BWW Interview: Melissa De La Cruz, Author of ALEX AND ELIZA
New York Times Best Selling Author Melissa de la Cruz has just released her latest novel, ALEX & ELIZA--which debuted this week at #2 on the New York Times Best Sellers List! The novel is a historical fiction retelling centered around Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, so of course, Broadway World had to sit down to chat about this exciting new release!
Q: A lot of readers don't realize you named your main character from the Blue Bloods series, Schuyler Van Alen, after Elizabeth Schuyler, and that you've been fascinated with her since long before Hamilton became a cultural phenomenon. What drew you to fall in love with this remarkable woman and her story?
Melissa: I'd always been interested in Alexander Hamilton, mostly because he was a Columbia graduate like me. (It was King's College back then). We Columbians are really proud of our founding father. So I think a lot of us know about him and how important he was to the founding of the country. (I believe they even mention it during Orientation LOL) When I was doing research for Blue Bloods, I discovered that General Schuyler's daughter Elizabeth married Alexander Hamilton. I knew the Schuylers were one of the oldest and richest families in New York, and I was intrigued that she had married Hamilton. I just thought it was cool. And now I'm really glad because everyone knows how to pronounce Schuyler now. When I was publishing Blue Bloods everyone called her Shoo-ler and it drove me crazy LOL.
Q: What sort of research went into writing ALEX & ELIZA? What are some of the neatest facts you discovered about them; was there anything you sadly couldn't work into the novel?
Melissa: I read a lot of books about the time period, especially books on women during the Revolutionary War, a biography of Elizabeth Schuyler, the Chernow book, and all the archives of the letters, etc. I had two research assistants, one of whom was a history professor. So they would cobble a dossier of facts and I would put it together and sort of choose what I wanted to highlight.
I love the poem that Alexander Hamilton wrote early in their courtship. I was going to include it, but didn't have space. I love that he forgot the password to the fort after a night with her. I love that he was such a fool for love.
Q: What are some of your favorite moments in Alex and Eliza's history together that made it into ALEX & ELIZA?
Melissa: Oh, I think I answered this on the earlier question.
Q: What were some of the liberties you took with Alex and Eliza's love story when filling in the blanks?
Melissa: I knew Eliza had crushes on other guys, but there was never the pressure to marry someone else. But I wanted the conflict and to set up a guy who was the opposite of Alex, who had the name and the riches. I grew up on Reality Bites, the love triangle between Winona and Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller and I think for a lot of women that is a choice-do we marry the sweet sensitive poor guy or the rich bastard? Hee.
Q: Do you think you may eventually write another novel set in this world, be it a continuation of Alex and Eliza's story or featuring another person in their lives such as one of Eliza's sisters or Alex's friends?
Melissa: Actually, the sequel was just announced in Publishers Weekly! Putnam will publish LOVE & WAR: An Alex and Eliza Story in Spring 2018.
Q: How is writing historical fiction different from the other types of writing you do? What kind of approach do you take to the process when putting together a world in which people once existed and fleshing it out for today's reader's to experience through new eyes?
Melissa: There is more research, but the actual writing is the same. I outline all my books and then I rewrite the outline after 100 pages of drafting.
Q: Your cover is GORGEOUS. I love how it winks at the musical's silhouetted musical while still standing on its own. Do you have any cool cover stories to share?
Melissa: The art department nailed it from day one. We had that cover from the beginning. It was awesome.
Q: Did watching/listening to Hamilton: An American Musical influence the shape of ALEX & ELIZA at all beyond the fun blink-and-you-miss them cameos from certain chapter headings, etc?
Melissa: All the stuff that is in the novel that is similar to Hamilton is actually stuff from the real letters so the similarity is because we were both using stuff from history. I wanted to tell a very different story.
Q: I'm sure you get this question a lot, but we're a bunch of theatre-lovers here at Broadway World, and we need to know: What are your favorite songs from Hamilton? What moments resonate the most with you from the show?
Melissa: Oh my god I love it all. I'm a total Hamilfan. "My Shot," "Non-Stop," "Helpless," "Satisfied," and "The Room Where it Happens" are my faves. After seeing the show, I sobbed for a good ten minutes. It's a profound work of art. Honestly, how lucky we are to be alive right now. That is what I felt when I saw it.
Q: What are some of your other favorite musicals?
Melissa: Les Mis for sure. I think I have seen it 20 times. Also as cheesy as it is, Phantom. No more talk of darkness, forget these wide-eyed feeeeaaarssss.... Christine, that's all I ask of you. Also Moulin Rouge. Hands down my fave.
ABOUT MELISSA DE LA CRUZ:
Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens including The Au Pairs series, the Blue Bloods series, the Ashleys series, the Angels on Sunset Boulevard series and the semi-autobiographical novel FRESH OFF THE BOAT.
Her books for adults include the novel CAT'S MEOW, the anthology GIRLS WHO LIKE BOYS WHO LIKE BOYS and the tongue-in-chic handbooks HOW TO BECOME FAMOUS IN TWO WEEKS OR LESS and THE FASHIONISTA FILES: Adventures in Four-inch heels and Faux-Pas.
She has worked as a fashion and beauty editor and has written for many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Allure, The San Francisco Chronicle, McSweeney's, Teen Vogue, CosmoGirl! and Seventeen. She has also appeared as an expert on fashion, trends and fame for CNN, E! and FoxNews.
Melissa grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!).
She now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and daughter.