Cecil Castellucci talks to TPL teens!
Cecil Castellucci, author of books, graphic novels and comics for young adults connected recently with Terese of the library's Editorial Youth Advisory Group to chat about the writing life!
Terese: How do your own personal experiences factor into your writing?
Cecil: I think that all writing springs first from your experiences which is why one of the most important things about being a writer is to do a lot of things and have a lot of experiences. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree! But you have to grow and evolve and as you do, so does your work. It deepens. When people ask me if the characters are me and the people in my life I have to say yes and no. It's never that simple. You take tiny threads of things that you see and you weave something totally new. I can give as an example my book Rose Sees Red, which is about a girl Rose, who lives in the Bronx across from the Soviet Mission to the US in 1982 and goes to the High School of Performing Arts. I lived in her apartment. I went to Performing Arts a little later. I made friends with a Soviet girl next year. But although she is the closest character to me in actuality, Rose is not me. She's just someone I share some things with.
Terese: Is there a topic/genre you wouldn't write about under any circumstances? How important do you think it is for an author to be open to writing other genres?
Cecil: There is nothing that I wouldn't write about if it was the right thing to write about for the story. There are things that I don't naturally gravitate to but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't write it. I think it is absolutely essential for an author to be open to writing other genres. I write all kinds of things and it allows me to grow my narrative voice. I especially like trying to write things that scare me or make me uncomfortable because that's how you stretch and learn your craft. You know, you don't have to show those to anyone if you don't want to.
Terese: What are your goals for your writing? Is there an point where you feel like you can say, "I've succeeded"?
My goals are to write more things and get better at my craft. I always like to give myself a new challenge when writing a story. First Day on Earth I tried to distill a book to its most streamlined spine. Some chapters are only one sentence long. In The Year of the Beasts, which is a hybrid novel, part prose, part graphic novel, I was interested in exploring how you could get to the root of grief in the telling of a story. So there is always some bar that I'm trying to reach in terms of craft. And of course, goals evolve and the line changes, which is a wonderful thing. And no, there is never a moment where I can say that I've succeeded completely. That just will never happen because there are so many challenges to give myself. I can say that I succeeded at one thing, but hopefully careers are long and there are many places and things to do and see.
Terese: What role do you think authors should fill in this day and age? Does that role change over time?
Cecil: Even though we consume narratives in many different ways and the book is not as high on everyone's go-to way to story -- authors write the stories that we consume in different ways. The world needs authors to come up with those stories. Look at Jane Austen. She's an author and we need her stories. They are told over and over again, cracked, repurposed, reinvented, modernized, adapted, fractured. The same with Dickens or Shakespeare. It goes on and on. The role of an author is to tell tales that are essential to one reader's soul. That might be only the author herself, or it might be the whole world. That doesn't change. It's the seed.
Terese: Where do you see electronic books heading? Do you think they could every take the place of paper books?
Cecil: I don't think paper books will ever go away. They are essential. They may become more artful objects at some point. But even science says that reading a paper book is different and deeper reading than reading on a screen and that it's important. That's not going to change. Besides, tub reading is best with paper.