Interview with Cecil Castellucci
Posted February 21, 2014on:
As the Book of Apex Book 4 tour continues, I find myself interacting with more and more of the authors, be it on twitter, or reading their guest posts and interview on other blogs, or interviewing them here. I’ll let you in on a little secret about how I come up with interview questions: I check out the author’s website. I read their recent blog posts, I look at different projects they are involved in, I wanna know what their deal is. After a quick glance through Cecil Castellucci’s website, I e-mailed a friend of mine and said “have you looked at her website? this woman is awesome!”. The more I looked at Cecil’s site and everything she’s involved with, the more often I found myself picking my jaw up off the floor. This woman is involved with everything, she does everything, she’s passionate about literature and storytelling and youth literacy programs. She does everything. It’s inspirational, is what it is.
Wanna know more about Cecil Castellucci? Of course you do! let’s get to the interview!
LRR: I’m not usually a fan of zombie stories, but I really enjoyed your Apex story, “Always The Same. Until It Is Not”. Did I interpret it right? Is the guy a zombie? And what inspired this story?
C.C. Yes! You got it right. He is a zombie. To be honest, I’m a little freaked out by zombies. They really are creepy. Writing this story was a way for me to try to confront my fear of zombies. I tried to think of it as a way to own my fear. The idea came after I’d talked with an acquaintance who writes for The Walking Dead. I swore I’d never watch the show. Then she sort of challenged me on that because she knows I like a good story. I started thinking about how it’s always an infection that takes over like wildfire and then descends the world into a nightmare. I thought, what if I switch what “infection” and “descent” means? So in this story the infection is humanity and the descent is the rise of it. It’s sort of the after of the after.
LRR: I’m also a huge fan of your short story “We Have Always Lived on Mars” (Tor.com May 2013). What inspired this story, and without spoiling the ending, can you tell us how you hit on that twist?
CC: Oh, I’m so glad that you like that story! I think it’s safe to say that Mars has always been a place where we humans have longed to settle. It’s close enough to us that we could actually go there, but far away enough that if something happened there or here it’d be hard to get to or get off of. Right now, there is a lot of Mars love and attention with things like that Mars One and us landing Curiousity on Mars and the Mock Mars missions that they have on Earth in Antarctica, Northern Canada and Utah. It was a combination of these things that inspired the story. I wondered what it would be like to be a girl born on Mars who had been cut off from Earth, living in a colony that had no room to grow because it had no supplies with which to expand. I can’t say more than that or I’ll spoil it!
LRR: Congratulations on your soon to be released Tin Star! What’s the quick elevator pitch for Tin Star?
CC: Tin Star is the story of a girl named Tula Bane, a colonist from Earth who gets abandoned on an alien space station by the charismatic cult leader of her ship at the brink of a Galactic war. She’s the only human there and human’s are not well liked.
LRR: You’re incredibly active in your local community, hosting teen writing workshops at the library, being continually active in the local arts scene, even reading at local elementary schools. Can you tell us a little about your passion for the local arts scene and especially youth fiction and reading?
CC: Yes it is true that I am super active in the LA literary scene. I am very passionate about reading and literacy because I love stories and I really believe that books and stories allow us to see past the boundaries of our day to day life. It allows us to dream and stretch and grow and travel and see possibilities for different ways of living. That is especially important when you are in low economic circumstances. I work at a Title One elementary school doing read aloud to first and second graders. I’ve been doing it for 12 years now, working with the same two teachers and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I read books, this year it’s The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo to the first graders and A Wrinkle in Time with the second graders. We take forever reading the book because I stop and talk about every little detail and we use the book to talk about how stories are told, style, history, science, everything! As for the LAPL Teen Author Reading series that I run, there is one in NY and I know a lot of authors here, so I work with Mary McCoy at LAPL and we coordinate the series together. I thought LA needed one! Also, I co edit the LA Review of Books YA / Children’s section. Mostly we run essays and thought pieces about young people’s literature. I do these things because I am passionate about young people’s literature and these are ways that I can get our field to be sitting at the big kids table in the larger literary world. Also, because I think that we fall in love with reading when we are young and that is when we become life long readers.
LRR: You manage the fascinating “Letters for Kids”, where kids get a letter in the mail from an author. What a fantastic idea! What other authors are involved in this, and what’s the most creative letter that has been sent?
CC: It is a great idea! Stephen Elliot who runs the Rumpus asked me to coordinate the Rumpus Letters for Kids, after the wildly succesful Letters in the Mail for adults. It’s kind of a perfect thing, because I think our sweet spot is about 6 -10 and that’s a perfect age to be getting letters in the mail. By they way, you don’t have to be a kid to subscribe, anyone can subscribe! Even classrooms! You get a letter from middle grade author twice a month. It’s great fun! Some of the authors who have written letters are Rebecca Stead, Susan Patron, Natalie Standiford, Lisa Yee, Janet Tashijian, Arthur Slade, Bobbledy Books. They are so good! I have a few favorites, but of course, it’s hard because they are all so different! But Adam Rex did an original comic story. (you can see it here http://therumpus.net/2012/12/letters-for-kids/ ) Sherri L Smith wrote an original short story and this guy Nolan O’Brien did an amazing thing with circles. It’s truly a brilliant thing, and I would have totally subscribed to Letters for Kids when I was young.
LRR: Your graphic novel Plain Janes was a kick-off publication for the D.C. Comics Minx imprint. The imprint didn’t last, but Plain Janes did very well. Would you consider doing graphic novels again?
CC: Of course! And I still have! For the record, Vertigo reprinted The Plain Janes, so it’s still available. And you can still get the sequel Janes in Love. I have actually written many other comics! I did a hybrid novel called The Year of the Beasts with Nate Powell. It’s alternating chapters of prose and graphic novel. I also had a ghost story in Vertigo’s ghost anthology, a comet story in the SPACE anthology over at IDW, an Aquaman/ Mera love story in the Young Romance issue #1, I wrote Green Lantern: The Animated Series issue #11 and most recently I had a comic book for little kids called Odd Duck illustrated by Sara Varon on First Second. Upcoming in early 2015 I have a graphic novel called Pearl in the Rough illustrated by Joe Infurnari out on Dark Horse. It’s about a girl who rides the rails in 1932 with an old hobo. So I’d say that at this point I consider myself a YA author and a comic book writer!
well, that’s what I get for not researching Cecil enough on her website. Otherwise I would have known about Odd Duck, Year of the Beasts, and her other graphic novels. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Learn more about Cecil on her website, or by following her on twitter.