Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Interview with author Lisa Schroeder

Yay! First interview of 2010!

Today's interview is with Lisa Schroeder, about her newest YA novel in verse, Chasing Brooklyn.

Brooklyn can't sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca, died only a year ago, and now her friend Gabe has just died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca visiting her dreams.

Nico can't stop. He's always running, trying to escape the pain of losing his brother, Lucca. But when Lucca's ghost begins leaving messages, telling Nico to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.

As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.

Hey Lisa! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer – do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?

I don't outline much. I jot down notes about things as they come to me before I start writing. Character traits, plot ideas, etc. I usually write thoughts down in a notebook or on notecards. I keep taking notes until I can't stand it any longer and want to start writing the book. I really love to discover those magical moments in a story that come from just seeing where the story takes you. Things that show up and you don't quite know why they showed up until a moment when you're like - oh wow, YES, that makes so much sense!

As for how often I write, I will take long breaks where I don't write anything. Then, once I start a book, I try to write everyday, even if it's just a little bit. Stay away from the story too long and it's easy to lose momentum. Usually, once I start a book, I get a first draft completed pretty quickly - anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 months or so.

When – and why – did you begin writing?

I started writing for kids about 10 years ago. I had a son at the time who couldn't find a lot of books he liked, and so I thought, maybe I can write something and get it published. Of course, there was also the voice inside my head that said, you're crazy, why do you think you could do THAT? But something kept telling me I should try, and so I did. And I dove in 100%. I got books about writing for kids, I formed a critique group, and I scoured the internet to learn all I could about the industry. And I wrote lots and lots of pretty crappy stories. :)

If my count is right, Chasing Brooklyn is your third novel in verse, and you have some other books coming out as well. What’s your publishing journey been like through all this?

Yes, CHASING BROOKLYN is my third novel in verse. Next year I also have a mid-grade novel, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, coming out in March and then in the fall, I have a picture book called LITTLE CHIMP'S BIG DAY that I sold like five years ago.

I started out writing picture books and chapter books, and my first sale was actually a picture book called BABY CAN'T SLEEP. But the picture book market is really competitive and crowded, and I had always loved novels for kids and teens, I just was scared to try and write one. Finally I got over my fear and wrote one MG novel after another, trying to get an agent and never succeeding.

Then, a few years ago, the YA market was really starting to explode and I thought - maybe I should write one of those. Only I didn't have any good ideas. Until one night I dreamt about a girl whose boyfriend died and he loved her so much, he didn't want to leave her, and came back as a ghost. I got up the next morning and started writing, and that eventually became my first novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.

What was your process writing Chasing Brooklyn? What did you have trouble with, and what inspired you?

I have a hard time talking about process. It's just me going to the computer every day, opening the document, reading through what I've written the previous day or two, and forging on. Because it's a dual narrative, I alternated between Nico and Brooklyn's voices, and tried my best to stay true to each character. What I hadn't realized was how difficult it is basically telling two stories at the same time. My first draft was pretty lean and when I got my editorial letter, my editor gave me a bunch of things to work on and also said, I want more, more, More!

I really wanted to get it right. Revision letters do inspire me, most of the time. I like being told what to do, in a way. I also kept thinking of the fans of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, and how this book is for them, and I didn't want to disappoint them. I worked really hard on this book, and I hope it shows.

I’ve heard that writing the second novel can be extremely hard. What is it like now that you’ve pushed through and gotten to the third?

I feel like with each book, I've learned so much, and hopefully gotten a little better with each one. It definitely feels good to have three novels now on the shelves. But I also feel like I've reached this point of do or die. Like if things don't really start to take off for all three books, I won't get to write anymore. So yeah, it definitely feels good, but there's a part of me that is really nervous too. Like, will this be my last one? It's just so dang competitive out there with LOTS of great books.

What’s one thing I wouldn’t know about Chasing Brooklyn by reading the blurb?

It's not just a story about Brooklyn, it's also a story about Nico. It's as much his story and it is hers.

Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?

Hmmmm...rules? The only rule I can think of is if I'm dreading going to my story, then something's wrong, and I need to back up and figure out where I took a bad turn. I should always be interested and curious about where the book is going and be glad I'm spending time with my characters. If I'm not, then something's wrong and I better fit it in a hurry.

If knew you a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?

I actually get quite a few notes from teens wanting writing advice, telling me they want to write a book so bad, but they are really afraid of the thought of others reading their writing.

So I say - don't write for anyone else. Write for yourself. Write because you want to tell yourself a story and see what happens. The first draft is for your eyes only. No one else has to see it. Don't be afraid before you've even written anything, because that's the surest way to never write a word. Play. Have fun! See where the characters take you!!

How have you grown as a writer, and how do you hope to see yourself grow in the future?

I think I'm much better at character development than I used to be. That's not to say that I still don't struggle with it. And I'm much better at plot, although I still struggle with it too.

Honestly, I just want to keep writing, keep learning what makes a great read, and keep stretching myself to do a little bit better each and every time.

What’s next for Lisa Schroeder?

I have two projects my agent and I hope to sell. I hope to start writing a new mid-grade novel once I get the release of CHASING BROOKLYN out of the way. I haven't written anything new for a few months, and am feeling ready to get back to writing.

Love these answers, Lisa. Thanks for coming!

Thanks so much for having me here, and best of luck with your writing!

Lisa Schroeder is a native Oregonian, which means her childhood summers were spent camping, fishing, reading books (of course!), and playing in the sun, when it finally came out. These days, Lisa spends her summers, and every other part of the year, sharing all the wonderful things Oregon has to offer with her husband and two sons. She is the author of three verse novels for young adults published by Simon Pulse - I Haunt You, You Haunt Me, Far From You, and Chasing Brooklyn. Her middle grade debut, It's Raining Cupcakes, will be published by Aladdin in March, 2010. To learn more about Lisa and her writing, check out her website and blog.


Amanda said...

Great interview! I'm looking forward to reading that book. :)

Christian said...

Yea, I think I might pick it up too ^^

Creative A said...

She's really good. I read her first book "I Heart you, You Haunt Me," and it was very impacting. I heard this is a companion novel to the first and so I expect it to be just as awesome :)


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