Hush, by Eishes Chayil
Guardian of the Dead, by Karen Healey
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride
Crossing the Tracks, by Barbara Stuber
The Freak Observer, by Blythe Woolston
But life had other plans for me, and I have only managed to read two of the books … but I have also managed to interview their authors. So … yay! A Morris Award Finalist Authorial Intrusion.
I encourage you to go here to learn more about all five worthy books. The winner will be announced a week from today, Monday, January 10, at the Youth Media Awards Press Conference.
In the meantime, today I have an interview with Lish McBride, author of HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER:
HMCN is a hilariously twisted novel (Chapter Four managed to both shock me and make me laugh) about necromancers (people who can raise the dead), witches, werewolves, and various other supernatural creatures. What were the best and worst parts of writing this book?
Hm, well, when I wrote it, I didn’t really think anyone was going to read it—the book was my thesis to graduate from my MFA program. The nice thing about this was there wasn’t that much pressure so I got to be silly with it and just really throw myself into the process. My main goal has always been (and I hope will continue to be) to write something fun that makes my friends laugh. I’m just lucky that other people have been enjoying it, too. So I really loved that part of the process and the creation of it all.
Then revisions happened. Read. Edit. Read. Edit. Again and again and again until I lose all perspective on a book. I believe that editing is extremely necessary (ahem…especially for me) and that revising is integral to the process…but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I work on it and the whole time I’m anxious to start something new. And I always worry that I’m not going to get it right—that my editor will take one look at my revisions and lose all hope.
That being said, my editor, Reka, was extremely patient and kind throughout the whole thing. My agent is also hand’s on and between the two of them I had a lot of support and a lot of help. It’s a good thing, too. I was having a hard time with the middle. Middles and I just don’t get along.
Have you always been drawn to the paranormal genre? Would you share some favorite paranormal titles with us?
Yup, as far back as I can remember. My mom read the Narnia books to me over and over when I was a kid and my stepmom read the Bunnicula books. Both of them were readers, both have a healthy love for fantasy and it passed on to me. I don’t remember when I lost my first tooth or learned to ride a bike, but I can tell you what bookstore I was in when I picked up my first David Eddings book (Walden), who first told me to read the Earthsea books (my oldest brother, Darin), who gave me my first Laurell K. Hamilton book (my grandmother handed it to me in a grocery store in Florida saying, “This looks like something you’d like—weird.”) and how old I was the first time I read Stephen King (seven). I can’t really read King anymore because his stuff messes with my head too much, but the rest still line my shelves. I remember my brother, Jeremy, taking me into a bookstore one year for Christmas and asking me what book I wanted. I picked out the Thief of Always by Clive Barker. I was so excited to read it…and the jerk wrapped it up and put it under the tree. I knew it was there and I couldn’t touch it. I’m not sure Jeremy understood how torturous this was—he’s never been a reader.
So yeah, I’ve always been drawn. I still read it. It’s easier for me to pick authors than books because, well, I read a lot. Kelly Armstrong, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, and Christopher Moore—they’re all on my list. I love Jasper Fforde and recommend him all the time even though I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s much smarter then me. Same for Robert Rankin (Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse is still one of the best titles in the world). I just finished the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Prachett. If I ever get to the point where I’m half as witty as him and I’ll be happy. I loved the Graveyard Book. I also just started reading Libba Bray. Amazing. I…I should stop now. No one should ever ask me this question. Same goes for movies. Floodgates unleashed…
Each of your chapter titles in HMCN is a snippet of lyric or a song title, for example, “Dead Man’s Party,” “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” They serve as funny portents of the action in each chapter. I’m curious – is there actually a song with the phrase “Hold Me Closer, Necromancer,” or is it just a play on “Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer?” (Which, by the way, thanks for that earworm.)
It’s a play on “Tiny Dancer” and I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’ve gotten the song stuck in their head. I’m still not sure if I should apologize or not.
Is this your first finished novel, or do you have abandoned manuscripts in a drawer somewhere? How long was your publishing journey, from starting the book to getting The Call?
Oh man, I wish I had abandoned manuscripts. Wouldn’t that be nice…no, this was my first shot at the whole novel thing. So as awesome as everything has been, to be honest I’m still getting over the excitement of just finishing a novel in the first place.
Like I said, this was my thesis to graduate. (Ha ha—I got a DIPLOMA for this.) So, I wrote it over about a six-month period and turned it in, then before I even graduated, my agent picked me up. I edited it while packing up and moving cross-country, then we sold it in October. So, from genesis to sale, less then a year. But then we edited it forever. When Holt bought the book, they had other books lined up to go, so mine wasn’t going to be published for two years. I’m not super patient, but it was nice to have the time to edit and fix the bugs.
