Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interview with YA author Lisa Schroeder

She's here! She's here! She's finally here! The amazing and talented Lisa Schroeder is here today to talk with us about her books and writing secrets! 


*Deep breath*
Okay, I'm blowing it. I'm supposed to be professional and dignified. 
I can do this! 
*Clears throat* 

*Straightens up to a more intelligent-looking posture*

Thank you so much for stopping by today Lisa--you have no idea how honored I am that you would grace my silly little blog with a visit--especially since I know how hectic your life is. I'm always SO amazed when you talk about your busy schedule. What are your secrets for juggling a job, a family, guitar lessons AND writing amazing books. Do you get more hours in the day than the rest of us?
I wish I got more hours in the day! Actually, big changes are coming in 2010. I've resigned from the day job to focus on the writing for awhile. I'm equally excited and terrified, because it's a HUGE leap. But I'm hoping a net will appear as I take that leap. For the past five years, I've worked in the HR department of a large teaching hospital, and have had to squeeze the writing in on the side, getting up early in the mornings and putting in long hours on the weekends. I figure I'll give myself a year, and I will probably have to get a half-time job at some point, but it's going to be nice to have a break from working alongside the writing for a little while.
What I tell other writers who are struggling with the time issue, because I totally understand, is that when there's a will, there's a way. When I was in the middle of a first draft, I'd make myself open the document every day and at least write 100 words. I mean, that's like what, 10 minutes of work? I think half the time, the battle is just opening the document and diving back in. Once you do that and get going, it's not so bad. And I think we can find 30 minutes in a day if we really want to. It might mean giving up something once in awhile - sleep, internet time, TV - but 30 minutes is doable, right?

*Picks jaw up from the floor* 
Forgive me for a minute while I TOTALLY LOSE MY COOL! 

Squee! That is the Best. News. Ever!!!!!!
I'm so happy for you--and I know great things are going to come from this! 
*happy dances*

*sits back down*

*clears throat*

Sorry about that. I’m just so excited for you. I promise--it won't happen again. 

*Shifts back into interview mode*

What was your biggest challenge writing Chasing Brooklyn? Was there one scene or character in particular that was especially difficult to tackle? If so, what made it so hard and how did you work through it?

