Saturday, June 28, 2008

Author Interview: Annette Curtis Klause (!!!!!!!!)

Hey, everyone! If you read my previous post, you know that I am not actually here posting this. It's scheduled posting. Sorry for the petulant repetition of this trivial tidbit -- I feel important saying it. :)

Anyway, I am so, so, so excited to be posting this particular interview. Originally, it was part of an Author Week, but I felt that reviewing Annette's books was inappropriate for a number of reasons, some of which include 1) the fact the ones I'd picked to review, Silver Kiss and Blood and Chocolate, were released a few years back and reviewing books of a certain age is like kicking a dead horse, and 2) nothing I say could possibly do them justice. They're cultural reading (MUST-READS to werewolf/vampire fans).

In conclusion: This interview carries a certain weight, even if it's not packaged in with an Author Week.

(Note: Blogger likes to screw up pictures, which is why I am not scheduling a picture-filled post. I might go back and add a little visual aid, but for now, enjoy this in all its plain-text glory :P)

Author Interview: Annette Curtis Klause

On Writing

Could you describe your path to publication?

Yikes! I’ll try to streamline that. I’ve written since I was a young child—stories and poetry and snippets—and I kept notebooks of my work, an books I wrote and taped together to look like real books. I had a few poems published in school magazines, growing up. In college, I was in poetry workshops and had some poems published in college magazines. After college I had some poetry published in a few small magazines, many of them science fiction oriented, and I began to write short stories which were rejected if I submitted them. After I became a children’s librarian, I joined a workshop on writing for children. Then I had a writing teacher who talked me into writing a novel. That was The Silver Kiss. See: “I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if not for---“

Your book, Blood and Chocolate, was made into a major motion picture. What was the experience like? How did you like the film?

Up Down Up Down Up Down Up Down Up Down


It was exciting to have the book optioned although the contract was terrifying (I did retain stage rights but have no control over theme park rides or lunch boxes *grin*), then nothing happened much for years, except the option was renewed periodically and I received some money. MGM even dropped the option for a few months then quickly picked up again. Directors came and went. Still nothing. The producer stopped sending me scripts—maybe because I was too “helpful” in my suggestions.

Ten years later, the movie suddenly took off. No one from the studio told me about this. My husband and I kept an eye on the Internet and that’s how we found out. A new director came on board, and she looked interesting; she seemed feminist. Cool. Then BAM! The Internet Movie Database restored the entry for the movie and names were added to the crew! There was a best boy grip, a contact lens maker, a wolf wrangler! Every time a new position was added, we would look the person up. Then the cast began to expand. I wasn’t thrilled with all the choices, but I was willing to wait and see. (I didn’t have much choice, actually). I had no idea what the new script was like except Ehren Kruger had written it and I liked some of his movies. After a while some pictures began to leak, and there was information in German on the director’s fan website.

Then there was an English version of the website. People started talking about the movie on-line—they said things that in turns depressed me, elated me, and worried me. It seemed there was a fan base out there that was not pleased with the direction the movie was taking, although most people didn’t blame me. Good, because I didn’t have any control and no one told me anything. I was basically ignored by the people making the movie. No one kept me abreast of what was happening, I wasn’t invited to the filming and I was never even invited to a showing. The only way I got to see the movie was a friend who has a comic book shop gave me some free tickets he was given by a promoter. This was kind of pathetic.

I was still willing to like the movie, though. I really tried to like the movie. But the further into the movie I watched the more depressed I became. I could have dealt with them making the characters older and changing the setting, even though that missed the point of the book, but they totally changed my ending and made the mundane, predictable choice, and took away Vivian’s joy in being a werewolf, which was unforgivable. Sigh! I liked the actor who played Rafe (Bryan Dick)—even if he was totally over the top, at least he seemed to b enjoying himself.Your first book, The Silver Kiss, was published in 1990 and it was about vampires.

