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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