This is an interview from 2009 with Kelly Fineman and it's one of my favorite interviews ever. My second favorites are with Sparty the Dog. Please don't tell him that. Here is Kelly's interview.
I first interviewed you for The Edge of the Forest e-zine back in 2007, a month or so before Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend came out. At that time, Girl, Hero and Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) were still in production with Flux. What a difference two years makes – in that time, Tips was released (and won the 2008 Maine Literary Award and Independent Booksellers Award), Girl, Hero and Love were released as well, and in December of 2008, your first fantasy novel, Need, was released by Bloomsbury. Rather than go over anything about Tips and Love and Girl, Hero, I thought we'd talk about fantasy today, and about what's next. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, since Jeri Smith-Ready did such a kickass interview with you back in December and the folks over at My Favorite Author did a great Need-based interview earlier in May, but here goes.
1. The main character in Need, Zara, is a pretty self-actualized, proactive girl. She's smart, she's athletic, she's socially conscious, and she really doesn't take a lot of crap from anyone, and I have to confess to loving her for rushing out into the world to threaten that if anything happened to Nick, she would kick somebody's ass. What were your considerations when creating a female main character for your fantasy novel?
A lot of contemporary fantasy novels for adults have incredibly confident, butt-kicking heroines but that dominance hasn’t completely taken over the young adult genre. There are still a lot of damsels in distress, which is okay, but I wanted some variety, some female leads who become tough and still are girls, who have bravery and empathy. Zara’s development is like those adult protagonists for a reason. Girls deserve stories where the butt-kicking and the saving isn’t ALWAYS done by the guys. They deserve stories where the female isn’t always the damsel in distress. She can be in distress sometimes, but not all the time.
There are teens out there who are smart, athletic, socially conscious, and whose lives aren’t defined by their boyfriends. They deserve stories where the main character is like them.
Plus, Zara would’ve kicked my butt if I had written her any other way.
2. My M is fond of saying that you write "the very best boyfriends ever". She fell in love with Tom in Tips and Love, with Paolo in Girl, Hero, and most definitely with Nick (and a little bit with Devyn as well) in Need. Care to tell us how you do that? Also, any chance you'll be writing a no-good boyfriend any time soon?
Sigh! She is so nice. She makes me want to happy dance when I hear that.
I don’t make cool guys consciously. I think I approach them like all my characters – I think of them as real. I try to make them three-dimensional, not just narrow shells, or play things. I really like men. I have a lot of guy friends. (I have a lot of female friends, too! Don’t worry! I am not a girl hater). All my guy characters are influenced by REAL LIFE guys I know. I think my love for my friends is part of what comes through when I’m writing those male characters. Plus, I think good guys deserve to be represented. It’s too easy to fall into the ‘one dimensional’ boyfriend trap. So, I fight against it.
And honestly? I fall in love with all of my guy characters, too. I am easy. I swoon when Nick does nice things. It’s a bit pathetic actually.
One of the works-in-progress that I’m doing is told in the voice of a guy who is a bit off. He’s basically a stalker. I’m in love with him, too. That’s how easy I am. Anyway, he’s the closest thing I have to a yucky boyfriend, even though he isn’t technically a boyfriend.
3. This is a spoilery sort of question, people, so if you haven't read Need and want to avoid all mention of its plot, avert your eyes! One of my favorite characters in Need is Zara's friend, Issie, who appears not to have any fantastical or magical properties. I confess to kind of wishing that she were a were-bunny, because that concept made me laugh aloud. Can you tell us if Issie turns out to have some sort of other heredity (i.e., is another form of Shining One), or is she merely mortal? Or must we wait for Captivate to come out this December?
Were bunnies would be super cool, wouldn’t they?
I can’t believe you’re asking! That is sooooooo spoilery.
Bad Kelly. Bad.
4. If you had to categorize Need, would you call it paranormal romance based on the relationship between Nick and Zara, or urban fantasy because it's set a fantasy set in the contemporary world, and one of the key story lines is Zara's quest to learn the truth/not get dead (even though it's set in rural Maine, and not in a city)? As a further question, do those categories matter to you as a writer when you're in the process of developing or writing a book, or are they just important after the fact and/or for certain categories of readers?
Urck. I am no good at the categories or at labeling things. It always feels so confining, like if you call NEED a PARANORMAL ROMANCE you must now have every book of the series fall into that PARANORMAL ROMANCE format. I think this story could go either way. It’s about multiple things (finding yourself, finding love, solving a bit of a mystery, not getting dead). If I had put some strudel in there I could have said it was a STRUDEL-BASED, SUSPENSEFUL, COMING-OF-AGE, LOVE STORY. But, I totally screwed that up. Next time there will be strudel.
I don’t think about categories at all when I write, which is probably a bad thing, marketing-wise. When I write a first draft I just get swept in by the story. When I’m revising is when I think more about the readers, or when my editor, Michelle Nagler, tells me things like, “You can NOT have this happen. This makes the book R-rated. Believe me! No, seriously, Carrie. You can’t. Are you listening, Carrie?”
