Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #28:
Author and blogger and all-around rocker,
Cecil Castellucci

h1 June 1st, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

We are happy to have a cyber-visit today here at 7-Imp with author/director/performance artist/indie rock musician Cecil Castellucci, everyone’s favorite “punk rock prom queen” (as Little Willow called her in this recent interview). We had a lot of fun talking to her, and — jump back! — she even shared a brand-spankin’-new original poem with us when we asked, so we thank her kindly for stopping by and thank her for the poem on this first Poetry Friday of June. We have had her on our mental to-interview list, and what a perfect time to chat it up with her. Why? you ask. Well, because Cecil currently has two books out at once — yes, two (The Plain Janes and Beige) — and as to how she’s feeling about that (is it an exhilarating rush or tremendous pressure?), you can read below in our interview with her. One of her essays (“My Fairy Godfathers”) is also included in the recently-released Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys: True Tales of Love, Lust, and Friendship Between Straight Women and Gay Men (Dutton Books)? Whew, she’s one busy literary punk rock star.

Susan Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote here in this review that The Plain Janes is “a sassy, artistically enhanced alternative to the usual all-boys-all-the-time prose written for hormonal teen girls.” A novel in the new DC Comics imprint, Minx, aimed at YA teenage girls and illustrated by Pittsburgh artist Jim Rugg, it tells the story of a group of misfit high school girls who band together to become “art terrorists” and try to shake up and wake up the small fictional town-in-the-suburbs of Kent Waters. Carpenter further wrote: “What starts as a typical, if timely, misfit teen transplant drama quickly evolves into a story that is far more surprising and layered than you might expect from a book with so few words. Just as Rugg’s crisp pen-and-ink drawings seem to take advantage of an entire color spectrum between black and white, Castellucci’s story explores the highs and lows of an alienated teen’s trek toward self-discovery.” Kelly Herold at Big A, little a also reviewed it here in advance of its publication, as well as Fuse #8 (“I cannot stress enough how good it feels to have a book where the ultra-cool heroine keeps turning down the Queen Bee’s advances in the hope that maybe the girls at the ‘uncool’ table will let her into their private circle. It’s like a breath of fresh air”). And you can find other early reviews here at Newsarama (“If The Plain Janes is any indication, Minx will be a resounding success”), here at The Comics Reporter, here at (who praise the novel’s “modest charms”), and here at Eye on Comics — to name just a few. KLIATT wrote in their review that “Rugg’s art and Castellucci’s writing form a seamless blend that perfectly captures the experiences of a teenage girl in a post 9/11 world . . . Jane is a superbly developed heroine for teen girls . . . Janes is an absolute triumph.” And just yesterday Roger Sutton announced at Read Roger that a starred review will be given to the novel in the July/August issue of The Horn Book.

May also saw the release of Cecil’s Beige (Candlewick Press). You can go here to see a YouTube video of Cecil telling you a bit more about Beige and why she wrote it (also see below in the list of resources for a link to Cecil reading the first chapter of the novel). There have been a couple of punk-based YA novels over the past year or two (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and King Dork spring to mind) but Beige takes the themes of teen rebellion and punk music and gives them a unique twist. The narrator, Katy, is a straight-laced, pink-and-chino-clad, poised and polite 15-year-old who has to spend a summer with her estranged father The Rat, drummer for a legendary punk band, in LA. Through new friendships with young punksters, a tentative new understanding of her dad, and immersion in the punk scene, Katy finally embraces her own inner punk and finds a voice and style of her own. This is another one of those books that makes you wish it came with a CD soundtrack. You can read Liz’s advance review from January at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy here, and Colleen Mondor also talks about it here, even mentioning that she plans to include Beige in her June Bookslut column.

Cecil’s first YA novel, Boy Proof (Candlewick Press), was published in 2005 and was named a BookSense 76 Children’s Pick, a YALSA 2006 Best Books for Young Adults, and a YALSA 2006 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. In her Booklist review of this title, Hazel Rochman wrote, “this first novel’s clipped, funny, first-person, present-tense narrative will grab teens . . . with its romance and the screwball special effects, and with the story of an outsider’s struggle both to belong and to be true to herself.” Boy Proof was followed in ’06 by another YA novel, The Queen of Cool (Candlewick Press), about which School Library Journal wrote, “Castellucci clearly knows what goes on in the lives of many teens.”

