Friday, November 27, 2009

Guest Author - Lilith Saintcrow (YA as Lili St. Crow)

It is with great pleasure and special congratulations that I welcome Lilith Saintcrow here today. Betrayals, Lilith's second book in her Strange Angels young adult urban fantasy series was released just last week and will debut at #5 on the New York Times Children’s Paperback Bestseller list for Dec. 6th. On top of that. the next book in the Jill Kismet series - Flesh Circus (love the title) came out this week in the US and hits shelves next week in Canada.

Lilith answered a whole lot of my questions on very short notice and I very much appreciate it. Lilith will be dropping by to answer your questions, so if you would like to ask her about her young adult fiction, urban fantasy, other series or works, please leave a comment.

Mini-bio: Lilith Saintcrow was born in New Mexico, bounced around the world as an Air Force brat, and fell in love with writing when she was ten years old. Lili lives in Vancouver, WA with her children, a houseful of cats, and assorted other strays.

You can read an excerpt of Flesh Circus here and Betrayals here. You can find out more about Lilith Saintcrow and her books at her website here. You can also read my reviews of Night Shift, Hunter's Prayer, Steelflower, and Strange Angels.

And last but not least, I will draw one name from among the commenters  to receive a copy of Betrayals. Open to anywhere that The Book Depository ships (more details at the end of the post).

SFG: Betrayals, the second book in your Strange Angels young adult series has just been released. You’ve stated that you had never planned to write young adult fiction. Tell us how that came about. What has the experience been like and what feedback have you had from your teen readership?

I ended up writing Strange Angels because I was asked to. I never thought I'd write YA because my stories tend to be very dark, and the people in them cuss and have sex. Bad things happen to them, too. So, I never thought a YA publisher would want to have me on board.

But an editor over at Razorbill actually asked my agent if I was interested in doing young adult, and I decided to give it a shot. I had to Have A Talk with the editor before we ever started talking contract, just to explain that I write what I write and they aren't going to get sweetness and light out of me, and that we might not be a good fit because my characters are, well, flawed. And human. And foul-mouthed. But the editor was behind me all the way, and I've been pleasantly surprised. I think the YA genre has freed up a lot in the last five-ten years; maybe people are finally waking up to the fact that kids say rude things and are curious about their bodies.

The experience has been, frankly, awesome. Teen readers respond just like adult readers do, with perhaps a little more energy and enthusiasm! I decided early on that I would approach the YA books like any other book—just tell the truth, tell the story, don't punk out, and let the Reader decide. And it's worked out pretty well. Teens are exquisitely sensitive to BS. They have to be—they live in a pretty stressful world where their time and schedules, and sometimes even their bodies, are not their own, and they are very sensitive to adults trying to con them. You have to have as little BS (or patronization) in the book as possible, or it will turn them off very quickly.

SFG: Can you give us an overview of Betrayals and the series and where it is heading? Would you consider writing another YA series?

Betrayals is where my heroine starts to enter the larger world of things that go bump in the night, and where she realizes that her training—as much as her father tried to prepare her for survival—is maybe not quite up to par. So she's starting all over in a whole new world, and having to make some decisions very quickly—who to trust, who not to trust, what to keep secret, what to reveal. The series is heading into some very dangerous waters; the third book, Jealousy, was difficult for me because I had to revisit some nasty things from my own teenage years. I'm starting on Book 4 of the series now, where Dru has really come into her own, and there's going to be a lot more action. It's like dominos—I like to set a situation up very carefully so that when I touch the first one, the chain reaction is all prepared.

I would definitely write another YA series. It's so fun. I already have a couple of ideas, but my editor is encouraging me to just concentrate on Strange Angels for now.

SFG: Your website/blog denotes you as a “Writer on the dark side”. How do you live up to that label and what is it about urban fantasy that attracts you?

That was actually a joke that turned into a tagline. The things that come out of my head and onto paper are very dark. I'm fascinated with extreme situations, psychological deconstruction, questions of violence and redemption. So my husband at that time made a joke about how I was way over on the Dark Side, and the joke just grew until I threw it up as the tagline on my website. It's pretty tongue-in-cheek too. "Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies." I laugh at myself a lot whenever I see it. You can get so serious and stuffy that you end up getting boring; I like to avoid that. Balance it out.

Urban fantasy attracts me because of the possibility for ambiguity, both moral/ethical and in gender roles. You can do a lot of subtle tweaking of situations to bring that ambiguity to the fore. Take Jill Kismet, for example. She commits murder every night in the name of protecting the innocent. What, if anything, separates her from the things she hunts? How would a person deal with that kind of job? What makes her keep going? These are things that fascinate me.

