The Amazing Holly Black Answers Our 13 Evil Questons

Holly Black is the author of the Modern Faerie Tale series (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) as well as the Spiderwick Chronicles (which were illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi). The Spiderwick Chronicles movie comes out on February 14! We're excited! Are you? Yes? Good!

We asked Holly Black 13 questions... and, as we're sure that you're thinking, yeah, yeah, shut up and get to the interview already... here they are!

Interviewingly yours,

1. What made you want to write YA/urban fantasy/faerie books? What made you want to write in general?

I've always liked to make up stories and I've been interested in folklore, particularly faerie folklore, since I was a teenager. Growing up, I lived in this creepy old Victorian house (not unlike the Spiderwick house) where the trees were so tall that the branches scraped at my windows at night when the wind blew. My mother believed in ghosts, so it wasn't like she was going to tell me that any of that stuff didn't exist. Basically, in defense, I started reading folklore about faeries and ghosts and werewolves and vampires (especially vampires!) to try and protect myself. I was pretty much scared all the time.

One of the things I love so much about contemporary fantasy and urban fantasy is that it juxtaposes the fantastic against the world that we know, ideally giving the reader the feeling that if we look just slightly to the side, out of the corner of our eyes, there might be something there. That the world might turn out to be bigger, more interesting, and maybe a little scarier than we thought.

2. Zombies or unicorns?

Unicorns. They have SWORDS ON THEIR HEADS. What is more badass thanthat, I ask you?

3. Say that you're at a carnival, and there's an organ grinder who has a time-travelling monkey named Herbert. For a shilling, Herbert will locate your teenage self and give her a letter, written by you. What would this letter say?

Stop writing all that mopey poetry and learn to plot! More seriously, I would give my younger self a list of books that she really ought to be reading, instructions on how to change time to make sure a particular thing didn't occur (my sister died in her twenties, in a way that was highly preventable), and would point out to my younger self that there's music to go with that all-black-clothes-with-eyeliner look I was trying to rock. I'd also like to reassure her that not everyone secretly hates her.

4. The Spiderwick Chronicles are being made into a movie! What's that like, for you, as an author?

I went to media training to learn how to better answer questions like this one and I was told to stop saying "surreal" and to give an anecdote instead. But really, it feels surreal. And wonderful. I was sick the other day and just slacking in front of the television with cups of tea and the trailer came on five times. I really had difficulty processing that experience (the cold medicine didn't help either).

5. What was your favorite YA novel of 2007?

I know I am going to forget a bunch of books and want to go back and add them, but here are a few of my 2007 YA favorites: Sindy Felin's TOUCHING SNOW, Kathleen Duey's SKIN HUNGER, Cassandra Clare's CITY OF BONES, Libba Bray's THE SWEET FAR THING, Jo Knowles's LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, Cecil Castellucci's BEIGE, Scott Westerfeld's EXTRAS, Maureen Johnson's GIRL AT SEA, Justine Larbalestier's MAGIC'S CHILD, Shannon Hale's BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS, Isabeau Wilce's FLORA SEGUNDA.

The book that meant the most to me to see published, though, was Steve Berman's VINTAGE. He'd been working on it when I was writing TITHE-- we'd been critique partners since we worked at the same medical publisher (I was a production editor on THE JOURNAL OF PAIN)-- and we both inserted the other person's title into our books. Corny is reading VINTAGE in TITHE and one of his characters, Trace, is reading TITHE.

6. What was your favorite book as a teenager?

I loved Tanith Lee, particularly SABELLA, OR THE BLOODSTONE and TALES FROM THE FLAT EARTH, Michael Moorcock's ELRIC series, and Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE.

7. Now, ask yourself a question! (The create-your-own-question-question!)

What is the thing that always cheers you up, Holly? Coffee. When I'm tired, it wakes me; when I'm cold, it warms me; when I'm uninspired it fills me with the will to go on.

8. If you were to take over the world, how would you do it?

Excellent question!

First, I would purchase the appropriate accessories: high collared gowns, tall boots, sharks. Then I would purchase a small island. From my base, I would train an army of rats to scamper among you and find out everything. Yes, *everything.* Then the blackmailing would commence.

9. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I have two pieces of advice that might seem really obvious, but they were really the most helpful to me:

1. Read everything. Read outside of the genre you like, read nonfiction, read mysteries, read science fiction and fantasy, read literary fiction, poetry, short stories, history, true crime, the backs of shampoo bottles, everything. Different kinds of stories teach different tricks and I really think that diverse reading leads to richer writing.