Vampires are currently a huge trend in the YA market. Back when you wrote The Silver Kiss, was it the same?

No, there was just me. I guess I started it all—sadly, I didn’t get the big bucks that the hot vamp authors now get.

Being originally from England, do you write using British English or American English spellings? (sorry, couldn't resist!)

It depends—I can’t spell very well in either English or American so YAY for spell check programs.

How long does it take you to finish a book?

Too long! I think most people would agree with me there. There is no standard answer to that, really. Each book has its own time. Some of the creating is done before I even actually touch the keyboard and each book has its own length of time before it reaches critical mass and I can start to write. I need to know enough about the book to begin—it might be seeing the setting in my head well enough to walk in it, or the character coming alive in my head, or I know the mood or the sound track. Suddenly the book becomes real and I can write. That doesn’t mean I get stuck in ruts along the way. Each book is its own world and has its own time table.

How important is music to your writing? Any artists you especially like and want to give a shout out to?

When I was writing Freaks: Alive, on the Inside I found midi files of calliope music to get me in the mood and discovered a web site that had the sheet music for 19th century songs. I ended up using parts of a few of the songs with circus themes in the book.

I often have a soundtrack in my head as I write or revise. I even taped (that shows how long ago it was) a soundtrack for Blood and Chocolate when I was revising the manuscript and sent a copy to my editor and agent. It had werewolfy songs on it, songs that had Vivian’s attitude, and songs that represented Aiden’s viewpoint, as well as real wolves howling. I included music from a wide time-period. Of course I had to use Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, but I also included songs by The Ramones, the Stranglers, Nine Inch Nails, Oingo Boingo, The Kinks, and even The Loving Spoonful to represent Aiden’s point of view (“Do You Believe in Magic”). “Brass in Pocket” and “Night in My Veins” by The Pretenders especially captured Vivian. That was a while ago and even the newer songs I used seen a bit dated. LOL

One of the books I’m working on right now has an even older soundtrack, though—songs by Tim Buckley (not Jeff, that was his son) and even a little Doors thrown in. If you’ve never heard of Tim Buckley, look him up. He was a brilliant musician with an incredible vocal range who combined rock, soul, folk, and jazz into long, meandering, haunting songs that rip your heart out. He died tragically in the early 70’s at the age of 28. His son, Jeff, also had a beautiful voice and died tragically young.

I often listen to music to get in the mood to write. Recently I’ve been enjoying Amy Winehouse, The Fratellis, and The Libertines, and I always enjoy The Ramones and Green Day (I definitely lean toward punk in its various incarnations). But I sometimes have to turn music off once I start writing, because the words of the songs distract from my own words. Wordless stuff is good though. I really like the soundtrack for Dracula composed by Philip Glass.

I recently discovered the website You can plug in a song or musician you like and it creates a playlist for you. It’s fun to see what it comes up with—sometimes it’s right on the money and other times it hasn’t a clue, but it’s always an adventure. I’ve discovered some interesting modern avant-garde composers that way. Recently I plugged in Arcade Fire and Final Fantasy to discover more experimental indie rock. I like lots of music but don’t keep on top of what’s new right this very second anymore--not enough time—so this is a good way to get a sampling of what’s out there.

What makes a good writer?

Someone who never stops learning, who constantly tries to refine their craft, and doesn’t take their audience for granted.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?

I’ve answered this question many times, so it’s hard to be original, but this is what I usually say:
Don’t expect anything to be perfect the first time you write it. Even successful published authors have to re-write and revise repeatedly. Let your first draft sit, and then go back to it to see how you can make it better. Take out all the words and phrases you don’t need and streamline as much as possible so the reader is drawn through without stumbling over distractions. Of the words you leave, make sure they are the perfect words for what you mean to say. Sometimes using the perfect word means you can get rid of half a sentence and still say more than you did to begin with.

