JD: Cecil Castellucci! You are such an eclectic authoress and all around artist. How do you describe yourself?
CC: I would describe myself as a modern day flapper with a dash of indie punk, a healthy love of good t-shirts and a never-say-no-to-chocolate and champagne attitude. I love a good story filled with warmth, truth and character. I see art everywhere, even in a pile of rubble. I am glad that pandora found hope in that box. I own a house on the Island of Misfit Toys. And yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
JD: You studied acting at New York's High School of Performing Arts (aka the Fame school!) and also cut some CDs under the name "NerdyGirl" ... how has your background as a performer and a musician affected your sensibility as an author?
CC: I did indeed study acting and I indie rocked along with the best of them! Basically I am in love with stories. So for me, singing, acting, moving about and flailing my arms (ie dancing), comedy, etc. is all about telling stories. I always felt that telling stories in different ways is much akin to a visual artist using a pencil or charcoal or oils or pastels. it's just picking up a different tool to tell the story depending on what medium you tell it in. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. So I think that doing all the different things that I do helps to strengthen my stories all around because you tell each one in a different way. Writing a song is different from playing a part which is different from writing a novel which is different from doing a stand up piece. But with all of them you have to get to the heart of the story and dig deep to get to the truth. I think for me, expressing myself in all kinds of ways helps me to get to the core.
JD: You also told me you wrote the libretto for an opera debuting in Montreal in May 2010. How did that come about? (And is there a link for more info/tickets?)
CC: Yes! It's very exciting! It's a commission from ECM+ a Montreal modern classical music company that commisions lots of wonderful programs of original classical music. Another thing that they do is put together artists (painters, filmmakers, dancers, writers) with composers to come up with something. My dad has been involved with them for 15 years and the artistic director Veronique LaCroix had been reading all of my novels and my comic book series The Plain Janes and two years ago she had me over for coffee and asked if I would be interested in proposing something since I was a creative lady. I said YES YES YES and came up with the idea to do a three dimensional "live" comic book. It's called Les Aventures de Madame Merveille it'll be in Montreal on May 6 & 7th 2010. It's four movements representing four different kinds of comic books. A Superhero comic book (drawn by Cameron Stewart) a kids comic book (drawn by Pascal Girard) a Romance comic book (drawn by Michael Cho) and a Sci Fi comic book (drawn by Scott Hepburn) It's been super fun and terrifying and great and crazy. I think it's going to be something really special. The composer is this great guy named Andre Ristic whose music is really something extraordinary. I wanted to do it even though it scared me because like I was saying before, I long to tell stories in all kinds of different ways! Check it out here!
JD: Tell us about the two books you have coming out in August.
CC: I have two books coming out in August! The first is my newest YA novel Rose Sees Red (Scholastic). It's about two girls in NYC in 1982, both dancers. One, Rose, is American and the other, Yrena, is a Soviet girl. Funny thing, back then there was a Soviet Compound in Riverdale in the Bronx. Some people in the communist party had privileges and could live in the neighborhood surrounding the compound. The story is about the night that Yrena climbs into Rose's window and they go into the city to have an American night out and end up at the world's largest No Nukes rally. It's about the politics of friendship under the blanket of the cold war.
Then, I have my first picture book coming out! It's called Grandma's Gloves (Candlewick) and it's about a young girl and her relationship with her grandmother who loves to garden. I won't say any more than that. But the book turned out beautifully with art by Julia Denos. It's all California gardens so it's full of succulents and Birds of Paradise. Gorgeous! That's one of the nice things about being a So Cal girl. Roses all year round. Although, I do miss a good snowstorm.
Oh! And Geektastic, an anthology that i co-edited which is short stories by YA authors about geeks and the geek observed comes out in paperback this spring!
JD: Your discipline and motivation as a writer are quite impressive, and yet, you do not live like a monk on a mountain! You seem to really get out there and mix it up with the peeps ...so could you give any advice to writers who are struggling with making time for their practice?
CC: Sometimes it does feel as though I live like a monk on a mountain. But I do feel that what happens to us isolated artistic types is that we are in danger of living like that and then only writing about being an isolated artistic type! Not that I don't love those kinds of books (and movies) but I also like other kinds of stories and the only way to do that is to get out there and go do stuff! I like to think of everything I do as being a part of my artistic practice. I have a notebook and I'd love to say that is where I scribble ideas in all the time. And I do have that moleskine, in my purse, that I rarely remember to take out and scribble in. But I know it's there. In case I need it. And I have been known to whip it out at a rock show (why just recently, I solved a huge problem in the new novel I'm working on at an Amanda Palmer concert) I also think that adventures are important. Take the train! I took the train once from LA to Portland in the sleeper car and thought of it as a dreamy writing retreat. I got a lot of work done there listening to the rock and roll of the wheels on the track. Also, neat tip, adventures change your perspective.
I am a big fan of deadlines and of meeting those deadlines. I give them to myself and I ask my editors to give them to me. I think that leaving the page open is important. For me, being an artist is not something that I can punch in and out like with a time card. Sometimes it means binge writing for three days. Sometimes it means playing my xbox for hours. Sometimes it means doing my dishes. Seriously, your brain is always working on the problem of your story. But as much as all of that is a must to do, you can never avoid the fact that at some point you have to actually sit down and write. No one is going to do it for you. If you want to be a writer, only you can do it. No cares if you do it or you don't, except for you. So fill up your creative self and then plop your butt in the chair and let your fingers fly. And don't think that you necessarily have to have the first draft be a complete thing. I call my first drafts skinny skeletons. They are slight little things. Then once I have the bones down, I fatten up the baby. It's much less frightening that way.
JD: Well, I don't know know about the rest of you, but I am totally jazzed! Thanks to Cecil!
And for now, I leave you with this question: where was the last place you found unexpected inspiration?