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!


City of Ashes

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare is fast-paced, exciting, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

In City of Bones, the first book, Clary Fray’s world is turned upside-down. She has never thought of herself as being anything other than ordinary, until she sees a group of teenagers kill a demon—and finds that no one else can see them. Soon after that, Clary’s mother mysteriously disappears, and she is plunged into a world in which vampires and werewolves are real. She discovers that she is a Shadowhunter—a race of demon-slayers. To top it all off, she finds herself caught in a nasty love triangle with Simon, her best friend, and Jace, an arrogant, handsome Shadowhunter. Just as she seems to be falling for Jace, she finds out that Valentine, the villainous man who kidnapped her mother* is her father, and Jace is her brother. Oops.

As City of Ashes begins, Clary’s mother is lying in the hospital in a coma, the Clave** suspects that Jace is a spy for his father, and Clary is very romantically confused.

Valentine goes after the second Mortal Instrument, the Soul-Sword, and is more of a jerk than ever. Jace is an angry, angst-ridden teenager.*** Simon seems to be becoming more than a friend to Clary, but she’s still struggling with her feelings for Jace. And—my word! Is our love triangle becoming more of a… love… square? Indeed it is! Speaking of love shapes, Alec gets a boyfriend.****

On top of all the aforementioned drama, Clary and Jace seem to be discovering mysterious powers. And, of course, there is still the lingering question: are they really siblings?*****

City of Ashes is fabulous—at least as good as City of Bones, if not better. Also, there are more flying motorcycles.

I give City of Ashes four and one-half daggers.

*He also stole the Mortal Cup, which is used to make more Shadowhunters, so that he can build an ARMY OF DOOM.
** That’s the big scary Shadowhunter government.
*** But really, he has every right to his emo-ness.
**** No, I’m not telling who it is. I think you can figure it out if you try, though.
***** I’m hoping no.

Riding a flying motorcycle, battling Valentine, and hoping beyond hope that Jace and Clary aren't related,

PS City of Ashes comes out on March 25.

Avery adds:

Here I sit, reveling in the glorious-ness of the Advanced Reader Copy.
Very little is more satisfying than reading a book that is not yet on the shelf. That being said, City of Ashes is a particular type of ARC. Not only is it not yet available for the reading pleasure of the general public...It's really good! Vampires, werewolves, betrayal, corruption, love shapes, and Jace Wayland, all wrapped up in a lovely package of well written awesomeness.

I laughed. I cried. I ranted passionately to Aislinn about the events that transpired. (Which was rather frustrating, I might add, as I couldn't rant to her until she'd finished reading it.)

In short, City of Ashes is an awesome book.

Four and a half seraph blades...er...that is, daggers!



Want to be an Evil Cousin too?

Well, you're in luck!!! (Says intentionally obnoxious Avery)
We have t-shirts! Book bags! TEDDY BEARS! (Seriously) Plus, a bunch more! (Insert annoying emoticon, etc. here)
So here it is. Our Cafe Press site.
Enjoy! Any proceeds go to more books for more Evil Cousin reviews.

Happily, obnoxiously, and trying not to be salesman-ly....
Twyla Lee and Avery Trelaine

PS: Send us a picture of yourself in your Evil paraphernalia...we just may post you as our honorary long-lost Evil Cousin of the month.


13 Evil Questions for the fabulous Libba Bray

Hello, dearest readers. What follows is an interview with Libba Bray, author of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. (The third book, The Sweet Far Thing, recently came out. You can see our review of it if you scroll down.) We asked her 13 questions, because 13 is a most excellent number. So, read on, the Dark Lord commands thee! (Warning: VERY LONG POST.)

Interviewingly yours,

1. What made you want to become a writer? Why did you choose to write YA/ historical fiction/ fantasy?

Hmmm, what made me want to be a writer? Could it have been the fabulous Special Writer Platform Shoes? The matching "Writer at Work" cape? The chance to RULE THE WORLD WITH METAPHOR AND SIMILE? Maybe not. After all, I've seen "The Incredibles." I know the cape thing is a bad idea.
I always enjoyed writing, but never took it too seriously, and then two things happened that made me realize writing was it for me. The first was my car accident at eighteen in which I lost my left eye and basically demolished my face and had to have it rebuilt. The only outlet I had for dealing with that was a little yellow journal. I wrote down everything I thought/felt/observed in that thing, and it was really empowering. It saved my life, actually. The other thing that made me realize I wanted to be a writer was writing a monologue for an original play that my friend Ed was putting together. The play, "One to the Sixth," was a collection of monologues written by various people, and I wrote a piece about a girl struggling with the not being beautiful in a world that values beauty. I turned it in to Ed, and he said, "Hey, this isn't bad. Why don't you write five or six more of these and we'll make a show out of it." I said okay, because sometimes I'm very agreeable, and that became my first play, "High Hopes and Heavy Sweatshirts." And that was it. I was hooked.
I don't know if I chose to write YA/historical fiction/fantasy or if it chose me. :-) I'm a sucker for anything Victorian and creepy. I just wanted to write the kind of stuff I enjoy reading and I hoped it wouldn't suck completely. Basically, I wanted to write a Victorian "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I love writing YA. I really do. And I love getting the chance to talk with teens. People underestimate teens and it's really annoying that they do that. I think I've never really stopped being in touch with my fifteen-year-old self. We never really stop coming of age, do we?

