Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick, 2005). Victoria insists on being called “Egg” in honor of her favorite sci fi heroine, pushes herself to be just as superheroic, and distances from peers, especially boys, who might try to define her in their terms. But she can’t accomplish her goals–as a photographer, a scholar, even as a Vampire and Bat Wing apprentice–without reaching out and opening up to the real-world people around her. Ages 12-up. Highest recommendation. (See more of my thoughts on this novel).
What was your inspiration for creating this book?
It all came together in a flash when I was looking to write something for my application for the Banff Centre for the Arts Writing With Style Program and I couldn’t think of anything and my friend Steve Salardino said, “You should write a book called ‘Boy Proof’ and the boy’s name should be ‘Max.’”
Immediately in my head all of these things came together and I added water and stirred.
The teenage girl who I saw in some documentary footage who was dressed up like Trinity and said, “Everyone thinks that ‘The Matrix’ is just a phase for me. But it’s not. ‘The Matrix’ is forever.” She was so intelligent, and I imagined that she just didn’t relate to a single person at school and so had to be Trinity.
This girl that I went to High School with who talked to no one (except me), shaved her head, had a nose ring, barked at people like a dog. I was like her Rue.
Any cute guy that is brilliant, talented and totally gets it. Guys like that (ie. Max) terrify me.
This boy that sat next to me in High School Math class who had beautiful eyes and would always sketch in class. One day I went over to his house and he introduced me to Batman: Dark Knight and I had dinner with his amazingly vibrant and creative family. He scared me and so I never went out with him again, but I still think of him all the time. He was very kindred, very Max. I’m happy to report that he actually draws comic books today.
My friend’s mom in High School who was a washed up singer/ actress in the midst of making a gigormous comeback. (You may have heard of her, her name was ‘Cher.’)
When I was extra-ing, I got a call to go try to be an Ape Child Extra. The interview was at Rick Baker’s studio. He’s done the special effects make up on a million amazing movies. Because they needed adults to play the ape kids, it was me and a bunch of Little People getting measured and trying on Ape masks and Ape hands. Just being in his studio was inspiring. I didn’t get to be an ape extra. (DAMN!) My boobs were too big! But I thought what if your dad made apes and monsters for a living? Wouldn’t it be cool if he was your dad?
I had a desire to discuss the obsession we have with that first thing that we are a big fan of that we own totally and is ours. It could be a movie, a book, a band, whatever. It becomes our identity. (For me it was “Star Wars”)
Fan Girls & Sci-Fi. Meeting all the people I’ve met through the years, wonderful, special, different, strange. Sci-Fi fans.
What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?
I started writing on Boxing Day 2001 (that’s December 26th) and submitted 40 pages for my application to the Banff Centre for the Arts. The application was due February 1st. I was accepted to Banff and it was taking place for 9 days that same April. I got the F*** on the F*** and wrote the whole novel because the teacher said that he would give us detailed notes. Tim Wynne-Jones was that teacher and he was inspirational. He was the first person to read Boy Proof and told me that it was a book.
I fired my agent that summer, who was doing nothing for me, and hooked up with my new agent that I adore, the fabulous Mr. Barry Goldblatt.
That fall, I attended the SCBWI-LA Working Writers Retreat where Liz Bicknell from Candlewick was the guest. She joked at dinner how she had rejected me four times already that year. When she sat in on the critique for Boy Proof, she said to me afterwards to not be discouraged by all of her rejections and to please send yet another thing to her because she thought that Kara LaReau and Boy Proof and I would be a good match.
February 2003 (14 months later) Candlewick bought it! Liz was right! I LOVE KARA!!!
What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?
I have a theory. The ten-year theory. I think it takes everyone, any artist in any discipline, about ten years to “make it”. (Whatever making it means to you.) But pretty much, it’s a ten-year waiting list. So you just have to stand in line and wait your turn. You just have to decide that you are in line. Oh sure, some people get cuts, or their line goes faster. I think the biggest challenge about waiting in line is just not giving up. I mean I had four novels, a picture book and an easy reader, all rejected. So, just getting it up to continue to write when it seemed pretty hopeless and as though I’d never get published, and perhaps was actually untalented, was a challenge. But I had my ten-year theory.
Just FYI, from the time I got serious about writing to the day Boy Proof came out in March, it had been 9 years. Theory proved.
Research wise, the hardest thing was the special effects make up. I went on line and called a make up artist I thought looked cool, His name is Tom Burman, he does the effects for “Nip/Tuck.” I told him what I was writing. He quizzed me, then said I could fax over my pages. I met with him at his studio and read him the pages with the make up stuff and he corrected me, and gave me a few details to make it more real.
Surf over to The Divine Miss Pixiewoods (AKA Cecil Castellucci).