CHASING BROOKLYN is another ghost story, specifically for the fans of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. So the first challenge was to make it different, and yet give readers an emotional read again. I decided to write it from the point of view of two characters, Brooklyn and Nico, and adding that second narrative helped make it different. But, it also make it much more difficult to write. Not because writing a male character was hard, but because suddenly I had two characters telling a story, so it was almost like writing two books at the same time. 
I can't think of one scene that was specifically hard to write - but one of the things I struggled with was one of the ghost's motivations. I hadn't thought about it much - WHY is this ghost is haunting her? My editor made me really think about it and dig deep and figure it out so the story would make more sense. Yeah, making sense is kind of important, isn't it?  
It is? *Makes note to self: remember, your story needs to make sense!* Maybe THAT'S why editing is taking so long. :)
And on that note: since a lot of my followers are currently unpublished writers--including myself--do you have any secrets you'd like to share to help us on our path? Is there anything you've learned along your journey that you wish you'd known at the beginning? Are there any mistakes new writers make that we should try to avoid?
Oooh, secrets! Let me see if I can think of a secret. Okay, here's one - psssst - you should be able to describe your book in one sentence. Yes, I know it's a pain to figure out that sentence, but it's important. And it needs to be a sentence that makes someone go - oooh, I want to read that book! 
Before I even start writing a book anymore, I try to describe the premise in a sentence. In today's competitive market, a hook is really important. That doesn't mean your book necessarily needs to be high concept, but it does need to be something that when you say - my book is about xyz, the person listening perks up.
So spend time getting that sentence polished. Once you have a sentence, you can then expand a bit for the query letter, when it's time to query agents. 
As far as mistakes, one thing I've read about in two different blogs (one by an agent and one by an editor) is how important your title is for getting your thing read quickly. A good title makes a difference! So spend time on it - make sure it's something interesting, something special. Because apparently, a great title DOES catch the agent or editor's eye and can often move it to the top of the pile. I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is different, but it also catches your interest I think, right?
It totally did--for me at least. *resists the urge to gush endlessly about how much I love I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME* And that's excellent advice. I'll need to work on the sentence for my book before I start querying.
And while we're on the subject of querying, how many rejections did you get during the querying process? Did you keep any of them? Which one was the worst, and why? Do you have any secrets for how to heal from the sting of rejection? Secret ointments maybe? Copious amounts of chocolate?
Hundreds. Literally. And yes, I still have many of them, because they're good to show at talks that it's important to not give up. But I was writing picture books and mid-grade novels for the first few years, trying editors and agents, and I was not afraid to submit. In fact I know I submitted many things that weren't really ready. 
I got one pretty harsh rejection from an agent who I had submitted a few different things to, including pages to I HEART YOU YOU HAUNT ME. She said it was just too sad and she really didn't think teens would want to read something like that. Of course I went on to sell it and now with over 60,000 copies in print, I think it's safe to say teens DO want to read something like that. 
I know some rejections hurt. A lot. I wish I had something that took the sting away, but mostly I just want writers to remember it's ONLY ONE OPINION. I have learned that so often in this business it simply comes down to taste. Just because someone doesn't like something doesn't mean it's garbage. So keep going and find that one who DOES like it. 
That is excellent advice. I'm going to tuck that away and reread it when I enter the query wars--assuming I ever finish editing! And speaking of the torture that is editing: How many revisions do you go through with your books? Do you let anyone read the first draft? Does your family ever read your drafts? How many critique partners do you have? What is it that tells you a project is ready to pass on to your agent?
I'm one of those weird writers that does quite a bit of revising as I go along. But sometimes I need help making sure I'm on the right track. With this last novel I wrote, I sent it to my agent and a friend after about 75 pages to see if it was going okay. They both had suggestions and I ended up rewriting it.  When the first draft was complete, my husband read it and didn't get the ending, so I rewrote it. Then I sent it to a couple of people to critique. The ending still wasn't right, so rewrote it again, along with some other changes. And finally, after about 3 months of revising, I felt like it was ready to send to my agent. 
I think it can be hard to know when it's done, but mostly, I just go with my gut. When I can't think of anything else I can do to make it better, and I know I've worked hard to make it the best it can be, it's time to send it.
Wow. I can't wait to get to that point--I am SO sick of editing! Which makes me wonder: Do you ever have days where you don't feel like writing anymore? Do you ever hit walls in your drafts that you don't know how to get around? Do you ever doubt yourself? If so, how do you keep going? Any secrets for staying motivated?
Oh, absolutely. And you know, I do think sometimes it's important to step away from the computer and fill the well, so to speak. I find I will have a few months where I write pretty consistently every day. And then, I'm happy having a couple of months where I'm not writing. Having breaks like that makes me happy to get back to it. I go back renewed and refreshed and excited about writing again. 
I think I've learned over the years that when I find a roadblock in the manuscript and feel blocked, it's usually because I took a wrong turn somewhere. At that point, I look at what has happened prior to that point to see if I've perhaps written myself into a corner. And then I back track if necessary, and job down some ideas of what I want to happen next.
I've also learned that to make reentry back into the manuscript as easy as possible, DON'T leave for the day at the end of a chapter. Leave in an exciting place, in the middle of a chapter, and leave notes for yourself to remind you of what you wanted to write next. 
As for doubt, it's a writer's greatest enemy. Don't let it take over. Open the manuscript and dive in and don't think about it too much. Getting lost in your story is the best way to combat the doubt. I always tell myself, when I'm wondering if the thing sucks too much to finish, that I'm writing that draft for ME. Because I want to see what happens. I try to forget about anyone else and just write it for myself. 
I think that is the hardest and most important part. Thanks so much for the reminder. Okay, one last thing and then I will let you go—I promise. Your first middle grade Novel, It's Raining Cupcakes comes out in March, and since cupcakes happen to be one of my favorite desserts, I have to ask what your favorite cupcake flavor is.

