Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maggie Stiefvater

by Maggie Stiefvater
Available Now

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

The day I nearly talked to Grace was the hottest day of my life. Even in the bookstore, which was air-conditioned, the heat crept in around the door and came in through the big picture windows in waves. Behind the counter, I slouched on my stool in the sun and sucked in the summer as if I could hold every drop of it inside of me. As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.
This was what i loved, when I was human."- Shiver

IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?

MS: I was always very much in love with Howl from Howl's Moving Castle, and also Chrestomanci,the egomaniacal and melodramatic wizard from many of Diana Wynne Jones' books. I'm not sure they would make very good real people, however. There's a lot of angst and green glop and sulking in the books, and that sort of stuff looks great on paper but makes for couples therapy in real life. And so I would say James Herriott, who was the World's Most Wonderful Vet in my young estimation, but he was a real person already, so that doesn't count. And then I'm afraid that all of the other characters that I really am fond of tend to be villains, as an evil laugh and plans for world domination generally tend to be traits that I look for in friends. But that wouldn't do a very good job of making the world a better place.

So I'm going to go with Charlie Bartlett. From the movie of the same name. He was hilarious and talented and would probably make great cocktail party conversation. And doesn't have immediate plans to take over the world.

IBT: How did you survive being a teen?

MS: I spent a lot of time wearing black turtlenecks and telling people that I wore black as I was mourning the death of modern civilization. And a lot of time holed up in my room tapping away at novels that are so bad, they could be classified as weapons of mass destruction. And a lot of time composing drastic tunes in minor key named after melodramatic events in history. Sense a pattern here? I was a very drastic teen and I didn't relate well to other teens my age -- I was far better with adults. And even then, I expect I was pretty insufferable as I was very opinionated. My parents were great then, though, because they never tried to make me normal. I was indulged in most of my weird hobbies -- like bagpiping, song-writing, a fascination with 1970s Northern Irish history -- and they never tried to medicate me or make me get therapy or otherwise change my sulky, grandiose plans. It's sort of weird, actually, to think of how different I could've been with different parents, and that's why I try to always explore my teen characters' backstories. They really do make us who we are.

IBT: As a werewolf fanatic myself, I'm curious to see where you take the werewolf mythology. How did they come to be in your next novel Shiver?

MS: Ha! I was never hugely fond of werewolves. There was all that slobber and shedding and slavering under the full moon. It just never really struck a chord with me. But I had just finished the first draft of LAMENT for my editor, and I was thinking of entering some short story contests to get my name out there. Well, the only one I could find in my genre was one on "lycanthropy." Where "lycanthropy" = fiction about slobber and shedding and slavering. I thought, "I can write about werewolves for 2,000 words, right?" Wrong. After brainstorming for an entire day, I didn't have a single idea in my head. But that night -- and I should mention I'm a big fan of the subconscious and using dreams to work out problems -- I had this very involved dream about a girl and the wolves who lived behind her house. When one of them got shot, she saved him, and turns out they were werewolves. Well, the mood of that dream stuck with me, and I wrote the short story (which was terrible). But it sort of begged for more. And I wailed, "But I don't do werewolves" while at the same time writing a synopsis for the book. And the rest is slavering history.

IBT: How have the books/movies you've read inspired the books you've written? What are you currently reading?

MS: It's funny, I love to read and try to manage a book a week, but I really think of my writing as more inspired by movies, to tell you the truth. I mean, I will pick apart a book with beautiful language or wonderfully done character interactions (like CROW LAKE, which has both), but when I'm sitting at the computer imagining my scenes, it's very cinematic. And when I'm stuck, I will often play the novel up to that point out in my head like a movie and imagine what the next scene would be if it was a movie.

There's generally two ways that books and movies inspire me. The first is "wow, I love the mentor concept. Too bad they made a dog's breakfast of it. I'd like to try my hand at that" and the other is "wow, that movie/ book was just incredible. Why was it incredible? I am willing to spend the rest of my life picking it apart and finding out how." Chocolat was that way. They did mood and theme so well in that movie that I really wanted to find a way to work that cohesiveness into one of my books.

