry book, and he even writes his own poem (which is a Margie Fuston original work!). Did you always plan on including original poetry in the story, or did that come later in your writing process?

MF: That was also something that came to me while visiting New Orleans. I, of course, had to go into a bookstore I wandered by in the French Quarter, and it had a wonderful selection of poetry that sparked the idea for how Nicholas would unfold his secret: underlining words in poems that Victoria would receive after completing challenges, and at the end, she’s able to put those words together into one final poem. That was one of the hardest parts of the book: finding poems that were meant to say something to Victoria that also had the right words to create that final message. 

EB: And to wrap up the interview, I wanted to discuss your publishing journey and writing career.
Let’s talk about Pitch Wars, a mentorship program that was a major part of writing Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things. Can you give a brief explanation of how Pitch Wars works, and talk about your experience going from participant, to published author, to Pitch Wars 2021 mentor?

MF: I absolutely love Pitch Wars. It’s a mentorship program where, if selected, you work with a mentor to revise your manuscript over the course of four months. I had two mentors who are absolutely fabulous people, and they really pushed me to dig into the emotional depth of the story. At the end of Pitch Wars is the agent round that showcases your pitch and the opening of your novel and agents can then request the full manuscript. I was lucky enough to sign with an amazing agent only a week after the showcase. We sold the book six months later. I always knew I wanted to mentor when the time was right, so once my book sold, I applied, and now I’m on my second year as a mentor. It’s a wonderful program that I highly encourage writers to look into. 

EB: For new and established authors, what is a part of the publishing process that you think writers should appreciate more? Or, what is a part of the process that you’ve come to value after publishing your first book?

MF: Drafting has always been my favorite, and it still is because I love falling headfirst into a new story for the first time, but now that I’ve gone through the many revisions that the publishing process requires, I have a new love for editing and seeing how careful attention to detail can pay off. 

EB: Lastly, you recently announced your second book, CRUEL ILLUSIONS. I can’t wait to read more of your work, and I’m even more excited to see how you combine vampires and stage magic! I’m sure you can’t say too much yet… but could you give us a teaser as to what we can look forward to?

MF: CRUEL ILLUSIONS is also about a girl looking for vampires, but she has a completely different perspective than Victoria. Where Victoria sees vampires as possible saviors, Ava only sees them as death, and the book is partly about challenging that perspective. It definitely dives way deeper into a vampire world and reads more like fantasy. So it’s a lot different than VAMPIRES, HEARTS & OTHER DEAD THINGS, which really reads more like a contemporary. 

PRR Writer, Erika Brittain