5 Question Interview with Undead Girl Gang author Lily Anderson
Today we are lucky to be joined by Lily Anderson, author of Undead Girl Gang, for a 5 question interview:
Other than Mila, who was your favorite character to write and why?
I love all of my characters, obviously, but writing love interests is such a unique challenge in every book. For UNDEAD GIRL GANG, I knew going in that Mila was going to have a crush on Xander–her best friend’s big brother–because I spent all of junior high and high school crushing on the older brothers of my friends. Xander is a popular guy with a nerd background, so it was too fun to put him in situations where a lot of attention was on him and he wasn’t sure what to do with it.
I also wanted to make sure he was earning his keep as the swooniest boy in school, so I based his looks on a young Tom Hiddleston, which meant spending a lot of time watching his movies and interviews and gifs of his face. Just to make sure that I was capturing all that sharp faced, blue eyed earnestness (and not at all for my own fangirl purposes).
The Nouns are consummate mean girls – did you have a lot of experience with mean girls growing up?
Being a teenager is so much about discovering how your actions affect other people and the depths of your own emotions. It’s why I love YA! Teenagers are so willing to put everything on the line, every day. Which is the longest, most convoluted way of saying that I was a mean girl! I was the youngest of my friends by a couple of years and being mean was a shortcut to fitting in. Because being mean can be perceived as being funny (see: my first book, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You). I viscerally remember being 16 and thinking about the friends I had. We were theater kids and very physically affectionate (we once spent an entire summer having cuddle parties in the park) but I truly didn’t know if any of them knew that I cared about them. And decided, from then on, to use my empathy instead of smothering it.
I focus a lot on meanness in my books because of my past. Not to excuse it, but to examine it. In UNDEAD GIRL GANG, June and Dayton die as the most popular girls in school and come back to life, stuck with two girls that they made miserable. And both June and Dayton seem truly shocked to find out that people considered them to be mean because they never thought about themselves from a macro point of view. They were the heroines in their story and the villains in other people’s. Coming back from the dead gives them a chance to not just atone, but to understand their power and use it positively.
How did you research the Wiccan practices that Mila uses to bring the girls back?
I grew up in a house with zero religion (I’d call us an agnostic family, but I can feel my father shouting “Atheist!” as he reads this). My grandmothers and some of my extended family went to church, but I knew basically nothing about Christianity. (Later, I would learn almost everything I currently know about Western religion from Godspell, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Fiddler On The Roof. True Story.) Wicca is the only religion that I’ve ever claimed as my own. I discovered it when I was eight or nine and found a Silver Ravenewolf’s TEEN WITCH in my local bookstore. The idea of divinity being equally reflected in nature as in ourselves has guided my personal spirituality since.
Mila, the main character in Undead Girl Gang is Wiccan. She later discovers that she can also wield real, big, scary magic capable of bringing back the dead. These are not the same thing and the book says as much. Wicca couldn’t be less about things that go bump in the night. It’s about seeing the light and purpose in everything—midnights as beautiful as dawns, the planet always providing for our needs—and never about things that go bump in the night. Mila self-identifying as a witch makes it all the less likely that she would be able to do something as dark and extraordinary as necromancy. It’s like knocking on wood and having something bad happen anyway. She can’t bring back the dead because she’s a Wiccan. She’s a Wiccan who brings back the dead (and basically every other Wiccan in the book is not cool with it).
Is your mythology of the undead based on any particular mythology?
More than anything else, the rules for the undead in UGG were inspired by my lifelong obsession with the movie Death Becomes Her. In it, Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn take a magical potion that makes them young and beautiful and immortal—as long as they can take care of themselves. The movie is full of comical body horror that even I—a straight up fraidy cat—could handle and I’ve always wondered how to translate that into fiction.
So, like Meryl and Goldie, our girl gang has to be careful because they don’t heal. They are walking corpses being held up by Mila’s spell, so they’re in better shape nearer to their lifeforce than away from it. And since they’re only back in the land of the living for seven days, they start to show some physical wear as their time counts down.
What can you tell us about any upcoming projects you have in the works?
Right now, I’m trying to balance writing two very opposite YA books at the same time—my first full out drama (writing without jokes is hard!) and a lighter, sillier contemporary that might have some magic in it.
From the Publisher:
Veronica Mars meets The Craft when a teen girl investigates the suspicious deaths of three classmates and accidentally ends up bringing them back to life to form a hilariously unlikely–and unwilling–vigilante girl gang.
Meet teenage Wiccan Mila Flores, who truly could not care less what you think about her Doc Martens, her attitude, or her weight because she knows that, no matter what, her BFF Riley is right by her side.
So when Riley and Fairmont Academy mean girls June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.
Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders. But they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.
About the Author:
Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California. She is also the author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU and NOT NOW, NOT EVER. She tweets @ms_lilyanderson.
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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