IBT: How do you decide what ideas make it on the page? What were some of the ideas that didn't make it?

MS: I used to have a ton of ideas that never made it to fruition. I have literally dozens of novels that are between 10 and 100 pages that will never be finished -- but they're all from my pre-LAMENT days. Somewhere around the time of LAMENT, I decided I was sick of starting novels and not finishing them. I wanted to be sure that when I started something, I actually finished it, even if it wasn't brilliant. Or even good. So long as it was done. And so I started making sure I knew the final scene before I even started writing, so I knew where I was going. I just wouldn't let myself write that tantalizing first scene until I had the end in place. And somewhere along the way of always finishing what I started, I figured out that there really aren't any bad ideas. There's just a lack of revision. So even if my rough
drafts stink and the ideas aren't fully fleshed, I never give up on them – I just keep polishing that stone until it looks like something pretty.

But those old novels, the pre-LAMENT ones? They range from IRA thrillers to time travel young adult novels to urban fantasies involving prophecy spouting gnomes to . . . yeah. Now when I have a far-out idea, I'll write a short story to see if I like playing in the world. It has been enormously useful.

IBT: What's the strangest thing you've ever gotten inspiration from?

MS: Heh. I'm working on a novel now that was inspired by an e-mail. It was some sort of e-mail that had been routed through my Blogger blog, and somehow, the return e-mail was from Maggie Stiefvater. To Maggie Stiefvater. And I just grabbed that and ran. I have another that was inspired by a guy who came into my art show booth. He had tattoos up and down his arms and about eight-million mostly closed holes in his ears and eyebrows. His hair was slicked over and done up nicely, though, and he was dressed in a polo shirt. My brain went crazy imagining what would've made this tattooed rocker guy suddenly go straight-laced.

IBT: What is your favorite type of hero?

MS: Batman.

No, I'm kidding. Well, mostly. I love deeply conflicted heroes with angsty pasts, because I like someone who does good despite of who they are, rather than because of who they are. I like hard choices and character redemption and suddenly realizing that that asshole you despised for most of the book is really the one you have to trust if you want to make it through this twisted plot alive.

IBT: As an author how do you respond to those who think that censorship is a necessary evil?

MS: I'd like to point to example A: Maggie Stiefvater. I can only remember my parents taking a book out of my hands once. I was in third grade and I asked them what "divorce" was. They explained it to me very nicely and then took the book from me (they let me read it the next year). I can't remember a single other time that my reading was censored. Likewise, with movies, they'd make me close my eyes for kissy scenes that went beyond heavy panting until I was in my teens (long after I'd figured out what the panting bits were for myself). I was reading Michael Crichton at age 10 and F. Scott Fitzgerald by 12 and everything else in between. I am a Catholic, I've never killed anyone, I don't swear like a sailor, I have only dated one boy (who I went on to marry and live happily ever after with), I didn't get pregnant as a teen, I didn't do drugs, I've never watched a Steven Siegal movie from beginning to end . . . etc. etc. The list goes on and on of the things I read about but didn't do myself. Why? Because though I lived in books as a kid, I was raised by my parents. I lived by their example, not the example of the (admittedly SUPER COOL) people in books. And if I was censored -- whether it was that one book taken out of my hands or being told to close my eyes for the kissy scene -- it was by my parents, not by a school or someone else's parents or the government. Moreover, it was pretty clever, the way my parents censored me. Sure, I couldn't watch the kissy scenes -- but my dad would let me have his Dean Koontz and Jack Higgins' books when he was done with them, and they had kissing and sex in them. I was allowed to learn about it through books while still getting the subtle message from my parents that it was something to be approached with caution/ care/ stun guns. So I got to be a wary teen without being a naive one, if that makes sense.

So that's how I'll be raising my kids. The last thing in the world I want, however, is someone else telling me how to disseminate information to my kids. That's my job, not theirs. So I'm completely against censorship.

IBT: Have you ever written something that you feel uncomfortable writing, knowing that your family and friends will probably end up reading it?

