Sorry to keep you waiting so long, but it’s worth it– I promise! Here is part two of my exclusive interview with young adult author Libba Bray.
The Paperbag Writer: Which do you prefer writing, or which is more natural for you: the more straight-laced–but sensual–passion of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, or the more frank, real-to-life language in Going Bovine?
Libba Bray: I think it depends entirely on the book. I want to find the language of the story, and sometimes that lends itself to the sensual and lush, and sometimes that means f-bombs and rat-a-tat-tat-dialogue and weird ruminations on the nature of existence.
But anybody who knows me could tell you that the, um, frank comes very, very naturally for me.
PW: What is your personal library like?
LB: Incredibly eclectic. There’s adult, YA, MG, and picture books. There’s non-fiction, poetry, short stories, graphic novels, comics, and a vintage Batman booklet. And we pretty much cover the gamut of genre, from horror to sci-fi/fantasy to mystery to romance. There’s a fair amount of literary fiction. I think most of the short story collections in the house are mine. I love short stories. I realize that I have no manga or techno-thrillers, so there’s where I’m lacking. When they come up with a manga Tom Clancy, let me know.
PW: What is it like being part of the NYC YA lit scene? My friend and I both write and will sometimes be talking about something and call dibs on a certain idea that we think would be good material for future work–does that ever happen with anyone in your writer’s circle?
LB: It’s great to have a community. Writing takes place in such isolation and it involves diving deep down into your guts to find the story and that can make you feel a little nuts. I think we’ve all seen “The Shining.” So it’s wonderful to have other writers you can turn to when things aren’t working with your story or you’re struggling with some aspect of the process, and they will hear you out and nod sympathetically or distract you with a toy or a cookie. I think there’s often a collective unconscious at work and sometimes you come up with things that are of a piece. Justine Larbalestier wrote LIAR while I wrote GOING BOVINE, and they each have unreliable narrators. Just recently, I was at an event with John Green, and we discovered quite by accident that we are writing similar novels, both involving footnotes. (They’re very different in tone, but you know, that shit happens.) And it stands to reason that if you are friends, you might have interests in the same subjects or have similar takes on the world. But they’ll be different enough. And yes, sometimes somebody calls dibs on something, and you bow out graciously and ask if you can have the rest of that person’s sandwich as a consolation prize.
PW: What, for you, is your biggest accomplishment? (In life, writing, whatever you think.)
LB: I hope it will prove to be being a good and loving parent.
PW: You grew up in Texas, then moved to New York. They are very different places. Or so I’m told. What do you like most and least about each place? How does each place inspire you?
LB: I actually had more culture shock moving from South Texas to North Texas in fifth grade than I did moving from Texas to NYC as an adult. It’s hard for non-Texans to understand how vastly different the various regions of the state are from one another.
In terms of inspiration, I would say that my adolescence was spent in Texas, and so I naturally gravitate to that setting when pulling up some emotional memory. The look and feel of North Texas is pretty iconic in my head, what with those vast blue skies and flat land, the roads that seem to stretch out forever, possibly into nowhere—or that’s how it feels when you’re sixteen with a license and no way out.
But NYC really gave me permission to be myself. There’s a tremendous energy here and so much artistic experimentation that you can’t help but be opened and broadened by it. I love that. So each has its value.
What I like most about Texas: Tex Mex. The delightful weirdness of Austin. The stillness in places. March weather.
What I like least about Texas: The knee-jerk evangelism.
What I like most about New York City: The energy, the diversity, the arts, mass transportation, the four gazillion different kinds of restaurants.
What I like least about New York City: The hassle. March weather.
PW: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? What’s the answer?
LB: Q: Have you ever been mistaken for Joan Jett?/ A: Yes. But I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation.
Most admirable trait in a person? Being able to own yourself, warts and all/compassion.
Vikings or Sorceresses? Viking sorceresses. In my head, they have fabulous boots.
Mixtapes or mix CDs? I have a soft spot for mixtapes because it takes me back to my youth. But now, I feel like I need to pay for my music.
What do you love most about yourself? My uvula. It is spectacular.
What do you like least about yourself? My spleen. We’re in couples therapy. There’s hope.
Favorite play and/or musical? Play: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Musical: Into the Woods.
Favorite “bad” word? There are no bad words for writers. My favorite curse word, though, is motherfucker. And I say it with grace and style as only a minister’s daughter can.
Best recent musical discovery? Broken Bells.
What are the 5 most played songs on your iPod? Depends on the week. This week’s most played: Midnight Radio/Hedwig & the Angry Inch. Love Reign O’er Me/The Who. Have Love Will Travel/The Sonics. He’s Misstra Know It all/Stevie Wonder. Wonderboy/Tenacious D.
If you could change one thing that has happened to you in your past, would you? No way, man. I’ve seen too many episodes of “Twilight Zone” to fall for that.
Stay tuned for a book review of Meg Cabot’s recently released Insatiable soon!