Cecil has a very strong, very animated online presence; if you’re hurting for Cecil-info, you’re looking in all the wrong places. There’s her main site, of course, a lovely place to begin for All Things Cecil (and it includes The Best Trailing Cursor Ever in The History of All Web Sites), but don’t miss her amusing and entertaining and always-informative LiveJournal, The Divine Miss Pixie Woods, and her MySpace presence (she’s a “Renaissance Gal,” no doubt). She also has a blog for Beige, Beige is Punk!, started in January of this year. “Since the book is about discovering your voice and also finding your inner punk and whatever that means to you,” she writes at the site, “I thought it would be cool to ask my most musically inclined and punk ass cool peeps from all walks of life to give me what their ten essential punk songs for a mix tape would be.” It’s a great site with some amazing essential punk mix lists and author contributions. And, wait, there’s also Cecil’s Crush Library, all things crushworthy in her book (chocolate chip cookies, Ray Bradbury, baths, and other things worth swooning over). There’s also Cecil’s FAQ, her original poetry at Front Porch Poems (begun in December 2005), and her Amazon profile page. As an indie rock musician, she performs under the names Nerdy Girl and Cecil Seaskull. She also wrote and directed a feature film . . . We have little doubt that Cecil probably has one skerjillion (to be precise) more sites and/or blogs about the abundant art in her life and that she is involved in even more artistic endeavors than these, but these are the adventures in her life about which we know. In other words, that’s our story, and we’re stickin’ to it, but we bet there’s a lot we’re missing. Obviously, she does an impressive job of making herself truly accessible to all her teen (and adult) fans out in the world. Nice.

We’d like to thank her for stopping by. We’d also like to humbly submit two more punk songs for her awesome Beige punk mix lists, for what it’s worth. Since Cecil has stated before that punk is often misunderstood and that it’s really a frame of mind (in other words, it’s not merely limited to music similar to The Sex Pistols; it’s about the attitude), Jules suggests David Rawlings’ and Gillian Welch’s savagely cool blues number, “Pass You By” (from the classic 1996 release, “Revival”), a great song with a great story of desperation, a path to a life of crime, and some killer upright bass, all adding up to a quiet, little, confrontational middle finger of a song. Its punk sneaks up behind you and surprises you. Excellent . . . Eisha would like to contribute this cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Satisfaction” performed by PJ Harvey and Björk at the Brit Awards in 1994. There’s a scene in the book where Katy/Beige and her new dyed-in-the-wool-punk friend Lake perform, just their two voices and Lake’s guitar, and it reminded Eisha of this. Here’s the video:

Without further ado, here’s Cecil:

* * * * * * *

7-Imp: How did the podcast stand-up show turn out?

Cecil: Oh! Thanks for asking! It actually turned out really well. I talked about my dilemma about whether or not I should go to Star Wars Celebration and my love/hate relationship with Star Wars. Happily, it wasn’t that packed a show because Griffith Park was on fire and so the whole night felt Post-Apocalyptic, and no one wanted to go out. The other comedians were hysterical and, since it was my first show, they were very supportive. My friend who runs another comedy show here in L.A. offered me a set at that, it’s called Garage Comedy and I’m going to do my “post” Star Wars Celebration thing. I don’t know what I’m doing, but you know, you sometimes just have to throw yourself off a cliff and do something that is terrifying and completely out of your comfort zone.

Ray Bradbury7-Imp: You mention at one of your blogs that Ray Bradbury made you want to be a writer. Did any other authors do that for you? On that note, if you could have three (living) authors — whom you have not yet met — over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

Cecil: I always loved James Tiptree, Jr. and Jane Austen and Sam Shepard and Kurt Vonnegut. Three living authors — who I have not yet met — who I think would make for a fantabulous dinner party with great conversation would be Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon.

7-Imp: How exciting is it to have one novel, one graphic novel, and one anthology story out in the same month (week?)? Do you feel ecstatic glee and/or tremendous pressure?

