Friday, December 4, 2009

Author Interview: Lili St. Crow

I am extremely excited to have with me today Lili St. Crow- the genius behind the Strange Angels series. Since Betrayals just came out (which I gave 5 stars and am dying for the next book already), I am focusing this primarily on that book. Thanks for this Lili- you're great!

If I remember correctly, you came up with the series idea from an image of a girl in her kitchen with her father as a zombie at her door. How did that scene in your mind grow into this series that deals not only with zombies, but with werewolves, vampires and the mixes there of?

It just grew very naturally. Dru told me matter-of-factly that there was a whole ecosystem of Real World stuff, and everything just sort of sprang into my head fully-formed. I was very interested in the question of why there are very few female dhampir in a lot of the Eastern and Central European folklore, and the rest of the world just fell into place.

What made you decide to write this series in Dru's perspective alone, rather than skipping between points of view with say a character like Graves, or even writing it in third person?

I actually had planned to do book 2 from Graves's point of view, book 3 from Christophe's, and so on. But my editor and I talked it over, and she felt very strongly that Dru's voice was so striking, and so humorous, that I should continue in that vein, so to speak. I never had more than a fuzzy idea what the boys' point of view would be like, and I'm comfortable working in first-person (some would say, too comfortable) so I decided that would indeed be a better way to do what I wanted to do in this series. Because it is all about Dru and her journey, and her destiny.

In Strange Angels, Dru is a very tough, strong character that is able to handle herself, even if she is scared. What made you come up with that particular style of character and why do we see a change in that in Betrayals, where she shows her fear and weakness more?
I am fascinated with what happens to people in extreme situations--how they cope psychologically, how they start to deconstruct, how they deal with the pressure. Dru is not more weak and fearful in Betrayals, but she has been taken away from her house, all her belongings, and the things she knew how to do. During Strange Angels she doesn't get a chance to indulge in her fear or weakness, because of the pace of events. In Betrayals, she has more time and less security. A person can only cope for so long.
Besides, Dru wouldn't be very interesting if she was just one-dimensional badass. Seeing how she deals with being uprooted from every security she has and how she deals with that, her flexibility and humor and courage--those make her more of a complex person. A little more real.

When it comes to naming the characters, how difficult is it and what method do you use?

Sometimes they have their names as soon as they arrive. They set down their baggage and announce who they are. In other cases, not so much. Dru was always Dru, from the moment she stepped into my head. Graves, on the other hand, originally started out as "Poe." He went through one or two name changes before finally settling on the moniker that expressed him best. Christophe was always Christophe, and Shanks was always Shanks. It just depends on the character.

When a character is neutral or silent on the question of his or her name, I resort to baby name books. I think I have six or seven of them, and I use them a lot.

What is your favorite scene in Betrayals and why does it rank up there for you?

I think my favorite scene in Betrayals is Dru up on the rooftop. She's so frightened and so determined, and it's the point where she really starts taking her destiny in her own hands. I'm a big fan of the boathouse scene immediately after, too, because a lot of Christophe's character hinges on that interaction. Plus, Graves taking control of the werwulfen during their flight from the burning Schola always makes me cheer for him.

I've read in some other interviews that many things for your writing tend to just flow, sparked by a scene in your mind. Do you find that you have to plan many things, or do you just write and let things write themselves, maybe even without a set direction to go?

I always know the big points, and I frequently know the ending as soon as I know the beginning. It just happens that way. I don't plan, I uncover--more like an archaeologist excavating an ancient house. Sometimes I just find a one-room cottage or a trash pile, but other times I find a nice ranch house or a mansion. It's always there, waiting to be brushed off.

How easy is it for you to pick up and start writing- are there any specific things you need to have or do before you start writing?

I've trained myself to write whenever, wherever. As a working single mother, I have to. I've found ways to fool myself, little tricks to make it easier. For example, I never go to bed with a story finished. I always work on something unfinished before I go to bed, even if it's just a couple of sentences. I always "prime the pump" like that.

How much editing is done as you are writing- do you go back and change things, reread them and revise them regularly or do you an entire first draft then make changes?

I do a mixture of the two. If I fell into the trap of constantly re-revising I'd never get a book done. There comes a point, probably about two-thirds of the way through, where I have to consciously say, "Stop going back. Just finish the book and fix it in revision." I do tend to produce pretty clean drafts that don't need a lot of help; I think it's because it's so clear in my head at the moment it goes onto the paper.

Do you let anyone read your work as it is being written, or do you only show it once each installment is complete?

I don't allow anyone to read over my shoulder. It's an irrational thing, but there it is. Occasionally I'll send "darlings"--little bits where I really love what I've done--to my beta reader, my agent, or my editor. The only thing they're allowed to say is "ooooh, how cool!" Because you really can kill a work if you show it too soon. I prefer to have it finished all the way and then send it out. Because then it's been born, and we at least have the whole corpse to work on.

How quickly are you able to write one of the books in this series, from start to finish? Do you write it straight through or skip around with different scenes, or even skip between other books?

I generally write two or three books at a time, shifting between them as one or another gets "hot." This is partly to make them all jealous so they don't pull the trick of retreating just when I need them to come out.

As for how long it takes me, it varies. It takes me about ten months to write a YA, ten months or so to write a romance, a year at least to write one of the Kismet books. Some of it depends on the emotional toll a book takes on me--the harder a book wrenches my emotions, the longer it takes me to write.

Is there anything else you want to say or put out there for people?

Thank you very much for reading. I appreciate every single reader. And thank you for interviewing me. That sums it up.

Thanks again for the interview and now I suggest everyone goes out and picks up this series. Dru is a phenomenally built character and this interview gives you guys the proof of how it isn't just by chance- it's definitely on purpose and with effort.


  1. Great interview! I haven't picked up one of her books yet (I know, shame on me...) but Dru sounds like a really fun character. :)And Graves: what an awesome name xD!

  2. Have read the books and loved them. Can't wait for the next one comes out!!