Share your work with others, especially experienced writers, and don’t let your ego get in the way when you listen to their advice. Sometimes critiques can make a writer feel angry and rejected. Sit on those feelings. Don’t get defensive. Make notes, and then put those notes away. Go back and look at those notes after a cooling off period. Often you will find that they make perfect sense and give you great ides on how to make your work better. Sometimes you discover the person just didn’t get what you were trying to say. Even then, ask yourself why they didn’t get it. Perhaps you need to clarify part of your story. Once you fix the other thing then maybe the point they didn’t get will become understandable. It can happen that a detail is so real to you in your mind that you forget to write it down. Oops! Always feel free to toss out the suggestions that really don’t work for your tale, but give them serious consideration first.

Read, read, read, and figure out what makes the books you love the best work.

What's the best part about being a published writer? The worst?

The best—knowing that other people appreciate what I sweated and dripped blood over.

The worst—oh, the pressure! The pressure! Now I have to write something else just as good or better.

Of the books you've written, which is your favorite?

Argh!!!! That’s so hard to answer. I love them all for different reasons. Maybe Blood and Chocolate because I really identified with Vivian deeper than any of my other characters.

Now, tell us: Does writing for young adults rock or what?

Totally! Teens are the best audience because they can really walk into a book and believe in the characters. The books we read as children and teens stay with us all our lives. I feel like when I’ve made a connection with a reader I am part of that person’s life forever. That’s scary and wonderful all at the same time.

About Yourself

Do you have a British accent? (Again, couldn't resist--I'm fascinated by England!)

Well, I don’t think I have much of a British accent anymore, but some people still notice it. Sometimes they are confused about what accent it is, though. People ask—“Are you from Canada? Are you from Australia? Are you from New England?” LOL

What's your all-time favorite film? TV show?

My mind always goes blank when I am asked this and there’s never just one. Let me try to come up with a few answers and see where it goes—

TV: Dr. Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Psych, Dexter, Heroes, The Rockford Files, StarTrek: Deep Space 9, Babylon 5, The Big Bang Theory, Friends, Monk, Futurama, South Park, Reaper, My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, Medium, New Amsterdam, Dirt, Chuck, House, The Riches.

Movies: Anything by John Waters, Blade Runner, Alien, 28 Days Later, romantic comedies featuring Hugh Grant (Yeah, who would have known?), Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, The Beast With Five Fingers, The Tingler, The Bodysnatcher, Susperia, Reefer Madness, Freaks, Godzilla vs The Thing, The Mummy both the Boris Karloff and the Brendan Frazier versions, Desperado and other Robert Rodriguez movies, Mae West movies, John Hughes movies, argh!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots. I could never choose just one.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Inside my head.

What book has changed your life?

The Silver Kiss because it made me a published novelist.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

Geez, I can think of a number of things, none of which I would tell you or allow to be printed on the Internet. Heh heh!

What makes you laugh?

Thinking about some of those crazy things I’ve done.

What makes you cry?

Animal abuse.

What's your biggest fear?

I have so many that I don’t know where to start. I’m a quivering jelly of apprehension and insecurity. Drowning might be one. Never being able to write another book is up top.

What's your most treasured possession?

I’d say my cats except I don’t think of them as possessions but companions. Gifts from my husband. The things I wrote while growing up. My computers. My books. Photographs. If I had to flee the burning house, though, I’d try to get the cats and husband out and screw the possessions. I’m sure there would be things I’d kick myself for leaving behind once the flames went out—but on the spur of the moment…eh!

If you had to pick any other career besides writing, what would it be?

I already have another career. I’m a librarian. I am both a writer and a librarian because of my love of books and of stories.

What are you reading right now? How do you like it? (A little outdated, as this interview was sent back to me early June, but oh well...)

I just finished A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore and thought it hilarious. It manages to be funny and touching at the same time. Mild mannered, second-hand storeowner, Charlie Asher discovers he has a new, unwanted job—as death. I’m now reading a children’s science fiction book called The True Meaning of Smekday which is also hilarious and in the car I’m listening to a fantasy called Endymion Spring.

