Friday, October 12, 2012

M. Beth Bloom Author Interview

Book Nerd Interview

Bloom’s first short story “Love And Other Catastrophes: A Mix Tape” was featured in Story Quarterly and selected by Dave Eggers for inclusion in The Best American Nonrequired Reading: 2003 (Houghton-Mifflin), which he curates annually. Bloom is the founder of underground dance label 100% Silk (profiled here in LA Weekly) AND the producer/lead singer of the band LA Vampires (written up in The Guardian as well as Pitchfork and Fader). Her next book will be published through HarperTeen.

M. Beth lives on the east side of L.A. where she indulges in raw fooding, magazine subscribing, thrift shopping, Sunday matinee’ing, and ladies book clubbing.

Social Media

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?

Srtunk and White's advice: Omit needless words.

Is there such a thing as a formula for storytelling?

Sure there's a formula, but you don't have to follow it! I prefer to let my characters be my guide instead of plot/structure.

What are “Character Rules” and give us some examples.

Authentic voice is mega-important. This goes beyond "write what you know;" this is write what you feel and write it how you'd say it.

Bold characters shine the brightest. Don't always worry if they're instantly likable or not.

Think 3-dimensionally when you craft characters. It's not just about giving them "characteristics" but also about considering their backstory, their history, WHY they do the things they do, say the things they say, act the way they act.

What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them?

The third act is always a challenge, no matter what stage we're at as writers. This is what I call the the Second Act Slump, when you've created this fantastic world and these special characters for a hundred or more pages and yet you can't seem to figure out the pay-off, the climax, the centerpiece of the dramatic action. In order to overcome the writer's block (but let's just call it what it is, WRITER'S PARALYSIS!) some people outline, and re-outline. Some storyboard/brainstorm with a few possible outcomes/plots. My favorite is to talk it out with my trusted first draft readers, throwing out scenarios and questions to them, then finding out what they'd like to see most in the final pages of the book.

In your newest book, Drain You; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?

Drain You for me was a mood quest. I wanted to write something set during my teenage years – the mid to late 1990's – not just out of nostalgia, but also from wanting to entertain myself. Inspired by Bret Easton Ellis's The Informers, cult vampire flicks like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys, and Near Dark, I tried to create a more feminist/literary, and less gothic/angsty, teenage paranormal love story. Vampires are awesome but they're always portrayed as so emo, foppish, anguished, sullen (Edward Sullen, haha). Living in LA, I often see young men walking around desolate parts of the city at night with sunglasses and leather jackets and imagine them as these chic, sleek, cool characters. LA Vampires, I call them, because they don't necessarily suck your blood, but they certainly seem like immortal night-time creatures.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Quinn?

Honestly the most surprising thing I learned was how polarizing she is. I thought I was creating this bold, complex young woman who was both funny and irritating, self-assured and indecisive, cool and lonely, well-adjusted yet adrift. A little horny, a little needy, a lot confused. Like all of us women! But really what I created was a character readers either LOVE, or really hate. I thought she'd be celebrated for her sort of schizophrenic value system, but Quinn's essence just gets under some people's skin!

Do you have a favorite quote that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire you?

Mostly I keep favorite books around my desk while I'm writing. That way when I'm stuck on a sentence or a particular phrasing, I can go to the masters – writers I deeply respect, even worship! – and see how they got through it. The language of Donna Tartt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Julian Barnes, and Loorie Moore really brightened and enlightened me during the writing of my second novel, which I've just finished my first draft of.

If you could introduce James to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

James loves LA babes; he should meet Weetzie Bat of course. She's the ultimate feminist Los Angeles badass heartbreaker. She'd take him to Melrose for a hot dog at Pink's and teach him how to love the nightlife.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?

I'm currently writing my second novel for HarperCollins, called Age Of Backwards. It follows four teenagers who have to confront their fleeting friendship after the mysterious disappearance of a core member of their clique. I'm also working with a writing partner on a screenplay about a group of teenage girls who turn on each other after they've been trapped in a home destroyed by a massive earthquake.

What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?

Anything about feminism in literature – YA or adult.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?

I never remember the bad ones, just the bizarre ones! (There've been lots with Obama in them lately!)

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?

"When was the last time you washed your hair?" Because no one really wants to hear the truth about my shampoo struggles!

If I came to your house and looked in your closet/attic/basement, what’s the one thing that would surprise me the most?

How few pairs of underwear and socks I own and how many pairs of shoes don't fit me.

When was the last time you cried?

I cry almost every day. Feels good!

Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?

My best friend Ben. My husband has to hear it and live it as it happens, but with Ben I get to describe it in full gory detail.

Where can readers stalk you?

My home in Highland Park, Los Angeles (I love pop-ins), the Drain You facebook page, and Quinn's personal Twitter account.

"Bloom debuts with a languid, stylish novel that reads like a love letter to cult vampire flicks like The Lost Boys, the work of Francesca Lia Block, and Southern California in the 1990s."
Every night I'd lie there in bed and look out at the hills behind our house, listening. I knew there'd be consequences.

Actions meant reactions. Sunrises meant sunsets. My fear was too permanent, lasting longer than eyeliner, something I wore every day and didn't wash off.

Quinlan Lacey's life is a red carpet of weird fashions, hip bands, random parties, and chilling by the pool with her on-and-off BFF Libby. There's also her boring job (minimum wage), a crushed-out coworker (way too interested), her summer plans (nada), and her parents (totally clueless). Then one night she meets gorgeous James, and Quinn's whole world turns crazy, Technicolor, 3-D, fireworks, whatever.

But with good comes bad and unfortunately, Quinn's new romance brings with it some majorly evil baggage. Now, to make things right, she has to do a lot of things wrong (breaking and entering, kidnapping, lying, you name it).

There's normal, and then there's paranormal, and neither are Quinlan's cup of Diet Coke. Staying sane, cool, in love, and alive isn't so easy breezy.

M. Beth Bloom’s Drain You is uniquely written story with very intriguing characters. We follow Quinn, a selfish girl who believes the world should center around her. Even the good deeds she does like helping out a friend, she can’t help but thinking how it could benefit her. She could care less about people getting hurt by her actions. Quinn comes off dislikable at first, but there is something there to understand that will ultimately change that around. James, Quinn’s vampire boyfriend, is exactly what he is. If he needs to feed, he will…no playing around.

Quinn and James’ romance, although a dark and vicious one, is very intimate. Although there were two boys seemingly in line as the candidates for Quinn’s hand, the love triangle was entirely absent. Although James’ friend, Morgan, also has feeling for Quinn, it ended up Quinn using him. Quinn never reveals her true feelings for anyone and the second book will definitely straighten things out, at least a portion of it.

Bloom’s writing style is truly dark. I love how she plays with the reader’s emotions. Although she makes Quinn to be this very selfish person, readers need to look at the bigger picture to really see who she is. There’s something really sinister in Drain you. It has a gripping beginning that I know will continue to tighten as the story develops.

You can purchase Drain You at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you M. Beth Bloom for making this giveaway possible.
5 Copies of 'Drain You' signed by the Author, -$50 Credit at Wasteland (Quinn's favorite store), -Pages from Quinn's Notebook (pics attached), 10 'Drain You' Bookmarks handmade by Quinn, 

10 90's mixtapes curated and created by Quinn
a Rafflecopter giveaway