Marta Acosta

This week: Marta Acosta!

I came across Marta Acosta's Casa Dracula novels a few years ago and found them thoroughly enjoyable. At the height of the vampire's popularity, the fresh perspective and interesting turn in their portrayal was fun, flirty and kept me reading! But - aside from enjoying these books, I reached out to Marta and she took some time to answer questions for The Writer's Pane! *Cue the fangirl moment* Take a look at her answers - plus some bonus material as well!

Name: Marta Acosta
Social Media: Facebook: @martaacosta or Twitter: @martaacosta
Genre: multigenre

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from day dreaming and ranting. I’ll start ranting about a topic and a spark will go off.

Which character in literature do you associate yourself with the most?
The beauty of fictional characters is that they are fictional. I want characters to live perfectly in their own little worlds, never aging, untouched by reality. That said, I have a special place in my heart for Bertie Wooster in P.G. Wodehouse’s novels. He is beautifully free of common sense.

Which piece of your writing was the most entertaining/enjoyable to write? Why?
I’ve been writing doggerel, silly poetry, since I was a kid, and I loved writing Mary Violet’s ridiculous poems in Dark Companion and song lyrics in The She-Hulk Diaries. I kept cracking myself up. My husband always says, “You think you’re so funny.”

Was the first novel you published the first you ever wrote? What was? 
The first novel I ever wrote was a very dark noir mystery. My agent couldn’t get a deal because it was “unmarketable” at the time. Tastes have changed, and it might be marketable these days. I’d have to update it, which seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

When I’m not writing I’m usually…
Working on my robot army in the garage. Every time I think I’m getting somewhere, I run out of tin pie plates and bicycle reflectors. Between us, I sometimes despair that I’ll ever achieve intergalactic domination, but then I just turn that frown upside-down and try again.

If you could tell or ask any character in literature or film anything, what would it be? 
Well, in film, I’d ask lead female characters if they have a job other than girlfriend slash wife. Like in The Silver Linings Playbook, I’d ask, “And what did you do before you were a professional widow?” I’d also ask the female characters why they don’t have any friends or family. One line of dialogue could establish that, but then the scriptwriters would have to lose an important fart joke or something equally crucial to the story.

If you had lived a different life, made different choices, what would you be doing now? 
I’d probably be a cult leader. Or I’d be a fake psychic. Did I mention that in my most recent novel, The Dog Thief, my character pretends to be a psychic? Ideally, I’d be a fake psychic cult leader, bringing together both my interests and my skills. My followers would wear baggy pajamas and flip-flops, which would slow them down if I ever had to get away fast.

What are five things you couldn’t do without? 
I’m going to guess air, water, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a cast-iron skillet, and a shovel. If I was limited to four, I’d eliminate the skillet, because you can fry an egg on a shovel, but it takes too damn long to bury bodies using only a #10 Griswold skillet, although a #12 Wagner is slightly more I’m told. I have no personal experience. This is total speculation. I really meant to say that I’d need a chilled glass of my favorite fizzy wine.

What do few people know about you? 
I may be on the autism spectrum. I keep telling people, “Hey, I think I may be on the autism spectrum,” and they all say, “No, that’s just your excuse for being a pain in the butt.”

Are you working on any current projects?
Thanks for asking! I’m working on the sequel to The Dog Thief, featuring a dog rehabilitator who’s on the autism spectrum.  It’s a cross-genre story set in a small town in California’s wine country...the poorer side of wine country, where many people scrabble to make ends meet. My character, Maddie, has started a search and rescue team with the sheriff. There’s mystery, crime, family drama, and romance. And dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.

What work of fiction made you want to be a writer?
None. I’ve written since I learned how to hold one of those big pencils in my grubby little paw. My family always tells stories, though, so that may be part of it. I try not to analyze my interior thoughts too closely, because then I have disturbing partial memories of abandoned insane asylums, huge hypodermic needles, surgery equipment, and the soundtrack of “Mama Mia.” I break out in a cold sweat every time I hear an Abba song. That doesn’t mean anything, right?

What tools do you use for writing, organization, marketing?
I write on a laptop, am completely disorganized, and hate marketing. I burned out on the exhausting business of writing a few years back, and took a break. I indie-published my new novel, but I’m not working with a publisher or marketing department, so I’m not obligated to spend all my time schilling my books. Now and then I’ll tweet for a day or two.

Why do you write?
It’s something to do while I wait for the enamel paint to dry on the robots. I don’t know about you, but I think gray robots are boorring! Being in the closed garage, breathing in the fragrant paint fumes, makes me very dreamy, and I can usually get a page or two finished before I mysteriously wake up on the floor with a terrible headache and someone’s wallet or purse in my hands. That’s why I find writing so rewarding.

BONUS (A few questions I thoughts of while reading the Casa Dracula series):

How did you go about creating Milagro's character? Did you pull from personal experiences or completely create a new person?
I’ve always loved romantic comedies, and Milagro is based on many favorite characters. She’s bright, but silly. She’s impulsive and makes mistakes, but tries to fix them. She wears her heart on her sleeve. It was important for me to create a Latina character that wasn’t the stereotype of gangbanger girlfriend or devout immigrant.

What made you take the course you did, especially with Ian's character?
Ian and his sister were inspired by the sophisticated and trouble-making siblings, Henry and Mary Crawford in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Henry toys with meek and poor Fanny Price’s affections, but then falls for her, understanding her true worth. He’s rather amoral, but I always wished Fanny had returned his love, instead of glomming onto her goody-two-shoes cousin. In my stories, Ian is always watching Milagro on the outside of things. He sees her rejected and ignored by those who don’t realize how special she is. When he meets her, he assumes she’s a disposable party girl, but his admiration and love for her grows as he watches her doing whatever it takes to protect others.

The Casa Dracula series is obviously a vampire novel series, but you went about it from a non-traditional direction...why?
Because I was spoofing conventions of vampire romance, where everything is magic and all vampires are rich and elegant. Of course, they’d be snobs! The snobbiness and class distinctions fit nicely into a comedy-of-manners structure, where lots of nonsense happens at country estates. I also wrote the series as commentary on the lack of diversity in speculative fiction.

What are your thoughts on writing under a pen name?
I doubt it will ever work out for that Mark Twain guy. It’s just not catchy enough.  As for George Eliot—you just know that critics are going to say, “Eliot, Smelliot!” So I would caution writers not to use pen names unless they are on the run from former cult members who may or may not be easy to hear coming if they have switched out regulation flip-flops for Crocs. I’m totally surmising. No one is following me. My name is not an anagram for Maraca Toast, which is an ancient breakfast recipe of poisoners who distract victims with a rousing Spanish dance routine. So I’ve heard.

What bit of advice would you give to new writers who want to get published?
I think it’s all pretty explanatory. Don’t listen to Abba, and if someone in flip-flops asks for my whereabouts, tell them you’ve never heard of me and hit them over the head with a shovel. Or a skillet. Also, the publishing world is changing. You don’t have to do things the traditional way. If you want colorful robots, go ahead and paint them yourself. It can be very rewarding.

Author Bio: I was born in Northern California, where I still live with my family and latest in a series of rescued dogs. I attended Stanford University and studied literature and creative writing. I worked for theatre companies, writing publicity, and for non-profits in community relations. I had a great time writing features and op-ed pieces for the San Francisco Chronicle, but at some point I went off the cliff, and my editors told me, “We can’t publish this.”


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