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Tag: one thing leads to another

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Francisco X. Stork

I tried for a long time to juggle these two lives until the day when one of my project friends got killed in a stupid accident playing chicken with a train. I decided then I would try to live only one life – one that had some kind of purpose.

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

Researching and formulating questions for this series (especially well ahead of deadline) is one of my favorite parts of interviewing; it’s a process that invariably leaves me with a whole new appreciation for the author in question.  I love how one interview gives a glimpse, and a couple blog posts present an idea, but immersing yourself in as many of an authors’ words as you can find offers–well, it’s not a whole living person, obviously, but the shape of their collected words is, I think, maybe a shadow of the whole?  

I usually come away from the experience with a desire to be president of the fan club, or the conviction we could be best friends, or possibly wishing they would adopt me (sometimes all three.)  I always come away from the experience beyond thankful they agreed to participate in this series, and never has this been more true (including the fan club/best friends/adoption part) than the weeks I spent getting to know the word-shape of Francisco X. Stork.  I read the interviews and the reviews and the articles and learned a lot.  But I was sick earlier this year, really sick, and ended up indulging myself by reading his complete online journal, something I don’t normally have time to do.  It was kind of an extraordinary experience.  I was left not only wanting to immediately re-read all his books, but also wanting to read everything, to talk and listen and explore and to ask questions every day forever.  I wanted to be kinder and more creative and honest and to think carefully about all kinds of topics.  I was inspired.  What an extraordinary man.  And then I got to interview him and that felt pretty extraordinary too.  

Thank you, Mr. Stork.  (And if you would like to start a fan club or are looking for a new best friend or possibly want to adopt me, I’m totally in.) 

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I was a mixture of outgoing and shy. I did things like act in plays and compete in speech tournaments but I also spent a lot of time alone reading and writing very corny poems and stories. I was a little insecure about my looks. I thought maybe my nose was too big.

Francisco Stork_credit Anna StorkWhat did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I always wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. But there was a period during my high school years when I really, really wanted to be a light house keeper. Doesn’t everyone at one point or another?

What were your high school years like?

I went to Jesuit High School in El Paso, Texas. The school had a very rigorous academic program and I struggled at first. But after a few months I discovered that I could actually get good grades if I studied and from then on high school was more enjoyable than not. I actually liked going home and spending my evenings doing homework, Jesuit High School was an all-boys school so the other thing that was fun was going to speech tournaments at high schools where there were actual girls! During those four years I met many teachers that were inspiring but I will always be grateful to Father John Hatcher (now the director of St. Francis Mission in the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota) who saw that I was smarter than I let on and challenged me to just be myself.

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with M.T. Anderson

There are cultures, for example, where teens are not considered to be, first and foremost, consumers.

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I’ll admit right up front to being horribly intimidated at the prospect of this interview.  I put off drafting questions by collecting other interviews, reviews, and articles; by sifting through YouTube for conference appearances and even more interviews, by reading and re-reading the essays and speeches on his website…you get the idea.  But all that research and preparation just made it worse, actually.  So much worse.  M.T. Anderson’s reputation as one of the nicest and funniest (Whales on Stilts, right?) authors around seems, from my limited experience (which mostly involves award speeches and receptions and secondhand stories from totally reputable sources), to be well founded and supported by evidence.  And I’ve seen with my own eyes (as an audience member etc.) how downright goofy he can be so I know that’s true too.  And yet.

And yet.

You simply can’t read Octavian Nothing, or Feed, or (wow!) Symphony for the City of the Dead without becoming a little overwhelmed at the incredible intellect and spirit behind the words.  And I think it’s impossible to not want to rise to the occasion, so to speak, but when I finally had to sit down and write this introduction (which of course I put off as long as I could) all I could do was sputter and gesture and shake my head because really, what can I say? (Thankfully I was alone.)

