Hi, Lish! Welcome to Rex Robot Reviews!
Can you tell us a little bit about Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and how you came up with the awesome title?
Man, I’m so bad with the sum-up. Okay, so the book is about Sam, a college dropout fry cook, and his friends, Brooke, Frank and Ramon. Due to a fluke accident that takes place during a game of potato hockey, Sam is introduced to a very bad man—Douglas Montgomery. Douglas is a necromancer (he can raise the dead) and he tells Sam he’s one too. Naturally, Sam doesn’t believe him. When Sam doesn’t go along with Douglas’s offer, things get a little bloody. Also, there’s a panda. Then, well, hilarity ensues? I told you I was bad with summaries.
The title took a bit of head-pounding and eventually we just took one of the chapter titles and made it the novel title. (All the chapter titles are either titles of songs or bits of song lyrics.) Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (along with Brown Paper Packages, Tied Up With String) was one of the first ones I came up with and to be honest it probably came from a combination of too much coffee and not enough sleep. (Number of times I said title in the paragraph = 5, or 6 if you could the sentence in parentheses.)
The talking head was hilarious and fun- what inspired the fun dialogue for each character?
I have very funny friends, which to me is kind of like cheating. My family is pretty funny, too. So I have a great natural base line for humor and I’m grateful for it. Mostly, though, I think if you have a solid character, dialogue naturally comes out of them. I don’t think too hard when I’m writing it—that doesn’t mean I don’t revise it a lot or anything, but you can overwork it and make dialogue stilted and weird if you’re not careful. At this point, I’ve spent so much time with the characters that I sort of just sit back and let them talk. Occasionally my editor will say, “I don’t think Sam would say that” and I’ll tweak something, but for the most part, I just let ‘em go. It can be a little creepy at times and it can be almost like channeling. They talk and I try to keep up. Then later, I read over it and think, “When did I write that?” Douglas especially creeps me out. There’s something a little unsettling about knowing that a psychopath’s voice is sitting in your noggin.
Writers should always be listening to the way people talk. You can learn a lot that way. Sometimes, I steal things from friends, though I always ask permission. For example, there’s a moment in HMCN where Sam wakes up and there’s a naked girl with him. I had a bunch of male roommates at the time, so I rounded them up and said, “You wake up in a cage and a naked girl is with you. What’s the first thing you say?” And before anyone else could reply, my friend Ben gave me this really lecherous and creepy grin that he’s so good at and said, “This is my favorite dream.” And we all busted into giggles. That’s kind of my baseline for things. Does it make me laugh? I often meet up with someone else and write, which is helpful, so I’ll run the line past them. If they laugh, then it’s good. If not, try again. My agent is really hands on and he does several rounds of editing with me. I get great notes from him that say things like, “Something funnier here” or “Meh, I think you can come up with a better line.” If he has an idea, he’ll suggest something better and if I don’t like it, I might counter the line with something else. It’s like playing cards, but with words. Only I’m not keeping score…but I’m positive he is. (And he’s probably winning.)
If Sam had an Ipod, what songs would we find on his favorite playlist?
Oh, man. Sam is a bit like me in that he’s an omnivore when it comes to music. I actually had to go to do this lunch thing in New York a while back where I was with four other authors and we were shuffled between tables of reviewers and booksellers and what not. It was a bit like speed dating, only more awkward. (Everyone was really nice, though.) Anyway, one of the guys told me he’d skimmed the book and saw all the music themed chapter titles and said that, now that he’d seen me, he couldn’t believe I was familiar with all those songs and bands. I think he meant because I’m kind of a youngin’ when it comes to the writer game. I’m not sure. I believe I told him that, if he didn’t believe me, he could look at my iPod or he could quiz me if he wanted. I don’t think he meant anything by it, but I found it vaguely insulting.
Like Sam, I grew up with music. If you put my music player on shuffle, it can be a bit horrifying. You might get NOFX, you might get Bowie, or you might get Bobby Darin. Sometimes it’s the sound track to a muppet movie. You really can’t tell. Sam, I think, would be the same. In the book I mention the Get Up Kids, Alkaline Trio, Paul Simon—all of those. I will add these bands: Saves the Day, Ludo, Mr. T Experience, TMBG, Jonathan Coulton (not a band per se, but Sam would dig him), Gnarls Barkley, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Tiger Army, and probably some Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies. Sam is a little silly and very sweet, and his music would probably reflect that. Ramon, of course, loves show tunes. Brooke strikes me as a lover of pop. Ashley would love the Horror Pops, Nerf Herder, Guns & Roses, and probably Motor Head. There’s certainly a little Ace of Spades in Ashley. Frank is still at the stage where he’d like whatever his friends told him to listen to. I think he’ll grow out of that, though, but I see him as loving the indie scene once he gets into it. I’m going to stop before I do the whole cast.
I absolutely loved the chemistry between Sam and Brid. Had you always imagined a hint of romance in the story or was it something that happened during the writing process?
That was always there. As soon as I thought of Brid, Sam staked a claim. That being said, I figured it would happen more in book two, but once I got to that part of the book, they both told said, “No, now.” And we argued while I tried to explain pacing and story arcs, once again making me feel schizophrenic. They totally ignored me. I tried telling Brid she should play a little hard to get, but she told me to shove it. When she knows what she wants, there’s not point in arguing with her. Did I mention that my characters are really pushy?
How do your interests influence your writing?
This question made me laugh for some reason. I think interests fuel most writers, otherwise we wouldn’t write about it. My friend, Steven Church, has a whole book of essays about our obsession with apocalyptic movies (and Red Dawn, specifically) because he’s fascinated by it. Most writers I know follow their passion in some form. I love to read fantasy stuff. I like music, comics, folklore, garden gnomes, robots, and magic. I love a good cup of tea, and I’m slightly food obsessed. I love movies, plays, and animals. I think all of this shows up in spades in my stuff. One of my professors in school told me that, while I was writing, I shouldn’t read the kind of stuff I was writing—which would mean that I would never be able to read fantasy books. Ever. It’s one of the few pieces of advice from her that I’ve ever ignored. There are different reasons to write, of course, but I write fantasy because I love it.
Now that you've debuted as a Young Adult novelist, do you have plans to write in other genres?
My plan (Why do I make plans? They never work.) was to make it into fantasy and then work my way into YA and young readers because I love those genres. When I was twenty and worked in a bookstore, I requested the kid’s section. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I love kid’s books. Always have. But of course, like everything else I’ve done, I did it backwards. I started in YA because they told me my book was YA. The conversation went something like this:
Them: The book is YA.
Me: Really? But my book has curse words.
Them: Do you read YA?
Me: Well, yeah, but obviously not the cool stuff or I’d know more curse words.
Them: You should check out some of the new series, then. Your book is YA. The humor is more geared toward that age group and there’s a talking severed head.
Me: Wait, I think it’s funny. Are you calling me immature? And what makes a talking severed head YA? (FYI several people have said this to me and yet no one can give me a good answer.)
Them: Do you not like YA? Are you afraid of the stigma of writing in that genre?
Me: No, I love it. And please, I write funny stories about zombies and werewolves. I pretty much gave up on anyone taking me seriously a long time ago. Stigma already there, dude. That’s not even a consideration.
Them: Then we want to market it as YA.
Me: Do I have to take out the curse words? Or any of the violence or anything?
Them: No, you’re pretty tame by comparison.
Me: Well, huzzah, then.
So, as long as people keep liking the books, I’ll stay in YA a while. Then maybe I’ll branch out a bit, but I’m not using young adult as a way to get into another kind of lit. I’d eventually like to be in several parts of the bookstore, but we’ll see how it goes.
So, what comes next? Can we get excited about a sequel?!
I’m currently editing book two. Holt bought the unwritten sequel when they picked up the first book. So you may get excited, but I’m not going to order you to. I’m also working on a third (and different) project because I apparently hate having free time. If the Sam books do well enough, I’d like to keep writing them.
Thank you so much for stopping by! Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Thanks for having me. Parting words? I don’t know. Support your local library? Wait after you eat before you go swimming? Have a doctor take a look at that suspicious rash? Eat your vegetables? I’m not good with parting words.
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