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Interview: Kirsten Miller

January 17th, 2013 (07:00 am)
thirsty

Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Seeds by Brooke Fraser

When I first interviewed Kirsten Miller back in 2007, we spoke of squirrels and hobbies. A few years later, Kirsten shared her definition of courage with me and the readergirlz. Today, we're going to talk about strength and cities. Oh, and Stephen Colbert. And crime. Fictional crime, I promise.

Congratulations on the release of Kiki Strike #3: The Darkness Dwellers! Is this the last tale of the Irregulars?

Thanks! I don't have any solid plans for a Book #4, but my gut tells me there will be one at some point - even if I end up writing it for fun. I've already decided that it will focus on Luz and be set in Brooklyn. I know the villain's name, her hobbies - and the strange, stinky place she calls home. The details are slowly coming together in my head. It won't be long until they start spilling out.

Which Irregular character do you feel has grown the most over the course of the three books?

Each of the first three books has focused on a particular Irregular, so those are the girls (along with Kiki) who've grown the most. Ananka finally knows her own strength. Betty is bolder - she no longer needs hides behind disguises. Oona has mellowed a great deal (but not too much). And all of them (but especially Kiki) have come to see how important they are to each other - and how much stronger they are as a group. Hopefully Luz, DeeDee and Iris will have books that tell more of their stories, too.

Where do you see each of the girls in ten years?

Kiki Strike: Kicking butt. (Believe it or not, ten years from now there will still be plenty of bad guys.)

Ananka Fishbein: History detective. She investigates (and solves) history's greatest crimes.

Oona Wong: Self-appointed queen of a small island nation.

Luz Lopez: Robotics tycoon.

DeeDee Morlock: Mad scientist responsible for curing a half dozen diseases. Works in a secret, underground bunker beneath Columbia University where the pharmaceutical industry can't reach her.

Betty Bent: Oscar-winning makeup/special effects artist. Runs a profitable side business selling disguises that can fool facial recognition software.

Iris McLeod: A hipper, more dangerous Nancy Drew.

Next month, you're releasing How to Lead a Life of Crime, which is a novel, not non-fiction. (Sorry to disappoint those of you looking for a handbook.) What prompted this story?

In the course of doing research for the Kiki Strike books, I stumbled across a description of a rather unusual New York institution that was known as the Grand Street School. Started the 1870s by a colorful woman named Marm Mandelbaum, it was a school for young criminals. Marm would pluck young urchins off the streets of Manhattan's Lower East Side and train them to be safe crackers, confidence men, etc. For a years, the school was a big success. Then the police raided Marm's personal business (she traded in stolen goods), and she high-tailed it to Canada, where she died a very rich woman.

The premise of How to Lead a Life of Crime is that the Grand Street School never closed when Marm went on the lam. It simply changed its name and became . . . respectable.

Please fill in the blank: Squirrels are to the Irregulars as ______ are to the students of Mandel Academy.

Hmmm. Not sure I know the right answer to this one. Is it wolves?

Could be. Could be.

The Kiki Strike books feature squirrels who've been trained to pick pockets. In How to Lead a Life of Crime, the narrator calls the most dangerous students at the Mandel Academy Wolves. The Wolves are born predators. They're cunning and vicious - and they all lack a conscience. Next to the Wolves, Kiki Strike's sticky-fingered squirrels seem like a bunch of upstanding citizens.

You also have a series called The Eternal Ones, which deals with reincarnation, romance, and rock stars. Was the second book, All You Desire,</b> the end of the story, or do you plan to write more books in the line?

I can say with absolute certainty that there will be no more Eternal Ones books.

I answered "yes" to all but one of the questions on the quiz for the Ouroboros Society.

Really? You answered “yes” to all but one?

Yes.

That's pretty amazing.

What was your score? Do you have a story that goes along with how or why you answered one of the questions the way you did?

I think I'd rather hear your story - I have a hunch it's far more interesting than mine. I'm afraid I've gathered little proof of my previous lives. My personal brushes with the paranormal have usually involved ghosts. (In which I am a big believer.)

New York is featured in all of your books, not just as a backdrop; locations are typically very important to the plot and to the characters. What draws you to set your stories in the city?

New York is one of the great loves of my life, and it's a constant source of inspiration. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that most people who live here don't own cars. (I certainly don't.) You have no choice but to walk a great deal - and no matter where you're headed, you're sure to see some amazing stuff along the way. There's so much to discover here. Forgotten tunnels beneath Chinatown (yes, they do exist). Magical libraries. Weird museum exhibits.

(If those things are up your alley, you should check out The Irregular Guide to New York City on my blog.)

Not that long ago, an amazing and bizarre building was “discovered” in Manhattan's financial district. It had been sitting empty for decades. Then a well-known blogger got inside and took a few pictures. His snap shots of 5 Beekman Street were one of the key inspirations for How to Lead a Life of Crime's Mandel Academy.

How much does Stephen Colbert rock? If one of your books were to be made into a film, which character would he play? (and could I play his daughter?)

Oh, I think you already know the answer to that question. He'd be Lucian Mandel - head of the Mandel Academy in How to Lead a Life of Crime. (Though he'd make a good Sergei Molotov from the Kiki Strike books, too.) It's all in the eyes. Colbert has unusually dark eyes. They make him appear rather sinister.

What's next for Kirsten Miller?

I'm collaborating on a really exciting project. I've always worked alone in the past, so this is a very different experience for me. So far, I'm loving it.

Excellent! Can't wait to hear more about it.

After that . . .who knows. The YA book world is a tough place. I may take a break for a while.


Visit Kirsten Miller's website and blog.

Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Kirsten Miller Interview (2007)
Kirsten Miller Mini-Interview (2010)