Fill-in-the-blank time!

In a perfect world,
I would be rich. Okay, that’s not too altruistic, but hey.

Most people would be surprised to find out that I, do not grow fur when the moon in full. You are surprised aren’t you?

Ayesha from She by H. Rider Haggard is my favorite fictional character because she is beautiful, intelligent, powerful, and immortal—and flawed. You have to read the book.

I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for a wonderful writer named Larry Callen who encouraged me to write a novel when it was the last thing on my mind.

I met Larry at a seminar on writing Children’s literature organized by The Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC of which I am now a member. Soon after, I received an invitation to join a writing workshop that he taught. It was in that group, which met in a church, that I first shared with a wider audience my short fantasy stories in which teenaged girls often met with untimely ends. Larry never flinched, although I could tell he was highly amused sometimes at my take on fiction. I soon discovered Larry’s great insight into the writing process and incredible knack of homing right in on the problems of a story. The greatest thing, however, was the way he could point out these problems so gently and positively that you never ever felt criticized or slighted. I learned so much from him.

People dropped out and the church group disbanded after a couple of six-week sessions, but Larry invited me to join another, more established group. But I didn’t drive and I didn’t know how I could attend these meetings at night and get back home at a reasonable time. Larry had the solution right away. He would pick me up from work and take me home after the meeting. Wow! He had that much faith in my writing.

It was Larry who said to me on one of those rides home after writing group, “Annette, your short stories are not short. You want to write a novel.” And it was Larry who would not let me weasel out of doing so and gave me advice every step of the way. So because of him I wrote The Silver Kiss and he even sent it to his own editor to read. She didn’t buy the book but she gave me great advice that improved it and Larry encouraged me to keep on sending it out. I only had to send the manuscript out five more times before it was accepted for publication. The editor said he had never seen a first time manuscript in such great shape. I know that was because of Larry.

(Steph: I knowingly didn't underline the above cos it'd be too long and too hard to read underlined.)

When I'm not writing,
I’m thinking about writing.


Chelsie said...

I love love love Blood and Chocolate and I'm dying to read The Silver Kiss... but right now I don't have time to read the interview but I'll come back and comment later!

Lenore Appelhans said...

I loved reading about Larry and about the movie. I have to sadly admit I haven't read any of Annette's books, but I certainly want to now :)

Carolina said...

I love her books but my favorite is Blood and Chocolate. I agree the movie stunk. I hope she writes some more books. The Silver Kiss was also great.

Debbie Reed Fischer said...

Best advice I've ever read for aspiring writers. I haven't read Annette's books but I definitely will now. Fascinating interview.

Anonymous said...

I just read "Freaks" and it was amazing. I refused to put it down until it was finished and I laughed, gasped and cried every step of the way. As an aspiring filmmaker, the story played out in my head just as breathtaking and magical as Annette Curtis Klause wrote it to be. I feel in love with the characters, and fretted over their well being. After reading the book, I started to wonder if someone would make it into a movie. I thought of the pros and cons. Pro: Made right, it would be an awe-inspiring, visual dream. Con: Poorly made: it would be a joke. I couldn't believe how Annette Curtis Klause was denied her involvement and say in the making of the movie (Blood and Chocolate). To change the ending and the ideals of one the main characters is to destroy what made the story hers story to begin with. The least they could have done would have been to change the title of the movie, as not to be confused with the book. Back to what I was saying, for "Freaks" to be made into a successful movie (and success in not by how much money it makes, but how true it stays to the story) it would involve people who love the story as much as Annette Curtis Klause does, and (of course) it would involve Klause being along for the entire ride. I hope that if and when this book is made into a movie, Annette Curtis Klause is there to guide and I am there to direct. Yes, I said it. A girl can dream.

Anonymous said...

how many cats do you have?

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph