Cecil Castellucci has worn many creative hats in her career, author, musician, actress, filmmaker, singer, songwriter and more. In many ways you could say she is truly a renaissance woman. She has produced more artistic output than many people much older than she is, and across so many different mediums. Cecil was born in New York and raised there and in Montreal. Currently she resides in Los Angeles.
1. You did a BFA in Cinema Productions at Concordia University in Montreal, what way your favorite part of attending University in Canada?
Well, it's Canada! And it's Montreal! Which, as you know, is such a beautiful city. The food is so good. And the music scene is so great. And I love that the whole city pretty much shuts down in summer for the Jazz festival and Just For Laughs. Also, my parents are from there and have lived there since I was 17, so it's home.
2. You have won numerous awards for your books and graphic novels, what one means the most to you and why?
Well, I think technically I've only won one award (so far), and it is very, very precious to me. It's the Shuster Award for Best Canadian Comic Book Writer. I am proud of it because it's for writing my first comic book and it's a Canadian honor. I felt like it was an encouragement for me to keep writing comics. Also, comics is a pretty male dominated field, so it was nice to be representing the ladies in that genre.
3. You are very gifted and seem to thrive no matter what artistic medium you are working in, what is your favorite and why?
Why thank you! What a nice thing to hear. Basically, I love telling stories. So that is my favorite thing. The medium that I do it in might change, but always always always it's about telling a story. For me, each medium is just a different and interesting way to tell a story. Each medium, novel, short story, play, opera, comic book, whatever, all have their charms, their strengths and their weaknesses. So for me, it's a joy to play in all of them.
4. You recently wrote a libretto for an opera in Montreal. You conceived of the concept for the opera of a live comic book opera. Les Adventures de Madame Merveille appears to have been a great success. What was it like working on such a scale with so many other artistic people and pulling the whole project together into a whole?
Working on Les Aventures de Madame Merveille was really a thrilling experience. ECM+, the company that commissioned the opera regularly puts together composers with artists, dancers, filmmakers and writers and I jumped at the chance when they asked me to propose something. I thought it would be interesting to do a comic book opera. And while I proposed the project, it really was Veronique LaCroix who pulled everyone together. The first person that I worked with was Andre Ristic, the composer. He's brilliant and our collaboration was pretty easy going. I would give him the stories and he would pick phrases that he liked and use them in the music. Then I set about working with the artists, Cameron Stewart, Michael Cho, Pascal Girard and Scott Hepburn on the images. After that, the director, Marie Josee Chartier really did the work of gathering all the elements and making it into the spectacular performance that it was. I just sat back in awe. The whole thing was a total joy.
5. Did the final opera live up to your concept?
It was beyond my expectations. It was simply amazing.
6. You have contributed to numerous collections an anthologies, what was your favorite collection, what was your favorite contribution?
Oh, favorites is too hard a word. But I am very proud of The Long and Short of Long Term Memory which was in Interfictions 2 and The Bread Basket which was in Sideshow. But I like all my story babies. They are of a moment.
7. In the collection First Kiss (Then Tell) you contribute a piece called Bad Reputation, have you ever wondered what would have happened if you had not given in to peer pressure and ended the relationship?
I think probably it's all OK that I didn't end with that kid. He was just a good smoocher.
8. You co-edited the anthology Geektastic: Stories From the Nerd Herd with Holly Black, what was it like editing an anthology? Would you do it again?
The editing process was great fun. It always is a treat when you are dealing with such a high caliber of authors. I don't think that there will ever be another Geektastic anthology. But you never know, perhaps in the future I might edit an anthology again.
9. Your song Sweet Girl from the album Whoever you allude to being deeply hurt by a man or men. Yet your fiction is not as dark, dreary or dystopian as many of your contemporaries. What in your writing of fiction or music allows you to continue to provide hope and belief in a future?
I don't know! Maybe my real name is Pollyanna!
10. One of my goals in life is to find balance between body, mind and spirit. You seem to have achieved that balance in both your work and your life. What do you do to maintain your balance?
