Monday, August 25, 2008

Coffee Chat with Laini Taylor

When thinking about starting this blog, I thought about what I'd most like to do. Simple! Sit down and chat with the authors I love over a great cup of coffee. I think I've figured out a way to do just that and share it with you, whether it be a real coffee chat or a virtual one.

I knew my first chat had to be with the talented Laini Taylor.

I recently had pleasure of meeting up with Laini and her husband Jim, along with a whole mob (but a wonderful mob) of writers and illustrators from the Seattle area. We met at the wonderful Grand Central Bakery and Cafe in Seattle's Pioneer Square.

Laini is an artist and writer, and if you haven't read her first novel FAERIES OF DREAMDARK: BLACKBRINGER you should go HERE now so that you can. The sequel SILKSINGER can't be on shelves soon enough. And there's more torture to be had as we are also forced to wait for LIPS TOUCH, Laini's first young adult novel (you MUST read further to get a little taste). Laini is also the creator of Laini's Ladies, a wonderful gift product line (I love them and have more than I can count).

You likely already know that Laini has a popular, colorful, and wonderful blog of her own. On her Grow Wings blog Laini has shared so much of herself from personal to professional in such a beautiful way that it keeps readers coming back post after post. When it comes to writing, Laini strips down and exposes her own process, sharing and helping her fellow writers and artists in such a generous way.

But let's get onto the coffee chat, shall we?

Drink of choice?
In the morning, just a giant cup of coffee with a smidge of sugar and some skim milk. It is prepared and brought to me by my frog butler, and I am only a fraction of a human being until I’ve drunk it. While I sip, I come alive by degrees.

I mentioned that you “expose” yourself to the many who read your blog through your "Process Porn." Your generosity towards the children’s book writing community shows. Why is that important to you?

(That sounds kind of unsavory, when you put it like that!) Well, it took me a while to figure out how to do this thing I’ve wanted to do all my life: write books. And I felt so empowered once I finally finished my first novel, I want to help other people reach that place. I feel like if the online community had been in existence when I was a young writer, I would have found my way more easily. When I was a young aspiring writer, I had no possibility of contact with “real writers.” They might as well have lived on clouds; writing was so shrouded in mystery. Blogs are an amazing way to strip away the mystery and show writing to be a real career filled with real people, doing this unmysterious thing of sitting down day after day to work. All is revealed. Well, perhaps not all. One thing I want to see more of -- and I am beginning to -- is published authors being honest about how hard it is, rather than only writing/talking about the good parts of being a writer. Misery loves company, and I know it buoys my morale to read about other writers’ struggles, so I want to pass that along. I’ve had to develop such strategies to cope with my own issues with perfectionism, I think I have a lot to pass on to writers who suffer from the same hang-ups as me. Also, I have to admit there is a selfish component too: the best way to get over my own hangups is often to write about them, to remind myself plainly in black and white of what I know I need to do to make progress on my own writing. I need constant reminders!

Would you describe yourself as caffeinated or decaf?
Let’s just say that when I recently tried to cut back on coffee, the effect was such that my husband commented that he had never realized my personality was 95% coffee!

If you could have coffee with an author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Well, I don’t have a ready answer for this one. I don’t know! My answer is that I’d like to have coffee with the following fantasy writers in the worlds they created: Tolkien on a terrace at Rivendell; J.K. Rowling in The Hogshead Tavern; Philip Pullman in a hot air balloon, whilst our daemons regard each other warily; Garth Nix on the Abhorsens’s island. . . and many more.

If you could have coffee with any children’s book character, who could it be and why?
Well, to be honest: my own characters!I would love to sit around the campfire on a fang-shaped island in the Bay of Drowned Dragons with Magpie and Talon and the crows. The gypsy wagons would be drawn up in a tight circle around us and the crows’ smoke rings would be floating in the flickering light. We’d drink muddy coffee out of tin cups and eat chocolate we’d stolen from humans, and we’d talk about witch doctors and dust spells and devils while Talon knitted wings out of spidersilk and Magpie drew out a map to a Djinn’s dreaming place. That would be a wonderful coffee date!

