Wouldn’t You Like to Know . . . Lish McBride
Growing up outside of Seattle, Washington, Lish McBride, her two older and one younger brothers, had a pretty normal childhood—including parents who divorced, remarried, and still managed to torture their children enough to let them know they were loved! How lucky for her readers that some of her traditionally unconventional childhood shines through in her novels. Only briefly distracted by the glamour of veterinary medicine, McBride has known she would be a writer from early on in her life. Getting her undergraduate degree in creative writing at Seattle University and MFA in fiction from the University of New Orleans, McBride has settled back in the Pacific Northwest to become: a full-time writer of teen novels, a full-time mom to a young boy, and a full-time seller of books in Third Place Books, an independently owned store. If that’s not enough, the author has also found a way to channel her competitive nature—for good, not bad—by pulling out mad-awesome dance moves as part of team Dancepocalypse, Wow during Dance Your Cash Off, a fundraiser for 826 Seattle, the nonprofit writing and tutoring center where she volunteers on a weekly basis! Each Thursday, McBride helps kids and teens create their own comic books, Choose Your Own Adventure stories, or more intensive workshops. Phew! (Sidenote: Dancepocalypse, Wow raised $1,187 for Dance Your Cash Off this year—nicely done!)
SH: When I was a teenager, people would describe me as a: (jock, band geek, popular, goth, other, none?)
LMB: Crazy. Weird. Strange. I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was off my rocker. I had a very dry sense of humor, so people could never really tell if I was kidding or not.
SH: The best/worst thing that happened to you in high school?
LMB: I left high school in the beginning of eleventh grade, so I’m not sure if I had enough of a high school career to really have a best/worst. My life was pretty much a big mess at the time, sort of equal parts terrible and wonderful, but nothing really stands out.
SH: Favorite childhood book? Favorite food? Favorite band or album? Favorite television show?
LMB: I read too much to have a favorite book—same with TV. I watched a lot of comedy—Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, The State, and so on. It sort of depended on my mood. Same with music. My tastes are widely varied, so one minute I’m listening to Paul Simon, then the Vandals, then rockabilly, then maybe a Pandora station built entirely around banjos and mandolins. It sort of depends. That sort of listening started young, so I’m not sure I have a favorite band or album from my youth. I’m really bad at the “favorite” type questions. As for food, as a kid, I was terribly picky. I wouldn’t eat much. That’s changed, but as for favorite, again, it depends on my mood. See, I told you I was terrible with these questions.
SH: Is there a story from your childhood that is told most often, either by you *or* about you?
LMB: I’m the third kid out of four. I’m not sure anyone was really paying attention to what I was doing most of the time. I’m the only girl, and my older brothers were very loud and quite captivating, so really, I had to be on fire before anyone noticed. I guess the story depends on who’s talking. My brother Jeremy likes to tell the story about the time that we were on a sailboat and calling in mayday because we were stuck in a storm and taking on water and he found me reading. (In my defense, I had zero skills as a sailor, and I was probably eleven. What was I going to do? Also, I really wanted to finish that book before I died. For the record, it was a David Eddings book, specifically, The Queen of Sorcery.) My little brother Alex would probably tell you about the time I convinced him that the neighbors were cannibals, and I’m not sure what my oldest brother, Darin, would tell you. As for what story I would tell, well, my family is “colorful” and I have about a billion of them. I save the best for therapy.
SH: Was there any class in high school you regret paying too little, or too much, attention? If you could add one class to high schools across the country, what would be the topic?
LMB: Well, since I left early, I suppose I didn’t pay attention to many of them. Obviously I liked English. I don’t know—I like learning, but hated high school. College worked out so much better for me. I work best when left to my own devices, and too much of my high school experience was the “There’s only one way to do things and it’s our way” and I’ve never been able to manage that. I do wish they taught foreign languages earlier. I might have managed better with those if I’d started younger. I wish more public schools could manage more arts and music, but I know funding holds them back. I also wish more tech/hands-on education would be available. People are always pushing for college, and for some kids, that’s just not the way their brain works. Many of them need a hands-on, tech-style education, and we need to let that be an okay option. There are different ways to learn and they’re all good. College was great for me, but my brother Jeremy went to tech school. He really flourished there. So, sure, I have an MFA, but he owns his own home and only works one job. (I write and have a full time job.) Sometimes I wonder if he was the smart one . . .
SH: If you could be a character from any book, including your own, who would you want to be? Why?
LMB: I don’t know if I’d want to be a character from a book. Terrible things happen to characters. Painful, heart-wrenching things. It’s what makes books interesting, but man, who wants to live through that? I think if I had to pick, I’d go with Thursday Next from Jasper Fforde’s books. Because then I could read myself into any book. Which, I guess, make this answer the equivalent of wishing for more wishes.
