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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Interview: Ilsa J. Bick

Interview with
Ilsa J. Bick,
author of
White Space

"Light bloomed, hot and bright, and took him." --from White Space, by Ilsa J. Bick

Today I’m welcoming fellow Young Adult author Ilsa J. Bick to The Happy Book Reviewer. The latest book from this critically acclaimed author is White Space, which has been listed as one of Teen Vogue’s 15 books not to miss this year!

Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems, not to mention all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it's as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she's real. Then she writes "White Space," a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard. Unfortunately, "White Space" turns out to be a dead ringer for part of an unfinished novel by a long-dead writer. The manuscript, which she's never seen, is a loopy Matrix meets Inkheart story in which characters fall out of different books and jump off the page. Thing is, when Emma blinks, she might be doing the same and, before long, she's dropped into the very story she thought she'd written. Trapped in a weird, snow-choked valley, Emma meets other kids with dark secrets and strange abilities. What they discover is that they all may be nothing more than characters written into being from an alternative universe for a very specific purpose. Now what they must uncover is why they've been brought to this place--a world between the lines where parallel realities are created and destroyed and nightmares are written--before someone pens their end.

White Space is a spooky, horror-filled, surreal tale. Tell me how you came up with the idea for this book (and did it give you nightmares)?

Ilsa J. BickNope, believe it or not, nothing I write gives me nightmares, and I don’t particularly write about what freaks me out either.  I guess when you’ve been a doc and worked an ER, or hung out with inmates as a prison shrink . . . made-up stuff doesn’t really hold a candle to the real-life horrors out there.

Eek! I see your point!

As for the idea, one of my daughters gave me the idea when she asked if I was going to kill her off in a particular book. Ever since I used her name as one of the title characters of a short story, it’s been kind of this running gag between us. (On the other hand, her sister is ticked that I have yet to use her name in a story. Actually, I have, but she’s convinced that character is nothing like her and so that doesn’t count.)

Anyway, for my daughter, that particular character in that particular story met a terrible end. Since then, she’s decided that I actually kill her off by proxy somehow or other in everything I write.  In some ways, she’s not far wrong.  Just depends how pissed off I’m feeling that particular day.  (Honestly, you’d think the kid would catch a clue . . . )

Still, I thought her comment was pretty interesting; you know, that she would get so torqued and be convinced that somehow or other what I did to a character’s story had a direct bearing or was a reflection on/of her.  It was as if by using her name she somehow became part of the story and what I did to the character was something that I did to her.  

Was it difficult to keep track of what was real and what was not in this oft-shifting book? Or did you know from the start exactly what you were going to do and where the story was going?

Ilsa J. BickWell, if you mean, was it tough to keep the disparate plotlines straight . . . not really because they all converged eventually, and every story fed off or sprang from another.  

In addition, I’d already had a lot of practice in two previous books of the ASHES Trilogy, SHADOWS and MONSTERS, where POVs and action alternated all the time.  In addition, I always write an outline for every book, if only to give me something to never look at again when I start(wink)  It’s something I began when I did work-for-hire—stuff like Star Trek and Battletech and Mechwarrior—where anything you propose has to be cleared by the editor first just to make sure you don’t violate the universe’s laws or, say, the series arc.  

So, in theory, I’ve at least told myself the story once before. What I’ve found as I’ve gone on writing is that I often won’t consult an outline once I’ve started a book.  Sometimes, it’s the actual writing and getting the voices right that shows you where your outline’s on target or fallen short.  That’s actually happened with my latest work in progress; had an outline and a great story but kept coming to this screeching halt about a third of the way through because something was wrong. I played with tense, POV . . . finally, on the fifth start, I think I’m beginning to settle into the character’s voice, and she’s been one uncooperative pain in the ass to boot.

What were you like at Emma Lindsay’s age? 

Ilsa J. BickMe?  Bookish, a nerd, pretty friendless, rather geeky, not very attractive, and a tad argumentative (i.e., I never could keep my mouth shut).   

Did you draw on your experiences as a teenager as you wrote how Emma deals with the situation?

Well, as a writer, you draw on yourself all the time, either what you’ve lived or what you wish would’ve been a better or more exciting past.  One thing I can tell you: I’ve learned that you never get anywhere in life if you don’t suck it up and deal.

Emma Lindsay is a writer. Did you start writing as a teenager, or earlier? 

Ilsa J. BickNope, I was not a writer as a teen.  I had too much work to do, and my dad was a maniac about chores, so I was always outside giving the lawn a pedicure with nail scissors.  I daydreamed a lot, though.  You have to when you’re doing that kind of mind-numbing work—and a very wise analyst once pointed out to me that all those daydreams and made-up adventures where I slotted myself aboard the Starship Enterprise or the submarine Seaview were stories I spun. I just didn’t write them down.

So what was the first creative piece you ever wrote?

The only truly creative pieces I recall writing were some wretched epic poems and an awful take-off/homage to A Wrinkle in Time where some alien brain had taken over the school and turned everyone into mindless zombies or something.  Of course, I saved the day, and the thing wound up in the yearbook.

What is the next book in the Dark Passages series?

Ilsa J. Bick: Actually, that book, THE DICKENS MIRROR, is done.  As for a hint, I’ll give you the publisher’s blurb:

Critically acclaimed author of The Ashes Trilogy, Ilsa J. Bick takes her new Dark Passages series to an alternative Victorian London where Emma Lindsay continues to wade through blurred realities now that she has lost everything: her way, her reality, her friends. In this London, Emma will find alternative versions of her friends from the White Space and even Arthur Conan Doyle.

Emma Lindsay finds herself with nowhere to go, no place to call home. Her friends are dead. Eric, the perfect boy she wrote into being, and his brother, Casey, are lost to the Dark Passages. With no way of knowing where she belongs, she commands the cynosure, a beacon and lens that allows for safe passage between the Many Worlds, to put her where she might find her friends-find Eric-again. What she never anticipated was waking up in the body of Little Lizzie, all grown up-or that, in this alternative London, Elizabeth McDermott is mad.

In this London, Tony and Rima are "rats," teens who gather the dead to be used for fuel. Their friend, Bode, is an attendant at Bedlam, where Elizabeth has been committed after being rescued by Arthur Conan Doyle, a drug-addicted constable.

Tormented by the voices of all the many characters based on her, all Elizabeth wants is to get rid of the pieces under her skin once and for all. While professing to treat Elizabeth, her physician, Dr. Kramer, has actually drugged her to allow Emma-who's blinked to this London before-to emerge as the dominant personality…because Kramer has plans. Elizabeth is the key to finding and accessing the Dickens Mirror.
But Elizabeth is dying, and if Emma can't find a way out, everyone as they exist in this London, as well as the twelve-year-old version of herself and the shadows-what remains of Eric, Casey, and Rima that she pulled with her from the Dark Passages-will die with her.

I collect bookish quotes. So, add to my collection and tell me your favorite quote from White Space!

Ilsa J. Bick: Gosh, that’s like asking me to decide which daughter’s my favorite . . . well, okay, how about these couple two, three lines:

            "Bode has less than an instant and barely a moment, but that was enough for him to know that he was wrong.  He was not going into the black after all.

            Light bloomed, hot and bright, and took him."

Really, really love that last line.

Thank you so much for talking to me today! Readers can find out more about you, White Space, the ASHES Trilogy, The Sin-Eaters Confession, Drowning Instinct, and Draw the Dark at your website: http://www.ilsajbick.com/.

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Don't forget to check out my latest Young Adult adventure/romance, 
Deep Green, 
available in Print & e-Book
*25% off with the promo code 20EPdb14

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