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Kids and Teen Blog

Category: Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Mother-Daughter Duo behind the House of Night Series

by Alisha
Fiction + Science Fiction and Fantasy + YA Fiction / October 29, 2014

Jennifer Tammy is a Canadian psychologist and Montessori educator who blogs at Study at Home Mama and In the Kids' Kitchen. In the following interview she speaks with P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, the dynamic mother-daughter duo behind the internationally bestselling House of Night series. 

Everyone must be curious how a mother-daughter team makes it work. Can you describe your working and creative dynamic together?

PC Cast: Writing is usually such a solitary job that it's nice to have someone in it with me. I write the entire first draft, and then send it to Kristin for her to go through. It makes me feel like I can relax and write, knowing she has my back. Believe me, she'll let me know if I've messed up and made Zoey sound 40-something! I guess the down side would be that she's the only person in the world who can tell me (and has), "No, Mom. You have to change it 'cause that sucks."

KC Cast: Writing with Mom is great because for once in my life I get to tell her she's wrong! I serve mainly as her teen voice editor. During the first couple books, we tried to split up the chapters but realized very quickly that it wasn't working. So, she will write the first draft of the whole book and then I go through and fill in gaps she's left for me, edit, and I also cut parts out—but don't tell her I said that.

PC: We do some brainstorming, and then I write the first draft. It's hard for me. I want to call her and talk to her about it sometimes, but she hasn't read up to where I am. I used to send her pieces of it, but I revise constantly. So what I will have sent her before might have completely changed. So that didn't work. When I get done, I'll send it to her. I'll talk to her in the manuscript sometimes. Then she goes through it and fills in the blanks and answers the questions. She makes sure I'm being succinct enough because I tend to do too much description. So she'll write these little bubbles to me. Then she sends the manuscript to me and I see what changes she's made. I re-read it carefully to make sure she's not messing up any of my dominoes, because I have a much better idea of where I'm going than she does. When I'm done, we send it off.


When did you start creatively collaborating together?

PC: I brought Kristin in while I was writing the first three chapters of Marked. I kept stumbling over silly little things, like specific slang that I thought I knew, but found out once I started writing about teenagers that MY deeply buried inner teen from the 70s kept trying to resurface and butt in with her slang! Kristin keeps me straight about that. She also says she keeps Zoey from "sounding like a 40-something disgruntled school teacher."


The "House of Night" series is incredibly prolific, how did you stay inspired? Did you know ahead of time that you'd end up writing twelve titles in this series?

PC: No! When I began writing Marked I envisioned a trilogy, but by the time I was in the middle of Betrayed (book 2 of the series) I knew I had something much larger. Thankfully, book 3, Chosen, debuted #2 on the New York Times best seller list, and at that time my publisher gave me the go-ahead to expand the world and follow the plot wherever it might lead me.


Your books have a really unique premise when it comes to vampyre literature; how do you view your series alongside (or in comparison to) the other books in this genre?

PC: My world is the only one that is based around a matriarchal belief system. The message of empowering young women really resonates with teenagers. Also, I try hard to keep the kids real, which means that quite often I push the envelope with the themes I tackle in the books, and while that can be difficult it also reaches my audience and means a lot to them.

When I decided to write a vampire series I focused on creating a new mythos for my world. Right away I knew I would make it matriarchal, and that automatically was a shift in the traditional vamp lore.  I'm from a family of teachers and they are mostly science teachers. My father is one of the most knowledgeable biologists I know. In my fantasy books he has always kept my ecosystems in check and made sure I didn't create a world that wouldn't really work ecologically. So I turned to him for brainstorming help with my vamps. As the daughter of a biologist, I was always strong in the sciences myself, and took lots of biology electives in college where I was a literature major. I already had an idea about using what science slang calls junk DNA—Dad loved the idea—and we brainstormed from there! The red vampyres developed naturally. Dad and I talked about what would happen if someone tried to bring back a kid who had died when his body rejected the Change. Of course dying and then un-dying would cause a large amount of physiological injury, and many of the more bestial characteristics of the red vamps grew out of that. I then add the paranormal element of Nyx's influence, as well as the earth magic that is alive and well in the HoN world, and I have a whole new depth to my vampyre mythos!