2. How do you go about doing research for your books?

In a meandering way. I always think about what Tom Stoppard once said to someone. He said, "I only research what I need to know." That's sort of my policy, too, although along the way, I end up getting sucked into exploring other interesting tidbits. I start by googling subjects: women in Victorian-era England, say. Then I see what pops up. Sometimes that will lead me to books or periodicals that can be ordered. (I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to research books.) The Internet also led me to people who could help: Dr. Sally Mitchell of Temple University, Lee Jackson, a Victorian scholar and novelist in England, and Colin Gale, the archivist for Royal Bethlem Hospitalin London. I relied on the largesse and mad librarian skills of several librarian pals, notably Jen Hubert and Phil Swann. And I took a trip to England early on and went to the British Library to do some research. Below is my bibliography. Some of these sources I used quite a lot; others I used only a bit (or ended up using not at all.)

Daily Life in Victorian England, by Sally Mitchell (Dr. Mitchell is a professor at Temple University; she was very gracious in answering some of my questions.)

The New Girl: Girls' Culture in England 1880-1915, by Sally Mitchell

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901, by Kristine Hughes

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England, byDaniel Pool

The Victorians, by A.N. Wilson

The Queen's London : A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 (I actually got to handle this book at The British Library in London. I had to wear gloves so as not to ruin it.)

Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette, by Thomas E. Hill

Victorian London, by Lee Jackson (When it comes to Victorian England, Lee is the man. He and I struck up a correspondence, and he is as gracious as he is smart. He's also a good novelist.)

Moving Millions: A Pictorial History of London Transport, by Theo Barker (Bought this at the Transport Museum in London after taking a tour.)

Manners for Men, by Mrs. Humphrey

Manners for Women, by Mrs. Humphrey

Dickens Dictionary of London 1888, by Charles Dickens (Always nice when Mr. Dickens can be your tour guide...)

A World of Girls, L.T. Meade (A novel about schoolgirls written during the period. Dr. Mitchell turned me on to L.T. Meade.)

History of the Theatre, by Oscar G. Brockett (a former professor of mine at the University of Texas at Austin. Hook 'em Horns!)

The Great Mother, by Erich Neumann and Ralph Manheim

Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung (I took this to the beach one day and my husband quipped, "A little light beach reading, eh?")

The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell

Paradise Lost, by John Milton ("Oh noes…they be stealin' my heaven bucket!" Sorry. Just a little I Can Has Cheezburger humor for you there...)

The Lady of Shalott, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats and Richard J. Finneran

The Bible

The Odyssey, by Homer

Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas, by H.A. Guerber (If you're looking for bloodthirsty, look to the ancient Norse. They can throwdown in the brutality department.)

Lonely Planet: Iceland

Discovery Channel's Insight Guides Iceland (When forming my ideas about the Winterlands, I looked to Iceland. It's so beautiful yet forbidding. And cold. And it comes with a Bjork soundtrack.)

How Young Ladies Became Girls: The Victorian Origins of American Girlhood, by Jane H. Hunter

Victorian London Street Life in Historic Photographs, by John Thomson

Presumed Curable: An Illustrated Casebook of Victorian Psychiatric Patients in Bethlem Hospital, by Colin Gale & Robert Howard (Colin Gale is the archivist at Royal Bethlem Hospital, a.k.a. Bedlam, and this book is both a fascinating and poignant look at mental illness in Victorian society. He, too, was enormously helpful to me during the writing of Rebel Angels.)
The Victorian Lady, by B. Rees

The Golden Bough, by Sir James Frazer

The Etiquette of Dress (some little book I picked up in England)

Customs & Etiquette of India, Venika KingslandFodor's Exploring India

Lonely Planet India (I have always longed to go to India; this only made my longing moreintense.)

"Advice and ambition in a girls' public day school: the case of Suton High School, 1884-1924," by Stephanie Spencer, King Alfred's College of Higher Education, Winchester, United Kingdom, Women's History Review, Volume 9, Number 1, 2000 (Periodicals are our friends, and you can order articles online to bedelivered to your own home — huzzah!)

Full Color Victorian Fashions, 1870-1893, edited by JoAnne Olian (Oooh, pretty, pretty... like paper dolls for grown-ups.)

The Temple and the Lodge, by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh

Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable, by Thomas Bulfinch

A Nietzsche Reader, by Friedrich Nietzsche

Siddartha, by Herman Hesse

City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London, by Judith R. Walkowitz (Not, it turns out, sorelevant to my books but what a great title, eh?)

London, a Societal History, by Roy Porter

The Templars and the Assassins: The Militia of Heaven, by James Wasserman (I've also had a lifelong fascination with the Knights Templar {blame IVANHOE}, and used aspects of that to shape what I thought the Rakshana would be like. Also, don't mess with the Hassassins, aka, the Assassins. Just sayin'.)
Early Irish Myths and Sagas, Translated with an Introduction by Jeffrey Gantz

3. We noticed that you like Buffy. We love Buffy! In that vein, we were wondering what your favourite episode/season/character is and why. Also, Aislinn wants to know whether you like Spike or Angel better.

