Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Kathy Charles!

Today I'm taking a break from the wedding blogging to welcome you back to Women Who Rock Wednesday! (Well, sorta. I've posted a blog about my wedding music and mix CD wedding favor over at the MTV Books blog.) Two weeks ago Sara Zarr visited us and offered up a copy of her book Story of a Girl to one lucky winner and that person is... Kari from blogger! I'll be sending you an email for your address.

I'm really psyched about today's guest, Aussie author Kathy Charles. Her book, Hollywood Ending, was the first book I ever got to blurb and I loved it. Here's what I said about it:

"Hollywood Ending is dark and disturbing the way really, really good books should be. Kathy Charles captures the grime beneath the glitter in Los Angeles and even more importantly she find the heart of what it means to be human, to be a teenager trying to understand both life and death. The friendship that forms between teenage Hilda and elderly Hank is unique and genuine. I'd recommend this book to anyone fascinated by the darker side of Hollywood or just looking for a compelling page turner that lends fresh and honest perspective to the human condition."

The book came out in Australia at the beginning of last month, which, I know leaves a lot of my readers (aside from the lucky Aussies!) wondering how they can get their hands on this incredibly unique tale.... Well, the thing I'm most excited to share about Kathy Charles is that she's about to be my publishing sister!!!! Hollywood Ending is going to be released in the US by MTV Books next summer! Yep, my editor Jen Heddle has awesome taste.

So to give you a little preview of the awesomeness that is Hollywood Ending, let's meet Kathy Charles!

Q: I adored your book, Hollywood Ending. I honestly don't think my blurb does it justice. I had a hard time finding words to describe it with because it was such a unique reading experience, from the subject matter to the very genuine relationship between the characters, especially Hilda and Hank. So I'm going to make you sum it up (mean of me, I know!) and tell my readers the gist of what it is about.

Kathy: Thanks Stephanie! I love your books too, as you know, and was thrilled when you agreed to give me a blurb. Woot!

Oh right, the book. ‘Hollywood Ending’ is the story of Hilda Swann, a teenager living in Los Angeles who is obsessed with celebrity death. Hilda and her best friend Benji spend their summer trawling the sites of Los Angeles where famous people died, people like John Belushi, River Phoenix and Marilyn Monroe. One day they knock on the door of an apartment where a famous silent movie star committed suicide, and inside they find Hank, a cantankerous old man. As Hilda and Hank form an unlikely friendship Benji slips further and further into the darkness of his death obsession, and things are further complicated by the arrival of Jake, a neighbour of Hank’s who is a screenwriter and isn’t all that he seems. Hilda soon discovers that Hank is hiding a terrible secret, but Hilda has secrets of her own, and in the end everything threatens to spiral out of control. ‘Hollywood Ending’ has been called many things: a dark comedy, a horror story, a love letter to Los Angeles. It’s also been compared to the TV show ‘Six Feet Under’, a comparison I love as it’s one of my favourite shows.

Q: Now let's talk inspirations and research. Where did the idea behind your book come from? Do you have a fascination with dead celebrities? And there is a death hag community out there, which surely you tapped for research. Can you talk a little bit about that? And purely because I loved them so much as characters, can you talk a little about your inspiration for Hilda and Hank and their relationship? It's rare to find a YA book with a teen relating so closely to an elderly person and it was one of the things I loved most about Hollywood Ending.

Kathy: There’s an online community of people obsessed with celebrity death who call themselves ‘Death Hags’. They congregate on a forum at www.findadeath.com which is the official website for Dearly Departed Tours, a tour bus service in Hollywood that takes you to the sites where famous people died. I don’t think you particularly need to be a morbid individual to be interested in celebrity death. You only need to look at the sort of media coverage that surrounded the passing of Heath Ledger, David Carradine and Michael Jackson to see that the whole world is interested in celebrities who die in strange, mysterious ways.

I’ve also always had a fascination with unlikely friendships. Hilda and Hank’s relationship was inspired by movies like ‘Harold & Maude’ and ‘Ghost World’ that feature teenagers who form strong bonds with people much older than they are. I was also inspired by the novella ‘Apt Pupil’ by Stephen King, which is about a teenage boy who forms a friendship with his elderly neighbour who, we discover, is hiding a terrible secret. I like the idea that people can connect on deep levels regardless of their age or background. I guess there’s a lot of me in Hilda, in her inquisitiveness and her interest in morbid subject matter. Hank was largely inspired by the writer Charles Bukowski, who lived life his own way and didn’t take shit from anyone.

Q: Tell us a bit about your path to publication. Had you always wanted to be a writer? Who were some of the authors that inspired you or the other people/or things that made you want to tell stories. (Since it is Women Who Rock Weds we love to hear about the women who rocked your world, but obviously we're happy to hear about the guys too!)

Kathy: I always knew I wanted to contribute something creative to the world but I had no idea what form that would take. I tried directing short films and found I wasn’t very good at it, so about five years ago I decided to try writing a novel. In terms of writers who have influenced me, some of my favourites are Stephen King, Bret Easton Ellis, Steve Martin, Clive Barker and James Ellroy. True crime books are also a huge inspiration, especially ‘Helter Skelter’ by Vincent Bugliosi, ‘The Night Stalker’ by Philip Carlo and anything by John Gilmore. I also read a lot of celebrity bios.

Movies and TV shows influence my work even more than the books I read. I love anything that is dark, quirky and offbeat. My favourite filmmaker is David Lynch, and my favourite TV shows are Six Feet Under (obviously!), Californication, Entourage and Dexter.

The women who inspire me are people like Annette Bening, Diablo Cody, Sheryl Crow and Drew Barrymore. They are creative, graceful and independent, as well as knowing how to have fun and enjoy their chosen career paths. Then of course there’s my Mom- the greatest inspiration of all!

Q: You paint such a great picture of Los Angeles. I lived out there for a semester in school and the book made me miss it. I know you are an Aussie writer, so I'm curious, what is your relationship with Los Angeles?

Kathy: My aunt lives in Los Angeles so from the time I was sixteen I travelled back and forth every year from Australia to stay with her. Being a movie buff I fell in love with the place immediately. I actually planned to move there but the longer I stayed the more I realised I preferred just being a visitor. Day to day living in Los Angeles is hard: everyone is really competitive and there’s a lot of focus on wealth and materialism. But I still dream of one day having a cottage in Laurel Canyon or a beach house in Malibu. Maybe one day.

Q: Obviously many parties and readings and other celebrations of Hollywood Ending is at the top of your to-do list, but for the readers that have or are about to eagerly gobble up Hollywood Ending want to know... what's next???

Kathy: I’m just finishing up a new manuscript about serial killer art, then after that, I don’t know. I’d like to write in a different medium, perhaps a screenplay or a TV series. I really admire people like Diablo Cody (Juno, United States of Tara) who are able to expand their careers to include film, TV and books. I don’t strictly see myself as a novelist, so I’m eager to try new things. I also get bored easily.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Kathy: The first concert I ever went to was Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ Tour when I was eight years old. I was a massive MJ fan and the experience was really overwhelming- the crowds, the excitement, the fact that I was actually in the same vicinity as Michael Jackson. The first album I ever purchased was Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven on Earth’. The single ‘Heaven Is A Place on Earth’ was number one at the time, and that’s pretty much the only song I listened to on the album. The first single I ever bought was way cooler – Ray Parker Junior’s ‘Ghostbusters.’

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Kathy: My aunt used to work in the music industry and has lots of friends who are roadies, so I’ve been lucky enough to go backstage at a whole heap of gigs like Rod Stewart, Meatloaf and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. I’m not much of a night owl though so I normally just eat the free food then want to go to sleep, which isn’t exactly rock star behaviour. I fell asleep backstage at a Def Leppard concert when I was eleven years old. Imagine the stuff I missed seeing!

Kathy and her book just sound damn cool, don't they? And maybe you aren't in Australia (or you are but you haven't gotten the book yet for some reason) and you are chomping at the bit to read it right now... Well Kathy has been awesome enough to put a signed copy of Hollywood Ending up for grabs. One lucky commenter will win...

As usual this is how it works:

To enter just leave a comment about Kathy's interview. You can also get extra entries:
+1 for tweeting/blogging about today's interview/contest
+1 for tweeting/blogging about Kathy and her new book release Hollywood Ending

Note your extra entries in your comment along with an email address to contact you at. Then tune in a week from today because I'll announce the winner when I interview author Kathi Baron, author of Shattered!


RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thank you for the great interview with Kathy Charles & thanks to Kathy for sharing. I have Hollywood Ending on my ToBeRead list.
I had no idea that Kathy was so gorgeous! What a beautiful picture of her.
All the best,

YA Vampire Books said...

Sounds like a good book! I'm going to LA for the first time next month, I'm so excited!!


runningforfiction said...

this book sounds great!

runningforamsterdam @ hotmail . com

Llehn said...

I've heard about this book from another blog. It sounds like something I would love!