The blogosphere has been celebrating all month with spooky stories and great giveaways. But I'm a fraidy cat, so I have a non-scary author interview and giveaway for you.
Lara Zielin works for the University of Michigan, my alma mater - Go Blue! She graciously answered a slew of questions. Read on, then join us for trick-or-treating and a special giveaway!
The Implosion of Aggie Winchester is your second YA novel, following Donut Days. Congrats! Tell us about your path to publication. How did you find your agent?
As most writers do, I struggled for a long time to get my debut novel published. From the time I started the book to the time I held the finished hardcover in my hand, it took 8 years. Now, that's on the long side for most writers, so if you're reading this and trying to get a book published, don't despair! I had a lot of growing to do as a writer during that time, and that was my path - it's not everyone's path.
The good news is that along the way I had wonderful people helping me. One of those people was Brad Meltzer, who has a new show on the History Channel called Decoded. You should totally watch it! Anyway, Brad recommended I speak to Larry Kirshbaum about representation. At the time, Larry had just opened a new agency, LJK, and Brad knew him. I querried LJK, and Larry passed me along to Susanna Einstein, who ended up becoming my agent. So, happy endings all around!
Aggie was inspired by some true-life events. Tell us more.
When I was in high school, a pregnant Goth student was elected homecoming queen. The school administration burned the ballots and put a pretty, popular girl on the throne instead. This happened my junior year, and my dad was my principal at the time. He was embroiled in the scandal, which made national headlines. My dad lost his job over the whole thing.
Aggie is definitely fiction, but the ways in which she figures out that leadership and parenting aren't always black and white are certainly things I personally discovered. Today, my dad and I are both grateful Aggie afforded us the opportunity to talk about what had happened all those years ago. Would you believe it, we never had before I started writing the book. Maybe it's a Midwestern thing - you just smile and nod and pretend everything is fine, just fine. It was great to finally have a chance to honestly discuss what went down.
Speaking about honest discussions... Let's talk about sex, baby... In some stories, the scene heats up, then the curtain is drawn, leaving readers to their imagination. You took a more direct approach, wrote honestly without glossing over details, and used straightforward words. Masturbation, penis, orgasm.
Tell us about your thought process, and if these scenes changed in revisions with your agent or editor.
I think the frank talk about sex is either something readers appreciate about the book, or something they think is just way too much, over the top, why'd-you-put-that-in-there content.
My goal was to write a book about a very real girl who didn't pull any punches. She's not every girl, and Aggie makes some seriously bad choices throughout the book. But she's at least honest and straightforward about what she's experiencing - and at the end I believe she's totally redeemed, even though she stumbles and falls over and over again in the story.
This kind of literature isn't for everyone, and I totally understand that. It's also literature that my editor and I decided from the get-go wouldn't get pared down to make it more "safe." I'm so lucky in that way - my editor is very strong and she's not afraid to put edgy stuff out there. We definitely collaborated closely to give Aggie her strong voice and to not gloss over details.
Yes, Aggie is totally redeemed in the end. I was rooting for her! What's next for you?
I finished my third book, The Waiting Sky, and it comes out in August 2012. It's about a girl who chases tornadoes with her brother in Oklahoma for a summer. Currently, I'm working on my fourth book, which is about a girl who suffers from panic attacks. I also am busy helping writers with their manuscripts through my website: help4writers.com.
Never a dull moment, that's for sure! Whew. :)
Thanks for sharing, Lara!
Lara is giving away one signed copy of The Implosion of Aggie Winchester to a random commenter. (Sorry, U.S. mailing addresses only - it's a hardcover!) Please leave a comment by Saturday, November 5th, and tell us if you're dressing up for Halloween. Or, what was your most memorable costume in the past? Here's one of mine:
Yep, that's me as Sherlock Holmes. Even at age 9, I was a book nerd!
And you have to check out Lara's 6th grade costume. Go to her blog here, to see the picture!
The interview with Lara Zielin continues on Monday over at YA Stands where you can enter to win a second copy of a signed hardcover edition of Aggie! You'll also find a yummy Halloween recipe for pumpkin/black bean chili!
Back to work on Tuesday! I'm sharing a writing tip at Literary Rambles for Casey's Tip Tuesday feature. Stop by and explore the wealth of information on that site.