Cecil: I feel both ecstatic glee and tremendous pressure. I mean, you know! That’s a lot of books out at once! And I’m so fiercely proud of all them! So, now I have to write a lot of new books that kick just as much ass! *gets to work*

7-Imp: What was it like to write a graphic novel after writing prose for so many years? Do you think you will want to do it again?

Cecil: It was great writing a graphic novel. I am a pretty lean writer, so I really liked the idea of sort of removing almost all of the words. That said, at first, it was so difficult. It was hard to figure out how to move the narrative forward without the use of words and only the use of pictures. It was a steep learning curve. Now that I have done it and figured it out (thanks to Jim Rugg, the illustrator of Plain Janes, who was so patient with me and so awesome to work with), I am totally hooked. There is a delightful freedom in telling a story with visuals. It’s completely different than writing with words. It accesses a totally different emotional place inside of me, the writer, and you, the reader. I like both. It’s fun having a new color to play with when it comes to telling stories. So I would love, love, love to do it again.

7-Imp: When did you find your inner punk and do you remember what song was playing, if any?

Cecil: A friend made me a mix tape in High School. It had the song “Pablo Picasso” by The Modern Lovers, “Warm Leatherette” by Grace Jones, “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies, “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and a bunch more. It was 1985. And I was glad. Also around the same time I saw The Ramones play live at the Ritz. That was pretty cool. Gabba, Gabba, Hey! It wasn’t too long after that that I got a leather jacket.

7-Imp: Is there any one of all your novel’s characters who strongly reflects you in any way? Or is there a little bit of you in them all (or none)? Booklist wrote about Boy Proof that it’s about an “outsider’s struggle both to belong and to be true to herself.” Was this a struggle for you, by chance, as a teen?

Cecil: There is absolutely a little bit of me in all of my characters. That’s kind of the fun thing about writing, and creating characters, is that you get to take a few wonderful and a few horrible things about yourself and shake it up. For me struggling to both belong and be true to myself is not just a struggle I had as a teen, but something that I think I still have as an adult. I don’t think that struggle is something that is ever really going to go away. When I was a teen, I marched to the beat of my own drum, but I desperately wanted to belong and fit in with my friends and peers. I never felt like a normal teen. It was hard then to make the choice to be 100% a follower, or 100% following my own path. I ended up being a little bit of both, determined to be myself and then caving in every other week to the trends and peer pressures of my friends and do or wear or think what they thought was cool. That said, I grew up in NYC, I went to an alternative school, and I had parents who were scientists, I’ve never been to a dance, and I never had gym class. So, I was an outsider without even trying to be an outsider. A misfit in an ocean of misfits. That makes it way easier to try to be yourself. Of course, it’s even easier, now. That’s the great thing about being an adult. I care less now (most of the time) if people think I don’t fit in. I’m like, “Here’s my train! Woo hoo! Get on! It’s colorful and has streamers! And a dining car! With chandeliers!” And I also pretty much just adore everyone exactly the way they are now. I’m like, “You wear man-tights! Awesome!” Or “Your face is tattooed! Whatever! Cool!” Or “You’re totally normal and average! Right on!”

7-Imp: How difficult was it in Beige to write about a character who DOES NOT LIKE MUSIC (yes, we’re yelling that in all our astonishment)?

Cecil: IT WAS SO HARD!! Not only that, but Katy is a very withholding character. She doesn’t let anyone know how she really feels, not even me, the poor author! It was a real struggle. A lot of times, I was like, “Why don’t I just start over and write this book about Lake? She’d be so much easier to write about, because I understand her.” But as a writer, it was kind of interesting to try to get inside of Katy/Beige’s head and to tell a story from an uncomfortable point of view and show the effect music can have by its absence. If that makes any sense.

7-Imp: This question is truly evil-hard (sorry), but it’s fun to ask: If you could pick for Katy her top-five essential punk songs suggested by the authors and folks over at Beige is Punk! (for Katy’s mix tape), which would they be?

Cecil: So hard! But, okay, I think Katy would pick:

7-Imp: Your crush library blog hasn’t been updated since February, which is perfectly fine, but we’re curious: What’s your current crush?

Cecil: Oh, I know! I’ve been so remiss! My wrist was broken, I was on deadline, my house was messy . . . I could not love! My crushes were over! But the sun is out! My wrist is healed! I thought, “Perhaps I can love again!” So, I dug down deep inside of me, and I found my new crush! I updated it just for you! Pants! Pants are my new crush! I love wearing pants. I am wearing pants right now! I’m so glad we ladies can wear pants! I can’t believe we weren’t “allowed” to in the past! So dumb!

7-Imp: How fun was it to have Holly Black crashing on your couch when she was in town for her recent book tour? Do you often play host to other YA authors?

Cecil: It was awesome having Holly Black here! She’s one of my most fave people on earth and her and I just laugh and laugh and laugh! So, I feel like the answer is YES that I do play host. But the truth is that mostly people don’t come out to L.A. very often, so I don’t get the chance. Whereas, me — I’m a dirty sleeper-on-the-coucher of all my east coast buddies! Just ask them! But I think that they all know my door is always open if they come out West.

7-Imp: May we boldly ask for a recent poem otherwise unseen ’til now — just for 7-Imp?!


When you showed me your favorite painting
At the museum of fine arts
I thought it looked suspiciously like my heart

While you talked
I clutched my chest
And felt a little faint

To steady myself
I pulled on the buttons on the vintage shirt
I’d bought to impress you

When you said the painting bothered you
But that the bold brush strokes were haunting
I took it personally

I watched you struggle
Unable to look me in the eyes
as you pointed out the weak spots
the fading color
the strange composition
the absurd content

You were shaking your fist passionately
When you talked
You had a catch in your throat
as though you’d been challenged
or tortured
or moved

It was clear that you’d memorized the painting
to try to make sense of why you adored it
and to help you figure out what
kept bringing you back
to me

7-Imp: A few questions about your awesome blogging: Do you feel like your blog helps you connect with readers? Do you find there are any difficulties with maintaining a blog while maintaining a writing career? Do you feel the blog helps you market your writing, that it brings you more of a spotlight than if you didn’t blog at all? Why do you feel compelled to have several blogs (we think it’s a good thing; we’re just curious to hear your answer)?

Cecil: I think the hardest thing about a blog is that it affects my paper journal! I hardly write in my dear diary anymore. Oh the crushes on boys I will never remember now! The several blog things is just to compartmentalize. I like my regular journal to be like the main place. And the other ones are just for that specific thing. They are just the aside, things I don’t want in my regular journal. Like I don’t think they would be interesting to everyone. Not that I think my journal is that interesting to anyone, but it feels like there is a certain tone in it, and the crush library and the “is beige punk” wouldn’t fit there. I also wanted a place to put the poems that I wrote, and I didn’t want them on my regular journal. I always changed the poem, but not thinking they were really poems, or anything, I just deleted them. Now it’s a way for me to archive the poems.

I don’t know that the blog helps market my writing. I’ve been doing a blog since 2001, and it was more just a new weird way to sort of be out there. I thought of it as like my own little pirate radio station. I had a basic website for years before that, where I always had little poems and info about my music gigs. I suppose it makes it easier to get to know me and to get in touch with me. But, like, when I was in a band I had a P.O. box and would write postcards and stuff. So I was always social like that. I’m surprised I never had a zine. By the way, I still have a P.O. box (P.O. Box 29095 LA, CA 90029 — I like snail mail).

That said, I think blogging can bring you a little bit of a spotlight — there are blogeberities after all! And some blogs are just so fun and great to read and I totally want to meet the person and have tea with them. Hopefully, that’s what mine does. But, then again, some blogs are bad and boring, and I don’t think that those blogs help the writer at all.

7-Imp: What creative projects are you currently working on? Any plays, performance pieces, music, etc. that you want to tell us about (we’re happy to link away, too, if any are advertised online)? Are you working on any novels, graphic novels, short stories, etc. that you can tell us about?

Cecil: I feel like I have no creative projects coming up! But I have a ton! I’m in a few short story anthologies coming out in the next year (or two), but I don’t think they are announced yet — but one of them is, which has my first fantasy-like short story in it. The anthology is called Magic in the Mirrorstone: Tales of Fantasy (Wizards of the Coast). Also, I am just starting to write a new YA novel. So, we’ll see what happens with that. And then I have a picture book coming out called Grandma’s Gloves (Candlewick), which I’m very excited about. But it’s being drawn now. I’m also working on an early chapter book series with Candlewick, but I don’t know when that is coming out. Not for a while, I think. Hmm. Kind of seems like I’m being lazy. But I swear I’m not! There’s lots more in the pipeline, I just can’t talk about it yet!

