Black Heart Blog Tour- Interview With Holly Black

Iholly-blackf you haven’t read anything by Holly Black you need to correct this! She’s perhaps most well-known for the Spiderwick Chronicles and her dark faerie series that begins with Tithe, but has also been involved with some kick ass anthologies like Geektastic and Zombies vs. Unicorns. If my Twitter feed doesn’t lead me astray Holly hangs out with some of the coolest authors in YA, including Cassandra Clare and Scott Westerfeld.

What really got me into her writing is the Curse Worker series. You can read my reviews of all three books on this blog.

I had the honour of asking her a few questions as part of the Black Heart Blog Tour.

1.Cassel is my favourite male character in YA fiction, partly because the details make him feel real. Where do you get your inspiration for him?

“Thank you so much!  That really means a lot to me.

 My initial inspiration for Cassel came from a true crime book called SON OF A GRIFTER, about a kid who’d been raised (by his mother) to be a con artist and to sneer at people who obeyed laws.  When he got to be an adult, he had to basically invent a moral system for himself, because he’d never had one.  I was fascinated with a character who was torn between what he knew was possible to get away with and what he thought was right.

Cassel is also inspired by the classic noir hero who was damaged by something in his past (usually by WWI), who believes that he’s completely jaded — until a lady walks in.  He knows she’s no good, but he burns down what’s left of his world to help her, even though she often turns out to be even worse than he thought.  It’s an incredibly romantic shape for a book — and I wanted to tell my own version of it.”

2.  In Cassel’s world being a worker is hereditary but there doesn’t seem to be a pattern in families regarding what type of worker an individual is. When writing the series did you shape characters around their power or did you provide a power you thought suited their personality?

 “Being a worker is more prevalent in some families, but some workers are born into non-worker families, so it’s not purely genetic.

I chose the type of worker sometimes to parallel the character’s personality (Barron) and sometimes to contrast with it (Daneca), but I always knew the character before I decided on the power.  When I first started writing WHITE CAT, I wasn’t sure which of the two brothers would wind up being the memory worker, but once I knew more about them, it was easy to choose.”

3. The worker Mafia continues to play a role in the third book. Did you research any crime families to help you write about the Zacharovs?

 “I did a lot of research on crime families — on the East Coast, on the West Coast, in Japan, and in Russia.  I wanted to create a worker world that felt both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, which meant cherry picking from research and also making up things.  In different times and places, organizations did things differently, but there is often an element of giving up one’s old life, being loyal first and foremost to the organization and some form of marking oneself.

From there, I came up with the idea of the light cutting of the throat — to mark the death of the old life — and the rubbing ash in the wound to create keloid scars, for the permanent commitment that the marks would create.  I love the idea of it and I loved the idea of how scary it would be to see someone with those marks and know what it meant.”

4. What do you hope readers will get out of reading Black Heart?

” I hope that it will be satisfying, fun, and full of surprises.  This is the end of what we see of Cassel’s journey, but there’s still a lot ahead of him.  He has to make some big, final choices — about love, about family, and ultimately about who he wants to be.”

5.   Can we expect any more from the Curse Workers series, or at least something set in that world?

“Right now, I’m not planning any more in the series, but I will never say never.   This is a good stopping place, though.  It feels like the right ending — at least for now.

Next year, I have two stand alone books coming out, both very different from the Curse Workers series: a middle grade (my first since Spiderwick!) called DOLL BONES and a teen book called THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN.”

Thank you to Holly Black for answering my questions! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour.

Red Glove

*I received this ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada

* If you haven’t read White Cat, there are spoilers here, so go read that first.

Holly Black is one of the few authors who can make me fall in love with a killer. This book had a fast pace, characters with depth, a plot with surprising twists and all around awesome writing.

Red Glove picks up not too long after White Cat left off, and Cassel is still trying to wrap his head around everything that happened. He was betrayed and used by his brothers, the girl he loves was cursed to love him so he can’t in good conscience be with her, and he discovered he has a rare power that will make everyone want to use or kill him. That’s a lot to swallow, so even if he was only trying to survive school I would feel for him. Of course it’s not that easy; he is approached by federal agents and pressured into helping solve murders and disappearances he suspects he knows too much about.

