Thursday, October 28, 2010

Interview with the author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

When I was offered the opportunity to interview Lish McBride, the author of a YA novel I recently raved about, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer--a person who says she was "raised by wolves" and "does not, contrary to popular belief, own any garden gnomes...yet"--how could I resist?

Of course, the line I always think of when given the opportunity to speak directly to an author I've enjoyed is Holden Caulfield's, from The Catcher In the Rye: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it." These are the questions I got to call Lish up and ask (well, actually, I emailed), and her answers.

Non-Necromancer: How did you pick necromancy as Sam's supernatural "gift"? Did the story come to you as one about an evil necromancer and the good necromancer who ends his evil reign? Did you hear the lyrics to the Elton John song, make a mental substitution, and grow the story from there? Or did you just think it was about time to add necromancy to the growing list of supernatural abilities in YA fiction?
Lish McBride: Sam started off in a short story many, many years ago, and he was just plain old human. The story kind of sucked, but when I was in college in a creative writing program I decided to revisit it because, well, I couldn't think of anything new for a short story. (A good example of why you shouldn't throw stories away, even if they are terrible.) In the new short, Sam was still plain human but we gained Ramon, Frank and Brooke, though Frank and Brooke were still flat characters and weren't friends with Ramon and Sam yet. Also now there was a zombie attack. Zombies came first. The story was still crap, so I put it away for a while, though I never stopped thinking about it. When I started to imagine it as a larger story, I wondered how the zombies got there. Enter Douglas. I'm not quite sure when I decided Sam should be a necromancer too, to be honest with you, but it was sometimes before I actually started writing the novel while I was in a graduate writing program in New Orleans. So no, it wasn't based on an Elton John song, nor did I really consider it a story of good necromancer versus evil necromancer. It was always more a story of a basically good--through somewhat lost--kid who got in over his head.
Necromancy isn't actually that new, even in YA. Necromancy basically means the use of spirits or the dead for the purposes of divination (though most have dropped the divination thing lately). So any story where someone can talk to ghosts is basically a story of a necromancer. I know Kelley Armstrong has necromancer characters in her YA as well as her adult stuff (and I highly recommend them). But when you come right down to it, necromancy is about as old school as you can get. Odysseus did it, people in the Bible did it, and they pop up occasionally in literature (NN: see the list of "Books in which Necromancy Never Pays" on the sidebar). Hell, even Jennifer Love Hewitt's character in The Ghost Whisperer qualifies. Not that I watch that show, but you get the point.

NN: Were you listening to music as you wrote the novel, or did the song lyrics/chapter titles come to you some other way?
LM: Sometimes I listen to music while I write, but I realized that I block out most noise anyway, so I don't actually hear the songs. I'd put albums on only to realize that at some point they'd ended and I hadn't noticed. So no, that's not how I get my chapter titles. But I do love music, all kinds of music, and when I wrote that original story, it was called Zombie Burger, a play off of the Vandals song "Anarchy Burger." Then I named the first few chapters, which included Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. So when we were searching for a better title, we obviously took it from one of the chapter titles. That being said, I usually pick songs I do like or can at least support in some way. If it's a song I hate, I won't use it. Well, not unless it's really funny as a chapter title (I have no shame).

NN: Do you personally have any experience working in fast food? If not, how did you do your research?
LM: Sadly, I did work fast food. It was terrible. I grew up in a small town and there was a tiny locally owned burger place that all my friends worked at, so I talked someone into getting me a job. The job had two perks--my friends, and it was next door to a skate shop where many of my other friends worked. The rest of the job sucked. The grease sticks to you and the place wasn't that clean. The owner was crazy. When I started, I didn't eat beef, but by the time I left I was fully vegetarian. So I know first hand what a grease trap smells like and we played the game "guess what I put in the fryer" on several occasions. (NN: the characters play this, among other games, at the burger place in the novel.)

