Cecil Castellucci is the author of books and graphic novels for young adults including ‘Boy Proof’, ‘The Plain Janes’, ‘First Day on Earth’, ‘Odd Duck’ and ‘Tin Star’. Her picture book, ‘Grandma’s Gloves’, won the California Book Award Gold Medal and ‘The Year of the Beasts’ was a PEN USA finalist.. Her short stories have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. She is the YA editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Children’s Correspondence Coordinator for The Rumpus and a two-time MacDowell Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for ages 6 – 106.
Henry: Way to focus on a niche audience. ☺
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is a young adult novel called ‘Tin Star’. It’s about a girl named Tula Bane who is abandoned on an alien space station at the brink of a galactic war. She’s the only human on the station and the aliens don’t like humans.
Henry: Sounds like her romantic prospects are somewhat limited…
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
It’s about a girl who has to shed her humanness to survive, but then has to find it again when three humans crash land on the space station. It’s about survival and finding yourself again after a long absence from your heart.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
I don’t like the blank page. That’s challenging. I’d rather write a million wrong words and revise then face the blank page. So, I find writing the first draft very hard. It’s easy to write the first few pages of a story because that’s when you are in love with it. It’s a honeymoon between you and the words. It’s all potential. But once you are really in the thick of it, it can be daunting. I just try to get a skinny skeleton down so that I have something to play around with.
Henry: I agree. The first draft is always the hardest.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
You have to put on your best ears so that you can listen to the heart of the story and help it beat the strongest. You have to also be able to listen to critique and get rid of anything that is taking away from the real story. I always try to remember that anything I throw out I can put into another story another time.
Henry: That is a great tip for writing. Not such a great tip for cooking…
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I went to a workshop for sci-fi writers that was a seven-day crash course in space science. That was super fun.
Henry: And because you were travelling near the speed of light, time dilation meant that what was seven days for you was actually 38 years for the rest of us.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
See above. Get good ears. Also, thick skin.
Henry: Good ears, check. Thick skin, check. And a comfortable chair.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” — Jane Austen
“non est ad astra mollis e terris via” (There is no easy way from the earth to the stars) – Seneca
Henry: I wonder if Seneca overlooked sci-fi writing as a path to the stars…
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write
I like to sit in the sun
Henry: So you are both photogenic and phototropic. What about computer screen glare? Do you write by hand?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I’d like to move my molecules so I can either pass through things or nothing can pass through me. So no mass or much mass.
Henry: A unique request.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
I’ll go with dead people. Jane Austen, Walter Tevis and Mary Shelly
Henry: Excellent choices. Plus they aren’t picky eaters. Wikipedia helpfully offers
“Walter Stone Tevis was an American novelist and short story writer. Three of his six novels were adapted into major films: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
I’ll say Medusa because I wrote one in ‘Year of the Beasts’ and I think that Medusa is very misunderstood. She kind of personifies female rage and the result of being horribly betrayed. We don’t like to see someone who has been driven mad by that.
Henry: I always figured Medusa’s rage stemmed from having a bad hair day…
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read, See, Do, Enjoy other people’s art, music, dance, books, plays, etc
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
All Art All the Time
Henry: Readers may be interested to learn that Cecil is also a musician.
Where can readers find your work?
Bookstores and online.
This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.