5. What, if anything, can you tell us about Captivate, the sequel to Need?
Well, I’m still revising it, but I can tell you that:
1. What happens in it surprises me a lot.
2. Zara becomes even more of a butt kicker.
3. Bad stuff happens.
4. Someone dies.
5. She deals with some interesting pixies.
6. Do you foresee yourself writing any future fantasy novels? If so, do you have an interest in world-building? Why or why not?
I think I’d be horrible at the high fantasy that requires a lot of world building. I might try it sometime as a big experiment, but when I even try to make up names for totally different worlds I start cracking up. They all sound really Tolkien-y or just start sounding silly. I like the aspects of world-building that are like a puzzle but I am such an inpatient writer and I always want to get to the character changes and action that I don’t know if I can take the appropriate time to do that.
That said, all novels require world building, even the realistic ones.
That said, I still think I’d stink at it, which is why I’d only try it sometime (when I have time) as an experiment.
NEED was a big experiment, too, actually. I wanted to see if I could write something that wasn’t contemporary and realistic. I wrote it on a bit of a whim. I have written a couple other fantasy novels on whims, too, but they haven’t been submitted to editors yet. My poor agent probably screams inside when he sees another manuscript of mine come across his desk. There’s a bit of a backlog.
I guess the answer to your question is that I love writing fantasy and I hope to publish more. I just wrote an essay for HUNGER MOUNTAIN (the Vermont College Journal of Arts & Letters) about why I like to write it.
7. In addition to Captivate, am I correct that you've got a few other books in the works? What can we expect to see next?
I do. None are under contract though. There’s one story similar to NEED in structure but it’s actually science fiction. There’s a mystery. There’s some contemporary realism. There’s a book I co-wrote with the super cool Steve Wedel [(sewedel), author of The Werewolf Saga]. My agent is about to shop one around. Basically:
1. I have no idea if any editor will actually buy any of them.
2.I have no idea if I’ll ever get anything published again.
3.I have no self confidence about getting books published. I’m just so super psyched that I have ANY out there at all. Seriously. It seems so crazy and lucky.
4. I hope I get more published though.
Man, I sure hope you get more books published, too, and I'm not just saying that as a friend, but also as a fan of your work. Plus I don't want to hear M moaning about her favorite author's failure to publish more books. (And yes, you are her favorite living author. Probably her favorite author. Period.)
8. Last year, you campaigned for public office in the State of Maine. Did your experience on the campaign trail strengthen or weaken your political viewpoints? Will any of that experience make it into a future YA novel?
I spent a lot of time knocking on people’s doors. You learn a lot of things about people when you knock on over 2,500 doors. You learn that:
1. There are a lot of good people out there.
2. There is a lot of poverty, people who work but just can’t afford things like gas or oil. (I live in a rural district in Northern Maine. It is cold here and you have to drive everywhere).
3. Some people will hate for no reason.
4. Some people will love for no reason.
I also learned that a lot of people come to the door naked and occasionally you will meet a psycho killer.
What I learned about myself is that I am not meant to be a politician. I wanted to help people by working through the legislative system; I wanted to make their lives better, but I wasn’t willing to create the tougher, outer persona that people need to win elections here. I wanted to just be me and win. I didn’t want to run a negative campaign. I didn’t want to cheat or do anything slimy. For me, the entire campaign was an exercise in self realization. No. I am not a tailor-made politician. But, yes, I am a person who is passionate and goofy and who cares. That’s okay.
It made my core political beliefs stronger. I believe that government has a role in helping people’s lives. It also made me a big fan in compromise and respect for all political beliefs and ideals from all political parties. I did really well in a political district that doesn’t ever vote for my political party. I gathered more votes than anyone had before. That means a lot to me.
9. What's next?
Right now I’m revising CAPTIVATE, trying to write a novel in short stories, and trying to find time to sleep. I really like sleep. Sleep is my friend but we haven’t been hanging out much lately.
Speed round. We played this before, but let's play again, in case any answers have changed.
My answers ALWAYS change
Cheese or chocolate? I am currently a fan of American cheese. It hides culinary sins quite well because it is one.
Coffee or tea? Sadly neither. Caffeine gives me seizures.
Cats or dogs? Do you want to start a war in my house?
Favorite color? Purple ‘cause I like that book, The Color Purple.
Favorite snack food? Yogurt, Breyers Yo Crunch 100 calorie kind
Favorite ice cream? Skinny Cow
Water or soda? Water. Wow! I sound so healthy! Ha!
What's in your CD player/on iTunes right now? Glue (Carrie is friends with lead rapper, Adeem (pronounced A D M), who says on their MySpace page that he writes music for "people with panic attacks and women who like the pixies and vote for Barack Obama" – hey! that sounds like me and Carrie! No wonder I like what I hear over there.)
What's the last movie you memorized lines from? Well, I just saw Star Trek last night and I have these lines in my head because they really apply to Zara when Spock’s dad says:
You will always be a child of two worlds, and fully capable of deciding your own destiny. The question you face is: which path will you choose?
And then the Capt Pike guy says to Kirk:
You've always had a hard time finding your place in this world, haven't you? Never knowing your true worth. You can settle for less in ordinary life, or do you feel like you were meant for something better? Something special.
Many thanks to Carrie for coming by for this interview. To my way of thinking, she's something special indeed.