Lana Popovic’s debut novel, Wicked Like A Wildfire, is set to release August 15th, 2017. It’s published through Harper Collins/Tegen books. Before becoming an author, Lana attended Yale University for psychology and literature. She studied law at Boston University. She is a graduate of Emerson college Publishing and Writing program and is a literary agent at Chalberg & Sussman, where she specializes in YA. To know more about Lana, visit her website.
A huge thank you, Lana, for giving Ravenous For Reads this opportunity to interview you.
Wicked Like Wildfire is your debut YA contemporary fantasy. What is it about? (I read the blurb but love to hear authors tell me informally).
(Lana): It’s about two witchy sisters growing up in a secluded seaside town in Montenegro, both with the magical power of manipulating beauty through their gleam. They’re forbidden by their cold, distant mother, Jasmina, from using their gleams and following in love in order to avoid discovery, but when Jasmina’s attacked and left hovering between life and death, they have to uncover the secrets of a curse that spans thousands of years and links them to a mysterious blood witch of beauty, nightmares, and death.
How did you come up with the idea for Wicked Like Wildfire?
(Lana): Most of my ideas start as solitary images. In this case, I had a very vivid thought of two dangerously beautiful twin sisters with scented ribbons braided into their hair, wandering outside at night by the seaside. Then I started working outward from that first “clue”—what were the ribbons for, and what did they smell like? Who had put them in the twins’ hair? Why was their beauty a sinister thing?
What can you tell me about your main characters? How did they come into creation?
(Lana): I knew I wanted to write a story about sisters, and I’m fascinated by twins and their unique bond. I also really enjoy reading “unlikeable” female characters—though I hate that label, since I don’t particularly think that female characters need to be sweet, well-adjusted delights to be likeable—so I also wanted to present a prickly, fierce, and very vulnerable protagonist.
What was your favorite part about writing this story?
(Lana): I love reading very vivid, descriptive writing, and in this case, the sisters’ gleams are such heightened sensory—and sensual—experiences that it allowed me to write in high-octane, elaborate prose. A really luxurious voice doesn’t work for every story, so I particularly loved the freedom of all the dramatic gleam-scenes and dream sequences, especially the first time the twins “meet” Mara.
If you can tell me, what is the theme of Wicked Like Wildfire?
(Lana): The sisters go through a lot together! But the themes of family, love, and the many aspects of beauty—as a tool or a curse, a burden or a gift, something toxic and sly as well as alluring—are explored most in depth.
What sort of research did you do to write your novel?
(Lana): I read up pretty extensively on glassblowing and perfume craft. I also took a trip with my family the fall before I started writing Wicked, to refresh my memories on Montenegro. It’s such a gorgeous place that I’m not sure this qualifies as “research,” but I did take lots of notes on how things felt and smelled!
I see that Wicked Like Wildfire will be the first in a series. How many books will be included in the Hibiscus Daughter series?
(Lana): It’s a duology, closing with the sequel, Fierce Like a Firestorm.
Awesome! Wicked Like A Wildfire sounds like a delicious read and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Now, let’s talk about you as a writer!
What does your writing process look like?
(Lana): It looks like “anytime, anywhere” if I’m on deadline! I usually drink tea and eat peanut butter from the jar if I’m on a multi-hour streak, and if I’m home, I like to burn sandalwood incense to put me in the mood.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
(Lana): So far, I’ve been a pantser all the way—which usually means lots and lots of heavy edits and rewrites during revision! I always have certain scenes vivid in my mind, sort of like signal fires, so most of the heavy lifting between those, with lots of surprises along the way. Victoria Schwab says that she writes not chapters but pages, not pages but sentences, not sentences but lines, not lines but words. And it really does feel that way, a slow and often arduous chiseling until you’ve got enough pages down for something that could be a book, probably.
I read that you specialize in YA. Why did you choose that specific genre?
(Lana): For anyone who enjoys tarot, I’m always deep in the cups suit—feels for the win! I love that YA focuses on such an emotionally intense time in life, when every experience seems so high-pitched and elevated. It naturally lends itself to the dramatic extremes of fantasy writing.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t so?
(Lana): I often hear that YA, in any genre, is a simplified, pared down version of adult writing, and I haven’t found that to be the case. There are so many lush and complex YA books out there, and if anything, writing YA can be a really rigorous exercise in showing rather than telling—something adult/literary writing often gets away with—and pushing hard for character agency.
What are the pros and cons of being a writer?
(Lana): Like one of my dear author friends once said, “I don’t think any of us actually like writing—we like having written.” Truer words, dude. Sometimes writing really does feel like a sweet effortless flow, but those times are few and seriously far between. Most of the time, it’s tooth-pullingly hard. But then you have something you made, and if you’re lucky, something you love.
If you could have tea (or coffee) or even an adventure with any author from any time, who would it be and why?
(Lana): This is a tough one, because I have so many fangirl beloved authors that this changes based on my reading stack. Right now, it would be N.K. Jemisin, because she’s blisteringly smart and a phenomenally talented writer, and anything she felt like talking about over coffee would probably make me smarter.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
(Lana): I love all manner of witchy things! Tarot, crystals, herbs, candles—you name it. My current favorite tarot deck is the Wild Unknown, but before that, I did all my readings with Maggie Stiefvater’s gorgeously illustrated Raven Cycle deck—until my dog literally ate the Tower card and I had to switch to something new.
What does your writing space look like? (If you have a photo, I’d love to see it!)
(Lana): Sure, here you go! It’s…not for everyone.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
(Lana): If you want to write, do it, and push yourself until you’re not afraid to share your work. While readers are sometimes wrong and sometimes right, they’re always entitled to their opinion. Learn from critique, but don’t be hamstrung by it.
That’s amazing advice! Lastly, I have a few fun questions for you.
Who are you? Tell me in any way…in a picture, a poem, a single line…anything!
(Lana): In high school, we had to write a poem about ourselves based on what drink we would be. I chose whiskey, and illustrated the poem with the glitteriest whiskey glass there ever was. I’d never even had whiskey at the time—I definitely didn’t even really know what color it was, based on my glitter choices—and I don’t actually like it all that much now, but it feels sort of accurate, still?
Are there any words you live by?
(Lana): Hmm. Probably just, “do the thing.” Like the Nike swoosh, but for people who don’t like to run, ever.
Here at Ravenous For Reads, we are all about words! What is your favorite word?
(Lana): I love “sibilant”! It sounds like what it means, and it’s got that good mouth-feel.
A book that deeply moved you?
(Lana): David Mitchell’s spectacular Cloud Atlas. I still tear up over the famous quote: “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
In your opinion, what goes best with a book?
(Lana): Cold peanut butter cups and red wine, or lemonade, and a kitty curled up next to you.
Want to know more about about Lana Popovic? Find her here: