27 August 2008

Interview with Lisa Schroeder

How long ago did you decide to try writing?
I started writing seriously, for publication, about eight years ago. I think I completed my first novel about six years ago, a middle-grade that never sold. I wrote two more middle grade novels after that, and they didn’t sell either. I like to think of those books as my schooling. There is so much to learn about writing a novel. With the first one, it was just proving to myself that I could do it. When you’re starting, writing an entire novel seems so daunting. Heck, even when you’ve done it many times, it can seem daunting - turning that seed of an idea into a full-grown book.

How long did it take before you found your publisher?
My agent started submitting I HEART YOU in November of 2006. We received quite a few rejections, mostly because I think it’s so different. It’s hard to take a chance on something that’s different. Fortunately for me, we had an offer from Simon Pulse the first part of March, 2007, and it was wonderful because my editor really got my book. I think it showed me that we really have to trust the timing of things, and sometimes we may want things to happen more quickly, but the universe usually knows what it’s doing.

How long ago did you start from writing I Heart You, You Haunt Me?
I started writing the book in March, 2006, and had a first draft finished in a month. The story poured out of me. It was awesome. I wish that would happen more often. I spent the next six months polishing it up, and then got an agent in the fall of that same year.

Do you believe in ghosts?
I’m not sure. I think I do believe that our loved ones in the afterlife are closer than we think. And I don’t think they haunt us as much as they just want us to know they are okay, and they love us.

How did you get the ideas for I Heart You, You Haunt Me and Far From You?
For I HEART YOU, I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died and loved her so much, he couldn’t leave her behind. I sat down the next morning and started writing. I don’t dream often, and I had been praying for some inspiration for a new book, so I really believe it was a gift, one I’m very thankful for, obviously.
FAR FROM YOU came about as I was thinking about the incredible verse novel, OUT OF THE DUST. The dryness and dustiness in the book is almost like another character, and it got me thinking about the weather and how maybe I could do something with a teenage character having to survive in some harsh elements. Combining snow and angels appealed to me, and so, I was off. Like I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, it’s a story of love and loss, forgiveness and hope, but in very different ways. And, the main character, Alice, is a singer/songwriter, so the book has a couple of songs I wrote specifically for the book, which was fun!

When you first got the ideas did you plan for them to be in free verse?

Great question. With I HEART YOU, I didn’t plan for it to be in verse, it just came out that way. I wrote a few pages and I was like, what am I doing? Do I know what I’m doing? Do I want to do this totally risky thing and do a paranormal story in VERSE? But at that point, Ava’s voice, and the story, had a mind of its own, and I just had to keep going.
FAR FROM YOU was a little more intentional. I had written a book in between these two that wasn’t in verse, and it wasn’t as well received. I think sometimes as a writer, we have to play to our strengths and do what it is we do best. I do well in being somewhat poetic and trying to describe something in as few words as possible, for whatever reason.

Why choose to write in free verse?
It allows me, and forces me, at different times and in different ways, to get at the heart of the matter. I am very much a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person. I feel things very deeply. Writing in verse allows me to express those emotions in a unique and special way, and even thought it’s challenging at times, trying to be poetic while also telling a story, I love it. And it’s much easier to do something when you love it.

Can we expect any more books from you after Far From You?
I sure hope so! I have a middle-grade novel out on submission right now to a handful of editors. And my agent has a proposal and 70 pages for another novel-in-verse. The publishing business is just that – a business, so any time I have a project I love to see made into a book, I have to be prepared that it may not happen.
But I definitely plan to keep writing, no doubt about that! ☺

Do you plan for all the novels your write to be free verse?
No. Not all stories are going to work well in verse. A novel that needs lots of dialogue, for example, isn’t going to work well in verse. It takes the right story to be told in that way, I think. I have an idea for another YA novel that I’ll probably work on after I find out what, if anything, is going to happen with that proposal on my agent’s desk, and it won’t be in verse. It will be in regular old chapters!

Were any characters from your novels based on or inspired by people you know? If so, which ones?
No, not really. I will say that I envisioned Jackson as a young Chris Daughtry, who was on American Idol at the time I was writing I HEART YOU.

Are there any rituals you need to perform before you can write, like listen to a certain band or do you need complete silence? Do you like to write outside or inside, etc.
When I’m in the zone, writing, I pretty much need to have things quiet. I do listen to music to get me in the mood, though, and sometimes play the same song over and over, if it’s a song that makes me feel the way I want my readers to feel. When I was writing FAR FROM YOU, it was all about Lifehouse and Sara McLachlan.

What were you favorite books as a teen? And now?
I read a lot of Judy Blume and V.C. Andrews as a teen, and that’s about it. If only we’d had the kinds of books we have today for teens – wow!
Today, I’m a huge John Green fan – love all his books, including his new one, PAPER TOWNS. I also adore Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen, Sara Zarr, Cecil Castelluci, Elizabeth Scott… I could go on and on and ON!

Other than your wonderful books, what are some recommendations?
Some debut books I’ve enjoyed and would encourage you to check out, since I always love to help the debut author when I can. It’s hard being a debut author – I know!
Jennifer Bradbury – SHIFT
Lisa McMann – WAKE

Thanks so much for having me here! And thanks to you and others who have read I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. I appreciate it more than I can say!