SFG: Your newest Jill Kismet novel, Flesh Circus is out in the next few days. A very provocative title. Please tell us a little about that and about the series and its future.

Flesh Circus came from a conversation with my writing partner Mel Stirling, about why circuses are creepy. It's kind of a deep breath before we take the plunge into Heaven's Spite and Angel Town, which are the last planned books in the Kismet series. The last two books are really what I've spent all this time in Kismet's world gearing up for. We've seen a lot of hellbreed, and Jill suspects that the "other side" is not as opposed to Hell as we might assume.

When those two books are done, I suspect it might be time to take a break from Kismet for a while. I'm not done with her, there are still things I want to say with her...but I need to take some time off. Each Kismet book is very draining, they come from a very dark place where hope is more of a liability than a saviour.

SFG: You have quite a few different books and series under your authorial belt. Where would you recommend a reader new to your writing start first. Which book, which series?

That would depend on what a reader likes. For those who like paranormal romance, I think The Demon's Librarian is the best place to start. For those who like fantasy, Steelflower is a good introduction. For urban fantasy readers, I really like Redemption Alley.

I write in different genres because I'm always trying new things. I like different genres for different things, and I love playing around.

SFG: In addition to your many novels, you are an active short story writer and contributor to anthologies. What do you like about the shorter form? Is it less or more of a challenge than novels?

The short form is, for me, far more difficult than the long novel form. In a short story, there is no room for error. Every word has to pull much more weight, and cramming a complete story arc into just a few thousand words is difficult for me. In novels, you can't have excess weight either, but there's more room.

I do like the tight focus of the shorter form, though. Stories that can't quite carry the weight of a novel, like things you see through a keyhole, are fascinating.

SFG: What other new projects do you have on the horizon?

Let's see...there should be another romance, titled Carcajou, out soon. I'm in a lot of anthologies—there's a Jill Kismet story in Justin Gustainis's upcoming Those Who Hunt Monsters as well as stories in the Chicks Kick Ass and Girls Guide To Guns And Monsters anthologies. I have an essay, titled Ambiguous Anita, in the upcoming Ardeur, which focuses on Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. Plus there is the next in the Strange Angels series, Jealousy, and a new Jill Kismet, Heaven's Spite, coming out next year. There are other things, but that's enough for now, right?

SFG: Book covers are always a hot topic and your different series feature some very non-conventional urban fantasy designs, I’m thinking Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet series covers in particular. Is there a story behind the designs? Would you have preferred the more typical tramp-stamped kick-ass heroine type covers?

Oh, God. A lot of people don't realize that authors have no say in covers. Maybe bigshots who consistently make the NYT Bestseller List get some input, but I have never really gotten any input on covers. They're presented as a fait accompli to the author. There's this curious perception that the cover means the author, and that is so not true. We're just as surprised as you are, most times.

That being said, I've been lucky. I was part of the Orbit US launch, and the cover redesigns moved my Valentine series from paranormal romance to noir-ish urban fantasy. Which I think was a great thing. A lot of readers felt a little jarred by the fact that the Valentine series is not a traditional romance in any sense, and it also doesn't have a clear-cut HEA. The ending is hopeful, not entirely happy. It was the right ending, but it was not a romance ending. So the covers were, I felt, far closer to what the books actually contained, as well as being distinctive.

I've had great, great cover luck with my larger releases. And I'm very happy about that.

SFG: You have mentioned on occasion that you are a visual writer and you are also a photographer. Do you ever use your own photography as inspiration for places and characters?

It's funny, because I am so visual, but the photography never really makes it into the books. It's more of filling my creative well with certain types of sensory input. I like to go out at night and take pictures of alleys and broken buildings and deserted streets. The loneliness of the urban landscape at night fascinates me, and a lot of my books are set in that territory. But the photos don't ever make it in there. They're more like throat-clearing, or collages that I use to get in the mood. Plus I think better while I'm moving, so there's been a number of times when I've been out walking at night with the camera and suddenly a plot tangle comes clear or a character starts talking. But none of the actual photos have ever inspired anything. I just like them.

SFG: We’re all readers here so we are all curious what you like to read when you have time and what you are reading now.

I read everything. I'm omnivorous. Nonfiction, fiction, any genre, I'll read it. It just has to interest me. Lately I've read a lot of Anne Stuart and some Stieg Larsson, my version of light reads to smooth the sharp edges and keep my brain occupied. I've just started a collection of Yehuda Amichai's poetry (each one is a jewel, a perfect little thing) and I'm plowing through some Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Jane Tompkins to massage the brain cells. I am also somewhat of a WWII (Eastern Front) buff, so I'm reading Mark Mazower's current book about Germany's administration of European territory after conquest. My bedside reading is Herodotus's Histories right now. Like I said, I read a little bit of everything. The world is a reading banquet.

