Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Blog Blast Tour : Cecil Castellucci

It's Friday, and Tea Cozy's part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour closes with an interview with the most excellent Cecil Castellucci.

I was blown away by Cecil's first book, Boy Proof, blew me away. I loved Egg, with her mix of securities and insecurities, and her strengths and intelligence.

Her next book, The Queen of Cool, featured someone very different from Egg: Libby is the coolest girl in school. Everyone wants to be her, or be her friend; and Libby finds its not enough.

Next came Beige, which I think may be my favorite. Katy is a teen who thinks she has her act together, but realizes that what she thinks she knows and what is true are two different things. She's younger in many ways from Egg and Libby; Katy is still trying to figure out who she is.

Each book is set in LA, but they are different LAs: Egg is Hollywood, Libby the sciences, Katy the music.

Finally, there is Cecil's graphic novel, The PLAIN Janes. Teenage Jane lives in the city, happy with her life; but when disaster strikes too close to comfort, her parents leave the city for the safety of the suburbs. Jane doesn't want popularity; she wants friends, she wants to make a difference, she wants to be real.

So, on to the interview!

Liz B: The PLAIN Janes, your first graphic novel, just came out. Could you talk a bit about the differences between writing traditional novels and graphic novels?

Cecil: Well, you have to rearrange the way that you think about telling a story. The thing I like about a graphic novel is that you have to just get to the heart of a scene. It's a very lean kind of writing. In my first draft, I tried to keep the dialogue really minimal. Once I saw it all drawn and ballooned out, I went back and removed even more dialogue. You can let things rest more, because there are pictures and working with someone as talented as Jim Rugg, who illustrated The PLAIN Janes, you can just let the image do a lot of the story telling.

That said, it was hard for me to figure how to move the action forward at first, because I had to consider what was going to be shown in the panels. That was hard. In a traditional novel, with words, you can meander a bit, you can rest on a moment or have a lot of fluid action. Also, there is something quite intimate about the written word. It's like resting your cheek against someone elses brain, or like whispering a secret because the reader and the writer sort of agree together on creating what the world looks like. It's a collaboration with the reader in that way. With a graphic novel, everything is there for everyone to see. You know what it looks like. As a writer, I am very glad that I now get to play around in both forms. They are very different and they each have there charms and strengths. I love writing both ways.

Liz B: What was your working relationship with the The PLAIN Janes artist, Jim Rugg?

Cecil: It was awesome. Working with Jim Rugg has been and is (we are currently working on the second Janes book, The Janes in Love) a truly amazing and inspiring experience. Besides sort of gently guiding me through those first scary pages of The PLAIN Janes and "having my back," he is just so smart and so talented I pinch myself lucky to work with such a fine talent as him. I always love to listen to what he has to say, about panel, pace and camera placement and about the story.

It's also great to have a buddy who cares about the characters as much as I do. We have long conversations about the Janes and we both really care about them. With Jim as my swim buddy, I feel like I did when I was in a band! It's so nice to have a partner! I have an enormous amount of respect for Jim and I hope we get to work together for a long time. Also, he is totally one of the coolest, funniest, nicest people I've ever met! Go read Street Angel!

Liz B: You're an author; and a director, a performance artist, a musician, an actress (I'm sure I'm leaving something out!) Since I'm someone who was a lawyer, is a librarian, and who knows what will happen next week, I love stories of people who pursue multiple dreams. I was wondering; what was your path from indie musician to YA author?

Cecil: To me, I always was telling stories! It's like when an artist, I mean a visual artist, sketches with pencils or does a water color, or mixed media or oils or acrylics they are still an artist. It's just a different brush, a different way of painting the picture, but the same thing: a piece of visual art.

For me, being in a band or making a movie or doing a performance piece or a stand up show or writing a play, novel, comic book, it's all the same thing. It's a way to tell a story, which is what i always wanted to do. That said, I started off in film school and when I was in film school I started a band with a couple of girls called BITE. When I was in BITE I wanted to write a book about an all girl teen band. The first novel I ever wrote, that is in a drawer never to see the light of day was about that. I think BEIGE is kind of my reworking of that first idea from when I was in a band a million years ago.

Liz B: Why YA?

Cecil: The thing about writing for Young Adults is that is the moment in life when you are declaring and figuring out what kind of a human being you are going to be. You are deciding everything and everything is a first time. That's an incredibly compelling fertile place for story telling. As a writer, it's an irresistible one.

Liz B: And were you reading much YA before you started writing YA?

