Skip to main content

Interview: October 2009

October 2009

Holly Black's latest book, KITH, is the second installment in The Good Neighborstrilogy --- a graphic novel collaboration with artist Ted Naifeh about a young girl who finds herself caught in a battle between the good and evil forces of the faerie realm.
In this interview with's John Hogan, Black brings us up to speed with protagonist Rue Silver since the end of the series' first book, KIN, and elaborates on the complex relationship Rue has with her mother. She also explains how she became interested in comics, discusses the origins of her fascination with ghosts and faeries, and shares details about what's in store for her characters in the next and final chapter of the series. Where does KITH take Rue and her friends? How would you describe the dark story line as it unfolds in this second book?
Holly Black: Well, by the end of the first book, KIN, Rue realizes that her grandfather, Aubrey, has a scheme to take over Rue’s city. In KITH, one of Rue’s friends, Anne, goes missing. The more Rue and her friends look for Anne, the more of Aubrey’s plan is revealed. Between that, Rue’s disintegrating love life, and the rift between her parents, there’s a lot to keep her busy. And, well, the end of this book might not be what anyone expects.
TRC: What made you want to work on a graphic novel series after working on so many prose books?
HB: I’ve loved comics for a long time and, at one point, hoped to write for them. I wound up going in a different direction, but after all this time, it was a lot of fun to come back to comics and give them a try. There are lots of differences between prose writing and comic-script writing --- there was a real learning curve, but the challenge was part of what made it enjoyable. All through writing the Good Neighbors books, I have felt like I was growing.
TRC: What was the reaction among your prose readers when you announced you were doing a graphic novel? Did many of them follow you into this format?
HB: I think that with the popularity of manga, my readers are pretty familiar with the graphic novel format for storytelling. And, of course, they really responded to Ted’s art. But I think my graphic novel series is finding new readers too, ones who are unfamiliar with my prose work, especially after the series was nominated for an Eisner.
TRC: Rue Silver is such a great name. Did you have the character’s name in mind before you started writing this story?
HB: I always feel like the naming of the characters is really important. I usually muddle around with names until I get one that sticks and then I know I am ready to actually start writing scenes. If I start with the wrong name, I can tell. I get stuck. So, yeah, Rue Silver --- the name --- came before my writing her story.
TRC: When, and how, did you first become interested in faeries, magic and other “dark” subject matter?
HB: I grew up believing in ghosts and faeries because my mother believed in them. As a kid, I was pretty nervous and I think I started reading folklore to figure out how to protect myself. From there, my fear evolved into fascination.
One of the things I’ve tried to do in all my writing about faeries is to show them as creatures who are capricious and dangerous, beings that have darkness as well as light. Beings that people were once afraid of, rather than the tiny, sparkly and harmless beings many perceive them to be.
TRC: How long do you see The Good Neighbors series continuing?
HB: There is one more book in the series, titled KIND, which should come out in October of 2010.
TRC: How do you and Ted Naifeh work together? Do you give explicit instructions for each panel, do you two brainstorm the look, or is it done some other way?
HB: I write a brief summary of what I think is happening in the panel as part of the script. Then Ted is free to use that or disregard it. He’s also free to change around the panels if he thinks they would work better a different way. He’s an amazing artist as well as a great comic writer in his own right, so I want him to have as much freedom as possible.
TRC: How do you see Rue’s relationship with her mother? Is it healthy, or is there more to it?
HB: I think it’s hard on Rue to have a mother who is so entirely inhuman. In many ways they have a good relationship --- certainly Nia protects Rue and wants the best for her --- it’s just that they have a hard time understanding one another. Rue really is caught in the middle, between human and faerie impulses, morals and customs. Her mother can only help her so much with that.
TRC: The Good Neighbors boasts a diverse and rather fun supporting cast. How did you come up with Rue’s friends?
HB: For Rue, and probably for many teenagers, friends function as a second family --- a family of choice. Rue’s friends ground her in the mortal world and give us an outsider’s perspective of the Faerie world. They all react differently, though. Lucy is very supportive of Rue, even after finding out she’s not entirely human. Justin is convinced that this is all like a movie and all they need to do is avoid movie pitfalls. Dale is made uncomfortable by the idea of their being a fantastical world, but he’s also dangerously drawn to it.
TRC: What can you tell readers about the next book in the series?
HB: Since KIND is the culmination of the Good Neighbors series, I can’t say too much without giving a lot away, but each of the books is about a certain kind of betrayal. KIN is about family betrayals, KITH is about betrayals in love, and KIND is about betrayals of self.