Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Author Interview & Giveaway: Ilsa J. Bick

Today I feature a YA author that was able to keep me entralled in her novel and keep me coming back for more. Her novel Ashes is one of those books that will stick with you and have you questioning everything. Please welcome to Blood Rose Boooks
Ilsa J. Bick

Why are you so surprised that you are an award-winning, best-selling author?
Uhm . . . because it’s like winning the lottery? Like, you hope things work out, but you don’t really expect it? Honestly, it’s thrilling enough to see my stuff in print. Don’t get me wrong: the awards are great; heck, I bought a refrigerator from the money I got from one prize, and my secret ambition is to someday win an Edgar, or at least make it onto the bloody list. (There’s just something about that little Poe head I really groove on.) But to have your work read and enjoyed by a lot of people from all over the globe . . . that’s just really special. I’ll never forget the day I found out I’ve got a fan base in Turkey. Turkey! And they’re really sweet kids, too!

Did you decide to write within the YA genre because of your other career as a child psychiatrist?
Nope; it just happened. I started out in work-for-hire in established universes like Star Trek, Mechwarrior, Battletech and Shadowrun, and I’ve published a number of adult sf short stories in all sorts of venues. I was writing an adult mystery when I got the idea for Draw the Dark. When I finished Draw—and, boy, I wrote it pretty fast—I realized that I really enjoyed the genre and started educating myself about the YA that was out there. The thing I love about YA: kids aren’t necessarily as rigid as adults in their genre expectations, and there’s room for all sorts of mash-ups. For example, Draw is a paranormal mystery, but there are also horror, historical fiction, and dark psychological elements (in fact, one reviewer decided I’d created a new genre altogether). I love the freedom YA gives.

The Urban Fantasy / Paranormal genres appear to be the genre that everyone is writing in these days (even authors that are well established in other genres) what do you think the draw to these genre is? How do you believe your novels and series stand out from the rest of the crowd?

Gee, I don’t know; let’s take those questions in order. Doesn’t everyone daydream about having super-powers and not being ordinary but discovering that you’re really someone incredibly unique and special—and finding that certain special someone to boot? Honestly, the conceits fit very well with adolescents; if you think about it a sec, the whole task for the teenager is to leave home, find a love interest, and negotiate his/her way in that big bad world beyond their parents’ front door. It’s all very go forth, young man.

But why would anyone in his or her right mind voluntarily leave someplace safe and secure where, for most of us, you’re fed, clothed, taken care of? Right; nobody. In order to leave home and believe you can tackle life, you have to think you’re pretty darned special. That’s one of the reasons teens are so self-involved, and it’s all about me and finding a love interest and conquering the world. So I think the psychology and developmental tasks of adolescence play their part in those genres’ popularity.

Now, having said that . . . none of my books are like that. Period. I mean, yes, Draw the Dark was a paranormal mystery, but the protag was a boy and there really wasn’t a love interest per se; the task for the kid in my book was very, very different. But I’ve yet to write an urban fantasy or straight-up paranormal. So I guess that’s how my books stand out because they’re not.
Many adults have taken to reading novels that have been classified with the YA designation. Why do you think YA novel are now appeal to adult more and more?
Well, if you believe some commentators, it’s because YA is supposed to be easier on the brain and adults are tired. But I don’t buy that. I also don’t buy that many or even a majority of YAs appeal to adults; there are just as many young adults who find the situations and storylines of a lot of YA too simplistic. (I mean, you honestly think a twenty-something really wants to read about a sixteen or seventeen year old kid who’s getting dissed in high school, or can’t decide between Hunk A or Brainiac B?) So I personally don’t think it’s about the genre; it’s always about the story and the story has to be compelling and complex enough to grab and appeal to an adult. The fact that the story may have YA protags is secondary; the narrative is what carries the reader along for the ride.

Do you think that this may change some of the over content of the YA genre? Do you write with youth in mind or an adult reader in mind?
I actually never write with a particular reader in mind; I’m almost always invested in the characters, who just happen to be teenagers. So is that writing for teenagers? I guess so . . . but that almost feels too bald. The truth is that I’m writing their stories, and so, yeah, I’m trying to keep myself in a teenager’s mindset. If an adult is interested or enjoys that, great. But, again, I’m really all about story.

As for content . . . you know, I pretty much don’t worry about that. I put in what the story demands.

