Andy Warhol had a 15-minute theory; Cecil Castellucci has "a 10-year theory." Not about getting fame, exactly, but about getting a chance.
The author of Boy Proof (Candlewick), who grew up in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles, said that she "got serious" about writing for young adults about 10 years ago. "In any art form, if you want to do something seriously, you have to realize that everyone's in line and you have to do your work—while you're in line—until it's your turn." While she waited her turn, Castellucci was also writing songs (she's recorded two CDs as a singer/songwriter) and doing movies (she wrote the screenplay for an as-yet-unreleased film called Happy Is Not Hard to Be). But she considers penninga book "the crown of writing."
By age four, she was trying to organize a neighborhood production of La Traviata, rather than the usual game of kickball. And at age seven, she had an epiphany: at the end of Star Wars, as Darth Vader hurtled through space, she realized there would be another story—and she wanted to write it. George Lucas may have had other plans, but this seems an appropriate beginning for a writer whose novel stars a science-fiction fanatic.
High school senior Victoria Jurgen, who narrates Boy Proof, calls herself "Egg," after the star of a favorite sci-fi movie. The extremely intelligent, self-styled outcast, finds herself drawn to a new student, Max Carter, who seems to "get" Egg.
Castellucci, a graduate of New York's LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts (think Fame) and Montreal's Concordia University, had made several attempts at writing books—all of them rejected. So she decided to take some royalties for one of her songs and enroll in a workshop on writing for children taught by Tim Wynne-Jones at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. But to be admitted, she had to submit 40 pages of a novel. She took her dilemma to Steve Salardino, who works at her favorite L.A. bookstore, Skylight Books. "You should write a book called Boy Proof," Salardino told her, "and have a guy in it named Max." The author said with a laugh: "Steve loves me as a person but he thinks of me as boy proof." Still, she confessed, "When Steve said, 'boy proof,' it all came together."
Meanwhile, Castellucci had first come across Candlewick's Liz Bicknell when she signed up for a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators retreat in 2001, at which Bicknell was scheduled to appear. But the retreat was right after 9/11, so Bicknell invited participants to send manuscripts instead. The two went back and forth on several projects to no avail. Then in 2003, Bicknell did attend a SCBWI retreat—when the author was working on Boy Proof. Bicknell introduced Castellucci to editor Kara LaReau, and they hit it off. The two worked together on Boy Proof, and LaReau also edited the author's next YA novel, Queen of Cool, about a popular girl who winds up working in the Los Angeles Zoo, due from Candlewick next spring. For Castellucci, the best thing about being a published writer is the entrée it has given her to a circle of fellow authors. "When I was growing up I was obsessed with Luis Buñuel. He had this autobiography where he'd talk about being out with Salvador Dalí, and I always wanted that to be my life. And I do have that now," she said citing the experience of meeting fellow writers, such as Libba Bray and Angela Johnson.
She said of the positive feedback she has received on Boy Proof (including a starred review from PW), "It's a nice boost. Otherwise you want to give up—and that goes back to my 10-year theory. I want to keep doing [this], even if I'm scratching my stories into dust."