Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Lara M. Zeises

Before I start frantically getting ready to do the over the river and through the woods thing, I have another Girlfriends Cyber Circuit interview. My guest this time is Lara M. Zeises, author of the young adult novel Anyone But You. It's the story of two teens, Seattle and Critter, during one hot summer in Delaware. Critter has been Sea's best friend and pseudo brother since her father took off six years ago, but things start to change when new people come into their lives, and when Sea's dad returns. The novel takes a fresh, hard look at what it means to be a family – especially when relationships change in surprising and unexpected ways.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, for one thing, I started writing it during the summer. I hate summer weather - the heat, the humidity - and it was just a miserable summer. I was living in Boston, commuting to a building three miles from my home but, because I was taking public transportation, turned into an hour-long trip each way, and I'd get home at night sticky and tired and disgusted. You can so feel how much I hate the heat, especially in the early chapters.

Describe your creative process.
I'm not a plotter to start out. I always start with a character and then play the What If? game. I do minor tweaks based on feedback from my crit group during the first draft. Then I wait for my editor's feedback, and that's when I dive in hardcore. I will do a bit of plotting on the second draft, and I always do a ton of revision. I think writing is 90% rewriting. I used to hate that part, but I've grown to love it.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
My latest thing is that I write better on my laptop, even if it's plugged in across the room from my home PC. I'm less likely to check e-mail or play games on my laptop. It's like the work computer.

I do maintain iTunes play lists for each book. I use music to help me get into the mood or access a character's feelings.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your main characters?
I always give my characters at least one personal quirk. Bridget, the protag from my first novel, BRINGING UP THE BONES, relates everything to TV (like I do). Lucy, from CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE, has two friends named Kim - the Kims - and I had my own "the Kims" in high school (except they were totally different from my fictional characters). Seattle, from ANYONE BUT YOU, loves to swim like I do, and Critter, also from ANYONE, is a composite of about four different boys who meant something to me at one time or another. But otherwise, they don't call it fiction for nothing!

How do you research teenage life in order to write about the lives of teenagers? Or do you just draw upon your own memories?
My memories, what I read in teen magazines or see on TV or in movies, eavesdropping on the college freshmen I teach at UD, etc. People make it seem like teenagers are these alien creatures that need to be "studied" - but if you listen carefully, they're not that different from their thirtysomething counterparts.

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Both, preferably NOT American-made (unless we're talking Wilbur Buds).

What are you working on now?
A book about a girl named Stella whose dad is a reluctantly world famous chef - she gets tired of living in Foodie World and tries to escape with a summer internship at the newspaper, only to find out the food editor is on maternity leave and the only reason they hired her was to fill in.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
This is my first foray into boy voice, and it was very, very difficult for me. But, I'm really proud of this book. I think it shows how far I've come as a writer, and also the deepening of the relationship between my editor and me. We make a great team!

For more information, you can visit Lara's blog.

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