Summer Blog Blast Tour: Holly Black
Holly Black burst on to the YA literature landscape in 2002 with her debut novel, Tithe, which was named to the Best Books for Young Adults list. Since then, she’s written the popular Spiderwick Chronicles series, soon to be a movie, Valiant, and Ironside, which was just published in April. And, regardless of what she says in this interview, I do think she deserves some credit for the current popularity of faerie/fairy books.
Between Tithe and Ironside, you wrote the Spiderwick Chronicles and Valiant. Why the long wait before getting back to Kaye and Roiben?
When I first was working on Tithe, I had no idea how to write a book so it took me a very long time (I always say five years, but it was probably longer) to finish a decent draft of it. By the time I was done, I was tired of writing about those characters and sure I would never want to write about them again. About a month later, I got an idea that would turn into Ironside. I wrote some of the scenes that are in the first chapters of the book. But my editor wanted me to work on something different, so I started Valiant (which I didn’t realize would be so connected to Tithe and Ironside as it turned out to be) and then began working on Spiderwick.
Anyway, given what happened the last time, I’m not going to say that I won’t write another book with Kaye and Roiben and Corny, although I have no plans to do so at this time. I am working on a series of graphic novels with Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, How Loathsome), which are set on the other coast but have faeries in them. And after that, I think I might work on a book without any faeries in it at all.
How do you come up with the riddles that are so central to Tithe and Ironside?
Well, in Tithe, I came up with the *answers* to the riddles first and then backwards engineered the riddles themselves. With Ironside, the central riddle about lying came to me fully formed—that and the part about the declaration were the idea that spurred me to start writing the book.
How did Spiderwick come about? How does collaborating with Tony DiTerlizzi work? Has writing for children affected how you write for teens, and vice versa?
I started working on Spiderwick because I was really excited for Tony to work on his Field Guide to the Fantastical World. Originally the project was all about that book and I was just going to write the (fairly minimal) text. When we started talking about chapter books, I wasn’t sure that I could write for that age group, but Tony was very encouraging. It turned out that it was a lot of fun. It also recalled to me what it was like to walk around my own yard as a kid and believe that I was seeing evidence of faeries. It is my devout hope that kids go outside and spend some time looking for evidence and maybe believe that adventures aren’t just for characters in books—that magical adventures could happen to them.
What Tony and I do in terms of creating the books is talk over the plot, hammer out scenes that we want—then I go off and write and he goes off and draws. Throughout the process, we send stuff back and forth, giving each other comments. Writing the Spiderwick books taught me a lot about plotting because the books are short, but they have to be fast-paced and they have to contain a lot. They pushed me outside my comfort zone in ways that I think made me a better writer.
Any film news you can share?
Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Films will release The Spiderwick Chronicles this coming February. Rumor has it that there will be a trailer really soon too. Tony and I went up to watch the filming in Montreal last Fall and everything we have seen has been amazing. Walking through the Spiderwick house that Jim Bissell and his team built was one of the most magical experiences of my life.
“The Night Market,” your story in The Faery Reel, is set in the Philippines.
My husband’s family is from the Philippines, so it was a location that I felt like I could represent pretty accurately and a culture for which I had some amazing fact-checkers. My mother-in-law told me some stories of tree-spirits near where she grew up that were fascinating (as was the story of the woman possessed by a demon that bit open a coconut, but I didn’t get to use that). One of the things that’s really interesting about faery folklore is how pervasive it is in so many different cultures. There are stories of tree-spirits and little men that live underground all over the world—and as interesting as the similarities are, the differences are pretty cool too. For example, in a lot of Asian folklore, it is gold and not iron that spirits fear.
Fairies/faeries are popular right now. Do you give yourself any credit for the trend?
I wish! But I am really glad to be seeing more and more urban fantasy and more attention given to the books, writers and editors that defined the genre, like Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Will Shetterly, Midori Snyder and Terri Windling.
The imagery is vivid in your writing. What do you pull inspiration from? Is there any art or artist that you glean inspiration from?
My mom is a painter, so I grew up surrounded by art and then married another artist. I think being around artists has given me a visual way of thinking. I often “see” scenes in my mind and then have to try and translate the images into words.
I have drawn a lot of inspiration of my visual idea of faeries from Fitzgerald, Froud and Alan Lee—artists that I imprinted on at an early age.
Do you listen to music while you write? Can you share a playlist with us?
One of my favorite ways to procrastinate is to make playlists for all my projects. The playlist for IRONSIDE is:
Sister I Need Wine – Guided by Voices
Try Not to Breathe – REM
To Be of Use – Smog
Something I Can Never Have – Nine Inch Nails
Sin – Nine Inch Nails
Keep Me From Harm – Peter Murphy
I Wish I Had An Evil Twin – The Magnetic Fields
If you could meet any author, who would it be?
William Butler Yeats. I am a huge admirer of his poetry and also of his faerie scholarship. And I would love to hear some rollicking Order of the Golden Dawn stories.
The covers of the hardcover and paperback versions of Tithe differ dramatically. How much input do you have when your publisher decides to redo covers? What are some of your favorite YA book covers?
The first cover of the hardback of Tithe was done by Greg Spalenka, whose work I really love. The second was done by the really talented Sammy Yuen. I had some input, in the sense that I told them some of my ideas, but in the end the covers are out of my control. I am really happy with them, however, and consider myself lucky.
I love the Dillons and all of their covers, particularly the cover to Garth Nix’s Sabriel. Other favorite YA covers are Libba Bray’s Great and Terrible Beauty, Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice, Dave McKean’s cover for Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, Charles de Lint’s Blue Girl, and all of the Charles Vess covers.
Any predictions regarding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Like, Snape: redeemed or reprehensible?
Snape is totally redeemed! But as for other predictions, I have no idea. I don’t think Harry is going to die, but if he does, I hope he doesn’t just fall behind some curtain. If anybody else dies in that series, I want to see a body.
Can we buy some glamour in a can?
Send your cash to Ravus c/o the Manhattan Bridge. He’ll send back some kid with your delivery. You can also pay with firstborn children, particularly nicely shaped leaves, or riddles.
Today’s Summer Blog Blast Tour interviews:
Laura Ruby at Miss Erin
Bennett Madison at Shaken & Stirred
Shaun Tan at A Fuse #8 Production (Part One, Part Two, Part Three)
Chris Crutcher at Bookshelves of Doom
Kazu Kibuishi at Finding Wonderland
Christopher Golden at Bildungsroman
David Brin at Chasing Ray
Kirsten Miller at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Sara Zarr at Big A, little a
Sonya Hartnett at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast