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5 Questions With... Holly Black (WHITE CAT)

by Holly Black
May 6, 2011
Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), the Modern Faerie Tale series, the Good Neighbors graphic novel trilogy (with Ted Naifeh), and her new Curse Workers series, which begins with White Cat. She has been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award, a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award. She currently lives in New England with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret door.

Your new book, The Red Glove, is the second installment in the Curse Workers series. For the uninitiated, can you explain what curse workers are, and how you came up with the idea for writing about them?

I got the idea for the series when I was thinking about the ways that magicians in books are organized. You have schools of magic, like in Harry Potter. You have councils of magic that behave something like corporate boards of directors. And then I was thinking of other organizational models and I thought—what about organized crime?

The Curse Workers series posits a world where a small percentage of people have magic, everyone knows magic exists and, in the United States at least, magic is illegal. In the same way that the mob controlled the booze during Prohibition, crime families control magic. People call people with magic “curse workers” and there are seven types—Luck, Memory, Dream, Physical, Emotion, Death and Transformation.

But the story is really about a boy, Cassel Sharpe, who’s still in love with the girl that he’s afraid he murdered three years ago. When he begins to believe that his memories have been altered, he sets out to discover who he really is, what he’s really done, and what happened to Lila.

On the “resources” section of your website, you offer information and links regarding folklore (and, more specifically, about faeries, the subject of your first novel, Tithe). How much research do you do for each project, and what’s your process like?

I do a lot of research for each project, but I would say that half of the research is usually done before I know I am researching anything at all. I believe it is the nature of a writer to love weird things and have odd obsessions, so I will research things both because I think the information will be useful and also just out of personal interest. Sometimes the things I think will be useful turn out to be less useful and what I’ve read about out of sheer fascination is the thing that winds up informing a story.

Some of our members may know you best as co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Were the Grace children really based on three kids you met who said they’d had experiences with real-life faeries?

We really met three kids who told us about their experiences with faeries, but we did take some liberties with their story – we had to change things around to make it work as a set of five books with one over-arching story, but the inspiration was in a large part talking to those kids. Of course, it was also our shared love of folklore and fairy tales that made Tony and me think that we were the right people to tell the story (and to make the Field Guide).

What was it like seeing Spiderwick turned into a movie?

It was amazing. Tony and I got to go to the set and walk through the Spiderwick house, a place I had described and he had drawn so many times that it was just surreal to be really standing there – and to be able to enter Arthur Spiderwick’s secret library. It honestly felt like we were walking into the books.

Last year you and Justine Larbalestier co-edited the wickedly funny anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns, which sprung from a cheeky blog-based debate. Since you both blog and tweet, we have to ask: Who would win in a fight—Livejournal or Twitter?

I don’t know if Justine would agree with me, but I love Twitter a lot. It’s easy and fun and there is an appealing challenge in trying to express one’s self in so few characters. Although I have been a long-time Livejournal user, LJ is only one way to blog, but Twitter is its own unique, weird form of communication. Hence, Twitter is my winner.

© 2011 International Reading Associatoin. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.

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