Wow, it's been ages since I watched "Buffy." I hope my memory serves. My favorite episodes were probably "Halloween," "Hush" (creepy!), "The Body," which broke my heart, and, of course, "Once More with Feeling."It's difficult to name a favorite character because I think part of what makes the show work so well is the interaction of all the characters, the ensemble nature. They work so beautifully as a whole. But Buffy herself was a fantastic character--flawed and vulnerable and sarcastic and searching. Sometimes you wanted to say, "You are so stupid! Stop that!" and other times you wanted to hug her and say,"You are so bad ass." I also loved Xander. He cracked me up. As for the Spike/Angel question, it's not even a contest with me: I am Team Spike all the way. Oh my. *fans self*

4. Zombies or Unicorns?

Zombies, all the way. Unicorns would only exist so that zombies could feast upon their flesh and fashion their horns into mod zombie breast plates.

5. What was your favorite YA novel of 2007?

Okay, bear in mind that I was in a cone of silence while speed-writing TSFT and that meant not much reading for me, which sucked big time. But I did get to break free for quick gulps of reading. My top four were Holly Black's IRONSIDE, Cassandra Clare's CITY OF BONES, Cecil Castellucci's BEIGE, and M. Sindy Fellin's TOUCHING SNOW. I have so much catching up to do. So, so many books to read.

6. Do you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain?

Not nearly as much as a bar called O'Malley's where we'll plan our escape.

7. What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?

Oooh, so tough. I can't name just one. I loved Wuthering Heights, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and The Bell Jar. But there was something about Catcher in the Rye and Salinger in general that just did it for me at the time. I don't know why I identified so strongly with Holden then. I read the book again when I was an adult and went, "Man, this kid is annoying the crap out of me!" But at sixteen, it rocked my world.

8. What do you like most about being an author (other than writing/publishing books)?

Hands down: getting to meet and talk with teens. I love that readers come to my LJ and tell me what they like and don't like, their thoughts and feelings about life, their music/book/movie suggestions. I love that they are so thoroughly willing to be themselves and be honest and that, in turn, has made me brave enough to be more myself, too. Thanks for that.

9. If you could be asked any question, what would it be, and how would you answer? (The Create-Your-Own-Question Question! Hooray!)

That is one of the best questions I have ever been asked. I bow to your awesome powers of interview coolness.
Well, my pal Brenda has a game called, "Which actor & actress would play you in the movie version of your life?" She then likes to answer before you do. (It's her world, we just live in it.) She said the two people who would play me would be Teri Garr and Bill Murray. Actually, I thought that was pretty solid.

10. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don't kill off the hot guy. :-)
I would say read everything so you know what's possible, but find your own voice, because no one will write quite like you do, and what is personal in our work is also what is most universal. All those thoughts/weaknesses/insecurities you'd rather not admit to are what make characters who are real and memorable. Remember, super heroes aren't half so interesting for what they *can* do--fly, control the weather, shoot webs, leap small buildings in a single bound, wear bitchin' tights--as for what leaves them most vulnerable: love, pride, self-doubt, anger--all that juicy human stuff. Don't be afraid to go there. In fact, it's your job to go there. My friend Jennifer Jacobson always asks herself, "Is it true yet? Is it true yet? Is it true yet?" I think that's a good question to keep asking yourself. Keep digging until you hit that emotional truth. You'll know when you've found it. Trust me.

11. Who's your favorite Disney princess? Your favorite Sailor Scout?

You're trying to hurt me, aren't you? Admit it. My favorite Disney princess is...wait can I be Maleficent? She's got a kick-ass wardrobe and she can be a dragon! No? I really have to pick a princess? Oh. Okay. I pick Belle. She's got some spunk, and I can't help it--I'm a sucker for the story. As for the other question, I am embarrassed to say that I know next to nothing about Sailor Scouts. But according to the online test I just took, I am Sailor Mercury. Why do I have the sudden urge to rewrite my entire series as Manga?

12. What's your next project (if you are permitted to disclose)?
My next book is called GOING BOVINE. It's an absurdist, dark comedy about Cameron, a sixteen-year-old guy with mad cow disease, who goes on a road trip with his friend, Gonzo, a death-obsessed video gaming dwarf, and a talking yard gnome named Balder who wants to be a Viking hero. They are sometimes joined by a punk rock angel named Dulcie who has a propensity for spray-painting her wings and a love of microwave popcorn. You know, the usual.

13. What's your favorite kind of cookie?

There are no unloved cookies. I want to adopt them all. But oatmeal chocolate chip gets the job done most days.


Happy New Year!! WoOt!!!

It's 2008, everybody. Do you feel different?
Avery doesn't.
Neither does Twyla.
Nor Aislinn. But she thinks the fireworks are terribly exciting.
Anyhow, we would all like to wish you an evil-- er, that is...a HAPPY New Year!
And stuff.
Evilly yours,