Mmmm, I love talking cupcakes! When my editor asked me if I wanted to try and come up with a couple of recipes to go in the back of the book I said - you bet! And I created this applesauce cupcake recipe that I really love! I'm one of those crazy people that love applesauce donuts - I like the spiciness or something, I guess.
But my favorite cupcake shop cupcake has to be this chocolate mint one I had at work one day that was to die for. Wouldn't it be dangerous to live near a cupcake shop? Delicious and dangerous!!
*wipes drool off chin*
Okay, yum—now I REALLY can’t wait for It's Raining Cupcakes! That recipe sounds amazing. Well, Lisa, thank you so much for visiting today (and putting up with my insanity)—you really made my year. And I can honestly say that I adored Chasing Brooklyn (I read it in one day) and I know great things are going to happen for you in 2010 because of it! (Stop by Friday for my glowing review!)

I did it!
My first author interview--and with one of my favorite authors!
Thanks to all my followers for reading and don’t forget to enter to win not one, not two, but ALL THREE awesome Lisa Schroeder books. AND--because I'm really curious to hear what you guys think of my first author interview--I'll give ONE EXTRA ENTRY in the contest to anyone who leaves me a comment today (well, to anyone who's entering the contest who leaves a comment--though if you're not entering you're still welcome to leave a comment. I love comments!) So please, leave a comment, make sure you let me know what name you entered the contest under, and I'll add your extra entry. It's that simple. :)

And tune in tomorrow as Lisa Schroeder week continues and we talk a little bit about poetry and I share some awful poems I wrote as a kid. Shannon Shame is sure to be included! 


  1. When I heard about Chasing Brooklyn it sounded really good and I immediately wanted to read it. When I saw I Heart You, I Haunt You in the bookstore I thought I would read it to see how I liked Lisa's writing. Well I didn't think I would like it because of it's poetry-like style. But was I ever wrong. It gets right to the point but has feeling really makes you feel for the characters. Now I'm anticipating Chasing Brooklyn more than ever. I can't wait for my bookstore to get in the beautiful new copies of Far from You either.

  2. I do love the title "I heart you, You haunt me" I chuckle every time I hear it. I hope I win your contest!

    I like winning contests!!

    Great interview :)

  3. It's Raining Cupcakes? For serious. When it comes to titles, I really don't think they get any awesomer than that!
    It was so nice to hear her say that sometimes she goes a couple of MONTHS without writing - it makes me feel better about the fact that I haven't written anything since November.

  4. (Before I forget, I entere the contest under my name)

    Anyway, I found this interview intensely interesting. Especially the part about quitting the day job in order to write full time. This is something I'm considering doing as well, and it's interesting to me to see others who took that plunge (although, with 2 books out and another on the way, it's less of a plunge). Still, I really liked hearing about that!

  5. Yes, indeed you are a cute interviewer. Now, the real Shannon shame (as opposed to the aww-inducing pseudo-shame you've been foisting upon us recently) would be you doing something that's not cute. Like kicking kittens or punching puppies or barfing burritos. (Alliteration included in honor of tomorrow's poetry-fest. Like it?)

    Anyway, so-not-MG-or-even-YA me will sit out the contest, but will say that I enjoyed the interview. Congrats to Ms. Schroeder on the leap, too! Don't we all dream of that possibility?

    See you tomorrow! *cracks knuckles* *stretches poetry muscle*

  6. I love when people tell me it's OK to take a few days off...but I'm also jealous that she gets to quit her day job to just write! That doesn't make any sense, I know, but still...

    This was a great interview, hilarious and informative! And wow, hundreds of rejections...I love seeing numbers because I think it will help me keep going when it's time to query!

  7. Love this interview. Definitely has a Shannon flair! Thanks, Lisa!

  8. There is so much great stuff in this interview I feel like taking notes! Thanks to both Shannon for good questions and Lisa for great answers.
    What is the ghost's motivation? Wow. I can see how that question would open many doors.
    I know I need to work on my one-sentence pitch. The reason it's so hard is a lot of times we haven't identified, clarified the spine of the story. I really need to work on this.
    Congratulations, Lisa, on quitting the day job. You sure have earned it.

  9. My favorite thing about Lisa's books are the titles! They are the coolest! :-)

    Shannon, I have a little something for you at my blog today (and you don't have it yet! Woohoo!)

  10. This interview was fun to read and very helpful. I especially liked how she said she tried to write 100 words/day. I've found that starting is half the battle. Once I'm 100 words in, I'm more likely to go on to 500 or 1,500 than I am to stop (especially if the kiddos are asleep).