So I guess I’ll just say thank you for the opportunity, for–as always–making me think, and for championing teens, intellectualism, and intellectual teens in a climate that routinely dismisses all three.

Always Something There to Remind Me

MT_Anderson2011Please describe your teenage self.

Thin to the point of mantis-like. Eager to explore the world in front of me. Already unhappy that someday I’d have to die.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

A writer! I always had stories I wanted to tell. I spent a lot of time reading, and I was eager to become part of the ancient conversation of literature.

What were your high school years like?

There was some fun. I was in plays and musicals. I made movies with my friends. I spent an extra high school year in in England, and that was incredible – full of those eccentricities we now would see as Hogwartsian (students wearing black robes, medieval courtyards, all the entertaining rigors of a British boarding school). That place really stepped up my intellectual and artistic game. We studied Anglo-Saxon history, read Lear, sang Renaissance church music, and created a Cubist play about Picasso’s youth on a stage made entirely of cabbages.

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Noelle Stevenson

Can you have a black Walter White or a female Lex Luthor without making an uncomfortable political statement? Can you have a epic, doomed gay love story like Titanic where you’re not just playing into the tired “tragic gays” trope? Can the character lose a fight dramatically and it not be seen as them being inherently less competent or valuable?

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

In the grand scheme of things I’m a relatively new member of the fan club.  Other than sort of intermittently following Looking for Group, I wasn’t clued in to the wonders of web comics until a friend linked me to a random (and perfect) comment about Sky High, which lead to me poking around on tumblr and finding this and this and this.  And this.  I joined immediately, for the pop cultural references, social commentary, comics and, of course, Nimona.  You probably should too, if you haven’t already.  The intermittent Scooby-Doo commentary alone is worth it.

And now here we are, a couple of years later, and Nimona is a real book that I can give to So Many People this holiday season (who are hopefully not reading this intro where I just spoiled their gift) and Noelle Stevenson has won a couple Eisners and been short-listed for the National Book Award (the first ever web comic to be nominated.) Nimona and Lumberjanes have already starting popping up on multiple end-of the year Best lists, including nominations for YALSA’s 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Quick Picks, and Popular Paperbacks honors.  Not to mention her work on Wander Over Yonder, Runaways (!!!), and in various anthologies (teenage Wonder Woman! Goddess of Thunder!)  In other words, if you haven’t had the pleasure, do yourself a favor.  Seriously.  I dare you to read the interview below or to check out any of Noelle’s work and not go full fangirl or fanguy immediately.  It’s impossible.  

Thank you, Noelle, for your Twitter feed, for making me cry when Nimona [redacted], for your generosity and vulnerability below and on tumblr.  Being a confused woolly little person wandering around making bad weird choices is a lot more fun when you have Nimona and April (and Ballister and Mal and Ripley and…) to keep you company. 

Always Something There to Remind Me

noelleauthorphoto, credit Leslie RannePlease describe your teenage self.

I was homeschooled for half of being a teenager and in public high school/college for the rest! It meant that I went from being THE COOLEST homeschooler to being this weirdly overconfident drama club kid who carried a lunchbox, was the only girl in school with short hair, and wore skirts over pants. I was a very try-hard teen who somehow didn’t really care what people thought of me, in practice. I made arm warmers out of socks and had no idea how to apply liquid eyeliner.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be an artist, then I wanted to be a singer. Then I wanted to be an artist again. Then I wanted to be an actress and an artist at the same time. Then I wanted to be an actress, and artist and a writer. Eventually I dropped the actress part. For a short time I wanted to be an architect but then my mom told me it involved math and I changed my mind.

What were your high school years like? 