What is it about writing that gives you a buzz?
Too often, it’s not the actual act of writing, but the aftermath. That old quote: “I don’t love writing; I love having written,” is too true of me. I love rereading what I have written, and I love tinkering with sentences and polishing them up. The “futzing” stages really suit my perfectionist personality. BUT -- the times when I manage to slide into the writing and really lose myself in it (doesn’t happen every day), that is some of the purest joy in the world. There is no greater buzz than a good writing day!

Give us a taste of what’s to come from Laini Taylor.
Well, 2009 is going to be a good year for me! The paperback of Dreamdark: Blackbringer is coming out in the spring, followed shortly by the hardcover of Dreamdark: Silksinger in the summer, and then in the fall, my first YA: Lips Touch, which is a collection of three supernatural tales about kissing. I’ve just started a new novel, and I’m in the high excitement/terror stage with it!

Here is a sneak peak of the opening of “Goblin Fruit,” the first tale in Lips Touch:

* * *

There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a highschool campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.


The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls.

Like Kizzy.

* * *

If I ordered a cup of Laini at my favorite coffee spot, what would I say to the barista?
I (Jolie) am taking this one, but maybe Jim and others of you who know Laini well will leave your own Cuppa Laini orders.

This is how I would order a Cuppa Laini. "I'd like a venti-whole lotta talent-with a splash of fuchsia-and a way with words."

And before leaving, Laini gifted me with these wonderful coffee quotes. Enjoy!

"I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee."- Flash Rosenberg

"As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move. . . similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle."- Honore de Balzac


Anonymous said...

Ooo Jolie!
Lovely interview. I love the final question, too.
A cup of Laini would be: A tall mango lassi, garnished by a pineapple spear with a live wasp sitting on the end of it. Laini is all things sweet, exotic, and a tiny bit dangerous.

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Jolie! Thanks for this -- I'm honored to be present in the early days of your blogging. Welcome to the fold!

(Jaime, love that drink order. The wasp! Awesome!)

Cuppa Jolie said...

Ooh! The drink orders could be great fun today.

Jaime, that's going to hard to beat! Love it.

Thanks again, Laini! I'm thrilled you're here. I'd have coffee with you any day!

Jim Di Bartolo said...

Great interview Jolie!

If I were to order a cup of Laini -- hmm, no pressure here, right? Hmm... -- it'd be a heavy pour of mango puree, plus an anti-olive oxidant liqueur, a dash of ninja tequila, a splash of robot-fighter lime juice, a large dose of whit, intelligence, beauty, and caffeine, plus salt encrusted creativity on the rim of the glass. This would all be finished off with a citrus-y wedge of side-burned husband for added goofiness.


S R Wood said...

Coffee, goblins, and writing in the same blog? This. Is. GREAT!

I prefer my coffee with nothing in it but more coffee. I think if ever I found or built a cottage with stone walls and a deep fireplace and floor-to-ceiling books, I might brew a cup of coffee and then expire from happiness.

Thanks for this, Jolie. I hope to read more.

tone almhjell said...

Hi Jolie! Great take on a first post, and welcome. I absolutely agree with the weird coffee-writing connection. Words just plonk out, as if pushed out because the coffee needs the space.

Heather said...

Jolie, thanks for this lovely "coffee-view" of Laini. She really is awesome, isn't she?

Here's my "cup of Laini":
A shot of brown eyes with mango syrup; shake "milk" out of the dictionary and whisper some steam into it; stir with a knitting needle; top with liberal amounts of foam and bright pink sprinkles. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

Anonymous said...

Allo, and welcome to the curious world of blogging. ^_^
You know, it's funny, but the more I learn about Laini or one of her dearest friends (like you) I feel more and more like a the thirteen year-old version of you all! For example, Laini likes cupcakes, I like muffins, you can't function without coffe, I can't function without tea, and then there's the fact that we're all writers!
I'm craving the arrivial of Lips Touch, and since you posted that little bit of it, It's slowly taking over my mind! A thousand curses...why isn't it out yet?!
I agree that Laini is too wicked awesome! I'm so glad I started a blog so I could meet more people like her. Lookin' forward to reading more from your blog!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fun post!

Stephanie Perkins said...

A fabulous interview with one of my favorite-est writers :)

THANK YOU for the Lips Touch sneak peek & welcome to the world of blogging!