Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rock This! Thursday with Eilis O'Neal

How long have you been writing?
I've been telling stories since I was a little girl. When I was three, I told my first original story. It was just three sentences long—about a frog that cried frozen tears because winter had come—but it actually the beginnings of a real story, in that it had a conflict and something of a resolution. After that, I spent a lot of time telling stories to my mother. She would write them down, then type them up on our typewriter, and we'd give them away as gifts to family members. They tended to have silly titles like, “A Cat, a Girl, and a Hippo Go to a Party and Then Sing a Song.”

I tried to write my first novel at 12, but I only got about thirty pages into it. I actually finished a novel at 15—a summer romance about a girl with a boyfriend who rode a motorcycle. Between that book and The False Princess, I wrote two other books, both fantasy novels for adults.

You're walking down the street - what song is following you?
This week, it’s “Speechless” by Lady Gaga. Not sure why. That and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” though by way of the Glee cast. I know why I can’t get that one out of my head, though. I wrote a parody version of it with my husband last week for our roleplaying group, and now the parody, with its Atlantean demons and flaming swords and one very large Scotsman, is warring in my head with the original for supremacy.

Love me some Journey! (And loved Glee's version as well.) I know with writing there are always difficulties and days where you just want to throw in the towel. Who was the most difficult character to write in The False Princess?
There's a character named Mika who was actually a bit difficult to write. I introduced her late in the book, and I needed to convey a lot about her in a short time period, had to compress a lot of character information into a short space. Luckily, her personality is pretty forceful. She's prickly and opinionated, though, at the same time, she doesn't like to give a lot of herself away. Even those personality traits made her a harder to write, because I wanted the reader to really like her in that short time period. And Mika doesn't make that as easy as, say, Kiernan, who's instantly likeable.

When writing your debut novel, did you have a playlist? If so, could you share a few songs with us?
Actually, I'm one of those people who has to be in a pretty quiet room to write. I envy writers who can listen to music, because I just can't do it. (I tend to get wrapped up in songs and start singing along.) So, unfortunately, I didn't have a list of songs that helped get my in the mood to write The False Princess in particular.

A lot of songs tell a story. What's one song you think would make an interesting book?
There’s a traditional folk song from the 17th century called “Bedlam Boys” or “Tom O’Bedlam.” It has to do with madness and Bedlam hospital in London. It also mentions fairies, giants, spirits . . . There’s something very haunting in the tune, and when I first heard it at a Celtic concert I wrote the title down on a scrap of paper and took it home with me. I think there’s a fantasy story in there, and I’m just waiting to figure it out enough to write it. As for more modern songs, I’ve always been very taken with Rufus Wainwright’s “Hallelujah.” It conjures up such vivid pictures, and, again, the tune sets a mood inside me very quickly. I think there’s a story there, too.

You've been given two golden concert tickets to see any band/singer from any decade. The only catch is that you have to take a character from The False Princess. Who are you taking and who are you two going to go see?
I’d like the see the Beatles, probably in their early-ish days. And I would so take Kiernan with me for that. His attitude reminds me, in a lot of ways, of a lot of the early Beatles’ songs—fun, a little silly, really catchy, but with an underlying seriousness. And I think he would have so many witty observations to make about the girls crying and tearing at their clothes in their excitement over the band. Of course, he would also probably have those girls falling all over him in a matter of moments . . . .

What are some of your all-time favorite reads?
Do you have all day? Seriously, there are so many books that I love, that are really a part of me and that have been a big influence on me as a writer. A lot of them are YA fantasy books. A short list includes Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness books (strong female lead and my first book-boy crush; seriously, I still sort of want to marry George Cooper), Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (a unique magic system and another strong female lead), so many of Robin McKinley's books (wonderful language and storytelling), Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series (cemented my love of all things British), and Madeleine L'Engle's books (more strong, smart girls).

Have you experienced any 'rock star' writing moments since you've been published?
There's a great group in Tulsa (Booksmart Tulsa) that hosts a lot of writer events here in town. They offered to host a launch party for the book, and so, of course, I took them up on it. I wasn't sure how many people would show up, though, seeing as how this is my first book. But it turned out that a lot of people showed up—in fact, it was standing room only. When I got up to start my reading/talk, I saw that there were people standing in the back and all along the sides of a not-so-small room. That felt utterly crazy to me—really awesome, but also a little scary. I really hadn't expected it to be SRO-- especially not when the microphone had gone missing and I had to employ my high school speech and debate skills of projection!