An Interview with Holly Black

Below is one of the interviews we conducted with the fabulous featured guests at Nerdcon: Stories 2015 in Minneapolis, MN. Originally, there was audio for all of our interviews but our engineer (Kal) is a schmuck and some of them didn’t turn out very good. So, transcribed here, is the text of our interview with Holly Black, which Kal was forced to type out with weights on his fingers as punishment. You can check out some of the interviews that *did* work elsewhere on the site or on iTunes @ The Just Enough Trope Podcast. Enjoy! (whip cracks) Type, monkey! Type like the wind!

Mika: We are here with sci-fi and fantasy author Holly Black, who has written such things as the Spiderwick Chronicles with Tony Di—
Holly Black: DiTerlizzi.
M: Thank you…you knew I needed help with that…the Modern Faerie Tale series, as well as the Magisterium series with Cassandra Clare. Welcome, Holly.
HB: Thank you.
M: So, first of all, I know I talked about this before, but I’m a big fan and I’ve been reading your Modern Faerie Tale series and I really enjoy it.
HB: Thank you so much.

M: What made you decide to write about the Fae and the Fae world?
HB: Well, it’s interesting because, right now, you know my last book was called The Darkest Part of the Forest and it was actually the first book back to faeries—
M: Right.
HB: —in a long time, and now I’m staring on a new faerie series. The first book is called Cruel Prince and so I’ve been thinking a *lot* about faeries recently after writing some books about other things for a long time. I think I…both Tony and I actually were hugely influenced by a book called Fairies. It was a big illustrated book; it was illustrated by Brian Froud of Dark Crystal fame…
M: Sure.
HB: …he did Good Faeries/Bad Faeries and a lot of illustrated fairy books and did concept art for film. And Alan Lee, who you may know for his concept art for the Lord of the Rings. And so it was just this incredibly beautiful, majestic, terrifying book of faeries. My mom is a painter and so she had it for herself and I remember being both really frightened by it and really intrigued by it. It’s the thing that started me reading faerie folklore and that left this imprint on me and so when I went to write novels, it was some of the stuff that I wanted to play with. One of the things I really love about faeries is that, unlike other supernatural creatures, a vampire was once human, a werewolf is *sometimes* human…
M: Right.
HB: …a ghost was once alive. Faeries were never human and they have a separate morality. And they’re also not one creature…boggarts and imps and nixies and pixies and sprites; they’re a whole ecosystem. So they’re an incredibly fun thing to play around with.
M: You’ve collaborated with other artists and creators on several series, including visual artists as well as writers. What have you discovered about your own writing process during your collaborations? Was there anything that surprised you?
HB: I remember Tony saying that he wasn’t going to illustrate the things that I described a lot. He was going to illustrate the thing that wasn’t described in the text—
M: Interesting.
HB: —and in doing so, artwork would be in conversation with the text. He might add things that you would only learn about through the art and I remember it really changing my perception of what it meant to collaborate in that way, that “here’s somebody filling in part of the story” and telling a separate story in their own way. I think that that is one of the best things about collaborating particularly with artists, but it’s actually true about collaborating with authors, too, that they are going to bring the stuff that you would never think of. They’re going to fill in the parts you didn’t even notice were blank.
M: Just getting another perspective in there.
HB: Yeah; they’re going to make the thing better in a way you just couldn’t.
M: Very cool. You’re a Doctor Who fan…
M: Yes; we *all* are. (laughs) Your Doctor Who e-book Lights Out follows the Twelfth Doctor, who makes up a very small part of the Who history thus far.
HB: True!
M: (laughs) So, how did you make sure that you honored the continuity of all of Doctor Who when you were writing that?
HB: Well, the thing I was most worried about was that I had to write that story before the season began.
M: OK!
HB: So, my main focus—
M: Before seeing Twelve at all!
HB: Right! My main focus was not honoring the continuity that came before but actually just, “please, God, let me capture something of what Peter Capaldi’s going to bring to this role”. Because all I had was the screenplay.
M: That is terrifying!
HB: Terrifying. So what I was trying to do was sort of, you know, pull some flavor of the screenplay, tell the story, and then, as soon as the first episode aired, I went back and edited it…you know, I watched it over and over and took notes of his mannerisms and the way he delivered lines and just tried to imbue it with some sense of what he brought to the Doctor. But it was very difficult because it was based on that ONE episode.
M: (laughs)
HB: And I’d actually…I’d read ahead…
M: Sure.
HB: But I, you know, I hadn’t seen him ahead and so that was my (laughs)…there are things I could’ve worried about that I would have worried about if I wasn’t so worried about this, what I was very busy worrying about, like how little I get this right.
Kaliban: …watching “The Thick of It”…
HB: (laughs)