What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why?
Historical fiction, which I happen to be tearing my hair out over right now (in a bizarre and twisted Ilsa-kind of way): you can get so caught up in learning facts, that you can a) research forever and b) lose sight of the fact that what you’re after is verisimilitude, not an A+ for a some research paper. You have to figure out which period details you want to include and bag the rest because you’ll never get it all right (and I’ve read some fairly jarring things in well-received books that I know are flat-out wrong—but you forgive the writer if the story’s good). In addition, there are some things that are just unknowable. For example, take whale oil: different grades gave off very specific light, hues, and smells. But what does a room lit with grade A whale oil really look like? Smell like? What about soot? And shadows?

You can go crazy worrying about stuff like this.

There are quite a few paranormal creatures out there (vampires, werewolves, witches, etc.) why did you choose to feature a zombie type creature in your Ashes Trilogy?
Dunno. Just seemed right at the time, and for the situation I was positing. Plus, I’m really not a fan of vampires, werewolves or witches—and there was no way to gracefully or even semi-scientifically slot them in there ;-). I guess I just liked the idea of kids who still looked like kids and were mortal but had undergone this major lifestyle change.

Your novel Draw the Dark, takes place during WWII, but is also a fantasy novel, was it hard to merge fact and fiction together?
No, not really, and especially because only certain sections happen in WWII

but always from the viewpoint of the primary protag, Christian Cage, who is very rooted in the present-day. I was really looking for a way to tell the true story of German PWs in the US, and sort of stumbled on the idea of melding a paranormal mystery with historical fact

All of your novels and series have a dark edge to them and some of them feature tough (and often not talked about) issues. For you, what is the appeal of the darker side? Do you find it hard to go to the dark side of your thinking? Do you think it is important to bring these issues to adults and teens even if it is within a fiction novel?
Well, I did some psychoanalytic training and am a Freudian and, you know, for us, the glass is always half-empty ;-). Honestly, I think I gravitate to the darker side of people because that both fascinates me and is what I’m trained to do. I’ve crawled through more people’s private sewers and hells than you can imagine, and I’ve heard and seen some pretty horrific things. So that dark side, when we really don’t behave well, is something I’m quite familiar with. At this point, I don’t find it hard at all. Remember, I also worked in a women’s prison, and Orange is the New Black, it ain’t. In some ways—and sad to say—almost nothing shocks me anymore. If a situation’s perverse and awful and cruel . . . someone somewhere will be hip-deep in it and having a good ol’ time.

As for the appeal . . . people are fascinated by darkness, and always have been. It’s why they flocked to public executions; it’s why serial killers get fan mail and marriage proposals. People are fascinated by taboos and the eerie, the uncanny, the things that go bump in the night and down the hall. In some ways, horror and awe are related emotions; the truly horrific also holds us in thrall. It’s the reason people queue up to watch the lions at feeding time, or slow down for an accident, or watch horror movies through their fingers. In the Bible, you cover your face in God’s presence; looking at God can also drive you mad, and almost every encounter with the divine, especially in the Old Testament, is frightening in some way.

In terms of a mission or importance . . . no, I don’t look at it that way. Remember, I’m first and foremost an entertainer. My job is to tell you a good story. So I never approach a book with an agenda. I think a book like that would actually be very boring, and kids are lectured at enough in school and by their parents. That doesn’t mean that things don’t creep in; my stories are fraught with people faced with difficult moral choices or tempted to break certain taboos, and then they have to decide what to do. Sometimes—many times—they make bad decisions. Then they just got to deal, and we get to see what happens next.

Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
Sure. Just finished the first-pass copy-edits for WHITE SPACE, the first volume in my new DARK PASSAGES series: think The Matrix meets Inkheart and Inception, and you start to get the gist. Very YA horror/darkly psychological thriller, mind-bending stuff going on. Right this second, I’m in the beginning throes of the sequel, THE DICKENS MIRROR. Soon as I’m done with that, I’ll go back and finish banging out a standalone YA thriller that’s about halfway done. Then I get to return to Saving Sky, the first book of a new sci-fi-ish series that I broke away from to write MONSTERS. By the the time I finish that first book . . . I’d better have some more ideas.

What is one book on your shelf that you cannot wait to read (can either be a new or old favorite).
Oh gosh, I have so many. I guess . . . Countdown City by Ben Winters. But there’s Silken Prey (John Sandford) that I keep putting off; and Joyland by Stephen King; and . . . GAH!!! Too many books, not enough hours in the day!

I think that all of know how Ilsa feels about too many books, not enough time, but make sure to make time to read her Ashes Trilogy as well as enter her giveaway below (open USA) for either the first book Ashes or Monsters which was just released today. Thank you once again Ilsa for being part of my Blogoversary.

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