NN: What are some of your favorite movies? I see you have a film agent; does that mean that Hold Me Closer, Necromancer will become a movie?
LM: I love movies and I grew up in a house sort of obsessed with film. We used to have entire conversations at the dinner table in movie quotes until my mom finally had to tell us to cut it out. So it's really hard to pick favorites. It's a long list. I love anything by Edgar Wright, and Better Off Dead is a childhood favorite. Anything really silly and I probably love it. Airplane! Black Sheep (the weresheep one, not the Chris Farley one), So I Married An Axe Murderer, Big Trouble in Little China, The Princess Bride, Labyrinth, and anything with muppets in it.
They've been shopping the book out for movies and TV for a while now. There's been some interest, but nothing definitive yet. So many factors have to come into play before something makes it to the screen (whether it be the big or little one). So, we'll see.

NN: What would you do with garden gnomes, if you owned any?
LM: They would get into many a shenanigan. We already have these black skeleton flamingoes in my yard that move around and get into things. I shudder to think what the gnomes would get into.

NN: What book has most affected you or changed your life the most?
LM: I started reading really early--around the age of three, I think. I loved Garfield, so I used to pick out the words I understood and either look up the other words or guess them from the pictures. I also had older brothers who taught me, and my mom and step mom both read to us a lot. Like movies, many books have made huge impacts in my life, but I think for most people the books that were read to you have the most influence. My mom loves the Chronicles of Narnia, so she read those to us over and over. I also have a very strong memory of my step mom reading the Bunnicula books. I love all those. I started reading Stephen King really early, too, until I realized he was depressing me and killing off characters in the order of how much I liked them, so I had to take a break from his stuff even though I think he's a great writer. I also used to love reading traditional fantasy stuff. I used to read David Edding's books over and over (I still do) and I was convinced I was going to write that kind of stuff, which hasn't really happened.

NN: What else would you like readers to know about you, your reading tastes, and what all went into the making of your first novel? (Are you a Firefly fan? Did you read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? What kind of pajamas do you wear?)
LM: I read a lot. Seriously. What I read kind of depends on what's going on. I love funny stuff, like Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett. I love Neil Gaiman and Kelley Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Rick Riordan. I've been loving the Black London books by Kitteridge and the Parasol Protectorate books by Carriger. If I'm really stressed I've been digging on cozy style mystery books. I find Agatha Christie to be very soothing for some reason and I love the Amelia Peabody series by Peters. I'm also reading the Fables comic series right now--I love a good comic, for sure, and I read the online comic Questionable Content religiously. I did love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I think I like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters a little more. And I loved Firefly and pretty much anything by Whedon. Oddly enough, I'm writing this in a Firefly-themed coffee shop in Seattle called Wayward. And I was desperately sad when Pushing Daisies was canceled. That show was excellent. (NN: the hero of Pushing Daisies is a necromancer.)
I don't really know what anyone would want to know about me. I hate the sound of people brushing their teeth. I don't like mushrooms, and I'm afraid of clowns. And I'm fond of pajama pants. My man-friend and I share ours, which, oddly enough, doesn't really affect my choices in them. I'm as likely to wear the Marvel ones we have and I'm pretty sure I bought the pair with the Black Knight from Monty Python on them, but he steals those all the time. I need to start hiding them.

NN: I've read that this novel is part of a two-book deal--do you have ideas for the title of the sequel? Do you think Ramon might get his own supernatural love interest? Will necromancy ever pay?
LM: I do, but I'm not sharing. Mu ah ha ha ha! Ramon is pretty smooth with the ladies, and unless he says otherwise (my characters can get really bossy) I do have a love interest planned for him. So far, he approves.
And contrary to popular belief, necromancy does usually pay, and quite handsomely.
NN: While you can evidently come into a handsome estate on account of a talent for necromancy (as Sam does), raising the dead because you miss someone does not pay (evidence Sam's treatment of Brooke).
LM: Hm, yes, material rewards do seem to happen. Emotional, not so much. It didn't seem to work out very well for Orpheus. Though torn apart by hot, crazy maidens is a good way to die.


FreshHell said...

Pushing Daisies is an excellent show. I love it. It's available on Netflix.

Nymeth said...

The fact that Lish McBride's book taste is so similar to mine makes me want to read this book all the more. Also, a day when I have to leave the house in the morning before my daily dose of Questionable Content is up is a sad day indeed.

lemming said...

Word. ;-)

Jeanne said...

FreshHell, I love how vivid the colors are. The whole show looks surreal.

Nymeth, If I hadn't already read her book, I would have just because Better Off Dead is her favorite. I hadn't read Questionable Content before, though!

Lemming, yes.