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Tuesday , December 14, 2010
the nogoodforme interview: Francesca Lia Block!
I'm sort of stumbling over words to express how super-, maximum-, ultra-excited we are to be running an interview with one of our most collectively beloved authors, Francesca Lia Block. Legions of fans of books such as Weetzie Bat, The Hanged Man, Violet & Claire and many, many, many others need no introduction to Block -- she inspires such a devoted, passionate following with her readers that I can definitely hear the collective excitement already in various outlets of girl culture. (Liz, Laura and I all spent time on the witchbaby list, dedicated to all things FLB, and first "met" there and exchanged zines through it, so you can imagine the sentimental pull that doing an interview with FLB has for us...we literally wouldn't be here together if not for her work!) The thing is that her books are powerful, honest, beautiful and go way beyond the genre definition of "young adult" or what have you. People become so enchanted with Block's books that they become an intrinsic part of them, especially when the stories have such lush prose, starry-eyed plots and vibrant, sometimes poisonous Angeleno beauty. Entering the Francesca Lia Block fictional universe is like entering a world where beauty can be extracted from pain, where magic happens with a kiss, where food, friends, clothes, music, art and creativity jangle alongside one another like charms on a bracelet, linked together by love and sorrow and everything else. Being part of that imaginative realm, even for a few hours -- no one looks at the world in quite the same way again. To take a phrase from one of my favorite FLB short stories ever, life is the big romance in her stories, and that's something we don't forget here.
It looks like you've got a few new books coming out soon! Tell us about your current projects and a little bit about how they came about, creatively and emotionally. Quakeland just came out with Manic D Press. It is a novella and short stories about sex, death, love and female friendship in Los Angeles. It came mostly from my personal experience as a single mother in the dance/new age community in L.A. I am very happy with Manic D Press, a small press from San Francisco. They did a great job of putting the book together. Jennifer Joseph asked my opinion about cover art and I suggested Irene Hardwicke Oliveri, who is Catherine Hardwicke's sister (I met Catherine when we were discussing possibly doing Weetzie as a movie together). Jennifer loved Irene's art and chose a painting and Irene agreed to use it on the cover. I love that image so much.
I also have Blood Roses with Harper. It is a book of magical realist short stories about growing up in L.A. A lot of the stories deal with body image, something very important to me. There is also a theme of transformation. I combine very real experiences that young people have with stories of centaurs, giants and fairies. It is a bit like Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners. I'm posing nude on the cover but you can't see it very well because they wrote all over me! My ex took the photo.
In a few months How to (Un)Cage A Girl comes out from Harper. It is a collection of poems about the way we can free ourselves from the cages we find ourselves in. There are three sections. The first deals with freeing the self by facing your past. The second is about freedom through understanding your environment (in my case L.A.) and the third part is about writing love poems to our friends, appreciating other women as a way to love and release ourselves.
I am also "expecting" some more babies. The Waters and the Wild is a changeling story from Harper. House of Dolls is a book for younger readers from Harper. I wrote a picture book with my agent Lydia Wills. It's called Little Pink. I also have just finished a vampire book that I'm very excited about! It's called Pretty Dead. My new editor Tara Weikum has been helping me with it. I adore her.
I just signed a contract for another book of poems with Manic D. This one is tentatively titled Open Letter to Quiet Light about a relationship and it's demise.
I have another adult book I'm working on called Lay Me Out Softly. A short story from it will be in Susie Bright's upcoming erotic gothic anthology.
Forest Folk: A Dating Guide, coming soon from Bloomsbury. It's like Linda Goodman's Love Signs for the fairy generation.
What else? I've been a bit manic with the writing. I think I have hypergraphia. I've been posting poems on my blog on myspace almost daily.
I loved that you revisited Weetzie Bat's story in Necklace of Kisses. Are you going to revisit any of your other characters again? I have a contract for a prequel to Weetzie, about Weetzie as a girl and teen.
What book or character of yours has surprised you the most? (i.e. in terms of thinking the story would be one way but ended up somehow different from your original idea. Or, you were surprised by the reactions it got, etc.) Weetzie surprised me because it felt so small and personal and it has been so well-received, published in so many languages. I've had film interest for years. It almost has a life of its own.
