Holly Black

Posted: December 7, 2009 in Fantasy, Horror, Interviews, Kids
Tags: , , , , ,

Best-selling and award-winning author Holly Black pays me a visit. She answers my questions about writing, getting published, the Spiderwick series  and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Holly, welcome on “Veronika Asks” and thank you for being here! How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’m Holly Black is three words!

You’re Scorpio, aren’t you? The stars say they’re often determined and intuitive, but at the same time secretive and obstinate. Do you consider yourself a typical Scorpio?
I believe in astrology in a very general way – my father-in-law is an astrologist, so I have to believe a little!  I certainly fit lots of the descriptions of Scorpios

Can you spill a few secrets about those of your books that will be (has been) released in 2009/2010? I’m talking here about “The Wyrm King: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles”, “The Good Neighbors: Kith”, “Poison Eaters & Other Stories” & “The Good Neighbors: Kind”.
Hrm.  The only secrets I have to share on the Good Neighbors series is that the last book, Kind, comes out Fall 2010.  The whole series was based on certain kinds of betrayals.  Book 1 was about family betrayals, Book 2 is about betrayals in love and Book 3 is about betrayals of self. Muahahaha.
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is a collection of my short stories.  I wrote two new stories for the collection, one set in the Modern Faerie Tale world.

“Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale”, published in 2002, was your first novel. What gave you inspiration for a faerie tale? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
The longest and most tiring part of my road to publication really was learning how to write a good book.  It took me many years for Tithe to get into any kind of decent shape. I was lucky enough to find an editor who loved the book fairly quickly, but if I hadn’t spent all that time writing and rewriting it, I don’t think I would have had such a positive experience.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits?
I don’t have too many writing habits, but I do a lot of my writing at night and I do a lot of it with headphones on, so I can listen to music and shut everything else out.

If you could give only one advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
I would advise them to read everything — read books in familiar and unfamiliar genres, read nonfiction, read the backs of shampoo bottles — and to write a ton, and to find a critique partner.  Not only is it great to build up a skill in critiquing another person’s work, but having a trusted reader to tell you when a scene is good and when it isn’t is invaluable.

You write mainly fantasy and horror for teens and children. Why those genres in particular? You have been living in a “decrepit Victorian house” when you were little. Did this influence your writing?
I write the kinds of stories I most love to read – dark fantasy, capers, and urban fantasy.  I don’t know if growing up in an old, decrepit house had a direct influence on the kinds of stories I had to tell, but certainly my childhood did.  I grew up absolutely believing in the fantastical and it is very easy for me to get back into that frame of mind.

A lot of adults read your children books. How do you explain such a success? Are you writing for a certain audience or “just writing for yourself”? Why do you think people are so attracted to fantasy, faeries and magic?
I think that everyone is intrigued by the idea that the world could be bigger and stranger than what we see – that out of the corner of our eye we might be able to glimpse something more.  But I do mostly try to write for my reader-self.  I try to write the stories that I think I would love.  I am really happy that other people — kids, teens, adults — like them too.

You said you’re living in an old house with a secret library. If we’d manage to sneak into the library, what kind of books could we find there?
My library has a big folklore and myth section, a lot of fantasy novels, and a lot of comics.  I think the most surprising thing I have is a ton of true crime.

Why this love for spooky dolls and hats?
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved dolls.  I never stopped.  They are like tiny, very still people. I love hats because they are so dramatic!

You’ve probably been asked if you believed in faeries a hundred times. Let’s ask the question another way: some people say you never invent anything, that everything that comes to your mind as an idea is already existing somewhere. Do you think there’s a Spiderwick somewhere? Would you go there if it really existed?
You mean a Spiderwick estate or an Arthur Spiderwick?  I absolutely think there are researchers like Arthur Spiderwick who look for evidence of faeries.  In fact, quite a lot of faerie folklore has been collected by people, like Robert Kirk or Dermot MacManus or even William Butler Yeats, interested in finding proof that faeries exist.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how?
In recent years, I haven’t gotten to celebrate Halloween, despite my great love for it.  The World Fantasy Convention is often the same weekend and doesn’t allow costumes.  When I am home, though, we usually throw a party, complete with fog.  Last year we had a dinner party where we served insects and other seasonal delights.

If you had a magic wand or if a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for? If you could be turned into a fantasy character, who would you be?
Oh, I would puzzle over three wishes forever – but I would never wish to be a character in a novel.  Their lives are too miserable.  It must be awful to be a protagonist!

Imagine for a second you’re not an author/artist anymore. Which job would you pick?
I’d probably be a librarian.  I was in library school when my books came out and I really loved it.  I never finished.  I wouldn’t mind going back.

What about your projects? What are you working on right now?
My new series is called The Curse Workers and the first book is White Cat.  They are caper mobster fantasies set in a world where one in a thousand people have the ability to cast curses, and magic is illegal.

And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?


Author & Book: I couldn’t possibly choose just one.
Movie & TV show: My recent most favorite film is probably Brick.  And I have been loving True Blood on HBO.
Food: Korean BBQ.
City: New York.
Music: I’ve been listening to a lot of Rufus Wainwright.
Hobby: Reading.
Place to write: My new office!
Quote or Motto: Coffee: you can sleep when you’re dead

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Books
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Neither
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Both
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Loner
Shy or Easy-going? Socially anxious
Serious or Funny? Mostly serious.  Mostly.

Thank you, Holly!
You can learn more about Holly Black and her books at http://www.blackholly.com/


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