Like I said, I was homeschooled until I was 15, so I was pretty self-directed. I didn’t have a terrible time in high school as much as just being kind of…apathetic about it. It felt like a waste of time, so I made connections with the librarians and the art teacher and the drama club and I’d use those to get out of class all the time and go do my own thing. I cut class kind of a lot, actually. I felt a little like a ghost at public high school, but not in a bad way — it was kind of by design. I knew I’d only be there for two years and I had all these other plans. In the end, I’m really glad I did go to that school, because my art teacher was amazing. She was very overworked and basically taught 2-3 classes simultaneously, like literally at the same time in the same room, but she fought really hard to keep the IB Art track when the school was trying to slash it even when there were only 3 of us. She had the art school recruiters come visit the class and that’s pretty much how I figured out how to get to art school. She was really important in my life. I called her ‘Mom’ once, in front of my actual mom.

What were some of your passions during that time? 

I loved theater. We went to a ton of plays — my favorite ones were at the local university black box, but we went to ones at the bigger playhouses too sometimes. I was really into Sweeney Todd (the movie) at the time so we bought tickets to Sweeney Todd (the play) when it came to town. That one was a big deal! I loved movies in general, going to movies was probably my favorite thing to do. We had friends at the local art house movie theater too so we’d go there because they’d let us in for free. Maybe I was a pretentious teen?? I don’t remember being pretentious but I probably was. I loved reading and I’d hang out at the Barnes & Noble across the street from my school all the time — I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, or I’d just admire the illustrations in the kids’ picture books. I’d even take my friends there and do like, dramatic readings, and pretend to be an art critic while looking at all the book covers. I really, really wanted to have written the books on the shelves there. That store was the first place I went when I was home to see my books on display. It felt pretty good.

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?

I was a really introverted kid, and a pretty cautious one. I was afraid of everything. I loved routine and I loved being safe and comfortable — I was a major homebody. I’d probably still be that person if I didn’t have the family I did. My family was really extroverted and adventurous, for the most part. We traveled a lot and I was always miserable. I was incapable of enjoying the awesome places we visited until much later. Then one time we were hiking in a rainforest in Guatemala and my parents decided to take us ziplining?? I swear I remember our guide having a wooden leg although I have no idea if that’s true or I made that up. Anyway, I was definitely NOT down for this. We had to climb waaaaay up in these skinny trees and onto these really rickety platforms, and THEN you had to stand on a box to make the jump. And I was like, no. My family was always pressuring me into doing stuff like this to me and I was never down for it. They got me up on the box somehow and I looked and there was NO way I was jumping. Not a chance. And I never would’ve jumped, seriously, except suddenly my mom just straight-up pushed me off the platform. Like she just threw me out of a tree. And I was fine! And I was ziplining! And I had a lot of fun!! As I grew up I stopped thinking that everything was going to kill me and I started thinking more like, well, I could die, but I probably won’t, so I might as well give it a try. It’s weird, but it’s the only way I am where I am now. Sometimes you have to just take a risk and jump. Or else your mom will throw you out of a tree.

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Libba Bray

1. Do not give up piano lessons to play basketball. That is the second dumbest idea you will ever have. (The first dumbest will involve dropping acid and going to see Aliens, which is a Category Five mistake.)

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I was going to tell you about the time I was reading Libba Bray’s Rebel Angels in a hotel in Belgravia, London, and how we were spending the next day at the Imperial War Museum (housed in the central portion of what was formerly Bethlem Royal Hospital, or “Bedlam”) and how it was all atmospheric and creepy and whatnot (which it totally was) and I was going to tell you about how I dog-eared and sticky-noted The Sweet Far Thing until there were no sticky notes left to stick because I thought (think) it was brilliant and wanted to see if I could connect all the luminous dots and figure out how she’d made it all work.  And I was going to tell you how I spent the night before the ACTs at a New Order concert, which, now that I think about it will make a lot more sense once you read on.

But instead I am going to just point you directly to the interview below because it is EPIC.  I mean, this is not run of the mill epic, it is Libba Bray level EPIC, which means playlists, life lessons, the influence of PBS, aspirations to royalty, Holden Caufield, Gilda Radner, existential crises, blood, make-up, exceptional teachers, music, boys, theater, George Saunders, thoughtful advice, pathological honesty, and–in what is certainly the most epic author-to-author question ever featured in this series–Chris Pratt.  Just go, now.  (You might want something to drink, and a snack, fair warning.)

Thank you, Libba, for this jaw-dropping and utterly exceptional interview, and for your willingness to come face to face with the monster time and time again.

Always Something There to Remind Me

libba-bray-5Please describe your teenage self.

Oh, Lord.

Actually, I feel like that sentence could be the description.

I was a girl of extremes, which I don’t think is terribly uncommon for the teen years: Goofy. Hopeful. Sardonic. Weird. Insecure. Certain I was a freak who would never have a boyfriend. Sometimes melancholy and lonely. An introvert who fronted like an extrovert. Well-intentioned if a bit “high-spirited,” as my high school principal described me that time I got sent home from the Latin trip. A class clown type who was terrified that someone might see how truly vulnerable I was while also wishing someone would see how truly vulnerable I was, preferably a wisecracking, music-playing boy who also read Salinger. I was in love with theater, music, literature, art, fashion, and film. I wanted grand adventures. I wanted to make the world a better, fairer place. I wanted my life to have meaning. And I desperately wanted out of Denton, Texas.

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Patrick Ness

“We want to remember what it feels like when things mattered that much, because we want them to matter that much to us now.”

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

1:37 am, New Year’s Day 2014 I’m lying in bed quietly dripping tears, wondering whether this bodes ill or well for the coming year.  I don’t really believe in omens or resolutions or whatever, but still, in that moment, in the dark, it all seems weirdly significant and profound.  I feel like I should fling myself into the new year head-on.  I feel like I should be honest and wild and maybe not fearless, but at least bold.  I feel like if a monster comes calling for me I want to be the sort of person that would accept the challenge.  That’s the power of an extraordinary book, right?  That feeling that we’re left with, once we’ve stayed up way too late, turned the last page, exhaled.  

Patrick Ness writes extraordinary books, books that are both utterly absorbing in the moment and that linger long after The End.  I’m still mulling over the Chaos Walking books years later, and clearly A Monster Calls made quite an impression.  Here’s a cool thing, though: I’m pretty sure, despite never having met him, that Patrick Ness is also an extraordinary human being.  I did, as usual, a lot of background reading for this interview, and this guy is consistently thoughtful, articulate, creative, kind, and funny on top of it all.  (See below for proof.)  Plus, instead of watching a too-big-to-tackle disaster unfold before him, he did something and his fundraising to help with the Syrian refugee crisis has been inspiring and–with support from many, many authors, publishers, and readers– has raised a truly amazing amount of money.  (More information on his campaign can be found at his fundraising page.)  As Rainbow Rowell said, “the people I admire most in this world are the ones who put themselves out there & TRY. It’s so scary to try. It makes you vulnerable.”  Not sure I could admire author and all-around extraordinary human Patrick Ness more right now.  

His next book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here (October 6) is still a couple weeks away here in the U.S. but I simply couldn’t hold onto this interview any longer–it’s too good not to share.  (Notice how I refrained from calling it an “extraordinary interview”? I think it is, but I didn’t want to test your patience by using that word again.)  Thank you so much, Patrick, for taking the time to talk with me, for making me cry in the middle of the night and literally laugh out loud (see below), and for putting yourself out there.  I think you’re way more than medium nice.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Patrick Ness (c) Helen Giles 2012

Please describe your teenage self.

As complex and contradictory as any teenager.  Terribly shy, but also could make any classmate laugh (and they usually got in trouble while I sat there innocently).  Super-anxious but keeping it crammed down into my stomach.  Always, always, always, always, always with an eye towards getting away to college.  Tragic hair.  Just… tragic hair.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know that was a possible career at all.  I thought, in a sort of twisted logic, that only famous people were authors.  I never thought it would happen to me at all.  I still got an English degree, but was working as a corporate writer when, to my astonishment, I got a book deal.  That was a surprise.  A nice one.

What were your high school years like? 

High school was… all right, I guess.  Could have been a lot worse.  I had a seriously sharp tongue on me when I needed, so bullying was almost never a problem, but mostly I was just trying to be friendly, trying to have friends, making huge mistakes, figuring them out.

I had a job as a waiter in a steakhouse in high school (this job reappears in The Rest of Us Just Live Here), which was actually great.  Good money, got me out of the house, I could always request the Sunday morning shift so I didn’t have to go to church…

Really, though, high school was a bit of a waiting room.  As a gay kid, I was fairly certain my “real” life wouldn’t start until college, so I was biding my time until then.  I think that’s becoming less and less true, but not fast enough.

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Ernest Cline

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

When composing an email to Ernest Cline it’s tempting to start babbling about your own geeky passions and experiences, to document the ways in which they overlap or intersect with things you’ve heard him talk about.  It’s tempting to point out all the ways in which you had similar experiences, were born just years apart, watched that movie at about the same time, have daughters who are almost the same age.  It’s really tempting to talk about how you read that he did X, and how you also did and/or loved this X-adjacent thing that is very similar or possibly exactly the same and wow I can’t believe you remember Y because I thought I was the only one who played/read/saw/loved that thing.  It’s really tempting, but you don’t do it.

Instead, you stare at your gmail inbox and wonder about that impulse, the desire to share and connect and gush, and you come to the conclusion that while it’s not really appropriate in this particular case, the impulse itself is just fine. Pretty great even.  Because the impulse is not about geek cred, or one-upsmanship, or a “notice me notice me” mentality.  It’s really about bonding, about the power of–to paraphrase some other famous nerds–being “unironically enthusiastic” about stuff, “being honest about what you enjoy” and being willing to raise your hand and say, “Hey! I LOVE this! Do you maybe love it too?”even when the thing you love isn’t necessarily cool or even geek-cool.  Geek solidarity is about unapologetically loving the stuff you love, and connecting with other people who love stuff and are unapologetic too.  Felicia Day says being a geek is “more than the hobbies we do or the things that we like,” that a geek is an “outsider, a rebel, a dreamer, a creator, whether it’s our own world or someone else’s. It’s a fighter. It’s a person who dares to love something that isn’t conventional.”  I don’t know if I embody all those bold ideas, but I know that Ernie Cline inspires this kind of geek camaraderie through the sheer force of his knowledge and passion and vocal enthusiasm.  Read Ready Player One or Armada and tell me you don’t want to immediately sit down and discuss the minutae of arcade games, Schoolhouse Rock, or The Last Starfighter.  I know you want to.

I know that even when you try you’re bound to slip a reference to that text-based 80s computer game or that semi-obscure cult film into your email to him even though you’re trying desperately to be “professional.” I know that it will be impossible not to gush a little bit (or a lot) and that he will be really cool about it anyway.  Probably because geek solidarity, probably because he’s a cool guy.

Thanks, Ernie, for taking the time to talk with me.  MTFBWYA (too.)

Always Something There to Remind Me

rp1-ernest-tall
Author photo by Dan Winters

Please describe your teenage self.

I was a socially awkward kid who spent most of his free time immersed in video games, science fiction novels, or playing Dungeons & Dragons with my equally geeky friends.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Initially, I wanted to write for the movies. At the time, it seemed like one of the coolest jobs imaginable. Film had a profound effect on my worldview, and on the culture at large, and I knew I wanted to be involved in the art form somehow, if I could.

What were your high school years like?

Like the characters in my novels, I spent a lot of time staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure. I also wrote for the school literary magazine and newspaper a couple of years. My English teacher in Junior High, Mr. Craig Whitmore, was a huge influence on me. He was the first teacher of mine to encourage me to pursue a career as a writer. We’re still friends to this day. He’s become a novelist now, too.

