Melissa de la Cruz’s latest novel, Isle of the Lost, is a departure from her usual stories and she spoke with us about writing the villains and which is her favorite.
Isle of the Lost is the prequel novel to Disney’s original movie, The Descendants, which will air on Disney this summer. The novel introduces us to the children of the villains we know and love. The villains of the fabled kingdom of Auradon were rounded up by the benevolent King Beast and exiled to a faraway island, insulated by a force field that kept them in, and kept all magic out. Powerless, deprived of natural adversaries, they had no choice but to live ordinary lives — lording over their minions to no end, plotting evil deeds to no avail, and raising their kids to be as evil as can be.
What was it like to partner with Disney to write a prequel for the Descendants?
Disney Hyperion has been my publisher for over a decade, and I was working with my editor Emily Meehan and we’ve done almost twenty books together, so it was very comfortable actually. It was fun to collaborate and to meet with people from all aspects of the company, from Creative, Franchise, Disney Channel, Radio Disney. I enjoyed it. I was given a lot of freedom to create the story I wanted to write.
What elements of the story were given to you and which were you allowed to create yourself?
By the time I was brought on board, the script had already been written and we were going to be in production with the TV movie in a few months. The characters’ names and the place names (Auradon, Isle of the Lost) were already set. But I was tasked to create a background story and mythology for the villains and their kids on the island. I had to make sure my story led up to the movie, but other than that I was given free rein on the plot and the characters’ motivations.
Did you have a favorite character to write? Favorite scene?
I always had a lot of fun with Carlos, I really related to the smart, geeky kid, having grown up as a fearful nerd myself (heh). My favorite scene is when the four of them help Carlos with his chores around the house – fluffing Cruella’s wigs, cleaning her car, it just seemed so real to me that of course if Cruella was your mom you’d have to do all those things.
What was the best part about getting to write from the villains’ perspective?
I’m the perfect author for this book because I LOVE the villains in EVERY movie. Huge Maleficent and Evil Stepmother fan, and in The Sound of Music I was always rooting for the Baroness. (Not a fan of singing nuns LOL). I feel very much like a villain myself, so in a way I was writing from my point of view of the world — skeptical, wounded, annoyed at everything, LOL! I think villains are very human, they have real human desires that are thwarted, sadly!
This book is fairly different from your other series. Were there any challenges to writing this story?
It was difficult to nail the tone — I spent drafts just trying to get the voice right. Some drafts were too jokey, I had to figure out the “fairy-tale” voice without losing the fun contemporary humor. So that was the real challenge, but once I figured it out, it was smooth sailing from there.
If you could be a Disney Villain which would you be?
Maleficent of course! She’s the best! Evil fairies rule!
What YA novel do you wish you had when you were growing up?
Hmm that’s an interesting question. I was drawn to very fun, very soapy books like Sweet Valley High, so I guess I would say Gossip Girl, but as a teen I think I would have really appreciated reading Eleanor’s story from Eleanor and Park. I wish I’d had that book when I was younger because it was so hopeful and so beautiful. And as an Asian American, it would have been awesome to see a character that had some resemblance to my family. I wrote my book Fresh off the Boat because I wanted Asian American teenagers to be represented in pop fiction in other ways than just Amy Tan’s long suffering heroines.
About the Author
Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of over thirty novels for readers of all ages. Her Blue Bloods series sold over three million copies worldwide, and her novel, Witches of East End, was adapted as an hour-long television drama on Lifetime, starring Julia Ormond and Jenna Dewan-Tatum. Her latest books include the Heart of Dread series (Frozen and Stolen), The Ring and the Crown, Vampires of Manhattan, and the upcoming young adult spinoff Triple Moon: Summer on East End. She lives in Los Angeles and Palm Springs with her family. She is currently working on the next novel in the Descendants series.