MS: Heh. This feels like a loaded question, as my novels to date involve swearing, mild eviscerations, sex, bad parental choices, homicidal faeries, and kissing in sedans. When I was still living under my parents' roof, I was very aware of them as future readers, and I would say that I definitely responded to that. But once I moved out, I sort of shrugged and wrote what I wanted to write, and it hasn't been too painful. It has been hilarious, however, to have conversations with my grandmother about my books. Also, I will never forget my mom's reaction after she read SHIVER. "Maggie," she said, "Why did you make them swear?" "Maggie," she said then, "Why did you make them have sex?" and then, after a pause, "Maggie. It was amazing. It's going to be a movie."

I think that pretty much can be a metaphor for how my family comes to my writing. It helps that I'm very rarely autobiographical, or if I am, it's buried so deep even I have troubles recognizing it.

IBT: Many writers say parting with a character is hard. Do you ever look back and wish you had changed something about them?

MS: Usually not with major characters. But with minor characters, yes, sometimes, especially as the series goes on, I will wish that I tweaked something in the first book. More recently, I've had problems with not killing a character. There's a secondary character that I was supposed to kill in SHIVER that I couldn't bring myself to. (for the first time ever -- I'm normally quite heartless). I told myself I would kill them in LINGER, and still, they're alive. Now I am sure that I must kill them in FOREVER, but who knows, I might chicken out. I seem powerless to pull the trigger where this character is involved. (*50 points to anyone who guesses which character this is after reading SHIVER and LINGER).

*I know who I think it is!

IBT: Is Shiver a stand alone novel or will it be a part of a series?

MS: It'll be a *trilogy -- LINGER is coming out next year, in 2010, and then FOREVER will follow the year after that. I'd thought of it as a standalone as I was writing, but I ended up with a ton of spare parts at the end: definitely enough to build into another novel. And as I was planning that one, it became painfully obvious to me that really the novel I'd been planning was the third and last one, and I needed one in between.

IBT: Ok, that's all I've got. Thanks again!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jessica Verday

The Hollow
by Jessica Verday
Available Now

When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead and rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he's the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again...but also special.

Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen's betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her -- one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.

IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?

JV: I would choose Anton from SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER. That was the first book I read that completely shocked me with its ending. I remember reading it in 6th grade and sobbing for hours! I wanted to re-write and completely change what happened.

IBT: How did you survive being a teen?

JV: I was always sort of on the fringe area - I wasn't really a geek, Goth, athlete, or terribly popular - so I never fit into one group. I was a cheerleader, acted in the school play, won the Science fair, was on the yearbook committee... I tried a little bit of everything. Although during middle school, I kind of existed in this world where once I got home I'd change into my "cool" clothes (I went to a private school with a very strict dress code) and it completely changed my attitude. Just being able to take that one small element of choice and make my own decision gave me confidence that was invaluable. I also read a LOT. (Which was probably why I wasn't terribly popular.)

IBT: Growing up I loved the story of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and then growing up I read the short story by Washington Irving. Tim Burton's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow just put this story as my favorite work of classic American fiction ever. How did this story inspire The Hollow for you?

JV: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow inspired me because of how real it was. I could go visit the town that inspired the story. Walk through the same cemetery that Washington Irving played in when he was a child. Visit his grave, and the graves that inspired the characters he would write about... To place a modern day story in a setting that was filled with such living history was too good to resist. Plus, I've always had a thing for ghost stories, Hallowe'en, and cemeteries!

IBT: How have the books/movies you've read inspired the books you've written?

JV: What are you currently reading?Of course The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving was such a huge inspiration for THE HOLLOW, and the Tim Burton movie was wonderfully dark and gothic - I couldn't help but be inspired by that beautiful scenery! The Legend has always been one of my favorite stories and when I first heard Abbey's voice in my head it all just completely fell into place. I knew that my book had to be set in Sleepy Hollow. As far as what I'm currently reading, I try to stay away from anything YA while I'm writing. It messes with the voices in my head too much. So I usually stick to Tess Gerritsen. Although I just picked up a ton of Stephen King books and am in the middle of Pet Sematary. (So good!)

