Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Shrinking Violets 'Out' YA Author Cecil Castelluci

Welcome to our new feature at Shrinking Violets! We're going to be interviewing some people whose placement on the I/E-Vert Scale may really surprise you. We're outing some innies here! (With their permission, of course.)

Our first guest is the luminous and electric Cecil Castelluci who blew onto the YA scene in 2005 and hasn't stopped moving yet! She is the author of Boy Proof (2005) , Queen of Cool (2006), Beige, (2007) and The Plain Janes (2007). She has a number of new projects under contract.

In 2005 she was named a Flying Start by Publisher's Weekly, and also recieved an Honorable Mention in PW's annual cuffie awards as Most Promising New Author.

Cecil is also a film writer/director, dancer, actor, and indie rock performer. She has two CDs out and has traveled on tour across the US and Canada.

* * *
MARY: Robin and I think we're pretty darn good at spotting other introverts. You got by us! When we've seen you in social settings, your EQ (energy quotient) is high, you are extremely quick-witted, and you seem to thrive in the company of others. But you consider yourself an introvert? Can you help us understand that?

CECIL: I suppose that it's because I always feel as though I am very small and so I'm easy to miss or overlook. So, I have to really make my presence known. I feel as though I have to overcompensate. Also, I think it's one of those things where it's like I just have to do it really big or I won't do it at all. I get very shy and need the smelling salts in certain areas. Like when people tell me to stand up in a room when they call my name. I don't like it when they point me out. But I guess I don't mind when I am pointing myself out. Then I feel as though I'm in some kind of control, and can retreat, when necessary. Also, being on stage is like not real at all. It's me on stage. It's as though there is a wall in front of me.

MARY: Was there a time in your life when you were more typically introverted in your interactions with others? (Quieter, more reclusive, etc.) What led to the change?

CECIL: I think I never was introverted in the way that you typically think. I get very shy and embarassed and am convinced that I am always doing / saying the wrong thing. But really, if I wanted anything, I had to speak up or be left out, because I was so small. Speaking up is more of a survival skill. Like, yes, teacher, I would like another cookie!

MARY: As a writer, does being an introvert tend to affect the voice of your main characters? Or, are you able to as easily write from the voice of an extravert, i.e., are you bi-vertal? :-)

CECIL: I may actually be bi-vertal. Maybe that's what I am. I get very shy in very strange situations and moments. That said, Egg in Boy Proof and Katy in Beige are both introverts. Even though it seems as though Egg is an extrovert because she walks around wearing a costume everyday, it's really a way for her to shield her very soft self. Katy is very internal. She thinks a lot about doing and saying daring and outrageous things, but she doesn't. It's all in her head. She's very self-conscious and uncomfortable.

MARY: In addition to being a writer, you've worked as an actor, a musician and even danced in music videos. Has that been a stretch for you, or is performing comfortable? How did that evolve for you? Any tips for introverts that you can share about getting more comfortable in the spotlight?

CECIL: Like I said earlier, performing is very comfortable. Sometimes I'll even talk in voices and stuff. I think it's a way of distancing myself and keeping my inner shy girl all protected. I say, stare at the spotlight! All you can see is the veins behind your eyes and it's not like anyone else is there at all!

Also, I always remind myself that no one else is going to go out there and be the best me. Only I can do that, if that makes any sense. So, if I want to have / do/ be out in the fabulous literary glitterati world, I have to go out and have / do / be out there.

MARY: Do you have a favorite fictional introvert character? (books or film)

CECIL: The brother in (the film) Little Miss Sunshine.

MARY: If you had to be stranded on a desert island for a year, would you rather be stranded with an introvert or an extravert?

CECIL: I'd rather be stranded with a person that knew how to build a fire and make a house and split a coconut. I wouldn't really care if they were an introvert or an extravert as long as they enjoyed alone time. 'Cause I really like and need my alone time.

MARY: What do you like best about being an introvert? The least?

