I really enjoyed the brilliantly bonkers Cat Girl's Day Off, a Kindle impulse buy a few weeks ago. I was intrigued as to what kind of person would write a book whose climax involves a rescue attempt being made by an army of cats, so I jumped at the chance to interview author Kimberly Pauley.
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
Myself, when I was a teen…sitting on the floor in my bedroom in the middle of the night, glued to a book instead of sleeping because I can’t put the book down. I was always one of those readers who had to read just one more page…
2. Other than your own characters, which famous fictional feline would you most like to talk to if you had Natalie' gift?
Hm, that’s a good question. Probably the Cheshire Cat from Wonderland. It would definitely be an interesting conversation.
3. I'm assuming Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which plays a fairly big part in Cat Girl's Day Off, is your favourite 80's movie. Since it was an awesome decade for teen flicks, can I ask you to round out your top 3?
Ferris Bueller is one of my favourites, though not my absolute favourite. That would be The Princess Bride. Do I have to stick to the 80’s? If not…then I’d also have to include the original Star Wars movie, Episode IV. That was the first movie I saw in the theatre and I still remember sitting there as the credits rolled at the end, totally blown away. It’s nearly an 80’s movie, since it came right before.
Then…well…I feel like I ought to stay in the 80’s era here for my last pick…um…Earth Girls are Easy or Adventures in Babysitting. The first one had Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum and is really just an insane movie. And Adventures in Babysitting…I dunno, it was really fun. Of course, I love all the John Hughes films too.
4. I really love the concept of Tu Books - it's great to see diverse characters in stories which don't revolve around that diversity. Was this a big part in your deciding to publish with them?
Well, yes, and also that they wanted to buy the book ;-). Seriously, it was nice knowing that they weren’t going to have any issues with the characters race or sexual orientation. I think some publishers turned the book down because of those things (and the fact that Cat Girl’s Day Off is decidedly quirky). Tu Books is doing some really great stuff and Stacy (my editor) was lovely to work with.
5. I'm intrigued by your vampire novels, Sucks To Be Me and Still Sucks To Be Me. Because I have a mortal fear of spoilers, I haven't delved too closely into Still Sucks To Be Me... Even In Paris, but I believe you're writing it as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' style book? Were you a big fan of Choose Your Own Adventure novels, and if not, what gave you this idea? (It seems like a strange, but extremely cool, way to write a book!)
I feel like I should explain the background behind the third book…the first two books came out with Mirrorstone, which no longer exists as an imprint. The publisher decided to go back to what they had always traditionally published and, basically, my series and a bunch of other ones got cancelled.
I figured that was it for Mina (the main character) but fans kept writing and asking me to keep writing her story. That’s easier said than done in the publishing world. Other publishers aren’t generally keen to pick up a series started by another publisher. I could have tried Kickstarter or just written it and self published it, but, honestly, I don’t have the time to work on something that may or may not sell at all. It takes months to write a book (for me, anyway…I’m not one of those authors who can whip out a book in a month!). But the fans kept after me. So I came up with a compromise idea that I thought would be fun and something I could do in my spare time. I released the first three chapters outright of the book and after that, after each chapter, I post a poll where readers get to vote. After a certain number of votes are hit, I will write the next chapter. It’s up to chapter 12 now, I think. Sometimes it takes a while for the votes to come in but this way, the book doesn’t get written unless the readers care enough to see it through. It’s hard to say how it will wind up – it’s a very strange way to write, letting the readers choose what happens next. It also feels very strange to me as it is basically like releasing your first draft of something, which I would normally never do. Usually there’s a bunch of re-writing and revising before something sees the light of day. When and if it gets finished, I’ll have it copyedited and put it out as an ebook or possibly a physical book as well, depending on interest.
And yes, I did have an obsession with CYA books for a while when I was a pre-teen. J
6. Also on your website, you mention that your 'bucket list' included seeing Mikhail Baryshnikov dance. Are you a big ballet fan? How often do you go?
I’m actually more of a Baryshnikov fan than I am a ballet fan. I do like the ballet, but I don’t go very often. I go to the theatre fairly frequently, however. London is a great theatre city. I’ve seen Baryshnikov twice live and have probably watched that White Nights movie about a billion times. Actually, I probably could have included that one in your question about movies. I loved that movie when I was a teen.
7. I'm loving the Cat Girl's Day Off T-shirts and phone cases over on Spreadshirt! What gave you the idea for them? And do you design them yourself?
Yes, I designed those myself because some people had asked about what they could buy with Rufus or P.D. quotes. Everyone loves crazy cats! Well, except dog people… I’ve even done custom designs for people who wanted something specific. My first job out of college was doing graphic design. I’m very rusty, but I can hack things together.
8. On that note, Spreadshirt also has Sucks To Be Me stuff (the vampire squirrel might be the cutest T-shirt I've ever seen!), with proceeds from STBM-related sales going to the literacy charity Open Books, Ltd. How did you choose Open Books as the charity to benefit from this?
At the time my first book came out, I was living in Chicago. I knew I wanted to support a literacy charity, so I did some research and found that one. They do good work!
9. You founded YA Books Central back in 1998, which I'm guessing made it one of the earlier teen book sites out there. How do you think the internet has affected teen books over the last 15 years?
Yes, YABC was one of the very first! I was running that site before book blogs even existed. It has been really interesting to watch how huge the YA book movement has become, a lot of it driven by online blogs. That said, in a lot of ways it is a very isolated phenomenon. There are the teens and adults who participate in it via blogging and Goodreads, etc. and then there are many who have no clue it exists at all. You tend to see the same people online making the rounds of the different sites or within their own circle. Some of them I remember from when I started YABC – they were young then and now they are running sites of their own! I do think the Internet has helped some books really pick up early buzz, which of course helps in many ways, though mostly it seems that the books expected to hit big are the ones that do. I love it when I see something unexpected gain traction.
10. What's next for Kimberly Pauley?
My next book due out is ASK ME, a dark paranormal fantasy from Soho Teen. It is coming out in April. You can find out more about it at www.kimberlypauley.com/askme It’s very different from my other books – dark, mysterious, a bit sexy… It still has moments of humor, but laughs are definitely not the main focus of the book.
And I’m now writing an adult noir-ish crime fiction type of book with a strong female lead character. It’s set in both Chicago and London, which I am having fun with. It’s the first adult book I’ve worked on, though the two short stories I’ve had published were both for adults.
Beyond that, I’m potentially starting up a joint book with another author, probably something middle grade, but as we’ve just started talking about it, I really can’t say anything more than that. Should be fun though!
Looking forward to all those, Kimberly - thanks so much for the interview!
Kimberly can be found on Twitter and on her website.