Hostile Questions: Libba Bray
Posted by: Daniel Kraus
Libba Bray dashed off some NYT bestselling books called the Gemma Doyle trilogy–well, don’t that beat all? She also won the Michael L. Printz Award for a book called Going Bovine–sooooo impressive, right? Mostly she goes around writing fancy things and expecting people to read them. But let’s see how fancily she writes after I’m through with her.
Just who do you think you are?
I’m Daniel Kraus’s bitch.
Where do you get off?
That’s an awfully personal question, Daniel. You haven’t even bought me dinner yet. What kind of a girl do you think I am? Huh? HUH???
Oh sure. I know your type: slick, Stoker-nominated, Odyssey-winning YA author flashing his Booklist credentials at a starry-eyed girl right off the Fisher Price farm, a girl with library-trade-magazine interview dreams as big as the sky over Texas. I know how it goes—you’ll ask me where I’m from, what my sign is (“Yield,” for the record), whether I’ve had all my shots plus that special one you can only get at the clinic downtown behind the cat hospital, if I’m squeamish about morgues, how I feel about cages and live rodents and latex, and before I know it, I’m waking up in a parking lot outside a WalMart, wearing a rabbit suit covered in active-culture yogurt and what I hope is a coffee stain, an “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing” mug in one hand and two of my molars in the other, my left ankle shackled to the axle of a neon-yellow Up with People bus and a small child staring down at me, her face drawn into an expression wavering somewhere between curiosity and contempt, just like that time after ALA Anaheim.
I’ll say, “That’s right, take a good look, kid! This is what happens when you listen to sweet-talking hustlers from Chicago with a Booklist badge who promise you the world in a questionnaire and give you bupkis in return! If you never learn another thing in your life, kid, learn this: Never answer interview questions from YA authors who write about grave-robbing. Promise me. Promise me, little Tommy.”
“My name is Alice.”
“I’m a girl.”
“Don’t get fresh. Listen, have you got any Sprite, kid? Some Skittles, maybe? Mama’s tongue feels like it just licked ten miles of Main Street asphalt right after the Shriners’ parade.”
Just after the child kicks me in the stomach and runs away screaming to parking lot security about the “sketchy talking rabbit who smells like pee” and the sheriff gets involved and the mug shots go viral, I’ll remember how sweetly you smiled at me, Danny Boy. The innocence of that moment when you played shy (Oh, be still my perfidious heart!) and told me that I reminded you of your first grade teacher, the one who cried all the time and had to go away to “rest.”
I’ll cry, too, Daniel. Oh, I’ll cry. And that’s when I’ll realize that I played my left eye on the roulette wheel on Pi. Pi, your favorite number. How was I to know there’s no Pi in gambling? Reaching into my matted-fur pocket for a tissue, I’ll come up with a Librarians Do It in the Stacks thong, size medium, which I’ll use to shield my nose and mouth from the smell of the blow torch once the locksmith gets there to release me from the bus, the heat of the flame so like your breath in my face as you said, “Hey, baby, can I hold your Printz? I swear I’ll give it back.” Just one more empty promise in a bucket of empty promises… which means that the bucket is… full? You know I can’t do word problems, Danny.
And then, will you call? No. We’ll see each other at industry events. You’ll say, “Heeeyyyy, Libya, right? Great to see you! Listen, I gotta jet—I have to interview Natalie Standiford. She promised to tell me exactly how you say goodbye in Robot.” You’ll scamper off to interview the next pie-eyed dreamer leaving behind the scent of your aftershave, a manly odeur which reeks of monster variations with a top note of French fry. You know I can’t resist the smell of fried potato.
I will remain in your oily wake, left to spin out the tale of our broken relationship to all the barflies and broken dreamers taking refuge on cracked vinyl bar stools slick with the sheen of failure, a failure so complete it has nowhere else to go but the pores of our asses. To the jukebox fuzz of a Cher song, I’ll tell them about how close I came to the real thing. Something so pure, so electric, so Kardashian-true, it could only burn brightly and fade away. And so, I forgive you, Daniel. I. Forgive. You.
Years from now, when you talk about this—and you will—be kind. Just like the piano player in a shaky-cam French New Wave, I am fate’s plaything. The question is asked. I will answer and let the eyeball land on the roulette wheel where it may: Hi, Daniel. I’m Libba. And I’m from your dreams.
* blows golden glitter *
What’s the big idea?
How much do I want to answer that question just like this.
But I think my publishers would like me to answer this way:
Most recent book is Beauty Queens, a satire about a plane load of teen beauty queens who crash on a seemingly deserted island, corporations run amok, the beauty industry, gender expectations, identity questions, reality TV, Elvis-loving dictators, exploding hair remover, and giant snakes. Also, there is a stuffed lemur.
Coming very soon is The Diviners (September 18th, 2012), the first book in a four-book, supernatural series set in 1920’s New York City. This one has jazz babies, speakeasies, shadowy conspiracy, a creepy museum, ghosts, Follies showgirls, rakish pickpockets, political intrigue and all manner of things that go bump in the neon-drenched night. No lemurs. Oh, and there’s a character named Kaniel Dnaus. He meets a very bad end. Hey, Daniel, can I just measure your head for a second? Ohhhh, good…good…
What is your problem, man?
*Sigh* Oh, Daniel. How much time do you have? Hold me. I’m so fragile.
Haven’t you done enough?
Robert Smith tells me that it’s “Never Enough.” And I make it a policy never to argue with 1980s goth-rock wisdom—especially when it’s dressed in lipstick and hair gel.