Todd Strasser's 'Kill You Last'
For the past 35 years Larchmont resident Todd Strasser has made an art form of getting into the mind-set of the teens for whom he writes. As a best-selling author, with 140 published novels to his credit, Strasser has done it again; his teen thriller, Kill You Last, has been nominated for the prestigious 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Young Adult literature.
Kill You Last’s heroine, Shelby Sloan, is a carefree, over-privileged teen living in the affluent town of Soundview, NY. Then her father’s sudden alleged involvement in the disappearance of teenage girls leaves her family in crisis. Shelby puts her pampered persona aside and dives into the case with her own brand of high-tech teenage sleuthing.
Strasser has created a deliciously paranoid world of suspense, unpredictable plot twists and teen angst. He will learn if his novel wins the Edgar Award on April 26, at the Edgar Awards Banquet in New York City.
Here, Todd Strasser gives us the inside scoop on his novel:
Patch: Receiving a Poe nomination is quite a distinction. Did you know that Kill You Last was special while you were writing it?
Todd Strasser: I honestly didn’t know it was going to be any different than any of my other books. I’m not sure you ever know. You do the best you can; sometimes the results are below your hopes and sometimes they exceed your hopes.
Patch: Does Shelby rank as one of your favorite characters?
TS: My favorite character is usually whoever I am inhabiting at the current moment.
Patch: Speaking of inhabiting characters, how were you able to perfectly personify a texting-savvy, angst-ridden, teenage girl?
TS: I had an 18-year-old daughter and a son (now 28 and 24). When I was working on the first draft of this thrillogy I was talking to one of my kids about the e-mail exchange in the book. My kids said, “Dad, kids don’t e-mail, they text. E-mailing is so uncool!” A big part of it is staying in touch with my kids.
Patch: Kill You Last is set in Soundview, NY. Is this a real town?
TS: Soundview is the fictional town that I’ve been writing about for many years that is based on the Larchmont area.
Patch: What’s next for you?
TS: I’m actually working on my first fictionalized memoir—a coming-of-age story about growing up in the early 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was 12 when the crisis happened, and my father decided to build a bomb shelter. This caused a lot of interesting concerns for me; I was always worried about what would happen if our neighbors wanted to get in our bomb shelter, or how would I get home to the shelter in time if I was at school?
Margaret Steele's 'Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic'
For nonfiction lovers and magic lovers alike, Peekskill magician turned book editor Margaret Steele published a new book on the first great woman of magic. Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic is a compilation of Herrmann’s memoir, published verbatim and complete. It includes an introduction and chapter notes by Steele with 145 photos and images.
During the mid-1800s Adelaide and her husband—world-renowned magician Alexander Herrmann—created and performed the first great illusion show. When Alexander died unexpectedly in 1896 Adelaide did something scandalous for women of that time—she took the title Queen of Magic and performed her own show in American vaudeville and European theaters.
Steele, who lives and works out of her artist’s loft in Peekskill, learned about Adelaide Herrmann 12 years ago when her peers began drawing comparisons between her own performances and those the great Adelaide performed nearly 100 years ago.
Steele will present a photo lecture on the life of Madame Adelaide Herrmann at The Field Library in Peekskill on Saturday, March 3, at 2 p.m.
Here, Steele gives us a sneak peek:
How did you get your start in magic?
Margaret Steele: I’ve always loved magic, but I became a professional musician instead. In 1987 my childhood passion was rekindled when I saw a performance by the great magician Jeff McBride.
How did you end up with Adelaide Herrmann’s memoir?
MS: I began finding references to her memoir, which disappeared when she died in 1932 and was never published. For many years my greatest goal was to find Adelaide Herrmann’s memoir.
I tried unsuccessfully to track down her relatives. I made myself as visible as possible as an Adelaide Herrmann scholar. A descendant, who had her typewritten original memoir, called the Society of American Magicians. As the recognized Adelaide Herrmann scholar I purchased the manuscript with the agreement that someday I would donate or will the original copy to the SAM archives. It was the most thrilling day of my life.
What do you hope your readers will take away from her story?
MS: Her story is an inspiration on many levels—a Victorian woman who controlled her own life, overcame tragedy and worked successfully into her seventies. But it’s also simply a really fun read. She did a lot of outrageous things, including dangerous illusions. She even allowed herself to be shot from a cannon!
What's next for you?
MS: I’ve got two writing projects on my plate—a historical fiction novel and a comic murder mystery, both based in the world of magic and magicians.
In May I’ll be speaking about Madame Herrmann at The Magic Circle in London. But sooner and closer to home, I’m doing a lecture and book signing at Peekskill’s Field Library on March 3rd.