Back in 2018, I was lucky to feature Lily Anderson’s book NOT NOW, NOT EVER. She’s great at penning YA paranormal horror, and ner newest book, SCOUT’S HONOR, is no exception:
Sixteen-year-old Prudence Perry is a legacy Ladybird Scout, born to a family of hunters sworn to protect humans from mulligrubs―interdimensional parasites who feast on human emotions like sadness and anger. Masquerading as a prim and proper ladies’ social organization, the Ladybirds brew poisons masked as teas and use knitting needles as daggers, at least until they graduate to axes and swords.
Three years ago, Prue’s best friend was killed during a hunt, so she kissed the Scouts goodbye, preferring the company of her punkish friends lovingly dubbed the Criminal Element much to her mother and Tía Lo’s disappointment. However, unable to move on from her guilt and trauma, Prue devises a risky plan to infiltrate the Ladybirds in order to swipe the Tea of Forgetting, a restricted tincture laced with a powerful amnesia spell.
But old monster-slaying habits die hard and Prue finds herself falling back into the fold, growing close with the junior scouts that she trains to fight the creatures she can’t face. When her town is hit with a mysterious wave of demons, Prue knows it’s time to confront the most powerful monster of all: her past.
In our last interview, you said that your favorite part of being a writer and a librarian was “sharing your love of literature with new people.” When did you first discover your love of literature, and what about it do you think is most appealing?
I was a huge reader as a kid. I started reading really early, so it took a few years to be able to connect with my peers about what I was reading. One of the first books I remember all of my friends reading around the same time was Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I must have been in fifth or sixth grade and three or four of my friends all read the book because I hyped it up. Reading had been a purely solitary enjoyment for me up until then and all of a sudden the world opened up and I was able to talk about the characters I loved and argue about what the best part of the story was. Sharing a book with someone is a way to terraform your imagination together. It’s pure magic.
I feel the exact same way! And I love how Prue is forced to confront her past in SCOUT’S HONOR. In what ways do you feel this added to her overall journey?
Prue’s story is one of mental illness. She’s dealing with severe anxiety and PTSD related to the death of her childhood best friend. I think it would be easy for her, as a character, to never confront what happened the night that Molly died–until years later when she was in therapy and had to trace everything back to one traumatic incident. But since I wanted her to have to deal with her anxiety, in particular, I knew that she would have to face what happened head-on. As an anxious person myself, a lot of what I’m scared of is lightning striking twice. What if the worst thing you could imagine happened again? For Prudence, she thinks that if she was in the same position she was when her friend died, she would have no choice but to act in the same way. But it’s been three years and the difference between 13 and 16 is pretty significant. She’s not the same person, couldn’t be the same person even if she wanted to be, and she’s better prepared. But the only way for her to realize that is to go back to the Ladybird Scouts.
What a great way for her to come full circle in her journey. When did you first discover that horror and comedy could be intertwined within the same story?
Like so much of who I am, it all comes back to musical theater. Seeing Little Shop of Horrors when I was young was probably the first time that I realized that things could be equal parts horror and comedy. Little Shop is a story about abject poverty and abuse and how striving for money and fame makes monsters of us all, but told through a campy, doo-wop lens which makes it easy to stomach. Making the audience laugh at things they know are wrong makes them complicit in the horror. I find that totally fascinating. There are other horror musicals like Bat Boy and Evil Dead that raise those stakes even higher with more blood and more taboos and even more laughs. I always wanted to write books that felt like that. My horror comedy novels–UNDEAD GIRL GANG and SCOUT’S HONOR–ask the same sort of questions as those musicals. Are we the monsters? Are we complicit? But also hopefully make you laugh along the way.
Being complicit in horror is definitely something to think about! What would you tell your younger author self and why?
I would tell myself to stick to my guns. Writing a book is a strange process. You start off alone, just you and your story, and then slowly bring in more and more ideas–from editors, beta readers, proofreaders, copy editors. Early on, I feel like I took notes that didn’t make my books better. I don’t know that they made them worse either. They just pulled the stories away from how I envisioned them. Now, six books in, I’m more aware of the fact that at the end of the day, when the book is published, it’s set in stone with my name on the cover. So, if I’m not sure about a story note, then I’d rather find a way to do it that I can proudly stand behind.