Cecil Castellucci, author of teen novels
Cecil Castellucci has been an indie rocker and a filmmaker, but now she's primarily a novelist. This week saw the debut of her second book for young adults, The Queen of Cool. It's about that girl in high school — you know, the effortless one? — who finds herself enveloped by too-cool ennui (then something happens, but we're not giving it away).
Boy Proof, Cecil's first novel, recieved a ton of accolades, including being named a Booksense 76 Children’s Pick.
Tomorrow night she'll be reading from Queen of Cool at Skylight Books at 5pm for her book launch. She's promised some special treats.
Age and occupation: Thirty-something Authoress
Home town: New York City / Montreal
Current LA neighborhood: Silverlake, for 10 years.
What inspired you to write for young adults?
I always wanted to write for young adults and children. Maybe it was Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time or Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess? Maybe it was John Christopher's Tripod Trilogy or Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond? Maybe it's Judy Blume's Deenie or Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew Mysteries? Maybe something about me is stuck in High School? (Damn those girls who messed me up then!) (You know who you are!)
But when it comes down to it, when I was a child, reading was magical and transformative. There is something about writing Young Adult literature that is like sailing this unchartered water. When you're at that age, or writing characters that are that age, you are raw. Every emotion runs high. Everything is pretty much the first time. And you are in transition. To me, emotionally, that is a very compelling lode to mine for storytelling.
I wrote Madeline L'Engle a letter ten years ago and told her how badly I wanted to be a children's book writer. She wrote me back and said that if I wanted to do it, I surely would. In a funny way, that was the first moment where I was like, yeah, I can! That's when I sharpened my number 2 pencil and got writing.
What do you consider your greatest success as a novelist?
Was there ever a point in your career that you felt discouraged?
Hell yeah. It took about ten years for me from the day I got serious about writing to the day I got Boy Proof published. I suffered through writing four novels that might make you stupid if you read them, a bunch of rejections and a horrifying first agent experience. All of those things were extremely discouraging and made think I was crazy to actually keep trying.
Have you met anyone else who writes young adult fiction?
That's the best part of that ten year journey, the meeting of amazing fellow writers who I adore and who have become friends and comrades-in-arms. To name a very few: Andrew Auseon, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Rachel Cohn, John Green, Jennifer Richards, Jacobson Angela Johnson, Cynthia Leitich-Smith... the list goes on.
Also I started a Los Angeles Young Adult / Middle Grade bowling team (ok, drink night). That includes Kerry Madden, Lisa Yee, Ron Koertge and Mark L. Williams.
Last year you read at the LA Times Festival of Books. What was that like? Will you do it again?
The LA Times Festival of books is like being in book heaven. I'll do it every chance I get. That said, it's hard to be a Young Adult author in Kid City. I write for teens, and last year, I was reading in Kid City and I came after Thomas the Tank Engine. I had 5 year olds asking me questions. Happily, they actually asked some awesome questions. I think YA authors don't really fit into Kid City. I think that they should have like a teen lounge in the adult section of the festival for teens and YA authors. We could have couches and coffee and be cool. Can someone make that happen? I mean, no self-respecting teenager wants to be seen hobnobbing with Barney, you know what I mean?
And you made a movie?
Yes, I had co-founded a filmmaking club called Alpha 60 with my two friends Neil and Nick. We would make a short film every 6 weeks for three years and screen at the awesome Echo Park Film Centre. After practicing doing all those short films, I decided to shoot a feature. It's called Happy Is Not Hard to Be and it premiered last Fall at the American Cinematheque at the Alternative Screen.
And you had a band?
I had a band called Nerdy Girl, then went solo as Cecil Seaskull and my label was this great L.A. indie label called No Life Records. They used to have a store on Santa Monica Blvd. They asked me to move out here and I thought OK, Montreal winters suck! I'll move to L.A., it's warm there! I spent my first year working part time at No Life Records and at Epitaph Records. I didn't have a car and I took the bus everywhere.
Los Angeles has provided a backdrop for your books. What are your favorite landmarks? Are there any that haven't yet appeared, but will?
Pretty much I'm obsessed with Griffith Park. I think that will be in every L.A. based book. I love the Griffith Park Observatory and it nearly kills me that it's still not open. I want to get married there.
Other fave landmarks include The Farmers Market on 3rd Street, Hollywood Blvd., The Christmas Tree auction, Grand Ave. (The Center Theater Group, MOCA, The Cathedral, Disney Hall), The Autry Museum. Also, any street where the palm trees bend beautifully.
The Sunset Junction is going to be my next novel, Beige.
Secretly, I'd like to write something that has the Magic Castle in it, even though I've never been there. (That's a hint, can someone take me?)
What is/are your favorite book(s) or movie(s) about LA?
L.A. Story directed by Steve Martin
Go West directed by Buster Keaton
The Player directed by Robert Altman
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane directed by Robert Aldrich
Valley Girl directed by Martha Coolidge
Love and Basketball directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
A Star is Born (all versions)
The Terminator films (all three of them)
Describe your best LA dining experience.
LA has the best:
You haven't really lived in LA until:
You've made love on Lou Rawls' star on Hollywood Blvd in a tent because you waited 6 weeks there for Star Wars tickets.
What is your LA pet peeve?
Cars. Can we get that monorail? I friggin' hate cars.
What is the "center" of LA to you?
Silverlake, Los Feliz, Atwater Village, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Hollywood.
It's 9:30pm on a Thursday. Where are you, and where are you going?
I just left a reading at Skylight Books and am going to get a drink at Club Tee Gee.
Where do you want to be when the big one hits?
Making sweet love to my true love.