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Cecil Castellucci writes: Book nerd

Book nerd

Beige, by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick Press), 307 pp.

Ex-Montrealer rock chick Cecil Castellucci changes gears and careers

Montrealers may remember her as Nerdy Girl. But pop diva Cecil Castellucci, who rocked Montreal throughout the ’90s, has reinvented herself as a cutting-edge author of young adult fiction. The singer/songwriter, actress and filmmaker just released her third novel, Beige.

Exiled from Montreal to sunny L.A. to spend the summer with her estranged father, Beau Ratner, a.k.a. the Rat, Katy feels abandoned by her mother who sent her to California against her will. She hasn’t seen the Rat, a recovering heroin addict and drummer in the infamously famous punk ensemble Suck, in almost a decade. A story about Katy’s right of passage into L.A.’s subversive punk subculture, Beige is a fiction that will light up the imagination of readers of all ages.

When I caught up with Cecil via cyberspace (she now calls L.A. home) she was just putting the finishing touches to The Plain Janes, a graphic novel to be released this spring with Vertigo, a division of DC Comics. Castellucci explained that Shelly Bond, an editor at Vertigo, was looking for a new writer to pen a graphic novel for the line.

"Shelly called me and I was so excited! She had even edited one of my fave Vertigo series, The Deadenders. I had had this idea about four girls named Jane kicking around in my head for a while but I didn’t think it was a novel; I didn’t know what it was. When Shelly asked if I had any ideas for a graphic novel, The Plain Janes idea immediately came to mind."

The Plain Janes is the fourth novel in four years for Castellucci, the ultimate multitasker. When I asked the tiny fireball of energy how she finds the time to get so much done, she explained that she sets self-imposed deadlines for herself.

"I like to give myself three months to a big project. I try not to be working on something else big or new until that thing is done. But writing is always at different stages, like, you’ve sent something out for revision notes, or you get asked to write a short piece for something, or you get something back to tweak. So I figure out which things I think I can handle and then give myself a deadline. I’m a binge writer. I fuss and fight myself and get angry and cry and do the dishes and curse the sky and do diddly-squat and then I write in a burst."

When the subject of music came up, I wondered what had become of Castellucci’s Nerdy Girl alter ego. "Let’s just say that I’m in musical ‘retirement,’ but like Cher, I could always make a comeback! Just the other day, I was like, ‘Damn! I want to write a song again! I want to go to a jam space and jam!’ I have a feeling I’ll do something again sooner than later."

An incredibly talented artist equally comfortable with a film camera, guitar or pen, Cecil Castellucci’s accomplishments just keep getting sweeter and sweeter. With Beige behind her, it seems pretty obvious to me that she’s overflowing with brilliant surprises.

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  3 comments

  • by Martin Dansky - April 5, 2007, 9:39 am

    Appreciate your perseverance and the realization that it doesn’t take instant cognition to know a book character is kicking around in your head. Many new ideas morph around like that and somebody else might evoke that thought. There has to be an eventual plan, notes somewhere, and those precious sounding boards to bring you to your feet. Harry Potter was a lucky creation for its writer that toted notes stuffed in a bag wherever she went. You can do it that way. About a rite of passage, somebody faced with a new challenge as life changes and inspired by stuff from Vertigo? That ought to keep reader interest pinned. So what about cursing the sky at dishwashing time? Bursts of energy are good! Somebody said once you get started pretend wild dogs are after you! Sounds horrible but if you put things off as I do that ought to get somebody to think deadline. And the same has to be said for any project especially if you’re self-made and the agent is you. Not saying anything new but I think it is good to hear it again and move on between book, film and music. Then some more agents will be emailing you for sweet contracts and you can choose!

  • by Reuven De Souza - April 6, 2007, 12:39 pm

    So I just recently picked up the latest Jonathan Lethem novel You Don’t Love Me Yet as the last good rock book that I had read by Rob Sheffield had left me wanting another rock read. But if the review of Cecil Casteucci’s latest is to believed then I may want to leave that aside and pick up this one. i suppose that is what a good review ought to do…right? The review just keep on giving reasons to get the book. I mean while i had never heard of her the background material made me very interested. Thanks.

  • by Mark St Pierre - April 9, 2007, 5:42 pm

    Yeah, I remember Cecil Seaskull’s (Castelluci’s musical alias) ole band Nerdy Girl – a mainstay in our indie scene in the mid 90′s and while she always had a way with a lyrical turn of phase, I never realized just how accomplished her writing skills were. Castellucci has really come into her own composing these anti-coming of age coming of age tales that are far more grounded and realistic than most sugary-sweet idealized teen-age lit. More incisive than hopelessly idealistic, her characters are real and relevant – equal parts angst, angry, and empathetic – a real breath of fresh air in what is largely a staid and tired genre.

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