7-Imp: Is there a question you really wish interviewers would ask, but they rarely/never do? Feel free to ask yourself, and answer, here:

Cecil: Do you like outer space and other scientific things?

Why, yes! I really do! Both of my parents are research scientists, my dad is a neurobiologist and my mom is a molecular biologist and my brother is a science journalist. Science is very important to me, and I love reading about all things science. I subscribe to many science feeds so I can keep up on the latest science news and also to have something to contribute at family dinners! I also like to look up at the stars and I even went to the desert to see SpaceShipOne make it’s historic launch as the first private manned space craft to make it to space, on October 4, 2004.

We like to conclude our interviews by posing to people the weird and wonderful set of questions called The Pivot Questionnaire (most well-known by its use on “Inside The Actors Studio”), since who knew that asking someone, say, what their favorite sound or noise is could tell you so much about them. So here goes:

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Cecil: “suigeneris”

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Cecil: “moist”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Cecil: spirit

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Cecil: ignorance

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word?

Cecil: “Putain du Merde!”

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Cecil: belly laughs

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Cecil: the squeak of my front gate when it’s not closed

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Cecil: rogue and scoundrel

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Cecil: anything to do with numbers

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Cecil: “Truth or Dare?”

* * * * * * *

All of Cecil’s various and asundry web presences are linked in the interview above, but for more information, here are some previous interviews and articles. We are sure there are probably a lot more and that this list is far from comprehensive (for the record) . . .

12 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #28:
Author and blogger and all-around rocker,
Cecil Castellucci”

  1. Informative, detailed, spirited, and sassy – This interview has EVERYTHING. Nice work, ladies! 🙂

  2. Get ready for a gazillion hits and links to this post, J and E. If I were writing something about “authors with a strong sense of self,” I’d link here for sure.

  3. Truth or Dare. Something tells me she’ll pick DARE.
    Gotta put The Plain Janes on my list.

    Your multi-media approach rocks, BTW.

  4. I mean this in a good way: She scares me. I feel like if there were a female YA author smackdown, she would totally pulverize me.

    That said, great, great, great interview! I’ve wondered what CC’s deal is, and now I know.

    Which is why I’m scared.

  5. I have to say — with all due respect to every other person we have ever, ever interviewed — that Cecil’s response to “what profession other than your own would you like to attempt?” is the best one ever in that category (I admit to having a mental list of Best Response Thus Far for each Pivot question).

  6. I hear ya, Robin – Cecil makes me feel like the biggest couch potato. But I bet you could take her – you yoga instructor-wilderness rescuer-screenplay writer-published YA author, you.

    And thanks, everyone, for checking out the interview!

  7. great interview w/ cecil c.! thanks!

  8. Thanks, Eisha, but I know when I’m outdone. Cecil is so multi-talented, so energetic and prolific–plus she knows all about punk culture and probably hangs out with people who would smash my glasses into the ground. Cecil is definitely one of the Cool People. I will continue to admire from afar.

  9. Wow. Cecil sure is a force to be reckoned with…very, very cool. Thanks for an awesome interview.

  10. I just interviewed Cecil also for Bookslut. You know what the coolest thing is about her? She’s so incredibly nice – she has to be one of the first people online to reach out to me (along with Gwenda and Jenny D.) and she has stayed in touch. It was never just because I reviewed her books – it is because she really just wants to talk reading and writing and everything else that interests her.

    She’s one of the most genuine people I’ve met through all this reviewing/blogging business. I think she just flat out rocks.

  11. Colleen, secretly I want to be her friend. If she’s as nice as you say, then
    maybe . . .!

  12. […] young ladies. Denos injects a just-right, subtle drama into her work. As one reviewer for Cecil Castellucci’s Grandma’s Gloves (the other of Julia’s 2010 illustrated titles) wrote, “she also […]

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.