Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Babe To Teens, Past
A Youth Column
By Jan Fields

An Interview with Debbie Federici and Susan Vaught, a review of L.O.S.T

     I love fantasy. Actually, I need to hedge that a bit. I love stories where perfectly normal folks tumble into a fantastic world. I find the adventure of it compelling. I think I want to be the girl who tumbles down the rabbit hole. All of my favorite authors are writing reality turned fantastic these days. You've met Linda Joy Singleton and Dotti Enderle in past interviews. This month, I'm talking to the collaborative team of Debbie Federici and Susan Vaught who wrote L.O.S.T -- the story of a seemly ordinary teen-aged boy who finds himself in a world turned upside down, and he's expected to save it!


Jan: I'm always fascinated with collaborations. How did you work out the mechanics of collaborating? Can you think of an example of something specific that you could say, "This came from me and this came from Susan?"

Debbie: I wrote Bren's first chapter, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing. But I just didn't have an idea where I wanted to take the story. I asked Susan if she wanted to collaborate. When she asked me where I wanted to go with the book, I said, "surprise me," and did she ever! I wrote all the Bren chapters, and Susan wrote all the Jazz chapters. :-)

Susan: Debbie and I are comfortable with each other after years of working together, so we didn't have to worry about offending each other or threatening each other. We just flew back and forth, letting our characters antagonize one other.


Jan: I see you are working on another visit with Jazz...will we see more of Bren, too?

Debbie: Are you kidding? Someone's got to keep that obsessive, demanding witch in line.

Susan: Bren is such a pain. He's messy and all crumby and impulsive and--and, well, stuff! Why would you want to see more of that giant donkey-brat? Sheesh.


Jan: Do all of your sanctuary inhabitants come from "real" folklore like dragons and elves or do you make some up whole cloth? The flower-topped monster didn't ring a bell for me but I'm sure there's a lot of folklore I've never met.

Debbie: Susan introduced some of the more unusual characters like the klatchKeepers. The flower-headed monster was just something I made up. Bren had to learn another lesson about things not always being what they appear to be....

Susan: Most are based in folklore and modified for our purposes, but some completely created, like the klatchKeepers.


Jan: You both say on that you've written all your lives. What advice would you give young people who are writing right now? How can they best feed the dream of writing for publication?

Debbie: Read, read, read the type of books you want to write. Read books on how to write. Even if you think you know how to write, believe me, there's more to storytelling than just telling a story. Once you start writing, keep on writing 'til the end. Don't keep editing yourself along the way. Make notes on things you'd like to go back and do at a later time, things you might like to fix, but just keep on writing.

Susan: Marion Zimmer Bradley is one of my favorite writers of all time. She has an excellent advice section for new writers at, the site her trust maintains now that she's passed into the universe's great mystery. I couldn't say it better than her--but I agree with Debbie completely. Read, keep writing until the end, and, like the article says, "Apply the seat of the pants firmly to the seat of the chair." I would also encourage young writers to ignore what we say at will, because from their fertile minds will come the books that shatter all the molds we've created. And so it should be.

Debbie: Ditto on Susan's last line. Let your thoughts fly free!


Jan: Do you both do school visits? What kind of things do you bring to dazzlethe teens on your visits? Have you been able to connect much with your readers personally? Do you get fan mail?

Debbie: I haven't done school visits yet, but intend to. But my 13-year-old son sure gives a lot of my books to his teachers and classmates. He absolutely loved L.O.S.T. and said it is now his favorite book. That meant a lot right there. :-) And yes, we do get fan mail, which we love!

Susan: I've done on-line school visits and some book signings, and I'm planning to do school visits. For my first book, FAT TUESDAY, I have an assortment of Mardi Gras giveaways (beads and masks). For L.O.S.T., I was thinking of trying to do some parchment copies of the Wytches Book of Tyme (the prophecy), some bookmarks, book covers, and book bags. I'm not above candy, either. Candy is usually good. We get fan mail, yes, and we're just starting a newsletter so our fans can keep up with the progress of L.O.S.T. II!

Debbie: And watch for Susan's STORMWITCH that will be out any day now. It will blow you away!


