Holly Black: LibraryThing Author Interview
Holly Black is well-known for The Spiderwick Chronicles and the Modern Tales of Faerie series. The Poison Eaters is Holly's first short story collection. Filled with gritty scenes of magic enhantment and disenchantment, The Poison Eaters features previously published stories as well as new ones.
This collection has a feeling of modern and noir folktales. Are there any specific stories, tropes or cultures of traditional lore that you are inspired by?
Well that's interesting, because although I have been interested in folk and fairy tales for a long time, in the last year or two I have been reading a ton of noir and I've been really aware of its influence on my writing. But given that most of these stories pre-date that, I guess the influence was there before I was aware of it.
By pulling together these stories that had never been published side-by-side, did you discover anything you hadn't realized about your writing, either within the stories themselves, or about your other writing?
There's certain things that I can see I'm interested in. Lots of disenfranchised characters, often existing in some kind of liminal state whether that means living on the street or hiding their true selves. I love characters who make mistakes. I love cleverness. I love ambiguous motives. I think all of that comes through in the collection.
Several of the stories are permutations of the Modern Tales of Faerie series. Do you feel there is more to come out of that world?
One of the stories—"Going Ironside"—was a short piece I wrote before Tithe was finished. It influenced Valiant, although at the time I wrote it, I didn't know that it would. The second story, I wanted to tell to check in with the characters and show what I think they're doing and what I think they're dealing with. It was a fun story to write. I always like having Roiben and Corny talk about their views of the world, because they both are so dysfunctional that they almost see eye-to-eye in a way that no one else does.
Small Beer Press is offering a DRM-free ebook of The Poison Eaters. Is digital rights management control something that you feel strongly about?
I absolutely think that when something you steal functions better than something you buy, that's a problem. So, yeah, I am not in favor of DRM.
I read that you listen to music while writing. What kind of music do you listen to while writing? Is it particular artists, or styles that work for you?
One of my favorite ways of wasting time is assembling a playlist for a new project, because I think that what you listen to has to match the tone of what you're working on. When I was writing the Modern Faerie Tale books, I listened to a ton of Dead Can Dance, the Magnetic Fields, Hole, and Rufus Wainwright.
Do you have any daily rituals? Do you have a cycle of writing habits that change over the course of a book or story?
I don't write at any particular time of day, but I do find that I do more writing in the afternoon and evening and more administrative stuff in the earlier part of the day. I like writing at night because I'm less likely to be interrupted and because I have a sense of infinite time—I can write until I fall asleep.
I just discovered that you're co-editing the the upcoming Zombies vs Unicorns anthology, where you lead Team Unicorn. The question posed by the book is, "which is better?" What I'd like to know is, what would happen if the two creatures came around a blind corner and encountered each other?
If a zombie and a unicorn came around a blind corner and ran into each other, I am afraid that the zombie's skull would probably be accidentally impaled on the unicorn's horn. The unicorn would be very apologetic, I imagine, but due to the horn's ability to purify things, the zombie would already be dead.
You were a library science student before your first book took off. If you went back to librarianship, where would you like to work, and what job would you like to have?
I wanted to be a Youth Services librarian. I was only maybe two classes away from completing my degree when I took time off to tour for Spiderwick, but one of those classes was cataloging, so I kept avoiding it. I think that being in that program was really helpful to me as a writer starting out in children's publishing, because I learned so much about the history of writing for children and read a wide range of novels that I might not have otherwise found.
What's your favorite book right now? What have you read lately?
I've read a lot of great books recently, actually. Some of my favorites are Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim (contemporary noir revenge novel, with angels), Megan Whalen Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings (set in a fantasy world based on ancient Greece, full of clever turns) and Cassandra Clare's The Clockwork Angel (the madcap adventures of Victorian Shadowhunters).
Usually I ask "what's on your bookshelf?" since it's the LibraryThing tagline, so I just have to ask, "What's in your secret library?"
Actually ALL my books are in my secret library (unless I've pulled them out and piled them up near my bed or in my office). Pictures of Holly Black's secret library.
—interview by Sonya Green
Books by Holly Black
Tithe (3708 copies)
Valiant (2238 copies)
The Field Guide (2227 copies)
Ironside (1876 copies)
The Seeing Stone (1691 copies)
Lucinda's Secret (1420 copies)
The Ironwood Tree (1370 copies)
The Wrath of Mulgarath (1300 copies)
White Cat (1145 copies)
The Field Guide / The Seeing Stone / Lucinda's Secret / The Ironwood Tree / The Wrath of Mulgarath (866 copies)
The Nixie's Song (693 copies)
The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm (690 copies)
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd (661 copies)
Zombies vs. Unicorns (644 copies)
Red Glove (497 copies)
The Poison Eaters (393 copies)
Young Warriors: Stories of Strength (392 copies)
Kin (371 copies)
The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (302 copies)
A Giant Problem (301 copies)
Naked City (249 copies)
Black Heart (Curse Workers) (246 copies)
Welcome to Bordertown (229 copies)
The Wyrm King (195 copies)
Care and Feeding of Sprites (190 copies)
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists (162 copies)
Kith (148 copies)
Notebook for Fantastical Observations (143 copies)
Happily Ever After (115 copies)
Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress (112 copies)
Sympathy for the Devil (111 copies)
Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (84 copies)
The Chronicles of Spiderwick: A Grand Tour of the Enchanted World, Navigated by Thimbletack (79 copies)
Kind (Good Neighbors) (75 copies)
A flight of angels (69 copies)
The Urban Fantasy Anthology (56 copies)
Wings of Fire (54 copies)
Doll Bones (42 copies)
Bewere the Night (34 copies)
Full Moon City (34 copies)
The coldest girl in Coldtown [novel] (28 copies)
Modern Faerie Tales: Tithe; Valiant; Ironside (19 copies)
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown [short story] (16 copies)
The Field Guide / The Seeing Stone (15 copies)
The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1) (13 copies)
Shadow Unit 8 (13 copies)
Shadow Unit 7 (12 copies)
Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top (11 copies)
Bloody Fabulous (11 copies)
Rags & Bones (5 copies)
Untitled (Magisterium, #4) (4 copies)
The Aarne-thompson Classification Revue (3 copies)
The Coat of Stars (3 copies)
Curse Workers 4 (2 copies)
Valiant Pa (2 copies)
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES: VOL 1 - GOBLINS ATTACK; VOL 2 - TROLL TROUBLE (TWO VOLUME SET) (2 copies)
Untitled (Magisterium, #5) (2 copies)
Reversal of Fortune (2 copies)
El tributo (1 copies)
Lightspeed Magazine, September 2012 (1 copies)
Spiderwick. El Canto De La Ondina (Spiderwick/ Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles) (Spanish Edition) (1 copies)
Chat blanc, Tome 1 : Les faucheurs (1 copies)
Noble Rot (1 copies)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, the Complete Series: The Field Guide; The Seeing Stone; Lucinda's Secret; The Ironwood Tree; The Wrath of Mulgrath (1 copies)
Los buenos vecinos (1 copies)
Virgin (1 copies)
The Good Neighbors: Kin; Kith; Kind (1 copies)
The Dog King (1 copies)
Valiant AND Ironside (1 copies)
Heartless (1 copies)
Paper Cuts Scissors (1 copies)
Sobek (1 copies)
The Rowan Gentleman [short fiction] (1 copies)
The Boy Who Cried Wolf [Short Story] (1 copies)
The Night Market (1 copies)
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