All my characters surprise me when I start writing. That's the fun part! They just talk to me.
I'm always struck by how music has such a presence in the lives of your characters. Do you write with any particular "soundtracks"? How does music figure into your creative process? Just yesterday I told my friend I'd make her a CD of songs to help her write her new book. I thought to myself, I should do this for all my books as I'm working. But I've been a bit slow on the technology so only recently got iTunes. I could spend all day making mixes. I have certain songs that influence all my work.
What's your favorite of all your books? And who's your favorite of your characters? I'll say Weetzie because she started it all but really they are all close to me. Echo is the most autobiographical. The Hanged Man may be the most well-structured, poetic book. I love Guarding the Moon because it is for my daughter Jasmine. Dangerous Angels feels good to hold. I like Nymph (erotic stories) because I wave it around in people's faces when they call me a children's book author. Pretty Dead may be my next Weetzie. It's much darker but it feels like a leap into new territory as Weetzie was.
What most inspires you lately? My myspace friends. Music. My kids. My real friends. Internet dating. James Jean. The man who sends me excruciatingly beautiful poems. Greek mythology. Astrology. Fairy tales. Tranny Boys. Vampires. Weird stories on the news.
What music have you been listening to recently? I've been listening to The Dandy Warhols, Nada Surf, Moby. Annie Lennox, Goldfrapp, Death Cab for Cutie, Mazzy Star, Ladytron
And what are some of your all-time music favorites? P.J., Sinead, Tori, Joni, R.E.M., Alanis, Bowie, Dylan, Led Zep, early 80's punk bands, X, Patti Smith
Who is your all-time number one music crush? Cat Stevens when he was young. Iggy Pop, PJ Harvey.
Name a record that you loved as a little kid that you still love today. Teaser and the Firecat by Cat Stevens and Clouds and Ladies of the Canyon by Joni Mitchell.
What music do you like to primp to? MGMT and Silversun Pickups and The Sounds and Metro Station.
Favorite makeout music? I make new CDs every time. "Breathe Me" by Sia ranks pretty high up there. "I Want Your Hands on Me" by Sinead. "Pictures of You" by the Cure. " Michael Stipe's voice. "Raspberry Swirl" by Tori Amos and "Space Dog" for some reason (musically not lyrically it kills me, very much like a female orgasm) , "Origin of Love" by Hedwig
Who are some of your style idols? Charlotte Gainsbourg, PJ Harvey, Madonna, Coco Chanel, Miuccia Prada, Elsa Schiaparelli, Marisa Berenson
Whose closet would you most like to raid? Charlotte's
Do you have any favorite designers? Prada, Karl Lagerfeld
What's been your favorite outfit of yours lately? White jeans, Kork-ease 4inch platforms, floral and lace blouse, giant rose quartz beads, white bag
Who do you consider the most stylish girls (and/or boys) among fictional characters in the literature/book world? Can I say Weetzie? Sorry, I'm blanking out on this question. Tell me! [I'd agree, actually -- Weetzie has a pretty amazing wardrobe!]
What are your favorite best-kept-secret-type spots around L.A..? Or anywhere else in the world? In L.A. I like downtown Culver City--the Culver Hotel, where the munchkins lived while filming Wizard of Oz, M Cafe, Tender Greens, the movie theater with the lion fountain, free parking, farmer's market, galleries etc.
Do you have any writing rituals you'd like to tell us about? (i.e., do you write at certain times, in certain places, etc.?) I write whenever and wherever I can. I write in my head all day.
What are some of your all-time favorite books? One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez, House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende, Nine Stories by Salinger, Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks, The Circus of the Earth and the Air by Brooke Stevens, anything by Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Write your ass off and read as much as you can get your hands on , start a writing group, share with trusted friends, send a poem back and forth with a friend for 30 days, start a poetry revolution
Who's your favorite Beatle and why? I loved George when I was a kid because I thought he was cute. John wins, though.
What's your spirit animal? Good question! The deer. What's yours?
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