It's Wednesday on the great SBBT, so that means we have Laura Ruby stopping by!
Now, this is one of those times where it's a good thing that the interview happened via email; because in real life, the interview would have turned into one long session of watching Buffy and Veronica Mars, and chatting about families, and growing up in New Jersey. With no interview.
Laura is amazing because she writes for all ages: for kids she has Lily's Ghosts, The Wall and the Wing and The Chaos King; Good Girls for teens and I'm Not Julia Roberts for adults. Her books aren't just diverse in terms of age; she writes ghost stories, fantasy, coming of age and humor.
Good Girls, Ruby's YA book, is a look at love, lust, sex, sexuality, rumors, and emotions. Audrey hooks up with Luke; someone takes a photo; and the next thing, the picture is all over school. It's even been sent to her parents. Last week, she was a Good Girl; this week, she is the slut, the ho. Now, boys think it's OK to say rude things and make rude gestures because, you know -- she's that kind of girl. The girl who would do that.
So, on with the show!
Liz B: Good Girls is such a topical book and has such an intriguing question: what is a good girl? What was your inspiration for writing Good Girls?
Laura: I was mulling over what I wanted to work on next when I noticed that sex was everywhere (I know, I know, DUH). But really, I felt like I couldn't get away from the endless blather about Paris Hilton and Girls Gone Wild and MTV and Maxim and myspace and whatever -- most of it horrible, misogynist garbage. I wondered what would happen if a "good" girl got caught on camera. How would she ever get her life back in this culture? I thought it was a good idea for a book, but I had no voice for the story, no soul. I set it aside and worked on other things for a while, until the day one of my stepdaughters came home from high school and told me that some obnoxious, deeply stupid little boy was spreading rumors about her and it didn't seem to matter to anyone that they weren't true. Something in my head just burst (an aneurysm????) Suddenly, I didn't just have a story about a "good girl" caught on camera, but one about rumors, betrayal, friendship, and privacy invasion.
Liz B: One of the things I love about Good Girls is it is not a message book. If anything, it's a question book; raising questions for the reader to answered about what it means to be a "good" girl, appearances, rumors, private and public lives. Can you share a bit about the writing process? Did you ever find yourself rewriting to avoid it becoming a message book?
Laura: Writing Good Girls was unlike writing any of my other books in that it was a completely wonderful experience; I loved every minute I spent working on it. Even getting that first draft down, usually the most agonizing, wrenching part of the process for me, was an absolute dream. I'm sure it wasn't a dream for my family, however, because it was all I could talk about for months. They did a very good job not rolling their eyes when I would relate conversations between my characters as if they were real.
Liz B: Another thing I love about Good Girls is that I got to the end and had to reread it; because while I wouldn't call Audrey deliberately unreliable, she and the reader discovered things that really changed how a reader viewed some of the events in the book. Was this challenging to write? How did you keep track of what Audrey realized and when?
Laura: I didn't really. I wrote this book in a fever. I didn't keep outlines, I didn't plan chapters, I just wrote as fast and as well as I could and saved the technicalities for later. During the revision process -- my favorite part of the process by the way -- I had to go back and make sure all the "clues" were placed where they should be, that the chapters, though not chronological, were in the right order, etc.
I do understand that writing/revising a book this quickly, easily, and happily will most likely never, ever happen again (sob!!!).
Liz B: You've written for every age level, including adults. Could you share some of the challenges of doing that? Do you ever have a "hmm, I've just strayed from kid to YA" moment?
Laura: I think I did have some of those moments when I wrote my first book, Lily's Ghosts. My editor had me take out some teenage angsty/angry moments in the book. — none were in the least racy, just a hair too old for the 13-year-old POV character. Now, I have a pretty clear idea of the voice and POV of each book -- sometimes even before I start to write it -- so I don't often feel confused about what I'm writing.
I think the challenges are more about the marketing of the books, making sure my audience understands that I write in many different genres and for many different age groups. I'm sure there are days that my agent thinks I'm nuts.
Liz B: Speaking of marketing -- your most recent book is for adults. Did you find the process of this book (from editing to marketing and publicity) to be different from that of books for kids and teens?
Laura: Writing "I'm Not Julia Roberts" was a completely different process because I wrote and revised it over the course of eight -- yes, eight!!! -- years. And then I revised it for my agent three times, and another few for my editor. We were all exhausted, I think! Getting just the right cover was also a challenge, but I love what was done with the book.
As for publicity, that was also completely different, because you have to rely on a lot more heavily on newspaper reviews and magazine placements to get the word out. (With children's books, there are not only pre-pub review sources, but there are school visits, conference appearances, and library talks that can be done to promote books. Also, teachers, librarians, even state organizations that will select kids' books for "best of" and "recommended reading lists). I was lucky as my publicist worked really hard to get my book into some magazines like People and Redbook.
Liz B: Speaking of your book for grown ups -- I'm Not Julia Roberts is a work of fiction about step families. What was the inspiration?
Laura: My whole life! I'm a stepdaughter, half-sister, step-sister and stepmom myself, and have lived in just about every permutation of "family" that exists in the universe (okay, not polygamy, but you know what I mean). When I first became a stepmom some ten years ago and was feeling completely overwhelmed, I read tons of books about stepparenting. Most of them were full of horrible advice guaranteed to make your stepchildren hate you forever. I just wanted something that was true -- not necessarily factually, just emotionally. (I know I sound like that million pieces guy, but I promise I don't have any stories in the book about getting beaten up and thrown in jail). I wanted a little commiseration, not bad advice. So I started writing. My book isn't autobiographical, but I do think it's honest, if that makes any sense at all.
Liz B: Let's talk Veronica Mars.
Laura: Oh, let's!
Liz B: Do you think there should be a wrap up movie?
Laura: Yes. I think there should be an entire series of wrap up movies. At least six. Or twelve.
Liz B: What was your favorite episode? Favorite character?
Laura: I adore Veronica and her dad -- the dialogue was always amazing on that show. But I have to admit a heavy fondness for Dick Casablancas. He was so hilariously clueless, and yet had just those teeny, tiny few moments of humanity that made it so hard to hate him completely.
As for a favorite episode, I honestly can't pick. I can't! Don't make me!
Liz B: (who also had a mini crush on DC): What will you watch now that its gone?
Laura: I'll probably just keep watching reruns of Law & Order, hoping against hope that there will be one episode I haven't seen yet. And I'm thinking a Buffy marathon might be in order.
Liz B: And as an aside, I just got a copy of Neptune Noir, essays about Veronica Mars, and that is helping.
Laura: A book I obviously need.
Beyond that... I think I'll spend the summer rewatching either Buffy.
Liz B: You read my mind.
So, faithful readers: what do you think should be the TV Series On DVD Summer Event for Laura and me and other Veronica Mars fans? Vote now!
Want to read the other interviews with Laura, and find out more about her middle grade books?
On Monday, Laura was at Writing and Ruminating; on Tuesday, she was visiting Miss Erin; tomorrow, she'll be at The YA YA YAs; and then she'll take a well deserved rest!
Other interviews today:
Mitali Perkins at Hip Writer Mama
Svetlana Chmakova at Finding Wonderland
Dana Reinhardt at Interactive Reader
Holly Black at Shaken & Stirred
Hilary McKay at Bookshelves of Doom
Kirsten Miller at Miss Erin
Julie Ann Peters at A Fuse #8 Production
Carolyn Mackler at The YA YA YAs
Jordan Sonnenblick at Writing and Ruminating
Remember to stop by Chasing Ray, where in addition to the list of interviews. Colleen includes fun quotes from the interviews.