CECIL: I like the fact that I can spend a lot of time alone and I am perfectly happy about it and that I can amuse myself and that I am comfortable with that. What I hate about being an introvert is the panic and dread that comes days, sometimes weeks, before I have to go somewhere and know that I have to be "on." I am a nervous wreck before hand, convinced that no one will talk to me. That I will say and do everything wrong and make a terrible fool of myself and that everyone will hate me.

For the record, I always end up having a lot of fun, and mostly it is usually totally fine.

MARY: If you could have dinner with any extravert in the world, who would it be?

CECIL: Carol Channing or Phyllis Diller.

MARY: What's your favorite way to recharge your battery when you've blown your wad?

CECIL: Baths. Baths. Baths. With aromatherapy stress reducing smelly bath stuff, a great book to read and a glass of wine.

* * *
Thanks, Cecil, for this great interview-- and on behalf of Robin and all our readers, a very happy birthday to you!!!


R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow, Miss Cecil! You have some great insights. I thought you made a really interesting point about how sometimes acting or performing allows us introverts to put up a shield between us and the audience. Fascinating stuff!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this. I could especially identify with "the dreading" part weeks, even months, before a particular situation, and then having it turn out fine and maybe even wonderful. I always try to make myself think of things that I was especially afraid of before a "dreaded" situation and then show myself that even if it wasn't wonderful, it also wasn't as bad as I'd initially thought it could be. It helps me be less "dreadfull" ;-) before similar upcoming scenarios. Less, but not "dreadfull" free, unfortunately. Great interview. Thanks!

Mary Hershey said...

Hi, Karen--

Yeah, the dreaded DREADS. Hate that a lot! Robin and I went and saw LARS AND THE REAL GIRL over the weekend, and the main character is 10+ Introvert. There is a scene where his sister-in-law comes to his door and he is hiding behind the curtains. I SO-S0-SO get that. I've hardly outgrown it, but I do try to answer my door these days. Well, at least if I've been spotted.


Anonymous said...


Okay...that hits home. Spotted? How about being spotted out your front door at 10:30 at night, in your jammies (the ones with the hole(s) while quickly sticking your poodle out in her pen to do her thing? How about hearing your neighbor (who elects to take her walks at this time of night) coming up the road SCREAMING out your name? Could I pretend I didn't hear? No, the poodle began yipping at the curdling sound of her voice, as did all the other dogs in the hood. My "deer in the headlights" response (visible beneath our motion-detector lights) would likely have given me away, as well. Listen, despite this, I swear, it took every ounce of will power not to race back inside the house and lock the door, sans poodle, even. Did I mention my slippers had holes, too, and they are two sizes too big because I bought them for five bucks at Kroger's (that was the only size they had left)? Anyway, I trudge up the driveway, heart pounding and neighbor woman meets me by my mailbox. She brought up numerous topics (none of which I can clearly recall, I was far too mortified thinking this couldn't be much worse) but I nodded and was polite and very happy it was very dark out and she couldn't really see me. Then, just when I'd mustered up the courage to tell her I'd better get back inside (tired, old, you know...) a flashlight beam from the right settles right upon my "flannelized" torso (with the holes). It is neighbors HUSBAND coming out to check on her. Over to MY driveway he plods, keeping that dang flashlight focused on MY squirming figure (rather, I think, like one would on a car wreck -- can't look away even though you're repulsed at the same time). When he came into view his grin was the largest I'd ever seen. After me telling him to turn the flashlight off or he'd have a heck of a time trying to extrude that beamer from his person, the three of us "chatted" for another fifteen minutes. By the time I'd made my way back into the house, I was one soggy noodle. I even forgot the poodle; made my kid go out and fetch her. MY luck would have been the neighbor to the left would have decided to do some yard work at 11:20 at night, seen me, and opted to take a break and chat. Following that traumatizing experience, I had hubby move the poodle pen to the backyard. Really. From now on, Mary/Robin, you can just call me Lars...

Anonymous said...

". . . Speaking up is more of a survival skill. Like, yes, teacher, I would like another cookie!"

That is so, so funny!

(I did without cookies growing up.)

Kimberly Lynn

R.L. LaFevers said...

No cookies while growing up! Now that's a tragedy, Kimberly Lynn...