Serena Valentino has had a fascinating career as a writer. Some of her early publications were comic books like Nightmares & Fairytales as well as GloomCookie, which were followed by humorous novels/manuals like How to be a Zombie and How to be a Werewolf. Since Fairest of All, Valentino has been authoring books under Disney’s Villains banner – with her latest being the Cruella De Vil centered Evil Thing. Wanting to learn more about her career and her thoughts on De Vil, I was able to interview Valentino for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what are some stories you loved? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Serena Valentino: I was a voracious reader growing up. My dad had me subscribed to all the book clubs. I think we received new books just about every other week. That was the one thing my dad would never say no to, more books. It’s probably not surprising I was really into fairytales when I was younger, which of course are still a huge influence on my work today.
Yanes: You are currently in New Orleans, a city rich in history and magic. How has living in New Orleans shaped your approach to writing?
Valentino: Long before I moved to New Orleans, its haunting beauty and history found it’s way into the pages of many of my stories. Several issues of my old comic book series GloomCookie, and Nightmares & Fairy Tales have stories that take place in New Orleans. It’s long been an inspiration.
Yanes: As you were developing Evil Thing, what was it about Cruella De Vil’s life that stood out to you? Was there a point in the process in which Cruella came to life for you?
Valentino: My villains have to come to life for me before I sit down and write their story. I take each villain on like one might expect an actor would when preparing for a role. I do this though research, and asking myself what drove that particular villain to do the things they did in the original animated film. Growing up I always wondered why Maleficent got so angry she wasn’t invited to Aurora’s christening, why Grimhilde tried to have her daughter Snow White killed, and what would drive a woman to become obsessed with killing puppies and making coats out of them. I think about what sort of lives the women lived before the events in the film, and what caused them to go down such dark paths. I’ve wanted to tell Cruella’s story for a long time, but I didn’t feel she fit in with the fairytale villains, so I had a lot of time to think about how I wanted to tell her story, and who I wanted he to be. Though I feel I bring all my villains to life in this way, I think because I wrote Cruella’s story as a memoir in “her words” the story was much more intimate than the others.
Once of the most intriguing aspects of Cruella’s story to me is her relationships with her mother and Anita. Both relationships are heartbreaking, but very integral to how Cruella ended up wanting to murder puppies. It was an interesting phycological study writing someone who lacks the ability to be self-aware, but yet manages to be so relatable at the same time.
It was a truly amazing experience writing this story in Cruella’s voice, and I’m so pleased most readers seem to really enjoy it.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Valentino: I am in the final stages of finishing up Book Eight in the Villains series, and have started writing a Secret YA Disney Novel, both of which I hope to announce sometime in the near future.