SFG: If you could be a supernatural creature, which one would you be?

I rather like being human, despite all the ills that flesh is heir to. If I had to choose...maybe a phoenix. God knows I feel like I've resurrected myself a million times so far. But that's life, isn't it?

SFG: Tell us five things about yourself that no one knows.

Can there possibly be, after all these interviews, five things nobody knows? Hm. I'll try.
  1. The word "cake" always sounds dry to me. It literally dries my mouth out.
  2. I can never pronounce "vegetables" correctly. I stumble over the "b".
  3. I am haunted by the idea that I'll wake up and my writing career will have been a dream. I love it so much, I am so happy, that it seems like it might vanish at any moment.
  4. I cry every time I read the hospital scene in Dead Man Rising.
  5. My favourite movie of all time is Dead Poets Society.

Thanks for interviewing me!

The pleasure as all mine Lilith!

  1. Leave a meaningful comment for Lilith.
  2. Open to anywhere The Book Depository ships.
  3. Leave a way to notify you if you should win.
  4. Blog, tweet, post on Facebook or other social network sites for an extra entry. Leave a comment here to let me know.
  5. Giveaway open until Midnight, December 4 EST.


  1. Hi :)
    Thank you for sharing here today Lilith. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your writing. I was wondering how life is reflected in your writing. Does it affect the tone or plot? Do you have to have a different mindset when approaching writing in different genres, like consciously editing out material unsuitable or adding material?
    All the best,
    PS - Posted about this on my blog.

  2. Hi Lilith! Such a pleasure to read interviews with you. I am constantly amazed at the worlds you create, how visual they are. Do you find it hard to keep your worlds straight or is it fairly easy since you created them? I was also stunned that so many people were upset with Strange Angels in the description of the Asian character. I liked him alot and I am really looking forward to seeing more of him in the next book.
    Thanks so much for your time and your blog-I find it very inspirational and I look forward to reading your perspective on the world.
    Best wishes!

  3. Thanks for the insightful interview. It's always interesting to read about an author, especially since I recently finished Strange Angels. Loved it. Can't wait to get my hands on the next one!

  4. Don't add me in the contest (as this is our book) but just wanted to mention that I need to be reading this series! Thanks for the great interview!

  5. Hi Lilith. Loved reading this interview. It's great getting to know more about your writing and your ideas. Can't wait to read more of your books. :)

  6. Spending Black Friday not out shopping, but Chopping thru the Net with Lilith Saintcrow!
    Dru Anderson has a Clear Cut Future on the Chopping Edge!
    We will Wend and Wound our Way along With Her as this Sweet Svetocha struggles.

    Loren Foster
    Also posting on Facebook

  7. This was great to read -- thank you! I've really enjoyed the Jill Kismet books, so I was happy when Strange Angels came out and I could order it for our library's teen section! :)

  8. Hi Lilith :D
    wow, great interview - I really love the aspect that you would like to be a phoenix... most people choose a vampire or shapeshifter but your answer is special!
    Wish you all the best,

  9. Oooops, forgot to leave an email addy.

  10. Hello everyone! Thanks for coming by.

    RK: it's funny--sometimes a specific event in my life will play out in one of my books, like the car crash in Mindhealer. Other times it's more thematic--I have big themes of abandonment, violence, and loss in my life, and they echo in my work. But specific stuff hardly ever makes it in.

    Leslee: I don't find it difficult to keep the worlds separate. The lighting in each of them is so, so different, a glance will tell me which world I'm in.

  11. Great intereview! I agree .... The covers that were chosen for your books all seem to be appropriate for the titles.
    I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks. wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

  12. I've read Working for the Devil and definitely see Lilith's affinity for foul language :) Great story though. I haven't read her YA yet, but I'm looking forward to starting.

    I'm adding this to my sidebar

  13. Hello!

    Thanks for the great interview, Lilith. I just finished Strange Angels, and I really liked it. I love how it has just enough grit.

    Yes, I love the grittiness of your stories, and I think you've done a great job of pulling it back just enough to be considered YA, without losing the edge of it all.

    Can't wait to read Betrayals.

  14. Lilith I am a big fan of your adult series for awhile now, but I have to say I am in love with the Strange Angels Series. I can not wait to read Betrayals I already have my own copy of strange angels I loved it so much.


