Melissa de la Cruz was born in Manila, Philippines, and immigrated with her family to San Francisco when she was thirteen years old. De la Cruz studied art history and English at Columbia University and that’s when she fell in love with New York.
She began writing her YA vampire series Blue Bloods after she moved back to California when her dad became sick, and because she missed New York, she chose the city as her setting. “Blue Bloods was my love letter to New York, set in my favorite nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants and featuring the sardonic, sophisticated and sly sense of humor of its citizens,” says de la Cruz
She also says Blue Bloods is based on her life in Manila. “I grew up in an insular, elite society in Manila, and that was the foundation of Blue Bloods more than anything I knew about New York,” says de la Cruz. “I understood the way a rich and sheltered and protective society works. My dad always said New York is Manila with more money, and people are the same everywhere truly.”
Besides vampires, de la Cruz has penned another series about witches. Witches of East End came near the end Blue Bloods, and de la Cruz says she was inspired to write it because of her family. “I wanted to write about a family of women, about sisters and a mother. I wrote it after my dad had died, and maybe in a way I was trying to console myself by saying, ‘Hey, Dad’s gone, but look how amazing it is that you have such a close relationship with your mom and sister (and brother, too).’ The family structure is my family structure (two girls and a boy), but their characters are their own and of course it’s fictional!” says de la Cruz.
“I was tired of writing glamorous big city stuff. I wanted to write about something else. There’s so much of me in that book, about my values and my thoughts about women. I really wanted to write a woman who was sexual and powerful, and her sexuality was not something that weakened her, but strengthened her. I’m tired of the slut-shaming in our culture. I wanted to celebrate beautiful and sexy women.”
De la Cruz’s Witches of East End novel was picked up by Lifetime and made into a series that lasted for two years, created by Maggie Friedman. Seeing her work transition to the screen wasn’t a rough step for the author, but she believed in the team behind it. “When Maggie Friedman’s script came in, I cried. I thought it was beautiful and such a great translation of the book into a television show. I didn’t even notice the changes. Of course, you have to see the girls learn they are witches on-screen! I understood the decisions she made. I saw my book in the script and I was very moved that she had read it so deeply and then translated it into another language—television language. When I read the script, I knew the show would get made. It was good and I knew other people would see that, too,” says de la Cruz.
De la Cruz’s writing process changes all the time. She tries to start with a concise outline, but has actually approached each one of her books differently. “The creative process is hard to pinpoint and explain. Mostly I’ve talked about writing an outline and then fleshing it out, and that seems to satisfy a lot of people, and it sounds neat and tidy and wonderful and connect the dots and easy. But it’s not like that. Writers lie,” she says.
“I’ve done everything. I’ve outlined. I’ve jumped around. I’ve worked toward the ending, and I’ve gone in order. I’ve done it all. There is no ‘right’ way to write a book. They all work, and everyone does it differently, and I would say each of my books has had a different process from the other. But I never know what it will be. What I do know is I start with an idea, then I figure out the story, which means I have a hazy idea of what the story is and I know the ending. I always know the ending. But see, that’s not true either because sometimes I’ve changed endings. For instance, Witches of East End had a very different ending in my drafts than the one that is in the final book. I knew the ending didn’t work, and it drove me crazy. Finally, when I figured out the right ending, I rewrote the book to match it.”