IBT: How do you decide what ideas make it on the page? What were some of the ideas that didn't make it?

JV: I started off with a notebook filled with possibilities. Pieces of the original Legend of Sleepy Hollow that I could weave into the story, different aspects of what it would be like to grow up living in such a historic town, how a girl could learn to deal with tragedy and what that would be like. As I started writing, most of these plot threads translated very easily to the page. But there was one thread in particular that revolved around the town council that just did not fit in any way shape or form. I still love the idea though so I'm actually saving it to see if I can work it into another story.

IBT: What's the strangest thing you've ever gotten inspiration from?

JV: Although it's not that strange, the best answer I have for this is a picture that I keep near me. (It usually travels between my office desk and my bedroom desk) But it's this absolutely breathtaking print that captures the prom night scene from THE HOLLOW perfectly. I stumbled upon it right before I wrote the scene and it was literally like seeing the image in my head captured on film for me. I bought it immediately and still get a chill every time I look at it.

IBT: What is your favorite type of hero?

JV: My favorite type of hero is someone who is unabashedly romantic, has a heart of gold, and is determined to win the girl no matter what. Sometimes he's stubborn, ruthless, and aggravating...but sometimes he's scaling mountains and sailing across the ocean. If he'll do whatever it takes to make his heroine happy, I'm completely sold.

IBT: As an author how do you respond to those who think that censorship is a necessary evil?

JV: This is a very tough question for me to answer because I kind of understand both sides of the issue here. One one hand, I don't think that anyone has the right to govern what someone else can read/think/do/say. So in that sense, any type of censorship=BAD. But I do think that we have to recognize that we live in a world full of children and adults. Ratings are put on movies, television, games, even toys, for a reason. When someone tries to censor a book, or ban a book, I think that all too often emotions and tempers can get so volatile that we lose sight of the fact that the person who initially raised a concern generally is doing it with the best of intentions. We just have to take the time to find out what those intentions are and then decide from there whether or not it's a valid concern. (Which I don't think is an easy thing to do either, but that's a whole different topic).

IBT: Have you ever written something that you feel uncomfortable writing, knowing that your family and friends will probably end up reading it?

JV: I have a dark chick lit that I started before I wrote THE HOLLOW and I'm about halfway through it, but since it's for adult readers it does has adult themes and sex scenes. Whenever I take a break from my YA stuff and go re-read it again, I'll be honest, my first thought is always "Do I really want my family to read this?" But then on the flip side, I have some future YA books planned that will delve into abuse, freedom of choice being taken away, runaways... Either way I go I'm sure there will be moments of uncomfortableness. I just make it my goal to try and stay true to the story.

IBT: What favorite book of yours would you like to see be turned into a movie?

JV: I'd love to see BOTH SIDES OF TIME by Caroline B. Cooney turned into a movie. What a romantic book that was! Annie and Strat...sigh... I'd love to see them come to life.

IBT: Are you doing anything special for your book release date?

JV: I'm not sure yet - still planning!

IBT: Good luck with The Hollow! And I'll make sure to keep my eyes out for Book Two coming fall 2010 and Book Three coming fall 2011!

Monday, September 28, 2009

katie alender

Bad Girls Don't Die
by Katie Alender
Available Now

To the world, fifteen-year-old Alexis Warren is just a pink-haired troublemaker. She doesn’t have any real friends, and her parents are way too wrapped up in their own problems to bother with hers. Pretty much the only things Alexis can count on are the photographs she creates in her darkroom and her little sister Kasey.

One night, to help take Kasey’s mind off a vicious family argument, Alexis makes up a story — the first thing that comes to mind, really, just a harmless fairytale about a little girl with no friends. But Kasey seems to take the whole thing a little too seriously. Before long, she’s actually bringing parts of the story to life — and people are getting hurt.
Alexis knows she has to find a way to stop her sister before something terrible happens. But with no friends and no help from her parents, she’s basically on her own — until help turns up in the unlikeliest form — Alexis’ archnemesis Megan Wiley, who happens to be the captain of the cheerleading squad.

IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?

KA: Well, if I weren’t married, I would say Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, but considering my husband’s existence, I’d probably say either Lizzie Bennet (from P&P) or John Galt from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Oh, wait, can I have Lassie? I want Lassie!

IBT: How did you survive being a teen?

I got very lucky, because I went to an arts school (for writing). I was basically free to say, wear, and do whatever I wanted (mostly within reason, occasionally not), and the people around me were supportive and accepting. This is very lucky for me because I was on a downward spiral in middle school. I was learning to be myself and learning that “being myself” wasn’t necessarily going to put me at the top of the popularity charts. I sometimes think that if I’d gone to the local public high school, I might have been a lot like Alexis, the main character in Bad Girls Don’t Die.

IBT: Have you ever written something that you feel uncomfortable writing, knowing that your family and friends will probably end up reading it?

KA: I’ve written things privately that I know my family and friends will never read! But things I write for the public tend to be family-proof, I hope. I mean, I assume every writer has to say, “Now when XYZ happens to this person, that doesn’t mean I wanted it to happen to you, Aunt Sally.” But it’s all fiction. And I’m pretty much at peace with everybody around me, so I’m not skewering people under cover of my book or anything like that. Although come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

IBT: What do you think are the biggest issues that teens need to be thinking about today? Do you think teens today are looking for quality in the books they read, or just to live vicariously through superficial characters?

KA: I think it’s fine to do both—separately or at the same time. I live vicariously through Jane Austen characters, but I also live vicariously through Harry Potter. And there’s nothing wrong with fluffier fiction, as long as you don’t come away from those books obsessed with designer labels. First and foremost, I want teens to read! I read a lot of “pop fiction” and fluffy series when I was a kid, and I grew up eager to branch out into other things (but still going back to the old favorites, too). I’m a big believer in instilling a love of reading before trying to force an appreciation for the classics.

As for the biggest issues, I think personal responsibility is a big one. Developing enough of a sense of self to have pride and ownership of your own body, mind, and soul, and then applying that to be a strong and contributing member of your community. Easy, right?

IBT: How have the books you’ve read inspired the books you’ve written, if at all?

KA: As a teen, I loved Paula Danziger, because her first-person narrators were funny, real, and occasionally made doofuses out of themselves. I’m inspired by a lot of the teen fiction over the past few years, because a lot of authors have broken out of the “box” and tackled subjects people didn’t write about when I was younger. When I was a teen, there was no big YA movement like there is now. And I’m also inspired by books that, in my opinion, fall short—characters who behave unrealistically or frustrate me. From those books, I learned to think about what kind of people I wanted to read about, and that became the kind of people I write about.

IBT: What is the strangest thing you have ever gotten inspiration from?

KA: I’ve been through some really tough situations, and I always find that if I stand back and create a little distance, I find something useful to take from them and use in my writing. Sometimes this makes me oddly cheery about my tough times, which might seem strange if you knew what was going on under the surface. A minor example is when someone hurts my feelings or is rude to me—instead of dwelling in that moment, I’ll think, “So THIS is how it really would feel to John if Molly said that to him.”

IBT: Many writers say parting with a character is hard. Do you ever look back on a character and wish you had changed something about him or her?

KA: One character in Bad Girls Don’t Die comes out looking pretty bad in the end. I’m inclined to think this person could use a chance at redemption. But overall, no. I was lucky enough to have an editor who asked me to take a hard look at some of my characters and make sure their words and actions reflected who they really were. Were it not for that process, my answer to this question could be very different! And who knows—if there’s a sequel, maybe we’ll see a different side of that person.

IBT: What is the one thing, such as sky diving or any other daring thing, that you would love to do but you are too afraid?

KA: It’s funny, because as I get older, I’m getting braver. I went whitewater rafting last year. I’ve climbed the rock wall on a cruise ship. I snorkled with (nurse) sharks and stingrays and went ziplining in Belize. I’ve never gone skydiving but I know I could do it, if I were up in a plane and suited up. I want to do a ropes course where you walk a tightrope or jump off a platform.