K: That’s probably pretty close.
HB: I did actually. I did watch him, I was going to watch him in some other things. But, you know, you’re only guessing.
M: Right.
K: Is there a BBC continuity cop? If you write something for them, and they go “Well, actually the Autons didn’t do this or that”…
HB: Yes.
K: Ok. There’s probably a whole team.
HB: Oh yes. I mean I don’t know who does it because it came through the editor *from* them, they just sent it back. I don’t know how many people were involved or whether they just do this all day…
K: There’s probably a team of Cybermen doing it…
HB: Sure, absolutely. “Cybermen told me I couldn’t do that.”
HB: (laughs)
M: You are writing the upcoming DC/Vertigo Lucifer series…
HB: Yes, another thing I’m terrified about, thank you.
M: Oh! Sorry!
HB: (laughs)
M: Vertigo Comics previously died something of a quiet death but it’s coming back in a big way. Now, with the Comics Code being defunct and Image Comics having a lot of strong, creator-owned titles, what’s Vertigo’s place in this new landscape of the world of comics?
HB: That’s a great question and not one I actually—
M: (laughs)
HB: I mean I don’t know! I think that you’re right, that they’re trying to figure that out and I know they have a lot of creator-generated projects coming out now…
M: Sure.
HB: …as well as a couple of things like Lucifer where you have some reaching back into a character, with a character that is part of their universe already. But, you know, I think that everybody always is trying to figure out “where do we fit into the changing landscape?”
K: (breaking in) Hi! World’s biggest Lucifer fan here…At the end of Carey’s run, it’s sort of…
HB: Tied up tight?
K: Really tight!
HB: Real tight!
K: So without spoiling anything, how’s that gonna work out?
HB: Uh…ok.
K: It’s gonna be a spoiler!
HB: I’ll tell you. Lucifer’s back; I am accepting everything that happened. I love Lucifer
K: Carey’s run was amazing.
HB: When I got the call from Shelly Bond, I was at home, I was signing Magisterium tip-in sheets. I had like 5000 tip-in sheets and she was like “do you remember when you proposed a project and we rejected it?” and I said “I do…”
K: “Every. One.”
HB: “I do remember that, Shelly” and she was like “well, I was wondering if you would like to do something else” and I was thinking “I know exactly what I’ll be doing for the next five years of my life, I’m set” and she was like “I was thinking maybe you’d want to do something with Lucifer” and I was like “LUCIFER?!”
K: (laughs)
HB: What!? (laughs) The Devil’s very daunting! And I was like “Yeah! Ok, I’ll find a way. I’ll find a way to make this work.” And I went back and I…you know, the thing for me…I loved Neil’s Lucifer, who was a whimsical kind of trickster god…
K: Sure
HB: …and I loved Mike Carey’s bastard covered bastard in bastard sauce…
K: Yeah, it deepened it so much from an interesting side character in Sandman to this ultimate…I mean, it’s drawn off of Paradise Lost, he’s Satan, he’s the antagonist, he’s *the* anti-hero…
HB: Right. And so I accepted that continuity. Everything that has happened has happened.
K: Right, this isn’t a “New 52”-type reboot—
HB: Right. Lucifer’s back and the Presence is dead and Gabriel is hanging out, because it turns out that, you know, not much has happened with him since Hellblazer
K: Sure.
HB: And it’s a whodunit. “Who killed God?”
M: I think that sounds pretty good. (laughs)
HB: We’ll see if I can pull it off.
K: (slightly worried look)
HB: I know! I know. (laughs)
K: Ok.
M: So, are you a big comic book fan? Are you reading any other books right now? Any favorites that influenced you or your work?
HB: I do love comics…right now I’m reading Rat Queens, I’m reading Saga, obviously. Lumberjanes
M: Yes.
HB: …a bunch of stuff. There’s a lot of great stuff.
M: There *is* a lot of great stuff.
HB: I read some webcomics…Questionable Content. Jeph Jacques lives in my town. Jeffrey Rowland. I think it is such an interesting way of telling stories and it’s interesting now for me to try and figure out “what is the shape of these kind of stories? How does the shape change what stories can be and what they are?”
M: “How do you fit the visual into telling the story with the words?” Your books depict Fae, magicians, vampires, dolls, etc. Is there any creature or world in the fantasy realm that you haven’t written about yet that you want to write about?
HB: I love selkies, I love selkie stories, they’re really interesting stories. I’ve never quite figured out a thing I want to do with them. But it’s certainly very interesting folklore. I once tried to plan a mermaid book because it’s such a great idea of there being a complete undersea world that you could world-build. It would basically be a high fantasy book; there’s all of this great, great stuff. But it’s also really, really hard, because you are actually so divorced from land…
M: (laughs)
HB: That there’s real considerations in how you tell the story and how it doesn’t become almost inaccessible.
K: Or you can just do Spongebob—
HB: (laughs)
K: —and it’s under water but not really…
M: He lives in a pineapple.

K: It’s like it’s on land and every once in a while you see some bubbles.

M: Thank you, Holly, for joining us today. Where can people get a hold of you online?
HB: I am at; hollyblack was taken. Look for me there; I am @hollyblack on twitter.
M: Thanks so much, Holly.
HB: Thanks.

Holly Black’s book The Darkest Part of the Forest was released earlier this year and is available as an e-book, audiobook and anywhere books are sold. The first issue of Lucifer is on-sale December 16th.

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