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Matt de la Peña

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I remember thinking when Ball Don’t Lie came out that it was going to be a perfect book to share with the teen patrons of our library.  I hadn’t read it yet, but I booktalked it like crazy and honestly, it practically sold itself.  That book was always checked out.  I also remember when I moved from the public library to a high school library that it was literally one of the first books I ordered for the collection.  The school hadn’t had a librarian for eight years so there were a lot of holes to fill; Ball Don’t Lie was in the first order I placed.  Why? Because in between those two jobs I’d actually snagged a copy for myself, read it, and fell in love.  I was expecting to like it because the reviews were crazy good, and I was so happy to have what I thought was a book that filled a need, that would appeal to certain readers, a book about sports, with a memorable voice and great characters.  But it was so much more than I was expecting

It’s kind of funny that this particular book stands out for me, among the hundreds and hundreds of books I’ve purchased for various collections over the years, but it does.  I’ve been trying to figure out why, and I think it’s partly because even though I expected to like it, Ball Don’t Lie confounded all my expectations and (I hate to say it, but it’s true!) taught me a valuable lesson.  I dove into that book expecting to find a story I could wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend to others, but what I found was a story for me.

Ever since then Matt de la Peña has been on both my “books to recommend” list and my “must-read author” list, and he’s never disappointed.  In fact, just the opposite.  And that was before he  wrote some books about natural disasters (my obsession with natural disaster tales is a whole different post.)

Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to talk with me, and for earthquakes and sharks and biker gangs and Shy.  And thank you for Sticky and the quiet stories and for bouncing back and forth.

 

Always Something There to Remind Me

102MattPlease describe your teenage self.

I was a basketball junkie. I’d take buses to the best hoop courts in southern California to see what the regulars there were all about. I had no money. I never went to parties. I didn’t drink. I was a mediocre student who wrote secret spoken word poetry in the back of class. I was very into the ladies.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I couldn’t see that far ahead. My dream was to be the first de la Peña to go to college, and I needed basketball to pay my way. That was as far out as I could see. Every night I’d assess whether or not I got closer to my dream that day. I’d think about how cool it would be to go to college as I lay on the floor in my room, shooting a basketball up at the ceiling and letting it fall back into my hands. I wouldn’t let myself go to sleep until I did that for an hour.

What were your high school years like?

I liked school, but I also knew I was never going to get money for college because of my grades. I think I could have done really well in my classes if I would have spent more time on them. But I did the math. If I spent more hours on the game of basketball, I’d have a better chance of getting a free college education. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But I had to study less to go further academically. There were, however, a few teachers who “captured” me. English teachers. Mrs. Blizzard, my 11th grade English teacher was probably the most influential. She told me I was a great writer. And even though I didn’t believe her at the time, I loved her class. She allowed me to keep the school copy of The House on Mango Street

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Susan Juby

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I’m pretty sure I originally picked up Alice, I Think because of the homeschooling angle.  There weren’t (aren’t?) many books about homeschooling back in 2000 and I was definitely interested, partly because the topic was rare, and partly because, while I had spent my requisite 12 years in the public school system, my seven siblings had been homeschooled.  (You can make of that fact what you will.  You’re probably right.)

I loved the book, of course, and Susan Juby became one of those authors I followed, anxious to see what was coming next.  Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be…more books that I loved.  Another Kind of Cowboy? Bright’s Light? The rest of the Alice MacLeod series?  Such great books.  If you haven’t already, you need to read The Truth Commission immediately.  Really.

Somewhere along the way I came across the essay she references below, “Directed Studies”, which tells a specific and highly personal story with which I totally connected, despite the difference in the details.  Like her books, the Susan Juby in that essay comes across as honest and funny, clear-eyed but optimistic, able to articulate and share painful, embarrassing truths in a single bound.  This is no small feat.  

