|(author photo taken from website)|
When Greta asked if I wanted to join her in acquiring an ARC of Ordinary Beauty I jumped at the chance because she’s never steered me wrong in any book recommendation. And not only was it one of the best books I’ve ever read, it’s been so fun to chat over email with the author, Laura Wiess. When I told her about our little ol’ blog she also offered a signed copy and an interview. So of course we jumped at the chance!
Now, I have to admit, I came up with a few questions, but when I asked Greta to come up with a few more, she sent me like, um, twelve of them. Thankfully a few were the same as mine – yet written it a much more Greta-y (ie, hilarious!) way. So all the humor belongs to Greta! And thankfully Laura got a kick out of answering them too.
Enjoy the interview and don’t forget to follow our blog and enter the contest for a signed copy of Ordinary Beauty in your comments!
1) I freaking love how I can relate to all the characters and how it brings back memories of my glory high school days (and by glory I mean abused by the jocks, adored by the freaky underclassmen with speech impediments, and waking up every day with the idea of busting out of town to go work on SNL). Your books were what I needed back when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. After reading your books it seems to me that you write more the children of the 90s instead of the children for the 21st century. Is this right or am I just making this up? Are these perhaps the books/subjects you wanted to read about when you were a teen?
Okay, you’re making me laugh now. But this is also a really interesting question, and since in my head, people like Sayre from Ordinary Beauty or Hanna from How It Ends live now, I’m wondering if maybe the characters have enough flexibility, or are relatable enough for the reader to put their own spin or interpretation on them? A ‘fill in the blanks’ sort of thing?
For instance, I rarely describe a high school in my books. I may mention lockers, classrooms, a courtyard and a cafeteria but there’s no point in going any further – or so my brain believes – because the minute I mention high school, every reader immediately imagines their own. To them, that’s what a high school looks like. And every high school I mention in every book I write bears a striking resemblance to the one I went to, even though I may move it to a new town, change the floor plan, the name, whatever. In my head, it’s still my high school.
Also, there aren’t a lot of fads, trends or slang in my books, because those things have the absolute power to date a manuscript and render it embarrassing. Slang especially, because by the time the adults (me) get a hold of it and figure out what it means, it’s already outdated and everyone’s moved on. I can’t be slinging around an obnoxious, ten-year-past-the-expiration-date WAZZUP (or something) in a manuscript. Ugh.
And yes, I would have read my books when I was a teen. Especially Leftovers. I think I would have been a little shocked at that one.
2) From your website it looks like in the beginning of your career you writing Anamorphs books which I’m going to assume is like a Power Ranger shifter kinda thing. (yeah, I’m totally cultured) What made you decide to start writing more hardcore things?
Actually, my first books were YA romances/problem novels (Downtown Boy, Backstage Pass, the ten book Girl Friends series) and then I was invited to help out on three of the middle grade Animorphs books, which were kids shape shifting and fighting to save the world from alien invaders. It was a great experience but by then I was feeling the lure of darker, more intense young adult stories and those characters were irresistible and impossible to ignore. So I gave in and followed a more twisted path. No regrets.
3) Do you find that most of your fans are teenagers or adults?
I swear I have the best and most expansive reader base, ever. It’s totally mixed, with emails coming in from girls starting at about twelve or thirteen, and then readers all the way into their seventies. It’s crazy, and I love it. I hope it always stays that way.
4) What advice can you give starting out authors?
If you love writing, and are willing to work really hard with no guarantees, then don’t quit. Get used to rejection, and just keep going. Stay determined, keep your mind open and keep learning the craft of writing. Write what you’re passionate about. Mine your own emotional closet, and use whatever strong emotions you have tucked away in there: Fear, anger, terror, joy, sadness, mischief, delirium. Make us, as readers, feel what your characters are feeling. Make us invest in them, and root for them. Enjoy it. Have a blast. Trust the process.
5) Have you ever considered writing from a boy’s pov?