SH: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
LMB: I have so many. I can’t stand text speak. Lol makes me want to punch things. It’s irrational, but there you go. I can’t stand it when people put the jelly knife in the peanut butter jar. I hate it when people say “ex-spresso” (there’s no x!) and I hate the sound of people brushing their teeth. Drives me right up the wall. I feel like that’s a good selection of Stupid Things that Shouldn’t Bother Me, But Totally Do.
SH: If you had an important secret or story to share, who would be the first person you’d turn to?
LMB: Either my mom, Man Friend, my best friend Porkchop, or . . . you know what? This is actually a very long list of people. Something you should know about the McBride clan—we don’t keep anything to ourselves. I get updates on from my mom on what her cousin’s kids are up to and what my great aunt’s granddaughter named her baby. We share, whether you want us to or not. So really, it depends on who’s standing closest to me and who answers their phones fast enough.
SH: Is there a book, besides your own, of course, that you think everyone should be reading?
LMB: Look, I write books, and my day job is selling books at an independent bookshop. I have a list of books you should be reading, and I can tailor that list to what you’re into. I’m a professional book hawker. I have read so many good books this year. The author that I got really into this year, that I’m surprised hasn’t caught on more, though, is Rosemary Clement-Moore. If you like my stuff, you’ll probably like her. She’s funny, and she writes some horror/fantasy type stuff. Also, Allie Brosh of Hyperboleandahalf.com just put her book out. Go read that. I’m going to stop there, because otherwise it would just be a mega-list.
SH: Who was the first person who told you should be a writer?
LMB: I’m not sure. I guess I told myself. It was just something I decided really young—so young that I don’t remember a time when I wanted to be anything else. My mom, my brothers, my stepmom—they were all really supportive. I was lucky that way. I remember teachers making comments, but I can’t remember who started it.
SH: What did you buy with your first paycheck as An Author? Was it a planned or an impulse purchase?
LMB: I mostly paid bills. Exciting, no? But grad school and moving from Louisiana had left me much in debt. I did buy Man Friend a used car, so we could be fancy and have cars to get to work. Before that, we were sharing the car we’d bought with money we pooled from funds we got after losing a lot of stuff in hurricane Katrina. I probably bought some books. I wish I had a cool answer for this, like we bought ostriches and rode them around Seattle, but I don’t.
SH: When you sit down to write, what do you need around you? Do you prefer a certain time of day or is it more spontaneous? How do you approach the creative process?
LMB: Like I said, I have a full time job. I also volunteer at 826 Seattle every Thursday morning and I have a nine-year-old boy and all that entails. I write when I can, any time I can. Sometimes it means getting up early. Sometimes it means coming straight home from work and writing for a few hours instead of going to bed (I work late). There is no set time or place. My office. A coffee shop. With a friend or alone. I don’t have a schedule or a set pattern. I wish I did. It sounds lovely. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to keep writing animal-style for a while.
SH: Have you hidden friends or family in your stories? Has anyone ever asked to be included?
LMB: No. Sometimes I’ll steal lines of dialogue, but I won’t put people in. Because I do terrible things to my characters, and I’d rather not do those things to my friends and family. People ask all the time, and I always tell them no.
SH: What three words would you use to describe yourself? What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?
LMB: “She means well.”
SH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, whom you find fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?
LMB: Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Edward Gorey, and Julia Childs. I would make Julia cook. Also, we’d ride dinosaurs.
SH: If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?
LMB: The power . . . to move you. No, that’s Tenacious D. What power . . . healing maybe? Is that boring? Nothing where I shoot lasers or anything like that. I’d probably hurt somebody on accident.
SH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?
LMB: Never give up, never surrender, always pie.
SH: If you had the chance to appear on a television show—from any of the reality shows to a game show to a talent competition, which show would you want to be on and why?
LMB: Jeopardy, so I could lose spectacularly.
SH: What is one (or more!) of your favorite features about yourself? It can be anything from an impeccable sense of style to your sense of humor to crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects.
LMB: My ability to never answer a straight question. I don’t know. I can actually do that thing with my toes. I’m not sure it’s a favorite thing, though.
SH: A series of choices: Introvert or extrovert? Appetizers or dessert? Peppermint Patty or Peanut butter cup? Board games or card games? Elevator or stairs? Spend or save?
LMB: Introvert. Both. Peanut butter cup. Board games. Escalators—it’s like stairs and elevator had a baby. Both.
SH: Any advice for teens, something you wish you had known? Or wish you had done? Or wish you had not done? And why. (Or best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten, at any age?)
LMB: I wish I could go back and tell Teen Lish that most of the things I was worried about weren’t that big of a deal–that you’re really only a teenager for a tiny span of your life, and that what goes on then really doesn’t matter. It gets better and all you really have to do during your teen years is survive them. Everything else is a bonus.
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
SH: Love, love, love the title of this award winning book! How did you come up with this? Was it a hard—or easy—sell to the publisher?