Are there any other projects you'd like to try?

KC: I am just a couple days from being finished with my first solo novel! I like to think of it as a fairy tale because it's written as poetry rather than prose. Hopefully, I will have news about dates, etc. for it soon. Mom and I have been discussing a new series. I'm not going to say anything too specific, but we should have more info within the next year or so.


Who do you write your books for? Is there anyone you would not recommend your books to?

P.C.: Kristin and I do feel a definite sense of responsibility writing for teens. I've been teaching high school since 1993, and as I’ve said before, I'm from a family of teachers. We know the impact words can have on young adults. Yes, there is bad language in the books. Yes, there is sex in the books. Yes, hard things happen to teens—some even die—in the books. All of those things are going on today with teens, minus the vampyre element. Kristin and I feel it is essential that Zoey and the other characters deal with real issues. Zoey has an excellent sense of honor and integrity, but she's a teenager and she messes up. Basically, the "message" in the House of Night series is one of acceptance and tolerance, as well as the fact that just because a kid makes mistakes it doesn't mean his/her life is over.


Vampyre literature comes with its fair share of controversy, how do you deal with that?

PC: I've never been of the mind that I must please everyone, so I don't read reviews and pay little attention to genre-based controversies.  I focus on writing the story I would most want to read and keep moving ahead in a positive manner.

Meet mother and daughter PC & Kristin Cast at our special event to celebrate the release of Redeemed, the final electrifying installment in the House of Night series! 

Tonight, Oct 29 at 7 pm at Chapters Metrotown
Metropolis, Metrotown 4700 Kingsway
Burnaby, British Columbia
(604) 431-0463
Click here for event details

Guest Post: Cecil Castellucci, Author of Tin Star

by Dan
Fiction + Science Fiction and Fantasy + YA Fiction / March 31, 2014

In a special guest post for Raincoast, Cecil Castellucci, the author of Tin Star, explains why she created a role playing game based on her novel.

When I wrote my new novel, Tin Star, I knew that the story of Tula Bane was only going to be two books. It's a duet! But the universe that she lives in and all of the aliens and moving parts of the book were still interesting to me. So much stuff goes into world building. What's a nerdy girl to do? Write a game!

I am a gamer. I like to play all kinds of table top games and video games. And my favorite kind of game to play is a Role Playing Game (RPG). I don't play them often enough. In Los Angeles, I have a regular D&D game that I play with a group of friends once a month. We tweet about it, so if you follow me @misscecil, you've likely seen the mini figure—I'm a rogue—light up my twitter feed on the occasional Friday or Saturday night. 

I've played a lot of games and I've read a lot of books. This past fall I took a Coursera class on the transmedia of narratives where we read The Lord of the Rings, watched the movies and then also played the MMRPG (Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Game). What I love about transmedia is that it lets you engage with a story in many different ways.

Lucky for me, I have a friend Chris who is the publisher of Green Ronin and they created the True20 open license system which I used to create the game TIN STAR: A SIMPLE FAVOR.  

I recruited my brother and we wrote an adventure where you play some aliens who come aboard the Yertina Feray and go on an adventure where you have to interact with Tula, Tournour, Heckleck and Thado. 

Now perhaps some of you have never played a RPG before. Or you feel intimidated by the word "multi sided dice." Never fear! We wrote the adventure so that it's really easy to play. What you need is a group of friends who are fun and want to go on an adventure. A Game Master who will lead the group through the adventure and run the game. It helps if this person is a great story teller! A 20 sided die. You can get these at any gaming store. Or ask your gaming friends or relatives if you can borrow one. Maybe order a pizza! 

The Game Master will tell the players the story and lead them through the action of the game. You never know what is going to happen because dice are rolled and actions either succeed or fail and random events may occur.  Basically you're making up a story that stars you and has some guidelines as to make the story fun. 

The TIN STAR True20 Quick Start rules (PDF) give a detailed overview of the True20 rules and they describe the feats that the characters have. The TIN STAR: A SIMPLE FAVOR adventure  has all the stuff that the Game Master needs to run the adventure plus a player hand out and the pre-generated characters that your players will play. If you're an experienced gamer this will all make sense. True20 is pretty simple system. If you are not a regular gamer and are intimidated by all the percentiles, then just think of it like this. Roll the dice, if something is hard to do, then the players have to roll high. If it's easy, they can do it with a lower roll. You decide what's hard and easy. Trust me. You'll get the swing of it!

