Interview: Liz Tigelaar
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I recently came into contact with Liz Tigelaar, who has made a name for herself as a TV writer, as a screenwriter, and now as a novelist. Her PrettyTOUGH books are perfect for anyone who loved Dairy Queen and The Off-Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.
If you like The Clique books by Lisi Harrison and want an exclusive scoop on The Clique movie -
If you wonder what it's like to write for TV shows such as Dawson's Creek and Kyle XY -
If you think girls in books AND in real life can be pretty AND tough -
- Keep reading!
What do you think of words such as "tomboy" and "jock?"
Well, I think those words give us an instant prototype and common idea of what and who we're talking about but it can also be a label that's not appropriate because often, like any label, it consumes and defines who you are. And most people, even jocks and tomboys, are more than just jocks and tomboys. I considered myself a tomgirl.
What's your favorite sport to play? To watch?
I love to watch women's gymnastics, beach volleyball, and UConn women's basketball. As far as playing, I played soccer as a kid and briefly as an adult -- but I suck. I did crew in college but was small and became a coxswain. Now I stick to just being athletic -- I love biking, spinning, hiking... those types of things.
How did you come to be involved in the organization PrettyTOUGH? Who had the thought to create a related line of teen fiction?
The co-founders of www.PrettyTough.com, Jane Schonberger and George Morency, were looking to extend their brand and branch out into fiction. Although I'm not much of an athlete, I'd just come off working on the movie "Stick It" and I frequently write teen-driven materials, so our agents brought us together.
How many books are planned in the PrettyTOUGH series?
I'm not sure, actually. I've written two and I think a third one is being talked about it. If they sell well, I'm sure many!
As a writer and a producer, you've worked for a great many TV shows, ranging from Dawson's Creek and Brothers & Sisters to Kyle XY and American Dreams. How did you get into the entertainment industry?
I went to Ithaca College and they have a program where you can come out to LA and intern. I did that program twice and one of my last internships was at Dawson's Creek just as the show was taking off. I was hired as Production Assistant and made it known that I was interested in writing. I eventually made it down to the Writers' end of the hallway and started assisting them. While I was doing that, I began writing anything and everything I was offered and eventually I landed an assistant job on "American Dreams." I was given a freelance episode to write and luckily had a lot of support and did a decent job -- that led to my first job on a writing staff. And that's still my favorite job and show to this day.
You've also written tie-in novels for some of the previously mentioned series. Do you find writing for television series - writing for characters someone else created - more or less trying than starting from scratch?
In a way, it's much easier to mimic the showrunner and write for characters that are already created. The hard work has been done and you simply have to match his or her voice. Discovering your own voice can be more difficult than matching, but also exciting. I can't say I have a preference about whether I've created a character or not. Meg Pryor on American Dreams was my favorite to write for and I didn't create her. That said, it's always fun to take your personality and put it into the dialogue -- that's easy with your own characters.
Did you have to adhere to strict guidelines, or did you have some wiggle room?
I think when it comes to character voices, you can definitely try things out, but there isn't a ton of wiggle room. If you get used to writing for a certain character you may slowly start to influence his or her voice but it's a long process. You can't just come in to a pre-established show and write the characters to match how you sound and would say things.
Along the same lines: You adapted the popular book series The Clique for film. What's the most difficult part of transposing someone else's work?
It's really hard to take characters that someone else has created and lived with and then try to match that. You pretty much have to assume that the author won't be happy with the adaptation, although I'm not sure how Lisi Harrison (who created the series) feels. Also, in a book you can tell the reader things -- like what someone's thinking -- that you can't do in script or on screen so story points have to change to "show not tell" the audience something. Just because a story works in a book doesn't mean it will adapt well. We found this with the second Clique book. We had to kind of refocus the story so that it formed a cohesive movie -- with a beginning, middle and end.
What are your ten favorite books?
Oooh, that's hard. I like a lot of books. My favorite all-time book is Like the Red Panda by Andrea Seigel.
I love that book! (Read my review of Like the Red Panda.)
Back to the game plan:
Related Booklist: Hey There, Sports Fan!
Learn more about the PrettyTOUGH Books at MySpace.