Kirsten Miller Interview (pt. 2)
The best spies are people that everyone else overlooks. (In the business, they’re called “Gray Men.”) For the most part, adults still see girls of a certain age as innocuous—if they see them at all. That gives girls the ability to fly under the radar, so to speak, in ways other people can’t.
My inspiration came from many different places, but I must give a great deal of credit to Arthur Conan Doyle and the Baker Street Irregulars. (Hence the name of Kiki Strike’s band of girl geniuses.) I’m a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes books, and I loved the idea of a pack of Victorian urchins roaming London in the service of the city’s most famous detective. However, I was always a little put out that none of them were girls.
Has Hollywood sniffed about the film rights quite yet?
They’ve sniffed, but apparently they don’t like the smell of girls. (I’m joking. There’s been interest, but it’s a book that could be easily ruined, and I won’t sell it to make a quick buck.)
From what I’ve read in the Times, Hollywood has been quite skittish lately when it comes to green-lighting “girly movies.” A few people seem to have placed Kiki Strike in that camp—despite the fact that the book bears zero resemblance to a tender coming of age story in which a good-natured misfit experiences first love and finally breaks out of her shell. (I yawned just writing that.)
Kiki Strike is an adventure story (with man-eating rats and lots of explosions). And as quite a few boys would be happy to tell you, it’s a book with girls in it—not a “girls’ book.” I hope the movie industry is as enlightened as America’s twelve-year-old boys.
I recently read a blog piece by someone who theorized that girl readers identify more closely with quiet narrators, while secretly wanting to become Kiki Strikes. At any point did you want to make the story come from Kiki’s point of view and not Ananka?
I can’t speak for all female readers, but the theory holds true in my case. Kiki is the kind of girl I wanted to be, while Ananka’s far closer to the girl that I was.
I never considered writing the story from Kiki’s point of view. Kiki is the book’s mystery. (In case anyone was wondering.) And once the mystery’s solved, Ananka comes to see that Kiki’s life isn’t quite so enviable.
Ananka Fishbein is Jewish, yes? This is fabulous. After all, the number of Jewish kick-butt super spy girls in children’s literature is a bit on the low side. Did you fashion her character after anyone you knew personally? For that matter, did you fashion any of the characters on people you knew personally?
Ananka is Jewish, though I doubt I’ll ever make much of that fact. (But then again, who knows?) She’s based largely on me, however, and I am not Jewish. (But then again, who knows?)
All of the characters share one or two personality traits with people I know. (DeeDee shares my sister’s sloppiness. Luz resembles my mother in ways I shouldn’t put into print.) But for the most part, each the Irregulars is my own creation. Only the Princess is based largely on someone from my past. That’s the best part of being a writer. Revenge!
Me again. I was pleased to hear that info about the possible inclusion of the Jefferson Market Library in a future book. I’ve been lobbying for that library’s inclusion in a work of children’s fiction for years. New York authors take note. You put that library in a book, no matter how small the mention, and I’ll be your friend for life.
I was also interested in that part regarding the "girly" movie this would be. What with the popularity and monetary rewards of the most recent Nancy Drew flick, I wonder if more and more people will be eyeing Kiki with fresh eyes. After all, it appears that boys dig them as much as girls do.
And poor sound quality aside, I was able to rustle up at least one image of Kirsten Miller. More than an image, really. An honest-to-goodness bright n’ shiny YouTube video. It was apparently taken at BEA and was promoted by First Book. Quite a treat, albeit a noisy one.
Other SBBT Interviews Today:
Tim Tharp at Chasing Ray
Justina Chen Headley at Big A, little a
Ysabeau Wilce at Shaken & Stirred
Dana Reinhardt at Bildungsroman
Julie Ann Peters at Finding Wonderland
Cecil Castellucci at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Bennett Madison at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Justine Larbalestier at Hip Writer Mama
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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