As you all know, Lili St Crow’s Betrayals (the second book in her Strange Angels series) is our Book of the Month for December. We’re stoked to have Lili with us this month, and after reading this interview, we think you’ll be pretty stoked too. We want to thank her for taking the time to respond to our questions with such honesty and detail. You rock our socks off Lili! Grab a cuppa and sit back and enjoy!
I actually never thought I would write YA. It never seemed to be an option because of the subject matter and darkness of my usual work. I was quite surprised when I was contacted about my willingness to write in the YA field, it just never occurred to me as something feasible.
I think the YA genre has grown tremendously in the last five to ten years. When I was in that age group, I don’t think certain issues of violence or sexuality would get through the gates, so to speak. There’s been a certain loosening of attitudes and an admission that teenagers do say bad words and they do have hormones, they face dangerous situations and they make choices. I skipped a great deal of YA when I was that age because it just didn’t speak to me—I started reading “adult” books because none of the YAs addressed issues I felt were relevant to my problems. I think teens today have a much greater choice in the genre.
For you, what was the biggest challenge about writing a story for teens as opposed to adults?
Well, they’re not that different. The baseline promise a writer makes is to tell the truth. This makes no difference whether your audience is 14, 40, or 70. Once you have that commitment, you can tackle questions of appropriateness in your own way.
I was very concerned that there would be tension between my editor and me when it came to certain things—rough language, violence, sex. Once I had That Talk with my editor, I was much more sanguine. Before I ever signed the contract I spoke with my editor about my concerns and it was just all out there on the table: I was not going to sugarcoat anything or BS any of my readers, no matter their age. My editor agreed completely and is very supportive.
It seems, at the moment, that in paranormal YA lit, the big thing that draws readers in (especially girls) is the presence of an impossible love triangle. Why did you decide on a love triangle, rather than a single love interest for Dru?
It was just the shape the story took. There are triangles of one sort or another in a lot of my adult work as well.
A lot of paranormal YA—and, let’s face it, a lot of adult fiction—tends to have this narrative that the dangerous, flashy, obsessive partner is desirable and something girls should aim and sigh for. I like to contrast that with the partner who isn’t obsessive or as dangerous. I think a lot of our cultural narratives about romantic love glorify behaviour that would get a restraining order out here in the real world, and contrasting that with a more realistic portrayal of what a healthy relationship looks like is very valuable.
But then again, there are huge conversations going on in our society about gender roles and relationship roles, and the triangles are a good way to explore a lot of those knotty problems. Plus there’s the fantasy factor—in real life, sometimes behaviour a fiction character engages in would be creepy. But the reader has control over how far they enter into the fantasy, and it’s empowering to have that complete control.
I have to ask, are you Team Graves or Team Christophe?
Personally, I’m very Team Graves. He’s not perfect, but his affection and attention are very much preferable to Christophe’s. I mean, Christophe is very old. He remembers certain parts of World War I, for crying out loud. It’s disturbing that he had this relationship with Dru’s mother and is now acting interested in Dru. It’s always faintly skeezy that we have these immortal beings in love with teenagers in our fiction. Part of this goes back to that cultural narrative, and the fantasy.
On the other hand, Christophe is an interesting character because djamphir don’t mature in certain ways. They’re stuck in teenage bodies and dealing with a world that treats them like children nowadays. So it’s not as skeezy as it could be, and Christophe’s growth as a character brings some of these issues into focus.
Artistically and as a writer, I don’t know where Dru is going to “end up”. Why does it have to be a choice between Graves and Christophe? Maybe she will decide to take some time off and figure out what she wants without a boy in the picture. I find it interesting that this isn’t even seen as an option when this sort of thing is discussed.
Do you have the whole Strange Angels series planned out, or are you creating as you write?
I have the big things, the broad strokes, very firmly in my head. But part of creating a work of art is making choices in the moment that might take it in a different direction. It’s a balance, a fine line to be walked between one’s idea of where the story should go and where the story wants to go. Just like life, I guess.
If Dru could click her heels and have three magic wishes, what would she ask for?
I think she would ask for those people she loves to be back with her and whole. She’s had a lot of loss. Dru is an orphan, and that’s a heavy burden to bear. Through most of the series she’s searching for someone to help her, and missing very much the love and stability that her father and grandmother provided, even if both of them were extraordinarily non-traditional.
What about if you could have three magic wishes, what would you ask for?
It’s probably a marker of my age that I don’t know. I think I’d have tremendous difficulty deciding, because any wish I made would have consequences I couldn’t even guess at. I’m not sure I would take advantage of that. I’m profoundly wary of such questions.
Do you have any particular writing habits?
Other than doing it every day, rain or shine? Not really. I’ve trained myself to write no matter what, so my habit just takes the form of doing it every day. Making the commitment to get it done, no matter how or what or why.
When you ventured into the world of YA, why did you chose to write under Lili St Crow rather than Lilith?
That was a decision taken in conjunction with the publisher, to make it very clear that I was writing in a different genre with different expectations.
Can you tell us anything about the next Strange Angels novel?
I’m working on Book 4 right now, and Book 3, Jealousy, isn’t out yet. So I’m kind of torn—which one should I talk about? I suppose it would be fairest if I spoke about Jealousy. The title kind of speaks for itself.
I’ve always seen jealousy as one of the biggest and most insidious problems in high school. There’s this complete lack of proportion and this social pressure, and popularity or even just plain fitting in and finding a peer group is often played as a zero-sum game: the more for you means the less for me. I don’t think our current system does a good job at teaching kids compromise and cooperation as an non-zero-sum game. So when people hit the adult world, there’s this all or nothing habit of interacting with people that’s very hard to break. Some people never grow out of it.
But you wanted to know about the book, right? Well, this is the book where Dru finds out more about how her mother died and who was truly responsible. The traitor to the Order is unmasked, and there is a price to be paid for Dru’s acts of kindness. Dru also learns a great deal more about what it means to be a part of the Real World, the world of all these things that go bump in the night.
Are you working on anything non-Strange Angels related at the moment that you’d like to share with us?
I’m actually incredibly busy right now, with a ton of short stories for anthologies in process and the next Jill Kismet novel (one of my adult series) pretty much wrapped up and sent to the editor to begin the revisions process. I like being busy.
Thanks so much for having me here!