For me, writing the game in the universe of Tin Star was a way that I got to hang out with Tula some more. So I hope you'll enjoy playing the game and hanging out with Tula Bane and the gane. Reading the book will make parts of the game more fun, because you'll get some of the references and you'll know who is who. But if you or your friends haven't read it yet, that's cool too!  I think playing the game will make your eventual hanging out with Tula in the book fun too because you'll have already met her. Please let me know how your game goes!    

Lindsay from Me On Books interview Cecil Castellucci about Tin Star

by Crystal
Fiction + Science Fiction and Fantasy + YA Fiction / March 06, 2014

Today on the Raincoast Blog we are very excited to welcome Lindsay from Me On Books as our special young adult book blogger guest! 
A few weeks ago I planned a blogger dinner with Marissa Meyer and a handful of our fabulous West Coast YA Book Bloggers. I asked the ladies seated around the table what their favorite book so far in 2014 has been. Lindsay spoke passionately about Cecil Castellucci's book Tin Star and the number of reasons that she loved the book. 
To celebrate the release of Tin Star I decided to invite Lindsay to interview Cecil and do a special guest post with us. Welcome Lindsay as our very special Raincoast Guest Blogger!
Lindsay: I think I'm drawn to weird and quirky books, meaning books that go beyond contemporary everyday life with no magic beyond finding a $20 bill in an old coat pocket. Books with fantastical creatures in distant lands, books with advanced technology capable of traveling across galaxies, books with time travel and countless other impossibilities. Reality can be boring enough some days, most days, and so I end up falling head-first into those books that take me somewhere else. Books like Tin Star.
The first book I read by Cecil Castellucci was The Year of the Beasts, this awesome novel/graphic novel hybrid with Nate Powell. I remember reading it and feeling my heart break for Tessa. Then I read First Day on Earth and wondered for hours how so much happened in such a small book. Then came Tin Star. And Tula. And Tournour. And Heckleck. And the space station. And I wanted to be a part of this book, to be in it, to be there in the future in deep space (there's only one other series that does this to me and that's Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle).
As much as I love books that don't take place in reality, I love books about people. Their struggles, their fears, their happiness, their unbridled joy. And as much as I love Tin Star for its deep space setting and intriguing space station, I love Tin Star because of Tula. Her strength, her pain, her suffering. Her spirit. So I'll stick with my weird books and wait not so patiently for Tula's return. In the meantime here is my interview with Cecil Castellucci.
Lindsay: I found Tin Star to be such an interesting book, this look at one human girl, abandoned and cast aside, left for dead, who is in a way saved by aliens and ekes out a life on a space station surrounded by those aliens. Where did the idea of this book start? Did it start with Tula, with wanting to tell her story?
Cecil: It did start with Tula.  I wondered what it would be like if you had to eat alien food or die.  That was kind of the first seed.  But it really came together when I was re-watching Casablanca.  I was struck by the idea of this city being this way station for people in limbo during WW II as they tried to escape from Germany.  The city was a character in that movie and that coupled with the idea of a human girl choosing to eat alien food and live was the real start of the book.  I knew that I wanted Tula to be the only human on that station, and in a way I model her after Rick from the movie, who is shut down after being disappointed and deceived when fleeing Paris.  Tula almost has to become an alien and shed her humanity until she's confronted with it again when the three humans crash onto the station.  
Lindsay: How important was it to have Tula be so strong, to be able to come back and continue living? (Of course, I imagine her need for revenge for what Brother Blue did to her provided some incentive.)
Cecil: It was very important.  For the revenge, for sure.  But also because I think when anyone experiences trauma you kind of have to choose to come back.  When she is clutching onto that Alin plant that she stole from Tournour, that is really the moment that she decides to live.  That is evident when Heckleck tries to buy it from her and she knows that if she gives it up she'll die.  
Lindsay: Tula is often looked down upon for being human, for being part of a species that just wanders through space seemingly without a care. Why categorize Humans as a Lesser Species, as wanderers?
