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?
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?
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.
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.
- The word "cake" always sounds dry to me. It literally dries my mouth out.
- I can never pronounce "vegetables" correctly. I stumble over the "b".
- 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.
- I cry every time I read the hospital scene in Dead Man Rising.
- My favourite movie of all time is Dead Poets Society.
Thanks for interviewing me!
The pleasure as all mine Lilith!
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