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Interview: Lauren Baratz-Logsted

January 8th, 2007 (06:56 pm)
accomplished

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Song: Tonight from West Side Story

ANGEL'S CHOICE, Lauren Baratz-Logsted's first teen fiction novel, handles the subject of teen pregnancy with realism and an appropriate amount of delicacy. (Read my entire review.)

Teen pregnancy is not the easiest subject to tackle, and you managed to let Angel retain her dignity throughout her struggle. How much of this story changed between the rough draft and the publication?

I have to say, compared to other books I've done, not much. When ANGEL'S CHOICE was acquired by Simon & Schuster, my editor asked me to change two things. I clearly saw she was right, made the changes, and then it was on to copyedits: the niggling but important minor tinkers every book needs.

Will you be writing more books for teens in the future?

Yes. I have another one scheduled for publication from S&S later this year. The title isn't set in stone yet but it's more comedic than ANGEL'S CHOICE, although it does have serious elements. It's about a girl named Ren D'Arc whose novelist mother is crushed to death by a stack of Harry Potter books. In the wake of this tragedy, her father moves them to Danbury, CT, where Ren becomes involved in a sort-of mystery involving an online predator and her nemesis at her new school, Farrin Farraday. I also recently contracted to write a tween book for S&S about a 12-year-old girl with precociously gorgeous breasts who's ambivalent about this fact.

You edited and contributed to the anthology entitled THIS IS CHICK-LIT. Some authors love the term "chick-lit" and others loathe it. What do you think of the term? Do you use it seriously or tongue-in-cheek, more to empower the genre or to make the title stand out?

The title itself was a response to the negatively titled collection This is Not Chick-Lit. Having been in this business in one way and another for 23 years, I've never seen an anthology define itself by what it's not. So, for all the comedic writers laboring in the pink trenches, I wanted to put together a collection that would stand as a positive statement about all that the genre of Chick-Lit has to offer. As for how I feel about the term itself, I neither love it nor loathe it; it's a marketing term. But books that speak to women's lives in a comedic way have been around for a very long time and those books will still thrive even after the marketing term has been laid to rest.

You have had many contemporary female-driven novels published by Red Dress Ink. How did you come to work with them?

THE THIN PINK LINE was the first hardcover they ever published, which was very complimentary at the time: the idea that a publisher was changing their business model on my behalf. As for how I came to work with them, it almost didn't happen. In 2001, I'd already written the book but was working with an agent on something else entirely when Red Dress Ink launched. I didn't know much about them at the time, but I was sure from the reviews I was seeing that my dark comedy about a woman who fakes an entire pregnancy would be a good fit. I suggested submitting it there to my agent, he said no, I did it myself and wound up selling them five books before I was done. It's good to follow your instincts.

How did you come up with the concept for VERTIGO? How much research did you do to make sure the 19th century novel felt real? Since the content is, ahem, mature, do you think teens who read ANGEL'S CHOICE should wait a few years pick it up?

I was on vacation visiting inlaws in Florida in October 2000 when I first came up with the idea for Vertigo. I wanted to do a book about a 'good' woman in a 'good' marriage to a 'good' man who realizes it no longer satisfies. I set it in Victorian times because I wanted it to be clear that my heroine, Emma Smith, had more limited choices than those we have today and I wanted the catalyst to her awakening to be a series of letters exchanged with a man in prison for murdering his own wife. I did a ton of research while writing the book - at least five books on British penal history, five more on Victorian design etc. Of course, a lot of what I learned wound up on the cutting-room floor, but it felt good to immerse myself in the times.

As for teens reading VERTIGO, I do have a lot of high-school and college fans of my comedic novels, which all do deal with mature themes. That said, VERTIGO contains graphic sex and mature moral dilemmas so, as a mother myself, I'd have to say the book is probably suitable only for older teens or those teens who are emotionally/intellectually precocious.

When planning your adult novel HOW NANCY DREW SAVED MY LIFE, did the story inspire the title or vice-versa?

It was nearly simultaneous.

NANCY blends many genres. You describe it at your website as "part Charlotte Bronte, part chick-lit, and part Nancy Drew." Who had better sidekicks, Charlotte (her sisters) or Nancy (Bess and George)?

Charlotte's died on her - she had to nurse her entire family through killing illnesses - so I'm going to have to go with Nancy here. When your life is in danger, it's got to be better to have live sidekicks than dead ones.

Nancy Drew - a contemporary, early-teen version of the girl from River Heights - will be visiting movie theatres this year. If ANGEL'S CHOICE were made into a film, who would you want to play Angel?

I'm bad at casting my main characters. I don't know. Can we get Hilary Duff to dye her hair dark like Angel, and would she be interested in doing a dramatic turn?

What are your ten favorite books of all time?

This could change tomorrow, but since you're asking me today:

Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ahab's Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund
Memoirs of Cleopatra, Margaret George
A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Palace Walk, Naguib Mahfouz
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
The Collected Plays, William Shakespeare

Visit Lauren Baratz-Logsted's official website.

Read my 2013 interview with Lauren.