Interview: Nina Malkin
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Nina Malkin's first novel for teens, 6X: The Uncensored Confessions, was about a band riding the fame rollercoaster. It was followed up with 6X: Loud, Fast, & Out of Control. Now she has a non-fiction book about the cats that have touched her life, plus another teen novel coming out this summer. Read on to find out more about her cats, her fashionable past, and her writing style.
It sounds as though a particular (purrticular) kitty prompted you to write An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle. what is your favorite story about Flaca?
My favorite story about Flaca was the day we met. I was sitting alone outside on the front stoop; it was a quiet morning, not a creature was stirring . . . until . . . whoa! Is that a cat? A cute little calico cat? Right on my block? I knelt down and called to her, and she came running up. She was so lovey-dovey. We became friends instantly. Never happens for me like that with human beings . . .
Explain TNR (trap, neuter, return) and why you feel it helps the cats.
Trap-neuter-return (or TNR) is what a lot of animal rights and rescue organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, see as the best way to end the problem of homeless cats. It involves trapping the cats (that's the "T"), taking them a vet to be neutered (the "N") and returning them to the place you found them (the "R"). Sometimes, I think there's a letter missing - it should be TNRC, with the "C" standing for "care," because once the cats are returned, someone has to take care of them.
Unfortunately, because these homeless cats are often wild - or feral - they can't be adopted as pets. TNR helps cats by controlling the population. No one wants to see starving, homeless cats. Plus, when the cats are neutered and have someone to care for them, they live longer, healthier lives.
How many cats do you currently have?
We have three ferals in the backyard, and, of course, our pampered housecats, Iggy and Echo.
What is the starkest contrast between writing fiction and non-fiction?
Wow, what an amazing question. It may seem like a "duh" answer but non-fiction is the truth - you had better get your facts straight! With fiction, although you do have to do research, you get to make a lot of things up. Fiction is like pretending on paper; it's like a license to lie. In real life, I'm a lousy liar. I naturally blurt out the truth.
What do you prefer to write?
I prefer fiction - it's more fun - but shhh, don't tell that to the magazines [for which] I write articles!
The 6X books are told in first-person from the POV of each of the four band members. Whose voice was the easiest to write? The most difficult?
Okay, I said that with fiction you get to make stuff up, but with 6X, I swear, I woke up one day with these characters living in my head. I don't feel like I invented those guys at all - they were a gift, and they are very real to me. They were all carrying on at once in my cranium, so I thought I'd better sit down at the computer.
Which voice is the most similiar to your own?
None of them are really like me, except maybe Wynn, because she thinks too much. I wish I could be more like Stella. A/B actually reminds me of my friend Marc, who is a great guitar player and runs this music school for kids in Dallas called Zounds -- it's like the real school of rock. As far as Kendall goes, i've never met anyone like her, and she would constantly surprise me. Sometimes she drives me crazy, but I have a lot of respect for her too.
Since they show the sometimes dirty dealings of the entertainment industry, the 6X books are most appropriate for older teens. Do you ever plan to write for pre-teens or younger kids?
Hmmm. My new book that's coming out this summer, Orange is the New Pink, may "feel" a little younger, but I remember when I was about 12 I read all kinds of stuff: books intended for kids, and books that were more 'advanced.' I also feel that kids know all about the good and the bad in life pretty early -- the dirty dealings, as you said. I know that for me fourth grade was brutal! I just think sometimes you're in the mood for a light, happy, romantic story and sometimes you want something a little darker, and sometimes you want it all in the same novel.
Orange is the New Pink is due out this July. Tell us about this fashionable teen tale.
Juicy, juicy, juicy! It's about 5 girls who get to work at their favorite magazine for the summer. I spent a lot of time working in the magazine industry, so while this is a novel, I really know what I'm writing about.
Honestly, one thing that's very important to me in my books, for young people or old people, is that the characters be ethnically diverse. The main character in Orange is the New Pink is biracial, and, as you'll find out, that "matters" in a way she never ever imagined.
You contributed one of the four stories in Mistletoe, along with Hailey Abbott, Melissa de la Cruz, and Aimee Friedman. How did you come to be involved in the anthology?
Mistletoe was published by the same fine folks who put out the 6X books and my new novel. They came to me and asked if wanted to contribute. It was an honor to be in such good company with Hailey, Melissa and Aimee.
Do you often write short stories?
I used to write short stories a lot. Not so much anymore.
What are your top ten favorite books?
Oh, I hate top ten lists. I can never think of anything and I feel like an illiterate loser. I just read "The Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton. Great. I love short stories by Shirley Jackson and Flannery O'Connor. I love gritty stuff like L.A. Confidential by James Elroy. I've read all Don Delillo's stuff, T.C. Boyle, Will Self. I loved "Everything is Illuminated" by Jonathan Safran Foer. Right now, I'm reading a non-fiction book aboout rats, aptly called Rats. It's by Robert Sullivan. Icky but cool.