Sure, if the right character ever comes along, and it’s imperative that the story be written from his point of view. But I have to say that I’m nervous just thinking about that. I can’t even imagine what it would be like, roaming around free in a guy’s brain. It boggles the mind. There’s so much I’d want to know!
For instance, yesterday my hair dresser told me she’d cut a co-worker’s hair – I saw the girl and the hair cut, and both were pretty – but when the young woman went home that night, her boyfriend took one look at her and the first thing he said was, “You look like a baboon.”
Now, I have no idea what he’d hoped to accomplish with a comment like that, and I can’t even imagine saying that to someone I love. Why would you do that?
Like I said, it boggles the mind.
So, I’m declaring it here and now. If I ever go into a guy’s brain, I’m going in armed with all the big guns: Who, what, where, when and most importantly, why. And by God, I’m coming out with answers.
6) How do you get your inspiration for your stories? Real life, Experience, the news, in the shower while listening to Aerosmith singing “Dude looks like a Lady” as you air guitar to your soap on a rope?
Ha, all of the above. Real life, in wanting to understand who we share the world with, and sometimes carrying old stories or images in my head that are just waiting to be used. Experience plays a myriad of parts, usually through emotion. While the circumstances in my books are fictional, the emotions are always real. For instance, when Sayre in Ordinary Beauty faces devastating loss, I went back into my emotional closet and resurrected what it felt like when I’d lost someone I’d loved very much. That pain was honest, and both Sayre and I felt it as I was writing.
The news always provokes strong emotions in me, and Such a Pretty Girl was born of a news story about a convicted pedophile being released early from prison and going home. I started wondering, Home? Home to who? Who stays married to a child molester? And then, OMG, what would it be like to be the daughter of a child molester? And Meredith was born.
Ahh, Aerosmith. Saw them in concert twice. Luv-ly.
The best part is that I never know what’s going to strike a nerve and inspire me. I do know that I have to feel passionately about my characters, and what’s at stake. I have to want to root for them to make it.
7) Do you ever get embarrassed of things that you write? Like you don’t want to show anyone because you feel they will laugh or snarl? Or do you always have the confidence to show anyone who asks?
You would definitely laugh at a first draft, which is why none of mine will ever see the light of day. They’re written fast with everything poured out, like an info dump, often without a clear direction. The direction, the weeding and sculpting, crafting, revising and whittling down in search of the heart of the story and its truth, comes later. So releasing a first draft would really be embarrassing.
But even when the story is revised and done and the book released, you never know how readers are going to react. In an ideal world, everyone would love your main character, her struggle would be real, heartfelt and valuable, and her path an important one. The simple truth is that no matter how hard you try, there will always be people who love your books, and people who don’t. And that’s okay.
8) I freaking loved how open you leave the endings of your stories. I love the way how the reader can make up the rest of the tale in their mind. Do you intentionally do that?
Er no, not really. I just stop writing when the story ends. I’m serious. I can feel when the end is coming, because for better or for worse the climax hits, the questions or issues have been addressed, and what’s left then are the characters, changed by what’s happened to them and ready to live on, off-camera.
Which is where you guys, the readers, come in. 🙂
9) Does it sometimes bother you to be labeled as YA when you write such intense stories?
Not at all. My main characters are usually young adults, so it’s a natural pairing. I’ve been told that although my books are about young adults, they’re not only for young adults and that’s true.
10) So….will you be in the Midwest for a signing sometime so Kristen can meet you???
We’re definitely working on it, and we may be heading south briefly, too. The Event Schedule over on my website is updated every time another venue is added. I’m hoping to schedule appearances and book signings in some new states this year, so fingers crossed we finally get to meet up!
I’m so glad you enjoyed Ordinary Beauty, and thank you so much for hosting me. It’s been a blast!
The pleasure is all ours! Thank you, Laura! Check out our review here, if you want to know more about Ordinary Beauty.
For a signed copy of her newest book, Ordinary Beauty,
all you have to do is comment and be sure you’re a follower of Bewitched Booksworms! The winner will be announced by next Friday.
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