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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