Jan: Why fantasy? What draws you to the magical?

Debbie: I've always loved worlds that I could get lost in, and magic is just so cool. I love the endless possibilities of what can happen and does happen in magical worlds. I love creating those worlds. I'm an organic writer, so my work develops as I write it and I picture the worlds. Susan has different ways of writing and visualizing fantasy. I do read lots of teen fantasy.

Susan: I have probably read at least 9/10ths of everything TOR ever published, and consume new fantasy series like popcorn. (Bren's side note, because at one time he didn't have a clue: TOR is the largest fantasy/science fiction publisher in the world. Now back to Jazz. Um, Susan.).

There's nothing like a good fantasy, a fresh take on magic or worlds, new and interesting races and creatures--all of that. I'm a bit obsessive on my world-creating, because a) I'm also an avid science fiction reader, and the science of it has to work for me, and b)in real life, I'm spatially impaired. This means I can't figure out how to fit all my groceries in the fridge, etc etc., and I need concrete props so I don't get lost. I start with creating the actual solar system and the physical world. Then I move to fantasy mapping software and make a detailed, scaled map of the world. Either before or after this, I create the races and sketch out how the magic works--and make up beasts, unique features and powers, and on and on. I've always appreciated what J.K. Rowling said about having notebooks full of character histories and details that no one would ever want to see. No kidding! I have to nudge myself to quit playing with the worldbuilding and write. Worldbuilding is addictive.

Debbie: Bren's mind (mine) just fogged over at the thought of all that fantasy mapping and detailed sketching. Gulp. As you can see, all writers work in their own way. No one writer writes the same as another, and that's the way it should be.


Jan: What inspired L.O.S.T? It's such an interesting concept.

Debbie: Ummm, well that first chapter pretty much happened to me, almost exactly that way, on my way to San Diego. Minus the girl with gold eyes and the freaky blue-eyed guy with the totem. The first line came to me, "It all happened because I had to pee," and the rest of the chapter flew from there. Other than the freakier stuff, that was me after driving a couple hundred miles--only I was driving a white mini van with my three hyperactive sons! Now, the concept for the Sanctuaries and the witches, and that world, came from Susan.

Susan: I tried to think of something to make that town truly bizarre. Jazz's opening lines struck me, about the boy being okay in that scruffy sort of way--too bad I might have to kill him. After that, my character took over and ran her mouth the rest of the way.


Jan: Anything else you'd like to tell young readers?

Debbie: Read. It's a way to visit new worlds, to discover new possibilities, to realize that you can make dreams realities. And always, always, walk your own Path.

Susan: Believe in your talent and in your ability to change the world. You can and will. You're our best hope. And do feel welcome to join the Different Paths newsletter at


Jan: Thank you for sharing with us about the process of L.O.S.T.

Debbie & Susan: Thanks for having us, Jan!
Contact Bren:
Contact Jazz:

By Debbie Federici and Susan Vaught
Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd -- November 2004
ISBN: 0738705616 - Hardbound
Young Adult Fantasy

Buy a Copy
Read an Excerpt

Review by Jan Fields,

     In this fantasy adventure, it's 17-year-old Brenden who finds himself stranded in a land of witches, monsters, and evil shadows. And if that isn't enough, he's falling in love with the queen of the witches, a girl who despises him. Or not. The story is told in alternating viewpoints, between Bren and Jazz, the witch queen. I have to admit, I sometimes wanted to yell at these two for wasting so much time playing "do-I-feel-this, does-he-feel-that" but that's just a weakness on my part. It's probably why I don't read romances. Despite their rocky romance, the book offers plenty of excitement and surprises as it unfolds. I was fascinated by the whole idea of a chain of worlds connected by passages, like beads on a string. And I found the klatchKeepers particularly spooky and effective. And I enjoyed seeing young heroes who were convincingly young -- uncertain, easily sidetracked and just plain ineffective, at times. It was easy to believe in the reality of Bren and Jazz and to like them despite their faults. L.O.S.T. is an interesting first-book collaboration, and I expect the future installments to get better and better.

2005 Past Columns

Debbie Federici & Susan Vaught


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