Five questions for Holly Black

Holly Black’s many books for intermediate-level readers (Doll Bones, McElderry, 8–12 years; The Spiderwick Chronicles series with Tony DiTerlizzi, Simon, 8–12 years) and for young adults (the Modern Faerie Tales series, McElderry, 13–16 years; The Good Neighbors graphic novel series, Graphix/Scholastic, 13–16 years; the Curse Workers series, McElderry, 13–16 years) demonstrate various facets of supernatural fiction, from creature-feature adventure to ghost story, urban fairy tale to dark fantasy. In her latest YA novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Little, 13–16 years), Holly goes for full-blown horror, returning to the glitzy-but-gory vampire-dominated alternate reality first glimpsed in a short story of the same name from 2010’s The Poison Eaters and Other Stories (Big Mouth, 13–16 years).

1. Did “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” short story grow into the novel, or did you always plan to revisit this world in a longer format? Do you consider the short story a prequel, a companion story, or something else?

HB: Now I consider the story to be a prequel, but when I first wrote it I had no idea I would ever go back to that world. However, it just stuck with me. And then, after I'd decided to expand the story, I thought I'd be working with the same characters. Unfortunately once I started, I realized that the most interesting thing that would ever happen to Matilda and Dante and everyone else had already happened. So I started over with this other character I'd been thinking about for a secondary story line — a girl named Tana who woke up at a party where nearly everyone else had died.

2. In the only Coldtown settlement we see in the novel — the original one in Springfield, Massachusetts — the opulent vampire “life”style contrasts starkly with the squalor of human life there. Is this the same in other Coldtowns around the world?

HB: I think it's true that vampires have the majority of power in all the Coldtowns, but I think that the Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Las Cruces Coldtowns all have different manners of self-governing, ranging from the chaotic to the orderly, with Springfield's Coldtown on the chaotic side. And the strangest and most mysterious Coldtown is in San Francisco, where they have cut off all communication with the outside world; one expects that lots of things are different there.

3. If Matilda and Tana were going to duke it out for the title of Coldest Girl in Coldtown, who would win?

HB: Matilda can make the hard choices, but Tana's gonna cut off somebody's head.

4. In your acknowledgments you write, “This book is a love letter to all the vampire books I read over and over growing up.” Is there a single book or series that rises to the top of the list?

HB: Probably Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, because it had the most profound influence on me, but a close second would be Tanith Lee's Sabella, or, The Blood Stone.

5. Team Louis or Team Lestat?

HB: Louis! He's a bit of a whiner, but he'll always be my favorite.

From the October 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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