Thank you, Susan, for talking truth, bad 80s hair, identity, and the danger of peach wine coolers with me.  If you wrote a “hauntingly elegiac volume that is mostly description of landscape” I would read it.

 

Always Something There to Remind Me

SJuby-7436-EditPlease describe your teenage self.

I find this hard and sort of painful because my teen years were, well, hard and painful. I think by the time I hit fifteen or so, I looked okay on the outside, at least by the low standards of the 1980s. But inside I was a churning mess of anxiety and insecurity. This situation was exacerbated by the fact I had developed a serious drinking problem by the time I was thirteen.

I was one of those people who never ever went in public without makeup and hair done, clothes carefully chosen. It was all a camouflage for what I saw as a deeply flawed self. I was convinced that if anyone saw the unadorned me, they would run away in horror.

On a lighter note, I was a serious fashion experimenter in a time and town where that was unexpected and not terribly welcome. Not one 1980s trend passed me by! I wore: Madonna-esque bloomers and puffy blouses, satin blazers that hung to my knees, perms, faux punk looks, heavy metal looks, prep looks. Fashion filled in all the blank spaces for me. In spite of how messed up I was then, my adult self looks back and applauds my teen self for having the guts to experiment in the face of quite a bit of despair.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

When I was very young, I thought I could be anything. As I grew, that confidence was pounded out of me by my peers, my schools and my own bad choices. Those bad choices were legion―making them was basically my superpower. But here are some of the things I dreamed of being before I stopped dreaming: writer, lawyer, zoologist, professional dressage rider, fashion designer. 

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Laura Ruby

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I’d been a fan of Laura Ruby for quite some time, having read, I think, all of her books–both YA and middle grade–as they were released.  I also followed her online and quickly realized I wasn’t just a fan of Laura Ruby’s work, but of Laura Ruby herself because she’s smart and passionate and funny and angry, often all at the same time.  She’s also thoughtful and honest and energizing, whether she’s talking about sexism or YA publishing or what it means to be an adult, whether she’s writing a novel, a blog post, or 140 characters.  If you’re not well acquainted, this would be an excellent time to fix that, especially because…

…then came Bone Gap, which literally couldn’t be a more perfect book for me if it had come gift wrapped on a silver platter.  I’ve written about my love of mythic fiction and magic realism (especially North American magic realism) elsewhere, and Bone Gap is sort of both of those, but also more, with Roza and Finn and “beauty” and gaps and Petey and hope…with love and landscape and the true magic of dancing honeybees…   I can’t tell you how much I love this book, but it’s a lot. So much.  So much love.
 
Thank you so much, Laura, for taking the time to talk with me, and for your honesty and generosity.  Thank you for telling the truth. 

Always Something There to Remind Me

laura1-pressPlease describe your teenage self.

I was alternately furious and sad, opinionated and confused, arrogant and awkward, articulate and incomprehensible, focused and aimless, ferocious and nearly witless with terror. I was desperate for attention and at the same time I didn’t want anyone to look at me, ever, for fear I might explode with anxiety.  I loved my friends with an intensity that was almost painful, and yet I was basically a self-absorbed jerkface. I tried on personalities like outfits. Really awful, 80s-era outfits, the images of which I wish I could scrub from my brain.

As a younger teenager, one of my favorite books was Edith Konecky’s Allegra Maud Goldman.  In it, Konecky writes, “I have a terrible memory. I never forget a thing.”

Yeah.  It’s like that.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I’d been writing fiction and poetry all my life, but I didn’t know that a regular person could become a writer.  Writers were near-magical creatures that lived in cabins on snow-capped mountaintops or maybe in chic garrets in Paris.  Writers didn’t worry about things like mortgages and health insurance and toilet paper.  My parents worried about things like mortgages and health insurance and toilet paper; they would have laughed me out of the house if I’d told them I wanted to become a novelist.  (Now that I’m thinking about it, they did chuckle a bit when I first told them I was writing a novel.  Writing a novel!  What are you, French or something?)

