Interview: Caissie St. Onge on Tragedy, Humor and Blood Intolerant Vampires

An interview with Emmy-nominated comedy writer, Caissie St. Onge.

By , Columnist

Caissie St. Onge

There is probably not a teenager's bookshelf on the planet that doesn't boast at least one vampire novel. It's a saturated market to penetrate (no pun intended). What sets the novel Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. apart from the rest is that it is funny - cleverly crafted, laugh out loud funny that allows it to claim a unique stake in this genre (pun intended).

How did you get started writing, comedy writing specifically?

I started writing comedy when I worked at The Late Show with David Letterman. I had been an intern in Dave's office, then I was hired to be one of his assistants. Dave is an old-school guy and big on etiquette, and I learned so much about the right way to do things when I was working for him. One of my duties was to write his correspondence. I loved doing his thank you notes and other letters to fans and colleagues because I loved trying to get his voice right. Voice is so important in writing anything, but particularly comedy (and letters, I guess). Dave checked those notes over meticulously, so if I ever wrote something that he wouldn't say, he'd mark it up like a teacher does a paper and I'd retype it.

Eventually, when I became more confident, I started trying to make some of the letters funny when that was appropriate. I knew that if the little witticisms I was writing in those letters were lame, he would just cross them out and make me start over. Sometimes he did. But sometimes, he wouldn't change a thing, and he'd just sign the letter to be mailed off. That was an amazing feeling. They may not have been on TV, but those were my first real jokes. (And eventually I worked up the courage to write some monologue jokes and submit those. And the feeling of having someone like David Letterman tell one of your jokes on TV? Like writing a perfect letter times a million!)

I read that your inspiration for the novel came from a joke you made about being a blood intolerant vampire on Twitter. Where else did you find/seek the inspiration for Jane's character and other characters in the book? Do you identify with any of the characters personally?

That's true about the idea first happening on Twitter. Twitter is a source of much inspiration for me. Lots of people think they need to avoid Twitter to be more productive. I wish I had MORE time for it! End of Twitter tangent!

I think a lot of the inspiration for Jane came from how I feel and felt as a kid. Even though I'm a grown woman, I think I'm sort of arrested in my teenage years a bit. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. (Well, it's only ever bad if I have to go somewhere fancy. I still dress like I attend middle school.) Being a teenager was difficult and scary, but I also loved it in many ways, and I feel like I remember everything clear as a bell. I feel like it was all just yesterday. I'm still just as awkward and full of doubt and full of hope now as I was when I was 16. So there was that. I also took a lot of inspiration from two friends, Janie and Samantha. They're both actresses and very funny and smart and a little nerdy. I kept them in my head the whole time I was writing, imagining how they'd do or say things. How they'd react to things.

The other characters are all a mixture of other friends, and family members and actors and actresses that I felt like fit the parts. I felt almost as if I was making this little movie in my mind, and then I tried to put it down on paper. Don't you do the same thing when you read? Make a little movie in your head? I love that! Like, the character of Eli, I imagined being played by one of my favorite actors, Jesse Plemons. And right now, I'm imagining that Jesse Plemons has a Google alert set up for himself, and he's reading about how I love him! Hi, Jesse Plemons!

I assume you have read the Twilight books for strictly research purposes; what was your take on them?

I read the first Twilight book and I've seen a couple of the movies. At the time, I wasn't even thinking about writing Jane Jones yet, so I was just seeing what all the fuss was about. I mean, everybody I knew was talking about these books! I'll tell you, as someone who just completed my first novel, I am so impressed with Stephenie Meyer's ability to write this entire series of stories that people have an insatiable thirst for! What's her secret?! I always wonder the same thing about any hugely successful author. Do they eat something special we don't know about? Do they ever sleep? Do they have lucky underwear? Stephenie Meyer, if you are reading this and you do have lucky underwear, please email me about which brand they are. I promise it'll be just between us! (If she tells me, I'll totally tell you guys.)

Team Edward or Team Jacob?

I'm Team Jasper. Do they have a t-shirt for that?

Any thoughts on movie or film production of Worst.Vampire. Ever? If so, who would you like to see play the characters?

I've thought a lot about the possibility of turning Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. into a movie or TV show. Maybe too much! Dare to dream, though, right?

What would really be great is if a movie or TV producer thought about turning Jane Jones into a movie or show! I'd faint! That being said, as someone who's worked in TV for a while, I know a little bit about how complicated the casting process can be and how sometimes the best person for the part is someone nobody would have ever thought of, or somebody nobody's even heard of yet! What I'm trying to say is I'm sure I would be psyched to have anyone play the parts if a movie was ever made, no matter who it was. Even if it was, like, Jeremy Piven as Jane!

Will there be a sequel?

Good question! I'm working on another novel that is not a sequel or related to Jane. However, maybe there will be a sequel. Perhaps it depends on how much the people demand it. Maybe I should start a petition or something!

What is one talent, apart from writing, that most people don't know you have?

Well, I'm an excellent baker, but anybody who knows me knows about my chocolate chip cookies, so it's not much of a secret.

If we're talking a little-known talent, I'd have to say singing. I am a good singer, which nobody knows about, since I am terrified to sing in front of anyone!

How does it feel now that your first book is published?

I've learned so much in the past week since Jane Jones has come out. Being an author is about so much more than just thinking of an idea and writing a book. It's also about talking to so many people, trying to convince them to give your book a chance. It's about trying not to be upset when someone maybe doesn't like the book as much as you'd hoped, because it's nothing personal. But it feels so personal! I hadn't given any of those things too much thought before, but I learn more and more every day. I've also learned how wonderful it feels to have so much support from kind bloggers, and a couple of pals who happen to have TV and radio shows, and my family and every friend with a Facebook page. I'm not sure how much I could have accomplished without any of them, and I'm so glad I'll never have to know!

Caissie St. Onge is an Emmy-nominated comedy writer (she's worked for David Letterman, Rosie O'Donnell, The Grammy Awards) but more recently she's the author of a humorous young adult novel titled Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. Released May 10 by Random House.

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Holly is a freelance writer and copy editor with a background in journalism and publishing. Like a grandmother's purse, she is about three decades old, worn around the edges and mostly full of crap.

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