Libba Bray sure gets around. The last we saw of her she was playing Survivor with a bunch of Beauty Queens (Scholastic, 14–17 years) on a mysterious island; before that she was Going Bovine (Delacorte, 14–17 years) on a crazy road trip across the country accompanied by a dying teenage boy and a guardian angel (and winning the Printz Award for her troubles). With The Diviners (Little, Brown, 14–17 years), Bray enthusiastically throws herself — and readers — into the demi-monde (and other-monde) of 1920s New York City. I take five with the jazz baby.
1. What’s the most useful bit of 1920s slang you’ve picked up?
Libba Bray: If you’re in a “juice joint,” it’s good to know that you can order some “hooch” or “coffin varnish” (just make sure that’s a euphemism and not actual bad booze) so that you can get “ossified” or “blotto.” And if you’re with a “cuddler,” it’s good to know whether it’s “cash or check” (kiss now or kiss later). In general, I love the compliments: “You’re the elephant’s eyebrows and the cat’s particulars!” But that’s because I’m so virtuous, Roger.
2. If you could have a supernatural power, what would it be? Choose carefully.
LB: The ability to finish writing a book on time.
3. In constructing a story that will be told in a series of books, how do you decide where each volume will leave off?
LB: With the book’s main plot arc settled but with plenty of dangling threads to pull us into the next installment. Or around page 578. You know, I’m just going to shoot for page 578 from now on. That’s my marker.
4. What’s the spookiest place in New York City?
LB: Hmmm, besides the inside of my mind? There are lots of options, but I’m going to have to go with the Dakota. Rosemary’s Baby was filmed there for a reason. It looks like a spooky gothic fortress, and I can just imagine it as the home of Satanists bent on raising the Antichrist. They’d have to be the 1% of Satanists, though, because the Dakota is not cheap. (Then again, you’d hate to think that you sold your soul for a fifth-floor walk-up in Queens.)
5. To quote your heroine Evie, “Have you ever known something that you were afraid to tell?”
LB: Yes. Often. Somehow, I manage to put those scary secrets into books.
From the October 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.