  15. I'm a big fan, especially of the Jill Kismet series. I picked up STRANGE ANGELS and have been looking forward to it, so I would also love to win a copy of BETRAYALS.

    I enjoyed the interview.

    karenwitkowski AT aol(dot)com

  16. I'm a huge fan and have a few questions (sorry) Ok, I read one of your other interviews where you said you had something on the back burner about Selene. My first question is: If Selene and Nikolai have some sort of blood bond where Nik can talk telepathically with Selene why doesn't he just call her to him? Does she think it is sort of hallucianary like Danny? Of course, there is also the "command" that Nik can use why doesn't he? Also, you said it was some time after that she meets him again. How long? like a few years, decades or *gasp* centuries? Oh in the excerpt pages for Heaven's Spite Perry has a present for Kismet is it Belisandra's (sp?) head? Am I cold or warm? Also, will there be more stories with Liana Spocarelli as the main character? The glove thing in her short story is it the same glove thingy (he looked metallic or something?) that Japh's henchman/hellsfront agent had in the Dante series? One more thing will there be a sequal to Steelflower anytime soon (say within the next 2-3 yrs?)

  17. Sorry I've got a couple more questions. Nikalai has been the Prime of Saint City for centuries. Japh and Dante live in Saint City and in Liana's story it becomes obvious that Japh is an active and important part of keeping the tide of demon's from overflowing the city. Is Japh the Prime now? Could he take it from Nik if he wanted too/would he if he could? Why is Lucas able to always find Liana? Some sort of spell? Also, I got the feeling that Lucas is more of a loner why would he let Liana tag along and how long have they had their partnership? Will we ever find out how said partnership came about? Oh, is Saul younger than Jill? Also, in Hunter's Prayer one of the girls that was kidnapped and then saved by Jill asked questions about Jill near the end and I actually got the feeling that maybe she would end up being Jill's apprentice but I guess not. But will we see her again? On the YA front I don't suppose you'd give us a hint as to whether Dibbs is the betrayer? I mean he's either perfect canon fodder or the perfect trojan horse in my opinion. Will there be some semblance of an HEA for Chris/Graves/Dru in the end (even if its not what's expected)? If you could, would you continue Dru's series? That's it I swear! I won't ask anymore LOL

  18. Hi Lilith, I've been dying to win your book. Coz are a new author for me. The book sounds Great! please count me in the drawing .

    uniquas at ymail dot com

  19. hey it's me again (Athena) the two comments before Mareska, I didn't put a way to contact me if I were to win.
    Sorry, its

    purpleflame5000 dot aol dot com (no spaces)

  20. Lilith, I've read some of UF and look forward to starting your YA series. (I'm a new YA reader and have discovered some excellent books this year)
    I wondered how you chill out after writing your dark books. Do you find you need to watch a funny movie or something like that?


  21. Great interview!! I'd love to win Betrayals for my granddaughter! She is a big fan of yours..

    I follow on google friend.

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  22. Hi Athena: Well, I think Nikolai has figured out that forcing Selene to do things is a bad idea. She has to be on her own for a century or two before she's ready to return to Saint City. And she's a Master in her own right now, as well as thinking Nikolai's dead.

    Nikolai is the Prime, and after the Tiend Japhrimel could take over the city. However, Japh doesn't want to. Nikolai is the Prime because he's there and intimately connected with the city; it's his territory. Japh could care less.

    Liana and Lucas became an item during a job in the Putchkin about two years before the events in Coming Home. The Gauntlet is not McKinley's "altered" hand.

    The other stuff I can't comment on. :)

    Shelley: After each "dark" book I have to take some time off and deal with the emotional snapback. I generally exercise, work the heavy bag, watch light movies and read a couple of very light books. And I cook a lot. I tend to be a little weepy and starey after finishing, say, a Kismet book. After I finished the last Valentine book I was pretty useless for a while. I've gotten better with the recovery process, but it's still exhausting.

  23. Great interview Lili! Thanks for giving us a look into your world.

    I'm an instructor at a small college and have a student that looks exactly like what I imagined Graves from Strange Angels does.

    So I was wondering do you ever run into people and think "wow he/she looks just like(insert one of your characters)"?

  24. Great interview. I loved the Dante Valentin series and am looking forward to starting the Jill Kismet and Strange Angels ones. And Dead Poets Society is such a great movie. I still think of it everytime I see A Midsummer Nights Dream or even watch House.

    Are you planning to do more YA now that you have one successful series?

