The Black & White Drive-by: Holly Black

Bestseller Holly Black writes contemporary fantasy novels for teens and children – but then, you know that.

She is the mum of the Spiderwick Chronicles (with award winning artist, Tony DiTerlizzi). Her first book came out in 2002, Tithe, followed by Valiant (2005) and Ironside (2007). Holly regularly spends time on the New York Times bestseller list, she’s been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award for Young Readers and won the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. She has also been an enthusiastic editor of anthologies and has co-edited: Geektastic (with Cecil Castellucci, 2009), Zombies vs. Unicorns (with Justine Larbalestier, 2010), and Bordertown (with Ellen Kushner, 2011).

Small Beer Press brought out her first short story collection in 2010, Poison Eaters and Other Stories. Her Curse Workers series, which began with the wonderful White Cat, continues soon with Red Glove.

She has a secret library.

1. If I wasn’t a writer, I would …
…be a teen services librarian.  I was actually in library school when TITHE and the first SPIDERWICK books were published and wound up not finishing my classes due to touring for that series.  I still kind of regret not getting my MLIS, but I learned a ton in library school, both about the history of kids’ books and about techniques to find information quickly.

2. What was it about d’Aulnoy’s ‘White Cat’ that inspired you?
The fairy tale “The White Cat” was my favorite when I was a kid.  I had this big book of fairy tales illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone and the depictions of the cat from the fairy tale, her cat courtiers and the prince stayed with me.  But I think the thing I love most is the strange brutality that starts in the details of the story (the diamonds and severed deer’s hoof bell pull and the disembodied hands) and winds up at its center when the prince is asked by his beloved to cut off her head.  I am also always a sucker for a love story where one of the characters has to fall in love with the mind of another, because the body they present in isn’t their true form.

3. How long did the rejections continue before you finally got an acceptance that caused Snoopy Dancing?
Well, it took me five years to write my first book, TITHE.  During that time, I rewrote the book endlessly.  I thought I would never finish.  When I was done, my friend Kat, who was a children’s librarian at the time, told me that it might be a YA book.  I wasn’t sure, but I was starting to read a lot of YA (Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce) and I started thinking that it might be.  Another one of my friends, Tony DiTerlizzi (who I later wound up doing SPIDERWICK with) offered to show it to his editor (who I also knew a little) and ask if he thought it was a YA book.  He thought it was and six months later, he bought it.

For several months after, I was walking on air.  I don’t think I have ever been happier.  I was so happy that you could slap me and I would have kept grinning.   

4. Have there ever been moments when you thought ‘Stuff writing, I’m going off to be an accountant/lawyer/other job that pays something other than artistic credit’?
There is only one thing I really miss about having a desk job.  I remember going to the office back when I was a production editor on medical journals.  I would get off the train, get my giant cup of coffee, walk into the office and settle in my cubicle.  I’d feel pretty peaceful.  I knew that I had to be competent; I didn’t have to be stellar.  But being a self-employed artist means you’ve got to strive for stellar every time.  And that’s frightening.  And exhausting.  And sometimes disheartening.  But I grew up believing that there was no way to make a living as a writer, but I have been living on my writing for almost ten years now and that’s amazing.  I wouldn’t give it up for anything.  I know how lucky I am.

5. Donuts or danishes?
Cider donuts!  And coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

Her website is here

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