This is a book that will appeal to both boys and girls. The paranormal mob families make for an interesting backdrop, and the plot is a mystery with lots of twists.

What I really love about this book:

  • The little things about Cassel that make him seem so real!
    • When people ask him how he is he automatically says “good” because that’s the response strangers and acquaintances normally expect. He doesn’t think about how he really feels before responding, but feels guilty when he realizes this is a funeral and he shouldn’t be good.
    • When he naps or sleeps late the way Black describes his sluggishness is dead on
    • he’s afraid of what his nightmares say about him
    • The way he feels in rich people’s houses rings true. Class divide is always awkward when visiting friends.
  • His extreme temptation to be with Lila despite her curse, and all the conflicting feelings of guilt and longing are convincing. The sexual tension and chemistry between them is phenomenally written.
  • The funny moments. When the fire alarm goes off and Sam’s reaction is “The Playstation!” unhooking it while everyone else scrambles out… I laughed so hard, because my boyfriend would do the same.
  • The worker rights movement, and the paranoia of the public. The thing is, at least this is a prejudice I can somewhat understand, people having powers that could hurt you. I’d be on the worker rights side of the debate, but I get where the other side is coming from. People in our society flip out over differences like sexual orientation and race, so I don’t think Black is being unrealistic about the mistreatment of the workers. If anything I think they’d probably be treated worse.
  • The pressures of joining the family business (crime)

I’ve never been disappointed by Holly Black’s writing, I always fly through her books and want more. Red Glove never dragged for me, I had to force myself to put it down, and it surprised me at a few points. I can’t wait for Black Heart!

In my mailbox

IMM is hosted by the Story Siren. Please see her blog to participate.

 This week I went insane and got more books, even though I haven’t caught up on my reading, so I haven’t finished the books from the last few IMM posts.

The first book I got this week was Goat Cheese, a recipe book that features guess what? goat cheese in each recipe. I loooove goat cheese so when I saw this in the New pile at the library, I was like hmmm…. but I haven’t actually made any of the recipes yet, because deep down I know it never turns out right when I cook it.

The main event for me this week, I’ve already Tweeted and Facebooked about because I was so excited. In case you missed my jumping up and down, here is me with an awesome book I’ve been looking forward to since before White Cat was officially released (I read that ARC too).

 Red Glove!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes I was so cheesy I put a red mitt on to show it off. I don’t actually have gloves… I received it from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I read the first half yesterday on Greyhound, and it’s fabulous. If you haven’t read White Cat yet go do it so you can be ready for my review and the release of Red Glove.

While I was in Kelowna for a youth services committee meeting I shopped the bargain bin at Chapters. I could live in a Chapters…. but anyway here’s my haul

I got Heist Society because that’s been on my TBR list for a long time. Once Dead Twice Shy, was because I loved it and I originally read it at the library. Louise Rennison’s book caught my eye because I loved the movie Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging (I often quote “I’m having a nervy bee!”)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid swag will go into a contest of some sort. Maybe when the next movie or book comes out.

End of 2010 Survey!

The Perpetual Page Turner is hosting this survey. Go to her blog to link to the responses by tons of bloggers.

White Cat (Curse Workers, #1)1. Best book of 2010? This is hard! Since there are so many great books I’m going to interpret this as: best YA book published in 2010 to narrow it down. Holly Black’s White Cat was pretty incredible. It has action, mystery and suspense, not to mention character depth and all around awesomeness. I’m picking this book because it’s not just something I loved myself, it’s one that I confidently recommended to my younger brother, my mother and my friends. It is very rare that I think a book would appeal to all of them but Holly Black’s writing will be appreciated by a variety of audiences.

Dateable Rules, The: A Guide to the Sexes2. Worst book of 2010? I’m not usually a book basher, but there was this really terrible book I picked up at work. Dateable Rules, The: A Guide to the Sexes was really awful. At first I thought it looked pretty cool, but um no on closer inspection it’s incredibly sexist and makes me angry. According to this book men need to “conquer” and be in power in the relationship, and women need to “learn to shut up”. The fact that I disagreed with the religious nonsense just added to my general dislike of the book.

linger cover art3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?  I was most disappointed with Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved Shiver so much that I over-anticipated the sequel. It’s not that it was terrible, it just didn’t live up to the hype in my mind. I’ll still read the next book in the series but my expectations have gone down a few notches.

