Before I head to Austin (and, as usual, I'm running behind schedule), I've got a new visit on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. Laurie Stolarz is a young adult novelist who has a couple of things out now. Bleed is a book of linked short stories, and then there's The Blue is for Nightmares Collection, a boxed set of her paranormal series. Appropriately for this week, she hails from Salem, Massachusetts (cue spooky music).
I asked her some questions:
How do you plot a group of interconnected short stories? Did you have any kind of big-picture plan for how they all wove together, or did it come together organically as you wrote each story?
I became fascinated by the idea of chance and coincidence, and how the outcome of our decisions can influence each other's lives, often unintentionally. The decision of whether or not to pick up the phone or let the machine get it; the decision of walking to someone's house versus taking the bus; or of taking a walk by a cemetery rather than at the beach -- how the outcome of those decisions can have a domino effect, affecting other people's lives...even the lives of people we may not even know.
The book takes place over the course of a single day. During that day, the lives of ten teenagers intersect in powerful and unexpected ways. Among them are Nicole, whose decision to betray her best friend will shock everyone, most of all herself; Kelly, who meets the convicted felon she's been writing to for years; and Maria, whose definition of a true friend is someone who will cut her. Derik discovers his usual good looks and charm won't help him get the girl he really wants, while Joy, a fifteen-year-old waitress, hoping for true intimacy, narrowly escapes a very dark fate.
I wove these tales together by examining this idea of chance and coincidence -- by looking at the possible outcomes of each character's decisions.
How do you research teenage life and emotions so that you can convey them so accurately?
Honestly, I watch a lot of TV for teens. I try to tap into their world as much as possible, also reading their books, their magazines, visiting their public blogs. I'm fascinated by teen culture and this helps me keep current on what's important to them, how they speak, what they can relate to, etc.
What kind of influence did growing up in Salem, with all its spooky reputation, have on your subject matter and themes?
It's weird because when you grow up in a place that's touristy and/or historical in some way -- at least for me -- you don't really become fazed by it at all. I didn't appreciate Salem and its history until much later in life. There were witches that I went to school with, but it was really no big deal. It wasn't particularly "special" or different. I walked by the Witch Museum every day without a thought. I also used to cut through the place where they hung the witches (the Gallows) on my way home from school.
I think being open to religion in general -- Wicca, Witchcraft, Folk Magick, or otherwise -- is the biggest influence Salem has had on me. Now, I'm fascinated by Salem's history. When I was writing Blue is for Nightmares, the first book in the series, I went back to my Salem roots, almost like a tourist, and really did a lot of research on the history and what Wicca is today.
And maybe you can answer this question that's bugged me ever since I visited Salem a few years ago: If the tragedy of the Salem witch trials was that it was all a hoax/hysteria and personal vendetta and there weren't any real witches being put on trial, why is the city now so linked to witches and witchcraft? (It's like "Hey! Look at all the witches!" even though the history is that there weren't any, and that's sort of the point of The Crucible and all that.) And that question really has nothing to do with anything. The curiosity just struck me again when reading the annual travel section article on Salem at Halloween this weekend, and you're the first person from Salem I've had contact with this week.)
Well, there was one real witch, Tituba (who practiced folk magick). I visited the grounds where she lived (in Danvers now). It was fascinating. The house is gone, but the foundation impression is still there. I was chatting with a witch about this very topic -- why witches find themselves back in Salem despite the history (being falsely accused) -- and she told me that it's because Salem is a place that truly accepts and appreciates the religion, regardless of whether or not you practice Witchcraft or Wicca. She, too, admitted that it was sort of ironic. But there's a real pulse in Salem, walking down Charter or Essex streets, being so close to the history, remembering what happened.
I know that Laurie Cabot wears her robes daily so that she can be a visual reminder that Wicca is real and that we have the freedom to practice what we wish. I think witches are attracted by what Salem has to offer in terms of its many covens and support systems -- and with so many alike minds.
With the publication of the box set, are you now finished with the Stacey series, or do you have future plans for her or her world?
Good question. I love my four books in the series. They each have a place and, while I'd love to continue, I don't want to just tack another one on. I'm very intrigued by the idea of continuing, but the book has to have purpose and place. I've brainstormed a number of ideas but haven't found the right one yet. I'm also considering doing a spin-off with some new characters and old favorites. This would allow me to continue, but to do it in a new and interesting way to keep things fresh
For more info on Laurie and her books, visit her web site.
And now I must finish packing and hit the road. I'm taking the laptop, and the hotel says it has Internet access but doesn't specify that it's free. I'm cheap and poor, so if it's one of those "pay $10/day" things, I won't be online much. If I can get online, I'll try to post reports. My main goal is to meet Charles deLint and speak to him without getting all weepy when I think of that fabulous review he gave Enchanted, Inc. I'm reading his Widdershins right now. I get the impression from his writing that he must be an interesting person. I bet he's a musician, too. Music always plays such a strong role in his books. The Infamous Red Stilettos are making the trip and will make their appearance at the Saturday night banquet. I'll be participating in the Friday autographing, but I still have no idea what the set-up for that is, if there will be places to buy books to get them signed or if you're just supposed to bring your own, or if authors are supposed to bring books to sell. I'll have a few books with me to sell, but I'd prefer that if you aren't bringing books from home and want to buy books there, you buy them from a dealer in the dealers room during the day and then bring them to the signing (Edge Books almost always has a good supply, and they're great folks, so drop by and see them).