    I really struggle with the one sentence description. I've been hoping it will come to me by the time I finish revisions, but it would be grand to be able to describe the beastie so efficiently when friends and family ask what I'm writing.

    Thanks to both of you.

  11. Oh, and I can't wait to read her cupcake book!

  12. *bows down to Shannon's interviewing skills*

    Amazing. Loved this interview, and the awesome advice! An excellent way to start off the year.

  13. Oh my goodness, GREAT job on the interview! You asked some very intriguing questions. All of her answers made me feel better about my own writing.

    Also I entered your contest as Melanie. =D

  14. *Robyn stands in awe of Shannon* You are THE one! Great interview. I loved it. And thanks to Lisa. Wow. I learned a lot. And the importance of the title got to me. I always wondered about that. Now I know it's true.

    Oh and the one sentence thing. Man, I gotta do that for every book? YIKES!! :)

  15. Outstanding interview! Great advice from Lisa and I loved the insight into her Process. Well done!

  16. Hi :)
    I liked how this interview was like a conversation with humor, wit and information. Thank you to Shannon & Lisa!

  17. Great interview!! It's so interesting to hear about the real world of published authors. I really enjoyed this :)

  18. Fabulous interview! So good to learn of others' publication journeys. Of course, the advice was brilliant and will be tucked away to pull out when I'm feeling low with all of my rejections.

    And how lucky are you, Shannon, to get Lisa Schroeder on your blog!! Too cool. I'm so excited about Chasing Brooklyn. I only just saw mention of it a couple of weeks ago.

  19. Amazing interview! I love "I Heart You, You Haunt Me" and this was so inspirational, thank you Shannon! And Lisa, I love your writing!

  20. Thank you everyone!! And thanks to Shannon for having me here and for hosting that incredible contest. She's an awesome hostess. Maybe someday I can take her out for cupcakes!! :)

  21. Ah! I've been gone most of the day and look at this flood of comments! *tear* You guys are the best. And I'm going to reply to each of them so brace yourselves for a long Shannon comment:

    Jessy: I'm so glad to hear you love her books. I'll admit, I was a little unsure of the verse format myself, but I was AMAZED at what punch can be delivered in so few words. She has talent. Let me know what you think of the other books--when you read them. :)

    Marybeth: It's definitely a title that stands out. And you know I have no say in who the winner is, but you got lucky last week so maybe you'll pull off another victory. :)

    Brizmus: I know--how much do I love that title. Come on March--I want to read it! And I took heart from that too. I've lost a couple writing months and felt really bad about them, so it was nice to know even the pros have that happen. Don't feel bad about not writing--just think of it as being fresh and ready whenever you do start. :)

    Beth: I think we're all dreaming of that day, so it's SO exciting to see it happen for someone. And I have a feeling good things will be happening for you soon and you might not need your day job either.

    Frankie: Aw, thanks. *blushes*

    Simon: Heh. Sorry, I think I'll stick with posting horrible writing. Kicking kittens is not my thing. And it's going to be TWO days of poetry, (tomorrow's my shameful stuff, thursday's the "how it's supposed to be done' stuff so feel free to share both days) I'm sure yours will be epic!

    Heather: I know, I'm jealous too. And I'm DEFINITELY saving her rejections answer. I have a feeling I'm going to need to reread it. A lot.

    Donna: Aw, thanks. Shannon flare is a good thing, right?

    Tricia: Thank you! I'm with you, I definitely need to work on my one sentence pitch. I'm HORRIBLE at those.

    Shannon O: (Aka-the normal Shannon) I LOVE her titles--I don't know how she does it. And aw, thanks. I'll hop over there as soon as I finish this epic length comment.

    Myrna: I couldn't agree more. Opening the draft and getting a few words down is ALWAYS the hardest for me. Then I get in a zone and it's like, what was the big deal? Oh, and I can't wait to read It's Raining Cupcakes. Could the cover BE any more adorable?

    Mariah: *blushes* Aw, thanks. I was really nervous, so I'm glad I didn't screw it up.

    Melanie: Thank you! I just asked the stuff I wanted to know, and I got lucky that she gave SUCH great answers. Plus I had a friend proofread my questions.

