During the whirlwinding, I completely forgot to mention the Simon Pulse Blogfest. It’s been going on for some time now, so there’s massive amounts of backlogged stuff to check out. (The fun started here.) And it lasts through Thursday. Some highlights from my skimming:
The lovely and magnificent Holly Black* on writing books about serious issues and research:
My second teen novel, Valiant, deals with addiction. My younger sister died from a heroin overdose, so I knew a lot about what it was like for her, but I wanted this to be a novel about my character, Val, so I made some deliberate decisions to change the drug Val and her friends were injecting to a faerie substance called Never. Even still, I had to revisit a lot of very personal and painful experiences. It wasn’t an easy book for me to write, but I am proud of it and I was thrilled when it won the first Norton award.
Some of the research I did on the homeless communities living in the tunnels in Manhattan and in the parks in San Francisco for Valiant was fascinating, but I think the creepiest bit of information I stumbled on was that rats given opiates will take their drug, eat, and go to sleep, but rats given cocaine just do cocaine until they die.
… I was truly alarmed, for example, to learn that a “talking horse from Greek mythology” (that’s a centaur to you and me) was a soldier, who’d had both his legs blown off, lashed firmly to the body of a decapitated horse. And then, there was Julia Pastrana, a Mexican Indian woman who spoke three languages and loved to dance, but was displayed by her husband as “the baboon lady” and the ugliest woman in the world” because she had been born excessively hairy and with a deformed jaw. Then, when Julia died, this less-than-perfect husband had her body embalmed and took that around the fairgrounds of Europe, rather than lose his income. Poor Julia’s mummified corpse was still being exhibited as recently as 1973. How surprising, and shocking, is that!?
The alarmingly dashing Scott Westerfeld on inspiration and fear:
About 15 years ago, I went on a guided tour of a game reserve in South Africa. It was just me and the guide, on foot. We were strolling away from the hotel when I noticed we’d gone through a gate into the hippo area.
Now, hippos are deadly and unpredictable, and fast when they want to be. In fact, they kill more humans than any other mammal in Africa. So I said, “Um, are the hippos gone today or something?”
He said, “No, but it’s just us two, and you look pretty fit, so I thought I’d take this shortcut. You don’t mind if we have to do a little running, do you?”
To which I responded, “I don’t mind running, but I do mind running for my life.”
And my favorite response from Kathleen Duey (of the brilliant Skin Hunger), on how other books inspire her:
Richard Peck said it best: “We write by the light of every book we have ever read.”
And I would add this: We can live by that same light. Books can be as almost as important as the people we know. How else do we find out more than our friends and family can (or will) tell us about courage, love, sex, food poisoning, the agony of Sudan, sharks, how the US government works, slave labor, pregnancy, basketball, scuba diving off Tulum, and how to take care of our very first puppies? How else would we find out, risk-free, that our personal weirdnesses really aren’t that weird, that whatever we are facing has been faced before, countless times, that we are all just human and that’s good enough?
When’s the last time a publisher put together such a huge online event with this many authors answering really interesting questions? Try never (that I can remember).
*I also really liked Holly’s response about how other books influence her work.