Lauren Mechling & Laura Moser

My Darklyng Cover Young adult novelists Lauren Mechling and Laura Moser are currently publishing their new novel—a meta-vampire story called My Darklyng about the writer and fans of a series of vampire novels—in serial installments on Slate. In addition to the serial novel, Mechling and Moser have upped the “meta” ante by creating online personas for their characters, including Twitter feeds, a Wikipedia page (later deleted due to the character “not [being] a real person”), and Facebook profiles, where actresses update as the characters. New chapters of My Darklyng will appear on Slate every Friday into August.

The Morning News: To what extent is the novel a reaction to the popularity of Twilight?

Lauren Mechling: It’s more of a reaction to the general fad of paranormal books that take themselves way too seriously. Strange times, especially if you’re in the out-of-fashion position of being a comic writer.

Laura Moser: Much as we’d enjoy Stephenie Meyer’s international celebrity and boundless wealth, we just couldn’t write a vampire book without bursting out laughing, so we took a different tack: We decided to write a funny-creepy book about a teenager who’s addicted to vampire novels, and to show what happens when that obsession bleeds, so to speak, into real life.

TMN: How was the project developed?

Lauren: We’d been playing around with the general story idea, which is about a creepy obsessive friendship, for several months when the editors of DoubleX approached Laura to work with them on some YA-related content—possibly journalism, possibly reviews.

Laura: The timing couldn’t have been better, and Lauren and I quickly sold them on this particular project. Serial fiction has always intrigued me, and I knew Slate had successfully published other serials in the past, so it seemed like the perfect match. We really started to develop the multimedia bells and whistles and the Facebook component once Slate’s commitment was in place.

Lauren: Right, and we started the actual writing of the book around the same time, so from pretty much the outline stage we treated this as an online novel, and tailored the story and writing accordingly.

Lauren Mechling and Laura Moser TMN: Why is Slate a good platform for your novel?

Laura: Slate attracts a smart, well-read audience—maybe not a lot of YA readers, but lots of parents of them. We thought the meta-vampire aspect would provide a good window for people who’ve watched the nationwide vampire craze with fascination and not a little bewilderment. We tried really hard to explore Natalie’s vampire obsession—why she loves these books, and how they make her feel. So part of the novel functions as a YA primer for adults.

Lauren: The average young adult book sells fewer than a thousand copies. Slate has more than five million readers. Nuff said?

TMN: Is there a plan in place to publish the novel in corporeal form once it’s finished? Would you like to see this happen?

Lauren: Not yet. And yes, of course. We wrote the (60,000!+) words of the chapters with that possibility in mind—meaning the fun online add-ons aren’t essential to the story. Our agent Sarah Burnes plans to talk to publishers after the series plays out on Slate.

Laura: We also like the idea of seeing this in ebook form with even MORE multimedia add-ons. We’re open to endless possibilities as long as we get to keep doing this!

TMN: How do you maintain all the sites involved? Do you have any outside help?

Laura: Yeah, our team of highly paid consultants and their tireless armies of interns. Not!

Lauren: It’s pretty much just the two of us updating the Facebook posts and Fiona’s tweets. The teens playing the characters update their Twitter pages and they also take a lot of the photos and make all of the videos. They’re way more 2.0 than we are.

Laura: We did get help from a brilliant (and extremely patient) web developer, who set up the Facebook page and still helps us navigate high-level Internet acrobatics like embedding videos.

TMN: How were the teenage actresses selected to be your characters on Facebook and YouTube? Do they love it?

Lauren: The gods were smiling down on us. An old childhood friend now teaches photography at the small arty high school I attended back in the day, and he put me in touch with Hannah Grossman, aka our protagonist Natalie. And my friend who works at Teen Vogue introduced us to Erin Schrode, who plays James, the vampire book cover model. They all seem to be loving it. Hannah texts me photos of her—I mean Natalie’s—adventures on a daily basis.

Laura: Yeah, Lauren gets major props for her side job as a casting agent. If writing doesn’t work out, she has a major future in Hollywood. Because really, our three teenage actresses—Hannah, Erin, and Hannah’s best friend Olivia Wherry, who plays Natalie’s best friend Jenna Stecklow—could not be more inventive and brilliant. They make me want to be a teenager again—well, sort of. At least I’d like to be as energetic and creative as I was back then.

TMN: Had you expected the Fiona St. Claire Wikipedia page to be deleted? Is this a setback to the project in any way, or merely the price in working with social media?

Lauren: It wasn’t a big deal—we reposted it on Wikispaces, so the world can still learn about Fiona St. Claire’s past as a goth graduate student.

Laura: In a way, we were surprised the entry stayed up as long as it did. We kept doing screen grabs of the page and posting them on Natalie’s Facebook page in the expectation that it’d be deleted any day. And then one day it was. Kudos to Wikipedia for figuring it out.

TMN: As representatives for your entire industry, is cross-platform, integrated social media the way we’re going to read all “novels” from now on?

Lauren: I think it’s going to take off, but sadly not for a while—at least not on a “legitimate” level. A lot of people I know who work in publishing say the powers that be aren’t sure how to harness ebook opportunities and don’t want the editors and authors to rock out. My guess is the most interesting multi-platform stories are going to come from basement operations like our own for the next little while.

Laura: I worked in publishing for a few years after college, and I’m afraid to say I think the industry is going to get Napstered before it offers any substantive response to the growing ebook trend. Amazon and Apple and other purveyors of high-tech reading apparati will likely corner the ebook market before old-fashioned publishers figure out how to integrate digital platforms into their product. Did that sound too jargony?

TMN: What other young adult novelists do you enjoy reading most?

Lauren: We are fans of Susan Juby and Norma Klein, and we also owe a debt to the Vampire Academy series. Neither of us gets Twilight, where everything takes like 500 pages to happen, but the Vampire Academy books really helped us understand what all the vampire fuss is about.

Laura: We also prefer the quirkier books—like King Dork by Frank Portman, or the Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga—to the heavier OMG-my-boyfriend-just-killed-himself-again fare that’s so popular.

Lauren: Wait—that book sounds pretty good. Lend it to me?

TMN: Who is the best all-time vampire?

Lauren: Count von Count.

Laura: Count Chocula, definitely.

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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