I would like to become a better skier, because I’ve only been twice and both times I ended up crying (I just get so mad at myself, and I cry when I’m mad).

IBT: What do you do when you are faced with writer’s block? What helps you get over it?

KA: I’m the worst with writer’s block. It’s not that I’m blocked when I sit down to write, it’s that I can’t force myself to write if I don’t feel like it. Or I should say I have a really hard time with it. If I’m faced with a dilemma as far as what should happen or what a character should do, I go into “active daydream” mode. I make a playlist that reflects the tone of what I’m writing and listen to it nonstop. I find that my thoughts flow really well when I’m driving on the freeway or exercising.

As much as I can, I think, “What would my character do or say right now?” You know, sitting at a restaurant with terrible service, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I put myself in the mindset of my character.

IBT: Is Bad Girls Don’t Die a part of a series or stand alone novel? What are you working on next?

KA: I have an idea for a sequel to Bad Girls. It’s up next on my plate, right after I finish the book I’m working on now. The new book is about someone’s life being turned completely upside down and how she deals with it. I don’t want to give away any details, though, because it hasn’t sold yet!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

catherine jinks

The Reformed Vampire Support Group
by Catherine Jinks
Available Jinks

Nina Harrisson became a vampire in 1973, when she was fifteen, and she hasn't aged a day since then. But she hasn't had any fun either; she still lives with her mom, and the highlight of her sickly, couchbound life is probobly her Tuesday-night group meeting, which she spends with a miserable bunch of fellow sufferers, being lectured at. But then one of the group is mysteriously turned to ashes... and suddenly they're all under threat. That's when Nina decides to prove that every vampire on earth isn't a weak, pathetic loser. Along with her, she hunts down the culprit- and soon finds herself up against some gun-toting werewolf trackers who'll stop at nothing.

Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Is there more to your average vampire than meets the eye?

IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?

CJ: Sherlock Holmes. Definitely.

IBT: How did you survive being a teen?

CJ: Good question. It's a real matter of survival, isn't it? I guess I did it the way I've always done it - by escaping into imaginary worlds.

IBT: I was completely fascinated by the new mythology of vampire you've created in RVSG. Why did you decide to reform them?

CJ: Oh, I've always had a problem with 'special powers'. It's so alienating for those of us who aren't strong or beautiful or magical to be reading about people who are - at least, I've always found it so. I also like to overturn stereotypes, if only because it can often be a very funny thing to do; a reviewer once described me as 'a great debunker'. So when I suddenly pictured a bunch of grungy vampires sitting around in a church hall, complaining about their miserable lives, I couldn't resist the image. I had to elaborate.

IBT: Would you be willing to write a spinoff for the werewolf community? There is an extremely fascinating backstory already brewing in RVSG.

CJ: Wow, Perla! You read my mind! I am currently writing the (only) sequel to RVSG - to be called The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group.

IBT: What are you currently reading?

CJ: An Elmore Leonard book - Riding the Rap..

IBT: How do you decide what ideas make it on the page? What were some of the ideas that didn't make it?

CJ: I do a lot of careful plotting before I write my books (the way a screenwriter does) so most of my discarded ideas are tossed aside while I'm still writing my synopsis. These abandoned ideas tend to be related to plot developments, though sometimes characters change slightly once I start my chapters, simply because I have to follow the right emotional path for them. I have to admit, however, that I decided to rewrite the first six chapters of RVSG right after I'd finished them, because I realised that they were moving at a pace that was much too leisurely. I'd started chapter one with a lot of the back story that I subsequently spread throughout the first three or four chapters; when I reviewed the result, I realised that I had to kick off with more of a bang.

IBT: What is your favourite type of hero?

CJ: A very, very intelligent one. Muscles mean nothing to me; brains are what I admire above all else.

IBT: As an author how do you respond to those who think that censorship is a necessary evil?