Since becoming a writer wasn’t an option, I thought I would study psychology and perhaps become a therapist.  Because the world needs more insanely awkward therapists.

But really, I just wanted to be an adult because I thought that once you turned eighteen other people finally stopped telling you what to do.

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Gail Carriger

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I grew up reading and re-reading Verne, Kipling, Stevenson, Doyle, and the not-Victorian mysteries of Agatha Christie while trying to memorize the entirety of Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” for reasons I’m still not certain I could articulate.  At the same time, I fancied myself something of an amateur naturalist (though at 10 I probably wouldn’t have used that word) and spent an inordinate amount of time messing around with age-inappropriate powders and vials that resulted in the cigar-box pinning and labeling of many unfortunate insects.  My teen years were draped in velvet, and at 16 I felt that elbow-length black silk evening gloves were appropriate for almost every occasion, including math class.  And I spent too much time thinking about and trying to procure tea, which was not at all easy to come by in my small mountain-ringed Utah town.

In other words, Gail Carriger is in oh so many ways the wheelhouse of my formative years, discovered slightly later, but no less welcome for that.  The world she creates (and it is a world, both on and off the page) is full of dirigibles, social commentary, mechanicals, custard, tea, diabolical secret societies, werewolves, proper manners, perfect curtsies, and treacle tarts, which is to say it’s delightful and immersive and subversive all at once.  If you’re looking for fun and froth, mystery and adventures, parasols and poison, Gail’s world is what you want; if it’s an ongoing and masterful dismantling of the Hero’s Journey, the Parasol Protectorate series is just the thing; if an unusual heroine (“with family and friends,” as Spike bemoans) flying cheese pie, and subtle examinations of race, class, and gender, among other things, sound exciting, you need to meet Sophronia, of the Finishing School series.  Or you might be, like me, waiting for the release of Prudence (The Custard Protocol: Book One) on March 17th because it’s impossible to resist a book wherein “a marauding team of outrageous miscreants in a high tech dirigible [charges] about fixing things, loudly and mainly with tea.”

Please imagine me performing one perfect curtsy here.  Thank you, Gail!

Always Something There to Remind Me

3GailCarrigerCreamPhoto by Robert Andruszko

Please describe your teenage self.

A demanding, arrogant, overachiever nerd-type with an unexpected interest in fashion who was constantly reading or writing. Not all that different from now, frankly. Except perhaps the overachiever part.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

An archaeologist, because I wanted to touch history.

What were your high school years like? 

I actually really enjoyed high school. I met, made, and kept most of my still-dearest friends. I remember laughing… a lot. I wasn’t a depressive kid. I didn’t have an identity crisis. I was proud to be weird, nerdy, and an outsider. I spoke up in class. I had a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I went to my first convention. I learned to sew and took up cosplay. I was the first to drive amongst my group, so I had purpose. I was a scholarship kid at a prep school so I was challenged. I had some fantastic teachers. And if I did need to escape, I just read books.

What were some of your passions during that time?

I remember being obsessed with Monty Python, Tamora Pierce, and dancing. I was on the swim team, but never really a team player. Dressing up and thrifting for unique fashion was very important. This was the 90s, so grunge was in and it was easy to be stylish on the cheap. I got into throwing massive costume parties and my house quickly became one of the primary gathering places (I had the “cool parents,” still do).

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?

My parents’ divorce was rough, but then I had plenty of role models. Nearly all my friends were also the children of divorced parents; I just came to it later than everyone else. It didn’t really effect how I thought about romance, but it did force me to rethink how I conceived of family. As a result threads of friendship, and the concept of building one’s own family, and the importance of loyalty weave through many of my books. My main characters are never going to be solitary agents against the universe in a hero’s journey kind of way.  In fact, I react strongly against that archetype.