A belated Happy New Year to you all; I hope 2016 brings you everyone you wish for!
Since the last blog I've been busy working on my next book. However, it's time now to get back into the blogging saddle, kicking off with a two-part interview with the incomparable Kirkland Ciccione. Kirkland is the Scottish author of young adults novels, Conjuring the Infinite and The Endless Empress and North of Porter, the latter of which was published in November 2015. You can buy his books on Amazon or at all good book shops.
So come on then, who is Kirkland Ciccone?
I’m punk rock not disco. A fabulous not drabulous performer and writer of mondo weirdo YA books, the sort of weird fiction for teens that I always wanted to read when I was growing up, but had to write myself to make the dream real. My first job out of high school was as a psychic consultant, which was really too much to deal with, and then I turned to alternative theatre, writing and performing my own material.
Wow, how fascinating - I didn't expect that! Next, please complete the question: inside the mind of Kirkland Ciccone is like being…
Trapped in a neverending game of Cluedo!
And what’s it like inside the world of North of Porter, your new book?
It is weird, fun, dark, frothy, violent, and compelling. A teenage boy with a handbag takes on a serial killer in a small town…and I have to keep telling people it isn’t my autobiography. No seriously Christina, it isn’t!
I believe you, Kirkland! Now, moving on to your debut novel, Conjuring The Infinite, you describe it as a tale of ‘madness, magick, and murder’. Could you tell us a little about the characters caught up in this chaos?
I wanted to create YA fiction’s most hateful teenager so from that came Seth Kevorkian, a teenage sorcerer and Britney Spears fan with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But halfway through the spell to conjure a powerful magickal force…he’s murdered. But who killed him? That’s the murder mystery part of the book. The suspects are all teenagers with problems who find themselves chewed up and spat out by their families – they’re tough, believable, angry teens with lives and secrets. I loved that book. I still do.
Your second novel Endless Empress is subtitled a Mass Murderer’s Guide to Dictatorship. So, the question is, how many mass murderers and/or dictators did you interview before work began on writing the book?
You know as well as I do that being an author is to be your own dictator. I initially wanted to call it HIGH SCHOOL MASSACRE THE MUSICAL but we all thought better of that! How many dictators did I interview? I think I spoke to the mirror at one point during the writing of it!
About the Endless Empress herself, would I want to bump into her on a dark night, or is she a pussycat really?
Portia Penelope Pinkerton is a raving mad twisty of the highest level. She isn’t just one coconut shy of a stall…she set the stall on fire and hurled the coconuts at passersby. You wouldn’t want to meet her, but we all know a Portia Pinkerton don’t we? She’s that girl that we all alienated at school, the odd one who keeps to herself, but whose creative mind is working out ways to destroy people. In ENDLESS EMPRESS that is what actually happens. It’s a high school massacre tale with twists galore and a bingo-hating unicorn from another country!
What inspired you to become a writer?
Books. I wanted nothing else but to write cool, quirky, weirdo YA books. I couldn’t do anything else, Christina. I’d be rubbish at a normal job. This is what I’ve been put on Earth to do!
Tell us about how you craft your novels - I imagine you sprawled in a golden chair with minions on hand to fan your fevered and highly talented brow, am I right?
I suppose the flippant answer would be to say that I make miracles out of mediocrity. But in truth writing and promoting books is work like anything else and I take it seriously, though I would never admit that to anyone! I collect my notes and ideas in a pad of paper. It takes a few months to put it all together. I tend to write parts of my books in longhand with a good quality pen. Then I put it into Word. This means it almost becomes a second draft. Then it keeps going through the process until I feel it works. That’s when the editor gets involved! This entire process takes months but I’ve averaged one novel per year since 2013.
I guess you've already answered my next question, but I'll ask it anyway. How long does it take between initial idea and final draft?
Conjuring The Infinite arrived fully formed in my head, and it was very easy to write. That took about five months to get right. The ending changed substantially, but when you encounter a problem…as a writer you know that sometimes you can improvise something better. Endless Empresswas very tough to write at times, because some of it was so unsettling and my sister passed away unexpectedly during the writing of it. But in hindsight I think it is a very brave, and dare I say it, radical YA novel. It took seven months and my editor suffered a nervous breakdown (I'm joking) during the editing of it.
Gosh, Kirkland, I can appreciate how difficult it must've been for you to continue writing Endless Empress. I do feel for you and admire your tenacity in pushing through with your work, under those circumstances.
I expect it was that same grit and determination that led to your being published. Am I right?
I had many near misses but I had the fire in me. I wanted this more than anything and I was never going to stop until I got what I wanted! I don’t have an agent (though I’m in talks) so in many ways my journey to publication has been a bit different to the normal stories. To be part of this community, with the wonderful fans and the brilliant librarians…well I’m very lucky. School librarians and booksellers have been instrumental in my story too. They’re amazing.
How did you react when you found out you’d be published? What was the first thought that ran through your head and how did you celebrate?
I swear to God my first thought was, “Signing autographs is better than signing on!” I was delighted, and I cartwheeled down the street in celebration. My publisher took me out for tea and dinner. This is a good way of keeping me happy. You saw me at the Edinburgh Book Festival yurt! I couldn’t keep away from the teapot. A cuppa is my version of a cigarette.
Ah yes, anyone who saw you at the Edinburgh Festival will never forget you! Those jackets! That poise! You were in your element, I reckon. So, is that your favourite part of being a published writer, wearing leopard skin jackets for a living? ;-)
I love creating characters, writing worlds into existence, places for people to live safe within the pages. Performing my shows live and bringing punk (yes, I identify as punk rock and I don’t mean that Avril Lavigne nonsense) fuelled pop art performances to teens that don’t really see authors as performers. I love the community of authors too. They’re so supportive. I’ve made some friends for life since being published. My books and imagination changed everything for me.
That's so inspiring! To end part one of the interview what one piece of advice would you never give to a yet-to-be-published writer?
“Look at what’s popular and copy it!” I think one of the best things you can do is to ignore what’s popular and go off in your own direction.
Well said, Kirkland!
Check back on Monday, January 18th, to read part 2 of Kirkland's interview. Meanwhile, why don't you check out his books?