CJ: Well - I've been censored myself, inasmuch as bookstores have refused to stock my books unless certain things within them are changed. And I'm always self-censoring, because I write for a young audience. (In real life, four-letter words tend to be more prevalent than they are in my books!) But I can sympathise with people who are sensitive to what their kids are exposed to, because I have a 12-year-old daughter myself, and I wouldn't want HER to be watching R-rated films, or reading 'American Psycho'. So I think there has to be some kind of filter when it comes to children. Adults are different, however. The only kind of censorship I would condone with regards to adults is censorship of material that causes, or has caused, real harm to other people: certain kinds of pornography, for instance, or highly defamatory material.

IBT: I read on your forum that you intend to write a follow-up to RVSG. Is this still in the works?

CJ: As I mentioned earlier, it's going to be called The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

lili st. crow

Strange Angels
by Lili St. Crow
Available Now

Dru Anderson has been “strange” for as long as she can remember. She travels from town to town with her father, hunting the things that go bump in the night and eat the unwary. It’s a weird life, but a good one–until it all explodes and a zombie busts into her new house.
Alone, terrified, and trapped in an icy town, Dru’s going to need every inch of her wit and training to stay alive. Can she trust the boy who is just a little too adult–and just happens to get bit by a werwulf? Or the strange blue-eyed boy who tells her she’s heir to a long-forgotten power? Can she even trust her own instincts?

Because Dru is not the first in her family to be killed by the darkness of the Real World. The monsters have decided to hunt back–and now Dru has to figure out who to trust, who to fight, and when to run. And not incidentally, she has to figure out how she’s going to get out of this alive.

And she has to do it in the next 24 hours, or it’s all over…

IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?

LSC: That's a hard decision. Probably Jane Eyre, because I just love that book so much. Mr. Rochester would be an annoyance in real life--I'd rather talk to Jane! Or the garuda from China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, or maybe the Countess from Christopher Fry's The Dark Is Light Enough. It's so hard to pick just one fictional character.

IBT: How did you survive being a teen?

LSC: Stubbornness. Reading--the escape books provided was invaluable. Books did not laugh at me, judge me, or hurt me out of cruelty. They were friends I could always count on no matter what else was happening.

I guess I was lucky because I figured out there would eventually come a time when I wouldn't be dealing with all that anymore, where I would be free. Getting out and being on my own was an escape I looked forward to, even when things were very bad. Some stubborn part of me never doubted that I would eventually escape.

There were other methods--simple endurance and behaving badly--but I suppose I shouldn't talk about those so much. (It might set a bad example.) I really do credit literature with the lion's share of saving my life and getting me through my teenage years in a reasonably-intact piece.

IBT: "Strange Angels" your first YA novel, did you find that while you were writing the book that you had to hold back because it's YA, or was it freeing in some way to write for this age group? was there any difference at all?

LSC: I was very uncertain at first. I didn't want to do it wrong, and I didn't want to BS my readers, of any age. But then, as usual, I just plunged ahead and decided to write a book I would have wanted to read fifteen years ago. The basic commitment of a writer is to tell the truth, no matter the age group you're writing for. So it wasn't so much holding back as it was remembering the constraints I lived under while I was a teenager so I could honestly talk about them from the viewpoint of a character.

And it was strangely freeing to go back and take a look at that time in my life, to face down some demons. I had to remember a lot of unpleasant things about my young life, just as a side effect of trying to recall what it was like to be that age. I used to think a huge metal curtain came down when people turned 18, and they no longer remembered how brutal the school years could be. Now, of course, I have way more perspective just because I've lived longer. And I think I can look at those things that happened and remember what they felt like, while having compassion for the very young person I was who had to live through them.

IBT: How have the books/movies you've read inspired the books you've written? What are you currently reading?

LSC: Everything I see and hear becomes material in some way. That's one of the drawbacks to being a writer--it becomes difficult to just experience things without taking notes for the next book. I tell my friends "You're all material" and they think I'm joking.

Right now I'm reading Harold McGee's On Food And Cooking, because to know how food behaves makes one a better cook. I'm also read Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet, which was mentioned in Beyond Heaving Bosoms, a book about romance novels written by two of my friends, Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell. I am also on a huge Georgette Heyer kick right now, reading everything by her I can get my hands on.

