07 June 2010

Guest Post: Helen Ellis on New York

As most of you know, I love a good urban paranormal or fantasy. Thus when I had a chance to read What Curiosity Kills, the first in Helen Ellis's new young adult series, The Turning, I didn't hesitate.

Mary was born in Alabama but had been lucky enough to have been adopted out of foster care by an upper-middle-class couple who moved her to New York. Life seemed as normal as it gets in the Upper East Side, until the day Mary found herself on her hands and knees licking up the milk she had spilled on the kitchen floor.

You'll have to wait until Wednesday for my full review. But in the meantime, I am pleased to welcome author Helen Ellis to Beth Fish Reads. I asked her tell us a little bit about New York City and the role it plays in What Curiosity Kills.

New York, New York, A Hello-Kitty of a Town

Write what you know. That's the classic advice to all writers. Now, believe it or not, I do not know what it's like to shape-shift and get into a literal catfight, but I do know what it's like to live in Manhattan. And always feel slightly in awe and out of place.

I am an Alabama gal. I still gawk at tall buildings. I still, to my husband's chagrin, point out the orchestra pit when we go to the theater. I say thank-you to the bus driver and good morning to my neighbors, who walk past me with their eyes glued to their iPhones. I think it is a crime for private schools to charge thirty grand to teach first-graders their ABC's. On the rare occasion that I'm out past midnight, I am amazed at all the folks who are prowling the streets.

I ask myself, Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going? My motto is left over from my parents' words of wisdom regarding my high-school curfew: "Anything you can do after nine o'clock, you can do before nine o'clock." (watch my video blog "Diary of a Luddite: How to Go to Bed at Nine O'clock").

So, you see, I do things differently. And so do most of the folks in my novel. Mary and Octavia go to the elite Purser-Lilley Academy, but were once foster care kids who aren't raised with the over-privileged lives of their classmates. Mary's crush, Nick, lives in a fancy townhouse, but is governed by his strict pot-smoking Greek grandparents. Bad boy Yoon's parents own a local deli. Ben doesn't go to nightclubs, but he does go to illegal underground poker clubs.

The Manhattan I know is the alluringly creepy Cellar Used Bookstore in the basement of the Webster Library branch on the Upper East Side. Downtown, it's the funky salon, Kropps & Bobbers, with an overgrown back garden haven for stray cats. Surely, you've seen on TV or read about in books: Radio City Music Hall and the Plaza Hotel. In The Turning: What Curiosity Kills, I let you in on my Manhattan's best-kept secrets.

Thanks so much, Helen, for both the great guest post and the photographs. Teenagers around the world can attest to your parents' words of wisdom! I definitely do not know New York's back-garden havens for stray cats, but I am familiar with the city's more famous buildings. I can also say with confidence that Mary's Manhattan is most assuredly not the one that I have experienced as a visitor.

Don't miss Helen Ellis's great website, including more videos in her Diary of a Luddite series. And stop back here on Wednesday for my review of What Curiosity Kills.

What Curiosity Kills at Powell's
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Julie P. 6/7/10, 7:16 AM  

Great post! I was lucky enough to meet the author at BEA when I was visiting the Sourcebooks booth. I am extremely anxious to hear what you think!

Michelle 6/7/10, 8:12 AM  

I was fortunate enough to meet Helen at BEA and BBC and what a lovely woman. I have this book and will be diving in to read and review it quite soon!

Anonymous,  6/7/10, 11:45 AM  

Yipes $30k for a private school in NYC?! I guess when I think about how much I pay in rent for my shoebox apt in Manhattan I shouldn't be surprised. Great post, though I do think that the NYC ambiance past 9pm offers a whole new world than the daytime, which is part of the city's charm. I'm gawking less at tall buildings, but did embarrass my bf at Whole Foods yesterday by (loudly) exclaiming over the Emu egg for $39.99 - who needs such a thing!?

bermudaonion 6/7/10, 2:01 PM  

I've been interested in this book since I met Helen at BEA - I got one of her domestic buttons - and now that I see she's from Alabama I'm even more interested. I'll be watching for your review.

Literary Feline 6/9/10, 6:01 PM  

I loved the setting of this book, especially the visits to the Cellar Used Bookstore.

Thanks for the great guest post!

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