Oh, it's hard work. And it's not something that you can ever not be working on. I just try to always stretch and be bigger and grow my heart in every which way I can. But like everyone else, I have my dark days. And despite my hopeful nature, I have despair. But every day is a new day to try for balance. So I guess I try to do just that.
11. The band Nerdy Girl went though a few member changes, when it broke up you release a solo album under the name Cecil Seaskull, what is the meaning behind the name?
When I was in my first band Bite, we all gave ourselves punk names. Cecil Seaskull was mine. It was a funny way of saying Cecil twice. There is no other meaning other than it being ridiculous. And ridiculous things are often fun.
12. Which books or authors had the greatest impact on your work? 13. Which musicians or band contributed the most to your own music endeavors.
I think that pretty much everything has an impact on my work. It's not just authors or books. (Although I could say, Jane Austen, Ray Bradbury, Margret Mitchell, MT Anderson to name such a very few) Or music (I could say, The Softies, Sloan, Verdi, NOFX) It's the letter that I got two years go from a friend while in a cabin in New Hampshire. It's a bus ride I took to go to ballet when I was 11. It's the way the sun sets while on vacation. It's the argument I had about my phone bill. It's the way I might cry over spilt milk. It's the way I sometimes have to get up and shake my groove thing.
14. You constantly seem to be involved, with writing groups, artist collectives, conference, speaking, moderating panels, how do you fit it all in your life, and continue to products your work - works of art?
I like projects. And I feel that it is my mission to spread art and stories all around. So it it's my joy to be involved and get others involved. As for getting work done, I spend many days not doing anything except for sitting around on my porch and thinking and dreaming and writing. I think that it seems like I'm always busy, but it's pretty much a burst and then down time. I also, like to give myself artistic deadlines. And I like to meet them.
15. Do you hope to see your two film projects; For F**k's Sake(2004) and Happy Is Not Hard to Be(2005) Sake released to DVD?
Oh wouldn't that be swell! I would be more interested in having Happy Is Not Hard To Be available. You never know, one day it might be.
16. Will we someday see your unreleased material, will the graphic novel Janes Go Summer or the album For Lovers and Rats ever see the light of day? If not do you see yourself releasing other music in the future or more graphic novels?
Jim Rugg and I are always hopeful that Janes Go Summer will eventually come out. And as For Lovers and Rats, I am actually working on releasing it for digital download, so that should be out by the end of the year.
17. What current projects are you working on?
Well, I have three books in the hopper right now, all due out in 2011 or 2012. One is a graphic novel for kids called Odd Duck with illustrator Sara Varon. Then I have a new YA novel called First Day on Earth. And then another YA novel, Year of the Beasts that is hybrid novel. Half comic book half prose. And then I've got a million other ideas for things.
18. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?
Breathe and take it slow.
19. What advice would you give to University students today who want to be writers, musicians, filmmakers? What gems of wisdom would you pass on?
Always fill your creative bank with the doing of things and being open to fun. Put your best ears on when being critiqued and be open to what people are saying, instead of defensive so that you can learn how to make your art better. Also, maybe actually put stuff out there, don't' keep it in a drawer. I think a piece of art is a document of where you were at the time. You can always revisit an artistic question with a different project. Do it!
Cecil thank you for taking the time to interact with us at Book Reviews and More, I for one look forward to your future projects in whatever form they come. And personally can attest to the power of your music, books and short fiction to have a lasting impact on a person's mind and spirit. Cecil currently focuses on her writing career.
Books by Cecil Castellucci:
Boy Proof (2005)
The Queen of Cool (2006)
The P.L.A.I.N. Janes (2007)
Janes in Love (2008)
Geektastic (Editor & Contributor 2009)
Rose Sees Red (2010)
Grandma's Gloves (2010)
First Day On Earth (2011)
Music By Cecil Castellucci
Twist Her - Nerdy Girl (1996)
Whoever - Cecil Seaskull (1998)
A Visual Bibliography for Cecil Castellucci
Author profile interview with Cecil Castellucci