Francesca Lia Block was one of those lucky finds from my youth that has stayed with me for all of my life. Through school, family, madness, love, loss, grief and moving I have had those books on my shelf. Now, as I have purged almost all of my book collection, her books still remain, the collected works of a woman who is both my idol, a true Faery and also one of the best authors I have ever read. Those familiar with her work will understand all too easily the precision and whimsy of her surreal and magickal words. Francesca is also keen on the dichotomy of beauty and ugliness – writing about Chanel and 9/11 in the same book. Though Francesca is adept at working through the lives of her characters she has begun to explore more in depth the darker side of the human condition – death, grief, and with Teen Spirit, paranormal activity. True to form this new release has a Ouija board on the cover with a pink heart shaped pointer. The story inside is about a young lady named Julie who becomes very despondent after the death of her beloved grandmother. Julie does not have an easy time coming to terms with this death and when she meets Clark, a die hard fan of Joss Whedon’s Buffy, the two become inseparable and drift into a relationship that is both peculiar and touching. Through the medium of a Ouija board they try to conjure the spirit of Julie’s deceased and fashionable grandmother and get a whole lot more than they bargained for – which isn’t altogether surprising considering what we all know about Ouija boards. The hard fact is that Francesca hasn’t reinvented the story – it’s your basic boy meets girl which would typical fall a bit flat if it wasn’t for the magick that she effortlessly puts into her work. Francesca is no stranger to grief and it is this beauty and knowledge of pain that drives the work and her exploration of death and what lies beyond is both spooky and moving. I won’t lie, I stayed up all night to read it and ended up turning the final page in tears and sent Francesca an email to thank her. TEEN SPIRIT IS THAT GOOD. After my tearful late night email, Francesca readily agreed to speak to me for DRUNKINAGRAVEYARD.com. For those not in the know, she was kind enough to have spoken to me previously for my piece on Love in the Time of Global Warming and as usual she was a joy to talk to.
Robin Goodfellow: Tell me about Teen Spirit and why you wrote it.
Francesca Lia Block: My editor asked me to do a story about a girl who is psychic so I read a book by a therapist who has psychic abilities, Judith Orloff. And I interviewed a friend who also works in this field. Then, as always, I blended this material with things that had been happening in my life. My mother was dying and I was worried I might lose my home and I had just come out of a very strange relationship so those elements are there are as well.
RG:. In Teen Spirit a Ouija board is used – what does the Ouija board mean to you and have you ever used one?
FLB: I used one all the time as a child. It scared and fascinated me.
RG: There is an element of grief and loss in Teen Spirit, does writing help to overcome your personal grief?
FLB: Yes, it is the primary way I deal with loss and grief.
RG: Do you believe in ghosts?
FLB: I believe energy goes on in some manner.
RG: How does Teen Spirit differ from your other work and can we expect more of the same for future novels?
FLB: This book feels a bit different. In general, my work is getting darker, more sexually explicit and more plot oriented lately but that may change.
RG: What new projects are you working on?
FLB: I am awaiting the arrival of a sequel to LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING called THE ISLAND OF EXCESS LOVE and an adult book called BEYOND THE PALE MOTEL. Also working on a secret project!
RG: Teen spirit has a nod to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit – any music that helped you along during writing?
FLB: That song was the major inspiration.
RG: Favourite ghostly movie?
FLB: THE SHINING. I like The Orphanage a lot. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY scared the shit out of me. I liked The CONJURING
RG: And to finish up as before, tell us some of your Current favorites.
FLB: BREAKING BAD, Lorde, the art of Bijou Karman, THE BOOK THIEF, Paul Green heels, taking photographs with Nicolas Sage photography, Vinnie Marino yoga, Sage Restaurant (obsessed with the vegan food and gelato and the bar!)
Just found out FLB is the daughter of the writer of one of my fave 50s sci-fi films, “Kronos”. Her father is the late Irving Block.
I did not know that! I knew her parents were artists!
Me as well. I have a hard back version of I Was A Teenage Fairy and a paperback I loan out to friends. I need to get that back… I first read it in high school and it gave me the courage to find myself.
I find that this is so common when it comes to Francesca. She’s an amazing lady and I’m glad to be able to speak to her.