    Robyn: Aw, thanks. That makes me feel so good. And LOL on the "for every book" thing. That was my thought too. "You mean I have to do that, even after I have an agent? Really?"

    VR: Thank you. It is cool when authors share their process. Glad you enjoyed.

    RK: Heh. I can only take credit for the humor. Lisa did all the wit and information. But I'm glad you liked and thanks for tweeting about it earlier.

    Jemi: Thank you. I'm so glad I did okay. She gave great answers so she made me look good.

    Carolina: I am SO lucky. I still have NO idea how I got so lucky. And you must read Chasing Brooklyn--it's awesome.

    Hayley: Yay--another Lisa Schroeder fan. I adore that book and I'm so happy you enjoyed her answers. She's amazing.

    Phew, I think that's everyone--unless someone slipped in while I was typing this...

  22. Lisa: Ahh! It was YOU who slipped in during my comments! What are the odds?!?!? Thank you again SO much for letting me pester you with questions--you're the BEST. And please, you don't have to take me out for cupcakes...though I'll hardly stop you! I really need to track you down at a signing so I can meet you in person one of these days. In the meantime, thanks again--you rock!

  23. Excellent interview, Shannon and Lisa! I love what Lisa said about doubt being a writer's worst enemy. *scribbles down note to self* I haven't read any of Lisa's books yet, but they sound like they're right up my alley! :)

  24. First of all. Excellent interview questions, Shannon. I'm really impressed.

    Oka, enough about you!

    Lisa, I am now DYING to read your books! In fact, if I'm not a lucky winner in Shannon's awesome giveaway, I am going to buy them the same day she announces her winners. Seriously. They sound so fabulous! Consider my your 60,001st purchaser! (Okay, well maybe more than that by the time Shannon announces winners, but you get my drift, lol)

  25. Sarah: You'll love her books! (Though as a fellow weeper I must warn you, you will need tissue!) And thanks for the compliment. *tear*

    Sara: Aw thanks Sara. And lol, I'll make sure Lisa sees this! (and you do have to read them, you will love them)

  26. FABULOUS interview. I'm dying to read Lisa's latest! Off to enter the contest!

  27. I'm still working at describing the premise in a sentence. I tried, "What's in a name," in my first book BREAKTHROUGH. The protagonist's name is Chase Manhattan, so I thought I had a clever opening sentence premise. Unfortunatley, nobody else did, so I put it in my junkyard and will try to use it some other time.

    Stephen Tremp

  28. Fabulous job Shannon! Seriously ;o)

    Thanks so much Lisa! You had some great answers that really resonated with me. Your books sound interesting and unique, will add them to my list!

    Mmmm cupcakes, I'm just glad I don't live near a bakery... it would need a weight watchers next door :o) *searches kitchen cabinet for cupcakes*

  29. Awesome interview!! I love her!

  30. Excellent interview. Very entertaining and fun to read. Thanks!!

  31. Fantastic interview! You did it with fly colors. And to think that you were worried. :)

  32. Loved your interview! I'm a wannabe scribe as well, so I love the little tidbits about writing!! Great stuff!

    I have already entered your contest, so I'd love an extra entry!! I am Jennifer from Crazy-for-Books; e-mail: js1997 (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

  33. I learned the one-sentence hook lesson the hard way. Coming up with one before writing is so much easier than after. Great interview!

    I entered the contest as Mary W. Jensen.

  34. Is it too late to enter the contest? This was a helpful interview! I was trying to make myself write 500 words a day on my first draft and not making it; I'll start small, with 100, like Lisa suggests.

    I just found both your blogs and am so glad I did. Lisa, I found Far From You when I first started as a YA librarian and was putting together a display of new YA books. I snuck it off to my office and read it cover to cover as quickly as I could without getting caught. I didn't get to give it the time it deserved but it really grabbed me and I was always displaying it in new spots so kids would see it.

  35. Sorry for not replying to the rest of the comments--been a crazy week. But I read and loved all of them! Thank you!

    Oh, and Virginia--Nope, it's not too late, You still have 3 hours to enter. Just make sure you fill out the form on the contest post and are a follower of my blog. Thanks for the interest! :)


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Any arguing or intense debate--on any subject will be removed. Let's keep this a safe, fun space.