Cecil: I wanted to not only have Tula be alone on the station, but alone in the galaxy.  Really friendless.  As for making Humans a lesser species, I was interested in the idea of moving away from a human centric galactic story which we often times see in science fiction, humans are the star and the saviors and the most civilized of all.  And of course Tula is a human and she's the star.  But I mean humans as a civilization.  I thought it would be interesting to really try to explore humanity through alien-ness.  As for the human wanderers, I was thinking about the humans who went out on intergenerational ships and just kind of got stuck and couldn't come home.  And of course, there is a reason for humans being lesser in the sense that there is room for them to grow.  And a lot of that crops up in book two!  But you'll have to wait to see what's in store in Stone in the Sky.  
Lindsay: Tula has a curious relationship with her own humanity. She spends years on the station, time away from Humans and time with many different aliens. It's an interesting look at the 'other,' and when Humans come to the station, how we can feel like the 'other' when we're with someone almost exactly like us. Was that intentional?
Cecil: Absolutely! In this story, we are the strange aliens. Tula is apart and manages it because of her overwhelming desire to survive, but ultimately that like I hinted at above, I was interested in Tula having to rediscover and reclaim her humanity after sort of having to become an alien herself.  I mean, I suppose it's actually much deeper than what I can articulate.  But yes, it was completely intentional.  There are so many great stories where aliens come to Earth and are the other, I wanted to flip that around.  
Lindsay: The different aliens on the station, aliens like Tournour and Heckleck, all have 'Human' characteristics. They are alien, they're not Human, but they are sympathetic towards Tula. Was there anything that inspired the different alien species, or specifically Tournour and Heckleck? (I kept going back to the sketch of Becky Cloonan's of Tournour that you posted on Twitter whenever Tula came across him.)
Cecil: I love Becky's sketch of Tournour!  I love how dreamy she made him!  And Heckleck, too!  Did I post that one?  With Tournour, I wanted him to have some kind of something that we could grab onto, which is why they have the most human eyes.  I purposefully make Humans and Loors have the same kind of sun.  I thought that could sort of signal that they have some kind of familiarity to each other.  With Heckleck, I wanted to create an alien that looked very scary but actually has a kind heart.  I have a short story about him and his soft heart that Tor.com is supposed to publish at some point called The Sound of Useless Wings that explains more about him.  But there is a big tradition in Sci Fi of bug-like aliens and so he is kind of a nod to that.  Personally, bug-like things freak me out and if I had to be saved by one I'd probably faint with fear!  In a way, as alien as you make your aliens, you are still bound by being human.  Since we haven't met any yet, it's very hard to imagine! And ultimately, we have to be able to relate to the characters a bit, so I have to define them with my human eyes and brain! 
Thanks to Cecil for chatting with me about Tin Star. I'm going to continue blogging about weird books over at Me on Books while I wait for the sequel of Tin Star to be released.

Cory Doctorow Pirate Cinema Launch

by Dan
Events + Fiction + Science Fiction and Fantasy / September 24, 2012

Cory Doctorow, portrait by NK Guy

Do you live in Oakville? You do! Well then, make sure you get yourself down to the Oakville Public Library this Wednesday to hear the awesome Cory Doctorow (author of Little Brother and For the Win) introduce his latest novel, Pirate Cinema

Pick up your free ticket at all Oakville Public Library branches to hear Cory read from his book and discuss creativity, copyright and bill C-11 followed by a Q&A.

Bring your book to have it autographed! Don’t have a copy? Different Drummer Books will be available with copies for purchase.

Pirate Cinema!

Cory Doctorow at Oakville Public Library 
Wednesday, September 26: 6-8pm
Central Branch Auditorium – 120 Navy Street
Refreshments will be served

Tickets are required and are available in all branches. If you are unable to pick up a ticket for this event before Wednesday, please contact Elise at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or at 905-815-2042 ext. 5037 and a ticket will be left at the door for you!

This event is open to Grades 9 and above.

Please contact Elise at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 905-815-2042 ext. 5037 if you have any special needs.

This event is sponsored by The Friends of the Oakville Public Library.