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My Interview with the Lovely Lisette
What made you decide/what motivated you to write your first book?
I’ve always been a writer. I wrote 150 pages of my “first novel” when I was a teenager, but it wasn’t one I cared to finish. Although I’ve been writing all of my life, it took many years for me to realize that I wanted to be a novelist, rather than a playwright.
The first book I wrote was Squalor, New Mexico, a coming-of-age story about family secrets and dysfunction. It’s actually set in 1970s East Coast suburbia and has nothing to do with New Mexico. But the title is explained on the first page, so readers will understand its meaning right away.
My motivation was unusual. Every time I heard someone say that so-and-so lived in squalor, it sounded like a town to me. I wanted to open a novel with the words, “My aunt lived in Squalor,” and then build a story around that. As it turns out, the first line of the book is “My Aunt Rebecca lived in Squalor.”
That was my initial motivation, but beyond that, I wanted to show how dysfunction in families travels from generation to generation when issues are kept secret or not handled at all.
I should point out that although Squalor, New Mexico was my first-written book, I published it second. Crooked Moon was my first published book.
Did you wrestle with the idea of whether or not your work would be well received when it came time to publish your first book?
Not really. Not in the way you’re asking. I worked very hard to write, rewrite, and learn from the edits. I was more into wrestling with getting the book right than overwhelming myself with worry about its reception.
Writing is such a personal process. Is it hard not to take bad reviews as a personal insult and do you see good reviews as a personal compliment or purely a compliment of your work?
That’s a heavy question. First, I tend to accept the good and the bad as someone’s opinions of my work, not as that person’s opinion of me. There are reviews that cross the line, but over the years, I’ve developed a thicker skin. And I never forget there is nothing in this entire world that will be liked or appreciated by everyone. That’s impossible.
Do you have anything that motivates you to write? Do you have a specific process or do you just write as the ideas come to you?
I have no specific process per se. I write about stories that I feel passionate about. I write about life: the people who cross my path and make an impression, good and bad.
My new book, Desert Star, contains many stories and themes. One of them is bullying. But it’s about so much more that that.
Right now, I have a basic outline for Book 3 in The Desert Series, which I have already begun writing. It will be the most romance-oriented book of the series.
When I’m finished with this YA paranormal trilogy, I’m going back to writing literary fiction. I’m already 27K words into my seventh novel, which began as a short story when I was a teen. I’ve known the characters for a lifetime, so you see, I’m very eager to finally put their story into a book.
I have plans for my eighth novel, but the details are still being formed. I have a folder on my computer for all of my notes and random thoughts. As I get closer to writing this book, I’ll have a physical notebook where I’ll jot down ideas as they come to me. This will be a very important book for me because of the strong, flawed characters I so want to write about.
I see that your work spans several genres. Has it been difficult to maintain a consistent readership or do you purposefully market to a diverse demographic?
There are pros and cons to writing across different genres. But no, I didn’t really set out to market to a diverse demographic. I just told the stories I wanted to tell.
But to be completely honest, I did write Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!, my romantic comedy, for a specific reason. Before indie publishing was feasible, it was difficult to get an agent for my first two books, though I came close many times. It was so frustrating. When I’d go to the bookstores, I would see chicklit all over the tables of new releases at Border’s or B&N (bookstores, remember them?) and I decided to write a book in that genre to “get in the door.” Once I was 65K into Molly, publishing my work became feasible so I put down that book to publish the first two novels. A year or so later, I went back to Molly and finished it. I’m very proud of this book, and Molly has a lot of fans. But I can’t see myself writing in that genre again.
Anyway, despite writing in many different genres, my books all have a similar style in that they’re all character-driven novels with multiple story arcs.
Before the first book in the series, Mystical High, you had not written in the YA paranormal genre before. What drew you to write in this genre?
I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal and have had many firsthand experiences with it. The Desert Series is, as I see it, “realistic paranormal.” By that, I mean that the characters deal with very true-to-life issues first and the paranormal activity blends with their lives.
There are many YA paranormals whose plots seem interchangeable. What inspired you to write such a unique story and was it difficult to maintain that originality throughout the writing process?
Thank you for that compliment, Courtney. I definitely did not want to write in any formulaic manner. I started with a basic idea, and then, as I always do, I built on it until I had enough going on to write a book. As I wrote, more and more details came to me and then the book came alive. This is how I write every book.
I’m glad I don’t micro-plot from the beginning. Some of the best twists are often the unplanned ones.
Where do you find your inspiration for your plot lines? Are they ideas triggered through personal experience or are they thoughts that come to you when you are in a creative mindset?
I would definitely say that my inspiration comes from people, whether it is people I know, people I observe, or even see on TV. Usually the characters come before the plot. But not always. Ideas can fall out of the skies, be a whisper in my ear, or come to me in a dream.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, as many avid readers are such, what would you say to them?
I would tell anyone who wants to be an author to write what she/he is passionate about. Don’t try to emulate anyone else; develop your own unique voice. I would also caution all aspiring authors not to make the mistake of rushing to publication with an unedited or poorly edited book. That said, it’s important that one’s book is ready to be edited. Do everything you can to get it right.
I have always had a fascination with the morals or purposes that every author weaves into their story that they hope to impart to their readers, hence my site's name, The Moral Of Our Stories. What do you feel the moral of this work is, and why was it so important for you to share?
This book is chock full of morals, some more obvious than others. One of the themes of this book is bullying. We all know that bullying is horrible and that when someone is bullied, the pain of such an experience can remain for a lifetime. But sometimes, good comes from bad in unexpected ways. As for bullies, things never really end well. Anyone who gets off humiliating another human being is seeking amusement/fulfillment in the most toxic of ways. Bullies aren’t very happy people. The reasons why people bully are varied. While one might understand the reasons a bully is such an unhappy person, that understanding does not condone a bully’s actions. Bullies don’t win, even when they think they do.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Courtney. It’s been a pleasure. Good luck with your blog and your writing.