    Also, linked on sidebar here:

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  25. thank you Lilith, its great that authors like yourself take time and give a great interview. i actually just started reading the Jill kismet books.. cant wait to start the other ones

  26. First of all, I've been enjoying your books since Working for the Devil first came out- I have the one with the original cover. I also love your down to earth attitude. Your aspect the phoenix, it seems you embody a lot of that type of spirit. And congratulations on hitting the bestseller list. You deserve it.

  27. Lili,

    Great interview. Your Strange Angles book blew me away. I can't wait to read Betrayals. Your writing style is very unique. And I love the dark stuff. :-)

    -Lisa B.
    angel28140 (AT) yahoo (DOT) com

  28. I'm very happy to hear that there are two more books planned in the Jill Kismet series and I can't wait to see where it goes. I'm reading Betrayals right now and can't put it down! Thank you for writing such great female characters. You kick butt!

    Faith Moore

  29. I posted on my facebook.


    Faith Moore

  30. Hi everyone! I'm popping back in to finish questions and to thank everyone for coming by.

    Annette: My characters are so real to me that I do sometimes give people strange looks and think, "wow, they move just like so-and-so." It's funny that I think that instead of the other way around, because I'm comparing fiction to flesh and blood.

    Donnas: Yes, I am planning another YA series. I have a couple of ideas already. :)

    Thank you all for coming by and commenting--great questions! And thanks to Doug for having me!

  31. I always enjoy reading your interviews/posts Lilith, whether they're on your blog, over at Deadline Dames, or elsewhere in the blogosphere. I love how you cheer aspiring authors on, yet never sugar coat the realities of publishing; not to mention the inspiration to be found in your own tireless effort/output as an author. I guess what I'm trying to say is: thank you. :)

  32. Forgot to leave a contact address: catherinejames77(at)gmail(dot)com.

  33. I loved the interview and I'm really looking forward to reading Betrayals. It's interesting how the Jill Kismet series takes up so much energy because of its darker content. You don't usually hear about the emotional toils of an author when he or she write and how this can affect the author.


  34. Contact:

    spettolij AT gmail DOT com


  35. I had only heard about Lilith's YA series but after reading this interview I'm going to check her adult series as well. It sounds great and I like that darker style of writing.


  36. Tweeted:


  37. Great interview! I absolutely love Strange Angels and I cannot wait to read Betrayals.

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  38. Hi Doug and Lilith!

    I've read Strange Angels and found it to be amazing.

    I like to have a picture to relate to what I'm writing, it keeps my imagination going. Very visual.

    I can't wait to see what happens with Dru next!!

    Dottie :)

  39. I'll throw my name in the hat for this one, as I quite liked "Strange Angels."

    e-mail: rabidfox(at)

    As for a question to Lilith St. Crow, I'm curious about her thoughts on the proliferation of vampire and zombie fiction hitting bookshelves, television, and cinema.

    Do you find the archetypal undead and walking dead are hitting saturation points? Or do you think there's more out there to be explored?

  40. Thanks for sharing, Lilith! I enjoyed finding out some of the little known facts of a successful author.

    I posted over on FB about this interview.

    Liz E.

  41. Lilith, I'm so happy that you were persuaded to write Young Adult books! I loved Strange Angels, and the covers of both SA and Betrayals are absolutely beautiful!


  42. Thanks for the great interview and insightful answers.
    I would love to read Strange Angels, it sounds like a great book. :)



    This is the first opportunity I have had to become familiar with your work. I am really excited to see more. I can see from your interview that you are a writer that I would probably really enjoy.

  44. Hi Lilith, I'm so excited to read this new series of yours. The Dante Valentine books keep me very happy and now I have another great series to look forward to. Thanks!

  45. This was such a great interview! Now Lilith you have written for adults and young adults so.. Do you plan to write something for kids? (I mean older kids, like 12 or 14)
    And I don't understand why people don't want YA books to talk about sex and violence and to have some foul words.. I am 17 and I can say that those things are not new to me since I'm 12 or so (you can damn Tv ;)

    Btw I have tweeted about it

  46. Wow you've got a lot of people excited to read this book including me......Stacy

  47. I blush to admit that I have not read any of your books !

    I was quite surprised by what books you said you read at the end of the post.

    Except for Anne Stuart and Steig Larssen, I had never heard of them.

    I though I was quite well read across all genres but I shall have to look into those you mention.

    Good luck with your writing.


  48. I've enjoyed your writing since Dante and the original cover came out. I'm really interested in jumping in your YA series. I've read and heard such great things :)

  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  56. I loved strange angels. Very nice informative article.
    Please visit for great transportation service provider.


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