Author Francesca Lia Block On Magic, Her Teenage Years, And L.A. As Her 'Natural Muse'
By Linda Oatman High
Author Francesca Lia Block uses lush, poetic language to evoke a dreamy, mystical Los Angeles in her Dangerous Angels series. She does this while skillfully combining the worlds of 1980s punk-rock and the glamour of 1950s Hollywood while covering what were once considered taboo topics like AIDS, homosexuality, and blended families.
Bursting onto the literary scene in 1989 with her novel Weetzie Bat, which inaugurated the Dangerous Angels series, Block lives, breathes, eats, and writes L.A.
"I've been here almost all of my life, and I consider L.A. to be my natural muse," Block tells LAist.
In Weetzie Bat, Block describes the city this way:
You could buy tomahawks and plastic palm tree wallets at Farmer's Market, and the wildest, cheapest cheese and bean and hot dog and pastrami burritos at Oki Dogs... There was a fountain that turned tropical soda-pop colors, and a canyon where Jim Morrison and Houdini used to live, and all-night potato knishes at Canter's, and not too far away was Venice, with columns, and canals, even, like the real Venice but maybe cooler because of the surfers.
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, with a painter/screenwriter father and a poet mother, Block was surrounded by art and creativity.
"My father read poetry to my mother when I was in utero," says Block. "Our house was full of books and I read constantly. My father told me The Odyssey as a bedtime story and my mother shared many fairy tales with me."
Block, who has developed a cult following of devoted teen readers, says that she herself was a bit of a misfit as a teen.
"I wrote poetry and hung out with a group of artistic, imaginative friends," she says. "I struggled with body image and a few bullies, but found solace in writing, fashion and music."
Block studied English literature and creative writing at UC Berkeley, where she wrote Weetzie Bat, which was published when she was just twenty-four.
Her novels glitter with enchantment, and the author says that magic plays a constant role in her real life.
"For me, love is the ultimate expression of magic and I am fortunate to be surrounded by it. I have also had my share of strange, inexplicable experiences that might be called magic by some, synchronicity by others," she says. "The key to seeing the magic is to stay open and aware."
Block claims to harbor no secrets, saying that "everything shows up in my books." But she does aspire to be more like her quirky, artsy character Weetzie Bat: just don't call her a "manic pixie dream girl."
"She used to be my alter ego, sort of the opposite of who I was in the world," says Block. "Then I cut and bleached my hair and tried to become her, at least externally. But I was always more self-conscious, shy and inhibited. Ironically, I think that the older I get, the more truly like her I become. By the time I'm really old, I hope to be even sillier, more carefree and loving."
Block lives with her family in what she described as a "Fairie Cottage," nestled in Los Angeles. "It's a pale yellow house with roses and a jacaranda tree and a pink bougainvillea. My father's paintings are on the walls," says Block. Sounds dreamy.
In her (rare) spare time, the author sounds like your typical Angeleno: she practices yoga, enjoys vegan restaurants, walks her dog, visits with friends, and explores the city.
Block confides that the current state of the publishing world is a bit befuddling to her.
"It's changed dramatically and I miss the freedom and lack of commercialization of earlier days," she says. "I am fascinated by self-publishing options and the DIY aesthetic that is making a comeback."
Block, who's 53, suffered a torn retina in her right eye, which resulted in the loss of about half of her vision, which she says has been her biggest challenge. But it hasn't stopped her from expanding her career aspirations even further.
She's hoping to take Weetzie Bat to the silver screen, and says that "it's been in the works on and off for thirty years." She'd also like to write more fiction for adults, and additional screenplays.
But for now, the ethereal author will keep on doing what she's been doing for nearly decades: putting one word after another, creating magic and garnering new generations of fans.
In Dangerous Angels, Block writes, "If you want to find the trail, if you want to find yourself, you must explore your dreams alone. You must grow at a slow pace in a dark cocoon of loneliness so you can fly like wind, like wings, when you awaken."
Linda Oatman High is an author/journalist/playwright who lives in Lancaster County, PA. She has published more than 25 books, with her upcoming release ONE AMAZING ELEPHANT coming in the winter of 2017 with HarperCollins. Linda teaches writing workshops to all ages, and she holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. Info on her work may be found on www.lindaoatmanhigh.com.