Generation Dead (Generation Dead, #1)4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? I was most surprised by Generation Dead. I forced myself to read a zombie book (I’m quite squeamish) because I was TRYING to have a zombie night at the library for teens (no one showed up but that’s a different story). I was pleasantly surprised by Daniel Waters! His book is a beautiful social commentary about discrimination, and I found myself loving the zombies and their friends. The book I was dreading turned out to my one of my favourites, and I’ve been recommending it a lot.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? I have a hard time answering this because I recommend things every day, at work, to friends, on the blog…I’be probably promoted Scaredy Squirrel the most but that’s not YA. My recommendations really depend on how I’m recommending it to.

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset
6. Best series you discovered in 2010? The Hunger Games trilogy! I can’t believe I resisted reading it for so long. Everyone kept telling me to read it and I was like “kids killing each other? Ick!”  because I thought it was just violence for violence’s sake. Once I realized that Collins is critiquing violence, reality tv, and oppressive governments, I was all in. I love dystopia and social commentary. Plus there’s tons of suspenseful action, Katniss kicks butt and Peeta is a sweetie, how could you not love the series?

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010? Suzanne Collins, Daniel Waters, Gemma Malley, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Kim Harrison, Simone Elkeles….

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?  The Feegles in The Wintersmith had me laughing pretty hard.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?  The Hunger Games trilogy. I read it in 4 days and it would have been less if I didn’t have to wait to get the next book.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? I think it was Linger but I mentioned earlier how that worked out.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?

nightshade cover links to reviewRules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2)Sisters Red cover art

12. Most memorable character in 2010?  I was most struck by Cassel from White Cat, Chloe from the Summoning and Haymitch from Hunger Games but so many more characters touched me this year

 13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? I love the Scottish and formal language of The Forest Laird. Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times was pretty poetic.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Most books have a pretty big impact on me, I don’t think I can choose.

15. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?  The Hunger GamesI’ve already explained why

 Book Blogging in 2010 (optional)

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2010? To be honest I just started really following any blogs in 2010. Jan 2010 my friend Erin opened my eyes to book blogs and I’ve been eating them up ever since. Some of my favourites are The Green Bean Teen Queen, Forever Young Adult, The Story Siren, Pure Imagination, and YA Bliss. I’ve also been reading Mark Reads  every day and he’s a good one to follow for a specific book but he has less variety.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010?  I liked reviewing The Resistance, Generation Dead, and Sisters Red (I have a lot of trouble deciding)

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?  I wrote a post about why sometimes reading formulaic books is reassuring. I unfortunately haven’t had enough people commenting to work up a good discussion between people. It’s something I’d like to have next year.

 4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog? I really enjoy the discussions on the Forever Young Adult blog. They manage to be hilarious but bring up serious issues at the same time. For example their post about resolutions that makes some good points about changes I’d like to see in YA writing/publishing but is laugh out loud funny.


5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? The Ontario Library Association Super Conference was amazing. It was my first conference and I was thrilled just to be on the expo floor getting autographed books, fighting stormtroopers and learning about new technology. That I got to go to informative sessions beyond that blew my mind. I can’t wait for more conferences.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2010? This is all really new to me and I’m pretty easily excited, so I have trouble picking a specific moment.

7. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Um I’m gonna go with book trailers, I don’t think I knew about them in 2009 and they are a great way to promote books. I also love my new Kobo.

It’s like Holly Black put a curse on me

Cover Art of White CatThe Curse Workers:  White Cat comes out May 4th 2010 but  I got my hands on an advanced reader’s copy. It took me a little while to get into the novel, I wasn’t sure if I liked Cassel (the narrator). Once the mysteries in the plot began to unravel I was hooked, and could not put it down. Holly Black does an excellent job at creating a complex world in the background of the story, giving readers a feel for Cassel’s version of our world. There are more layers to her characters than I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised by their development in the last few chapters. The ending is brilliant and devastating at the same time, wrapping things up nicely but leaving me wanting more.

Would definitely recommend this, and don’t give up if you find the first few chapters a bit strange.