Cecil: When I was a young lady, and now as an older young lady, or a person who is young at heart, it always bugged me that there was this line between adult and young adult. When I was a young adult, I liked things that were much broader than what teens were supposed to like and as an adult I love things that are supposed to be just for teens. So, yes, in a way I was always reading stuff that was for much younger. But honestly, I think before I started writing YA seriously, I was reading more middle grade stuff. But once I found my voice and discovered that it was 14+, I started reading more mature YA books. But, you know, I'll read anything that's good. I like good books. And I think that YA is defined as being a 12 - 99 age range. So that pretty much includes everything ever written.

Liz B: One of the things I love about your work is the adults. The parents and other adults in your books are well rounded, sympathetic, fully realized characters with virtues and flaws. Much as I love your YA books, I'd love to read a book by you with an adult as the main character. Any chance of that happening?

Cecil: I am pretty sure that at some point, in what I hope will be my very long career as a writer, that I will write a novel for adults with an adult as the main character. For me, a story presents itself to me and tells me how it wants to be told. My plays, my movies and my performance pieces have adults and deal with adult themes. And I don't mean that they are pervy! I mean that right now, those outlets seem to be where I am exploring some of those other themes and narrative questions that I have.

I am also going younger! I have a picture book, Grandma's Gloves and an early chapter book series coming out (both on Candlewick) for the 6-10 year old set! And that includes my first story with an animal as a the main character! Bring on the ducks!

Liz B: You are a "web 2.0" author, with a LiveJournal/blog, a website, and various online additions for your books, from playlists for Beige to Libby's LA. It's the type of stuff I adore as a reader. What was your inspiration? Were these things that weren't able to be included in the books?

Cecil: Well, I just thought that stuff might be a little bit interesting. I think maybe the "2.0" people are just creative and it's nice to be able to do stuff! I don't want to, say, inflict my poetry on everyone. But it's there if anyone wants to read it.

The add ons, like Libby's Los Angeles, and Egg's Los Angeles (this reminds me that I should do one for Katy/Beige) were mostly because I love LA so much and I thought that people might be interested in the real places that my characters hung out. Like, maybe someone would come to LA and be like "Oh, I want to go to Skoobys to get an awesome hot dog!" or "Let's go to the Merry Go Round in Griffith Park!"

The Beige playlist was something I thought would be fun and interesting, as I love a mix list, but these things seemed like they wanted to have their own page, not to be on my "real" blog.

The I Heart YA, which I am planning on doing more of, and more often, is just fun, because I love making little movies, but I don't have time to make little movies anymore. But I travel and hang out with my YA friends a lot. I figure it's like a mini-documentary of the YA world. I am glad that you like it!

Liz B: I saw from your guest blogging at newsarama that you love Joss Whedon. As you may have guessed from my blog name, I adore him. I also have the Firefly theme song and Man Called Jayne on my iPod.

Cecil: I just bought the boxed set of Firefly. That is what brought me to my new found Joss Love.

Liz B: So, for Buffy the Vampire Slayer; favorite episode?

Cecil: Favorite episode? Hush. I think I cried at that Prom episode, too.

Liz B: Favorite character?

Cecil: Toss up between Anya and Willow and I really liked Andrew in the last season. (For the record on Angel it's Cordelia and Wesley but I'm not done watching that series yet so I reserve the right to change my mind.) (And in case you are interested on firefly it's Wash, Kaylee and Zoe. But of course I'm madly in love with Mal.)

Liz B: Favorite quote?

Cecil: Any time any character makes a word end a -y.

Thank you, Cecil! It looks like after ALA Anaheim, I'll add a few days to do the full LA tour.

Want more Cecil? Check out her SBBT interview yesterday at Shaken & Stirred.

Right now, the ALA Convention in DC has started, and Cecil Castellucci will be there. Her schedule is at her LiveJournal.

Finally, don't forget to visit the other SBBT interviews:

Tim Tharp at Chasing Ray
Justina Chen Headley at Big A, little a
Ysabeau Wilce at Shaken & Stirred
Dana Reinhardt at Bildungsroman
Julie Ann Peters at Finding Wonderland
Bennett Madison at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Justine Larbalestier at Hip Writer Mama
Kirsten Miller at A Fuse #8 Production


Anonymous said...

Great interview, and -- because I'm a Super Nerd -- I just went and added it to the resource list at the bottom of our recent Cecil interview so that other folks can see it when they visit our site, too.

Have fun at ALA. I hope to read reports from all who attend!

tanita✿davis said...

What I love best about Cecil's books is that they have re-readability. I still love Egg best, but I reserve the right to change my mind until I read Beige...

Anonymous said...

Fun interview, Liz! I really have to get to more of Cecil's books, but I loved Boy Proof.

And I'm excited about ALA being in Anaheim next year (same state I'm in, anyway). Maybe I'll join you on the LA tour.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm just exhausted at everything Cecil does. Sheesh...
Thanks for the great interview.