Welcome to my new favorite day of the week, Wednesday when we celebrate the women who rock my world. Among them so far we have had writers, musicians, and a fashion designer. Last week, I featured my new favorite band, Civet and the winner of a special promo edition of their CD Hell Hath No Fury is eeeeeeeee from MySpace! Next week, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists, Liz Adams. And this week, I'm above and beyond thrilled to be hosting Cecil Castellucci, author of BOY PROOF, THE QUEEN OF COOL, THE PLAIN JANES, JANES IN LOVE, and one of my all-time favorite novels, BEIGE!
You can read my original squees and sighs about BEIGE here. I love BEIGE because it's the perfect combination of a fish out of water story and a coming of age story set against a punk rock backdrop, which made the book for me, of course. I was the girl who felt like she never really fit anywhere and I suspect a lot of my readers were those kinds of kids, too. BEIGE is all about figuring out who you are when you march to a different drummer. I think everybody should read this book and for those of you haven't you now have an excellent chance because Cecil will be sending out a signed copy of the book to a random winner chosen from those who leave comments! But without further adieu, let's hear all about BEIGE and Cecil Castellucci's many other projects straight from the rockin' lady herself!
Q: Your book BEIGE is my favorite book on the planet right now and while I could gush over it, my readers would probably rather hear straight from you about it. So can you tell us what Beige is about and what inspired you to write it?
Cecil: When I first moved to LA I got a job at Epitaph Records, hung out with Tim Armstrong from Rancid, wrote in a cafe that Eric Melvin from NOFX owned, was waited on at my fave breakfast place by one of the Circle Jerks and another one of the Circle Jerks did my taxes. Everything was so punk rock and I was so indie. I felt totally out of place and totally beige. I thought it might be interesting to write about a scene from an outsiders point of view. Also, everyone thinks that punk is so in your face, and it's not. It's a state of mind. Katy doesn't want to be punk, but she ends up being punk because of who she is, not how she dresses. I also thought that a lot of books about music are about how music influences you, but I thought that writing about the absence of music in someone's life could be interesting, too.
You can watch me talk about it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPqblXZmBD8
Q: JANES IN LOVE came out yesterday. It's the second volume in your Janes graphic novel series for Minx. Can you tell us about that series? What's it all about and how many books will be in it?
Cecil: THE PLAIN JANES is about a girl named Jane Beckles whose parents move her from Metro City to the suburb of Kent Waters after she is in a bombing. At the bombing, Jane save a John Doe who left a sketchbook that says ART SAVES on it. Jane believes that art will save the world and help make sense of its madness. When she gets to Kent Waters she decides she'd rather not be popular and goes straight to the reject table which is filled with three other girls named Jane. They start an all girl guerilla art gang and do art attacks. But the town doesn't like them, it makes them afraid. JANES IN LOVE continues the story, starting a few days after the end of book one. The girls now are trying to figure out how to do art in a way that won't make the town angry and they're still teenage girls and there is a dance coming up.
Q: I'm sure writing a graphic novel is a quite a bit different than writing a regular novel. Please tell us how your writing process differs and how it is the same. What is it like working with an artist?
Cecil: It is different. But writing a story is writing a story. You have to be a little leaner and meaner with your text in a comic book. After all you're telling a lot of the story with the pictures. As the writer I basically kind of try to tell the story with panels but I work very closely with the awesome Jim Rugg, the artist on the Janes. Sometimes he has a better idea about how the panels can be laid out, and so he'll open it up or pare it down.
Q: How did you get started writing graphic novels? Do you read a lot of them and what are some of your favorites? Minx is an incredibly girl-positive imprint of DC Comics, can you tell us a little bit about working with them?
Cecil: I was always a big comic book reader. Love them! Growing up I loved Superman, Batman, X-men, Tin Tin. Oh, too many to list! It was my big secret wish to write one. I sort of lucked into it because Shelly Bond at DC was launching the Minx line and was looking outside of the comic book world for stories. Since the Minx line is YA stories for girls, she thought she'd try the YA world and my name had been recommended to her. It's been amazing. It's DC! Superman is in the lobby! Batman roams the halls!
Q: In addition to your varied literary talents, you are also a musician. Tell us about your music, how long have you been playing, who your influences are and most important where we can check out your songs! Also can you speak to how music feeds your writing or your stories feed your music?
Cecil: I play indie rock, more specifically a sub genre called Twee. I have been playing guitar since 1993 and I played in Bite, Nerdy Girl and then under my own name Cecil Seaskull. You can get the Nerdy Girl and Cecil Seaskull albums on iTunes or emusic. And there are a couple of free tracks on myspace. Go get it! I love a good girly singer songwriter and songs about L O V E. So, I'm influenced by everything from Patsy Cline to Feist. I guess you would say that right now, like Cher, I'm in retirement, but I could always make a comeback! For me music really gets you in the mood for writing. So it feeds the atmosphere. For example, with Beige, I listened to a lot of punk rock and right now, the new book I'm working on takes place in 1982 so it's been a steady stream of those hits that have been on high rotation!
Q: I admire you so greatly because you write strong, smart, REAL girl characters that are really great examples for teen girls and a reminder to the world of what girls are capable of. Many of my blog readers are the kind of young women that you write about. Can you give them some advice or words of wisdom about staying true to themselves or surviving high school/college/work when you are a creative, sassy, smart soul?
Cecil: Always look up in the sky to the north star and even if you feel lost or small or need a friend, it will always show you the way. Also, ice cream. Also, a good true friend.
Q: I always ask two standard questions of my Women Who Rock. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge. We like to see the true roots of rockin' women!
Cecil: I think the first album I bought was Donny Osmond "Alone Together." I loved him and his purple socks. He was a "little bit rock and roll." And at 4 years old, I didn't know that he really wasn't that rock at all. I think my next album was Shaun Cassidy. Hey, you said you wouldn't judge!
First Show was REM, Joan Jett and The Police at Shea Stadium
Q: According to the cover flap in Beige, you've had Thanksgiving dinner with Tim Armstrong of Rancid (I'm so seriously jealous!), you wrote in a cafe owned by Eric Melvin of NOFX and had your taxes done by a guy who was in the Circle Jerks. Not to mention you are an acclaimed author, filmmaker, actress, and singer-songwriter, so no doubt you've had lots of rock star moments, but we want to hear about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a concert you went to or played, a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment. But please dish!
Cecil: I could say so many things, tell a bunch of stories, name drop like crazy. But, I'm going to say that my biggest rock star moment was when I got invited to the Warner Bros. lot. I got "lost" a little on the way to my meeting and I found myself on the New York Street. It's a street on the studio lot where they film city scenes. No one was there and so I did a musical extravaganza number where I danced and jumped around for joy. A security guard drove by as I finished and he just shook his head and drove on.
Rock star moments are sometimes not what you think they'll be.
Seriously, how cool is Cecil Castellucci! Now you can see why she's my idol. I'm sure she has given you lots to think about and comment about (especially her take on the rock star moment, it has to be the best answer I've gotten so far!), so get to commenting because you wanna win that signed copy of BEIGE, dontcha?
I'll announce the winner next Wednesday when I introduce you to the fabulous artist Liz Adams and I'll also be announcing the details of a very special WWRW that will be taking place during Teen Read Week in mid October!