While I was making clicking sounds and smiling at wild, average-sized squirrels, Kiki Strike and the Irregulars were busy investigating the appearance of giant squirrels in New York City. Then author Kirsten Miller led me on an underground tour of her books, complete with a side trip through odd nursery rhymes and a quick visit to the Girl Scouts.
The name Kiki Strike strikes fear into the hearts of evildoers everywhere! All of your main characters have interesting monikers. How did you select their names?
I stole them all. Seriously. For years, I've been filling notebooks with interesting names. Names of people I've met. Names of people mentioned in the credits of PeeWee's Big Adventure. Names I spot on the reservation lists at restaurants I frequent. I feel free to steal from anywhere and everywhere. Perhaps that's why I, myself, tend to travel under various aliases. (I'm not really kidding.)
Matching a character to a name, however, is often quite difficult. It took me months to settle on names for the characters in the book I'm currently writing. A name reveals a great deal of information about its owner. So I try to take great care when choosing them. I probably went through two-dozen names looking for the perfect moniker for Kiki Strike's guardian, Verushka.
Each of the girls has an unusual interest or hobby. Do you have any hidden talents?
I'd like to think I'm a fairly good detective. (But it's not really a hidden talent or special gift. All you have to do is pay attention and draw a few rudimentary conclusions.) I love using my powers of observation to freak people out. For instance, I once worked with a guy who always wore perfectly pressed trousers and beautifully shined shoes. Even his posture was a little too good. So one day, I asked him what it was like growing up on an Army base--and how long his father had been an officer. (I figured that was one of two possible explanations, and I took a somewhat educated guess.) He nearly swallowed his tongue.
Which of the Irregulars is the most like you?
Ananka, without a doubt. I spent my youth surrounded by books. Good books, bad books, and trashy books. I read everything I came across. (There wasn't much else to do in my hometown.) Which is one reason I share so many of Ananka's obsessions -- giant squid, human sacrifice in ancient Mesoamerica, giant rats.
I would love to say I'm like Kiki Strike, but I'm too much of a goober, I'm afraid.
You are in touch with the Girl Scouts. Did that happen before or after you created the Irregulars?
I got in touch with the Girl Scouts just recently. How did you know?
You told me.
I've always admired the organization, but I didn't know how they'd respond to my depiction of the scouts as a little old-fashioned. As it turns out, they were far from offended. I'm looking forward to working with the New York branch on some very exciting projects in the near future. I think we're trying to achieve similar things when it comes to inspiring the next generation of women. (Though the Girl Scouts are doing it on a much grander scale, of course.)
How many books are planned in the line? Do you have any other works in progress?
I would like to do a book for each of the Irregulars, but right now I'm working on a novel that's not in the series. It's a dark teen romance/thriller.
Just as I was typing "Empress's Tomb," the girl on television said the word "tomb." Coincidences like this happen to me all of the time. You?
Ha! Yes, things like that happen to me all the time. But I don't always write them off as coincidences. I'm a big believer in intuition (if not ESP), and I think our brains receive far more information than most of us are willing to interpret.
During one of our first conversations, you said, "Aren't all nursery rhymes a bit nuts?" Which nursery rhyme do you find the oddest, or the funniest?
I prefer the dark and sinister nursery rhymes to the funny ones. Among my favorites:
Ring Around the Rosie (Sinus problems, possible plague reference.)
Three Blind Mice (Carving knives, lopped-off tails.)
Tom the Piper's Son (Petty larceny, corporal punishment.)
Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater (Kidnapping, possible murder.)
Little Miss Muffett (Gluttony, spiders.)
You, like me, followed the triumphs and trials of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Who were your favorite characters? What were your favorite episodes?
I liked Buffy a lot, but I was never the crazed fan that my sister became. I think Willow may be my favorite character (especially when she's bad). She's a lot like Ananka in many respects. And I loved the episode with the "gentlemen." I think they were the best monster types in the series.
What technogadgets from film, TV, or literature do you wish to own?
Actually, I'd consider selling my soul for a washer and dryer. (They're the ultimate luxury in New York City.) But I'd also love to get my hands on one of the new devices that can interrupt other people's cell phone service. (Though they're certain to be banned as soon as they're available.) I wouldn't use it for nefarious purposes. I'm just sick of listening to conversations that should never be public.
Just the other day, I was on a train from Boston, and a girl in front of me was discussing the fact that many of her sorority sisters chose not to bathe. (The conversation got far more graphic from there, but I'll spare you the details.) Let's just say that if I could have pulled out one of those gadgets, I would have been the most popular person on the train.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
The Turn of the Screw
The Confessions of Felix Krull
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
The Westing Game
Bleak House (or any Dickens novel)
100 Years of Solitude
The Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
The Adventure of Cavalier and Klay
(Okay -- that's eleven, but I can't decide which one to remove!)
Learn more about the Irregulars at kikistrike.com and sneak a peek at Ananka's diary.
This just in: Cunning squirrels caught on tape!
Check out my interviews with Kirsten Miller from 2010 and 2013.