I know many talented authors that take years to even land an agent, so my luck kind of makes me feel like I cheated somehow. I wrote a book and someone bought it. It’s kind of insane.
The Morris Award is for a “first time author writing for teens.” Why do you write for teens?
I always planned (or hoped, at least) that I would start out writing fantasy books and then wander my way into teen after I’d been established. Everyone else seemed to do it that way, so I thought that was the way it had to be done. So I planned even though I’m not good at following plans…and I did it all backwards. This shouldn’t be surprising. I do everything backwards. I didn’t aim the book for teens. I wrote the book I wanted to write.
Then my agent, Jason, and I had this conversation:
Jason: This is YA. I want to aim it at those editors.
Me: Really? But what about all the curse words? Will I have to cut any of the violence or the sexy bits?
Jason: Have you read YA lately?
Me: Not the right ones, apparently.
Jason: Do you not want to be YA? Are you worried some stigma might be involved in being a YA author?
Me: No, no, no—I love kids and teen books. Seriously. As for stigma, I write about werewolves and zombies, and I’ve been writing about them even while in a MFA program. Well used to stigma and I could care less about that.
Jason was right—it was YA. I didn’t have to cut any of the stuff I was worried about and I’ve since learned that I’m kind of tame. I will say that one of the editors (I can’t remember who) that I talked to said that the [Editorial decision: Cut for spoiler!] was a clear marker that it was YA—that the humor and everything was definitely juvenile. I asked the editor if they were calling me immature because this was the kind of stuff I found funny. I never really got a straight answer. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what makes some books YA and some not, but I’m truly glad that I ended up where I did. I wasn’t expecting how much I’d love talking to teens about the book. When they get passionate about something, the responses are so honest and there isn’t the same level of posturing you get with adults sometimes. If a kid or a teen tells me they love it, I know they really, truly enjoyed the book. And if they said they hated it, then I know that’s exactly how they feel. It’s kind of cool.
I know you have a sequel to HMCN scheduled. What's up next?
What’s up next with the sequel? Or after that? For the sequel, you’re going to see Sam and the gang struggling with the fall out from HMCN. You’ll meet some new folk and get to know some other characters a little better. I’m being incredibly vague. I’m not good with talking about things when I’m still working on them and I’m still editing book two. I’m also working on a New Thing. I don’t want to say much about it except that Sam isn’t in it and it’s going to have more explosions and as well all know more explosions equals better book, right?
Writing advice in five words or less.
Read. Write. Revise. Fail. Repeat.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished the last Tiffany Aching book as well as Reaper Man and then I watched the Hogfather, thus making it a very Terry Prachett Holiday. Right now I’m reading The Name of the Wind by Rothfuss. I’m also reading My Family and Other Animals, which is hilarious. To my kiddo, I’m reading Odd and the Frost Giants and I’m introducing him to the Percy and the Olympians books (we’re on book three). I’m excited to start reading the Artemis Fowl books to him. I also like to listen to audio books while I do boring things like dishes. I just finished Gaudy Night by Sayers and I’m cycling back through some Agatha Christie. I’m also reading the Scott Pilgrim series and I’m starting the Amulet graphic novels. I was going to start reading the new Holly Black book and start Zombies vs. Unicorns, but I just got my edits back, so I’m going to have to wait I guess.
Three favorite movies.
Remember when I said you should never ask me about movies? I can never pick just one—I love too many for different reasons. So I’ll give you three but I need to preface that these aren’t necessarily my top three, but just a few of my tops. (I take this stuff seriously, friend.)
Better Off Dead
Please know that it was almost painful for me to only pick three. I kept wanting to add.
M&Ms or Skittles?
Depends on my mood. Both are good, but I’m more likely to pick Reeses Pieces.
Skiing or snorkeling?
Skiing. I used to ski when I was a kid. I forget about the snorkel when I snorkel and I choke on a lot of salt water that way.
In writing, are you a plunger or a plotter?
Plunger. I tried to plot once and mapped out a few chapters. Then I completely ignored my outline. I’ve learned to just write and then go back and fix things later.
Not in the extreme sense of the word, but I’m afraid of clowns. I’ll cross the street to avoid them. And mustaches. They’re okay if they’re attached to a beard or not close to me, but if I’m dating someone, they have to shave or I won’t go near them, which I guess is more of an aversion than a phobia.
I guess a clown with a mustache would be like my kryptonite.
Favorite fictional character.
This…this is a terrible question. Not terrible to ask, but man, to answer? I’ve seriously been sitting on this question for days. That’s like asking to pick a favorite amongst children. Sure, you prefer some to others, but you keep it to yourself, or the others get hurt…and I’m right by all my books and I’m worried that some of them might be looking over my shoulder…eavesdropping…
Thanks for stopping by, Lish!