IBT: How do you decide what ideas make it on the page? What were some of the ideas that didn't make it?

LSC: Really, the characters do all the deciding. I have a rough idea of what is most likely to happen, but I'm such a seat-of-the-pants writer that I'm often just as surprised as the reader is when the book takes a left turn.

I do have a "slush pile" of scribbles and chapters that got cut or went nowhere, for one reason or another. There were actually five alternate endings to the final book in the Dante Valentine series, each of them more gruesome than the last. I had a lot of work to do before I uncovered the right ending! Sometimes it's like that--the book tries to trick you.

IBT: What's the strangest thing you've ever gotten inspiration from?

LSC: Brushing my teeth, actually. I get attacked by ideas when I'm doing, erm, "personal care" things in the bathroom. A lot. I think it's because I'm not really moving from one task to the next, I'm just in a funny in-between trance doing these things, and the inspiration can get a word in edgewise.

IBT: What is your favorite type of hero?

LSC: I like conflicted, dark, nasty heroes who end up being redeemed almost despite themselves. For me, a hero is all about how he makes the choice to redeem himself, to lose himself in something bigger than he is. This is different than a heroine's struggle, which is to make the choice to become bigger than she thinks she can be. I have different requirements for heroes and heroines.

I think it's because I'm a woman author. For me, the heroine starts out being defined by other people--girls in our society are from the moment they're born, it's all about other people's needs and desires. It's very subversive for a heroine to start realizing she's bigger than the things other people would foist on her. So, my heroes are all about redemption and my heroines are all about choice.

IBT: As an author how do you respond to those who think that censorship is a necessary evil?

LSC: With a great big raspberry and possibly an obscene gesture. I have a hard time taking anyone who says that seriously.

In my house, we have an "if you can reach it, you can read it--and if you can't reach it, get a stepstool!" policy. I also don't censor the movies my children watch--I watch them with my kids. (Though we don't watch television very much; it's all DVDs.) I think a lot of parents get the knee-jerk "censorship!" reaction because it's easier than being involved and patiently answering questions. Sure it's uncomfortable when your kids ask the hard questions about violence, sex, and a whole host of other issues. But nobody said parenting was going to be easy. If you wanted "easy" you shouldn't have had kids.

Besides, I was raised in a very dysfunctional family that relied (and still relies) on secrets and lies. Struggling free of that, learning to tell the truth and become a better person, made me very exquisitely wary of any form of censorship.

In a larger sense, censorship is just another means of control. State and society already have enough means to control people, between the jackboot, the truncheon, and the natural cooperative urge of humanity. Censorship is unnecessary. It is a completely unnecessary evil.

As an author, too, I'm constantly struggling against the urge to please people and soften the truth, to pull my punches. The temptation is always there, but it's just that--just a temptation to be avoided. Lies and abuse depend on secrecy and fear. To speak honestly and openly is to cut down on both, and I think that's a sacred trust for an author. Readers hate being lied to--it says that you don't think they're strong enough or smart enough. The shock of recognition from a good piece of art is because that art contains a truth. It is like sunshine--the best disinfectant.

IBT: Have you ever written something that you feel uncomfortable writing, knowing that your family and friends will probably end up reading it?

LSC: Yes. All the time. That feeling of discomfort is usually a sign that I'm on the right track. That space of being uncomfortable is where a lot of really great, wrenchingly powerful and incredibly moving art comes from.

IBT: What favorite book of yours would you like to see be turned into a movie?

LSC: That's a hard question, each book is so different, and I love them all for different reasons. But if I had a choice, it would probably be the second Jill Kismet book, Hunter's Prayer. A lot of my other stuff probably wouldn't translate out well to the silver screen, despite the fact that I'm a very visual writer. (I see the books in my head.) But Hunter's Prayer was so raw and powerful for me, and it has so much imagery that I didn't realize I'd put in it until afterward...If I really, really had to choose, it would probably be that one.

IBT: Thanks Lillith!

LSC: I hope you like Strange Angels. I'm really excited about it.

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