That was 10 years ago. Block isn't one to snub her constituents. Her work enjoys the kind of steady buzz generated by parental disapproval, which is all the blessing kids need. Still, there's always the oaf at the cocktail party wanting to know when she's going to write a "real" book.
"It's frustrating," Block admits. "You get good reviews. But there are times when, if I tell someone I write young adult books, their face just goes blank. They'll say, when you write a book for grown-ups, let me know. Should I go on my little soapbox and tell them how these books actually cross over?"
She glances around the room as if looking for something taller than her sparkling platform sandals on which she might stand to make her point. Clearly, she's in a bind--a velvet one, perhaps--but a bind just the same. Block longs to count on more adult readers, but without betraying the YA audience that has afforded her a writer's life.
"A lot of my favorite books marketed as adult fiction have young protagonists," she adds. "It's very arbitrary."
Her publicist calls to remind me that adults read Block's books too.
"He kissed her. A kiss about apple pie a la mode with the vanilla creaminess melting in the pie heat. A kiss about chocolate, when you haven't eaten chocolate in a year. A kiss about palm trees speeding by, trailing pink clouds when you drive down the Strip sizzling with champagne. A kiss about spotlights fanning the sky and the swollen sea spilling like tears all over your legs."
Some kiss. But for all her frank discussion about things sexual in the Weetzie Bat series and in a collection of erotic short stories due out this spring, Block jokes about her own love life. She points out that she resorted to taking her brother to a party for L.A.'s 100 coolest people, of which she was one, thrown by now-defunct Buzz magazine.
Soon after, she went on a blind date arranged by friends with the man who would become her husband, actor Chris Schuette.
"A friend had lent me that book, 'The Rules.' I looked through it and thought, this is horrible. But I'd had such bad luck being open and getting really close right away that I decided to try it. I followed all 'The Rules' at first. And he was a little bit confused. He'd say to his friend, 'Do you think she likes me?' "
They were married in December 1998.
"I was raised in this free-spirit, express-yourself environment," she says. "But I think I would raise my children more carefully in this way. I'd teach my daughters some of these things because, I don't know, I didn't learn any of them."
(A cowboy riding a little plastic white horse)
Much of Block's writing has to do with what she calls magic realism, a style embraced by Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Here Block describes Weetzie Bat's father as he dies of a drug overdose:
Charlie was dreaming of a city where everyone was always young and lit up like a movie, palm trees turned into tropical birds. Marilyn-blonde angels flew through the spotlight rays, the cars were the color of candied mints and filled with lovers making love as they drove down the streets paved with stars that had fallen from the sky. Charlie was dreaming of a giant poppy like a bed. He had taken some pills, and this time he didn't wake up from his dream.
Block believes in magic. Not like fairies and potions, really. But she has felt what she can only describe as magic in art. And love.
When she speaks of her own father, her face softens and her voice goes limp.
"Whatever is going on in my life usually comes out in my books," she says. "In 'Weetzie Bat,' the theme is letting go of fear. In 'Violet & Claire,' it's about the light and dark aspects of oneself--the ambitious part that can lead to destructive situations and the ethereal, delicate part that can be wounded so easily. In 'Missing Angel Juan,' it's about letting go the one you love."
Block was 23 when her father died after a long illness. "I've been so influenced by my dad," she says, clearly wanting him here, now, at this table.
On the day he died, Block and her mother, Gilda, decide to take a walk through Laurel Canyon. Coming upon the edge of a field, the women look up. A white horse gallops toward them, nuzzling Francesca through the fence.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this was a connection with my dad," she says.
Block goes back to school. A few days later, as she's walking down Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, Block sees something on the sidewalk in front of her. She reaches down.
"Now why would you pick something off Telegraph Avenue?" says Block of the famously scruffy street. "I never do that."
But she did. And when she opened her hand, this is what she saw: a cowboy riding a little white plastic horse.
(Canyons run through it)
In Block's novels, Los Angeles always gets the best lines. "We live in Shangri-La," exclaims Weetzie, standing in front of Frederick's of Hollywood as she watches lights being strung along the street. "Shangri Los Angeles. It's always Christmas."