LMB: The title was chosen from a chapter title. It went through several crappy titles before we landed on HMC,N. Marketing didn’t like it, but we couldn’t think of anything better and so we argued for it and won, eventually. So, we had to fight for the title. The book was a fairly easy sell. We had lots of rejections, but many of them were positive. Some editors just didn’t quite know what to do with it.
SH: How did you pick the songs to go with the chapters—for both books? Are they all favorite bands or songs?
LMB: Generally, they just pop into my head. Sometimes, I have to search around for one that fits with what’s going on in the chapter, but the process varies. They aren’t all favorite songs or bands, but I usually like the song or band or it’s something I have a history with.
SH: A talking head in a bowling bag is inspired, to say the least. Did you have to take any real life measurements or is this a combination of best guess plus fictional/fact-forgiveness at work?
LMB: Brooke was actually going to be carried about in something else, but my agent didn’t like it. (We do several rounds of editing together before it goes to my editor.) He suggested the bowling bag. I thought it would work great because there’s already something in there to hold the neck. (The metal divider thing that holds the shoes and the ball in place.) I’ve never measured it, but I’ve bowled many times in my youth, so I was sure the head would fit.
SH: Brid and Sam meet under challenging circumstances. Add in her being next in line to lead the pack and that he’s a powerful necromancer, this should make their relationship less and less possible. What do you see as the key element(s) to making it work?
LMB: The key element isn’t much different than in any good relationship—they genuinely like each other. Sam doesn’t want to change Brid, and she doesn’t want to change him. They connect and they just feel better when the other one is around. They simply make a good team. They are both fairly practical, non-dramatic people, which helps.
SH: After creating this world of supernatural creatures, would you rather be: part of the werewolf pack, able to raise the dead, a new werebear, a ghostly essence, or remain boringly human?
LMB: I think the weres have the best deal, especially the wolves. They have family, support, and awesome powers. And they aren’t hated/feared on sight like necromancers. I wouldn’t want to be a ghost, and why stay boring human?
Necromancing the Stone
SH: How hard was it to come up with the correct terminology? (Tanaiste/Taoiseach, for example.) Did you find most of your information from books, the Internet, or people? Where did you find these sources?
LMB: I usually start with books. I have a lot of mythology books, and I read a lot on voodoo and necromancy and various things. I also use the Internet and people, depending on what kind of information I’m looking for. You gather sources as you go, looking first at family and friends. My mom is a nurse, so I always text her strange medical questions. Man Friend has done a lot of grappling and MMA type stuff, so I sometimes ask him questions about my fight scenes. My next book is set in Maine, so I’ve been bugging my brother, Darin, and his wife, Serafina, for Maine details. One source leads you to another. If you don’t know where to start, go to the library. Ask a librarian. They’re trained to help you find things. As for Tánaiste/Taoiseach, since Brid’s family hails from Ireland, I wanted to find terms that meant leader or clan-chief. I was surprised to discover that those terms are still used. Just one more thing for me to love about Ireland, I guess.
SH: Would you want to reanimate from a life spark? What would be your first choice as a second “home”?
LMB: Well, since Douglas had to kill a lot of people to make that happen . . . probably not. But people get desperate when it comes to staying alive, so you never know.
SH: Brooke might not have a body but her essence is not to be ignored! Any chance she’ll get her own story? (eBook or a graphic novel maybe?)
LMB: Possibly. I haven’t ruled it out, but I have a bunch of other stuff that needs to happen first.
SH: If you made it (successfully!) through Thundergnome, what would you want you choose as your gnome moniker?
LMB: Lish, Destroyer of Naps. (I couldn’t actually think of a good one. I think I used up all my good gnome names on actual gnomes.)
SH: Douglas’ history makes a pretty good case for his approach to life. Do you think his past makes him more or less worthy of forgiveness?
LMB: I think it’s easier to forgive people if you know why they do what they do. Douglas was a terrible human being, but he didn’t start out that way. He had the potential to be a good person, he was just raised by a sociopath and it had an impact. In many ways, Douglas and Sam are a reflection of each other—each comes as a “what could have been” for each other. I don’t think Douglas necessarily deserves to be forgiven, however. I wouldn’t forgive him. I’d pity him a little, but then I’d remember that brought untold misery and death to a lot of creatures. That sort of kills any pangs of forgiveness.
Books by Lish McBride
Necromancing the Stone. Henry Holt, 2012. 344p. $16.99. 978-0-8050-9099-4. VOYA August 2012. 4Q 4P S
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Henry Holt, 2010. 342p. $16.99. 978-0-8050-9098-7. VOYA February 2011. 3Q 5P J S
Author Page: http://www.lishmcbride.com/
826 Seattle: http://www.826seattle.org/
Write Place, Write Time: http://writeplacewritetime.tumblr.com/post/9163134385/lish-mcbride