2. Although this one doesn't work for everyone, the thing that really pushed me to be serious about my writing was getting a critique partner. Having someone to be accountable to and who was going to give me crap if I didn't finish a chapter on time made a huge difference in actually getting a book finished. And having to tell me when a scene worked and when it made no sense was invaluable.Cecil Castellucci once told me to "write from my inner rage and my inner perv" and I think that was the best piece of writing advice I was ever given. Lots of times I shy back from making a scene as intense as it needs to be and her advice reminds me that I always have to make sure the messy and hard stuff is there in the writing and is as real and true as possible.

10. Who would win in a fight-- Spiderman, or James Bond? Explicate.

James Bond, because he fights dirty.

Well, maybe it depends on which James Bond vs. which Spiderman? Tobey Maguire would still be a soulful and conflicted webcrawler while Daniel Craig shot him, but I believe Tobey could manage to net Timothy Dalton and dump him in the East River while Tim was still trying to come up with a quip.

11. Do you believe in faeries? Magic? Time-travelling monkeys?

Actually, I was raised with a belief in the supernatural and ghosts which is extremely hard to shake. I have become more of a skeptic over time, but I am still fascinated with reading evidence related to the paranormal.

12. What's your next project?

There are two things that I'm working on right now. I have my first graphic novel, called THE GOOD NEIGHBORS, coming out from Scholastic in September of this year (at least I think it will be in September). Ted Naifeh (of COURTNEY CRUMRIN and HOW LOATHSOME) is doing all the art. I am so excited to be working with him. THE GOOD NEIGHBORS is loosely based on the true story of a woman named Bridget Cleary, who was killed by her husband in front of family and friends, because they all thought that she was a changeling. In my graphic novel, Rue's mother has disappeared and the police believe that her father killed her. Rue has to decide what really happened, whether there's such a thing as faeries and whether her mother is one. It's the first book in a trilogy.

The other book I'm working on is called THE WHITE CAT. It has absolutely no faeries in it. It's my grifter, curse magic, boarding school, cat-in-a-dress book that borrows pretty loosely from the fairytale of the same name. I have to finish it by this time next year, so it won't be out until 2010.

13. What's your favorite kind of cookie?

I am torn between ginger snaps, especially the really spicy kind, and oatmeal raisin cookies. The oatmeal raisin cookies may be the result of brainwashing however, as my dad would shop almost exclusively in the generic aisle when I was a kid and bring home generic oatmeal cookies every week. I hated them then, but now, perversely, I love them. See, brainwashing works!


Hecate654 said...

Waaahhhh!!! All the coolest authors are coming out with graphic novels! It's awesome. ^.^

sera zane said...

fawesomely fool interview with a fawesomely fool author.
cool to get some new info on the Good Neighbors---they sound well, to be repetitive, fawesome. and very eerie true story. tres Twilight Zone. if the masses believe, the witch hunts begin....

i saw some Spiderwick promotion stuff on Reese's Puffs yesterday. i squealed.
i didn't draw a mustache on it like i did with the "we are the Grace family and we're looking upward like we have something gravely important to do" lunchables.
can't wait for the movie.
can't wait for the graphic novels.
can't wait for the book. grifters. sounds fun and...grifty. or gritty.

TXAweszhome said...

SWEET. Interviews make me happy even when I'm surrounded my mounds of dirty tissues. Yuck. YAY Holly Black! SUPAH EXCITED for da muvee and her new books (so long!). ::dance, jesus!::

The Baron Aaros of Ahnduron said...

Splendid questions, splendid answers. You guys really know what you're doing. It makes me happy. And as with Libba Bray, I feel compelled to go read Holly Black's work now. Interesting people make for interesting stories.

But most importantly of all -- to me, as a writer -- was the critique partner advice. Brilliant idea; I really can't grasp how I'd never considered that. Thank you, Cousins, for asking that, and thank you so much, if you're reading this, or even if you're not, Holly Black!

Oh, and if you are reading this, would you deign to answer just one more question? (Besides that one...) How did you decide to do movies of the Spiderwick Chronicles? Was it a hard decision? (I suppose that's really two questions, isn't it?) (And that made three. Dear, oh dear.)

readergirl said...

How do you get them to anser your questions?! e_e

Sarah Rees Brennan said...

This is a wonderful site, I must thank Cassie Clare for pointing me to it and read the whole thing!

(And weep softly to myself, because THE SWEET FAR THING is not out in Ireland yet.)