Interview: Luisa Plaja
Current Mood: awake
Current Song: House score music
Split by a Kiss by Luisa Plaja is a fish-out-of-water story reminiscent of Sliding Doors. Shortly after moving to Boston from Britain, a teenage girl attends a party filled with kids from her new school. There, she kisses a popular boy - or does she? In one scenario, she does; in another, she does not. The story splits off from there, with chapters alternating between Josie, who is suddenly well-liked by her peers, and the not-so-popular Jo.
Not only is Luisa a published author, but she is a blogger and a book reviewer as well. This makes her a perfect addition to the Winter Blog Blast Tour.
You've been writing since you were a child. Now you have children of your own. Are either of them storytellers yet?
Definitely. They're both brilliant at telling stories. Aren't all children? Of course, mine have a genetic predisposition to sticking bits of paper together and 'publishing' their wonderful books.
That's adorable! You were published at a young age. When you were a teenager, you submitted short stories and other writings to magazines. What was the first publication to give you a byline?
Even though I sold quite a few stories in my teens, I didn't get a byline until I was much older, and that was in a magazine called Girl Talk, aimed at younger girls. It was a short story about a girl with a football-playing dog, although it was really about overcoming family prejudice. All in 500 words.
How did it feel to see your name in print?
I loved seeing my name in print, but I was obviously a bit more mature about it than I would have been as a teenager, and I only bought about 20 copies and talked about it non-stop for several months. The true thrill of seeing my name in print came from the moment I saw Split by a Kiss in book form, though. I'll probably never stop talking about that one.
I wrote it back-and-forth, then I lifted one story away from the other and made each story work separately, then I sliced it all up again and played with the running order of the scenes, then I repeated the whole process a few times. It was like a huge, challenging, ultimately rewarding puzzle. My favourite parts (am I allowed to say that about my own book?) are the echoes of one story in the other. I worked hard at those, although I hope they look effortless.
Your main character goes down two paths, one as popular Josie and the other as "average" Jo. Which path resembled your high school experience?
I'll give you one guess! *slightly nerdy laughter* (Note that's Luisa's own description there, not mine! She wrote that on purpose!) But I could see that the line between 'popular' and 'not' was arbitrary. It was about a lot more than how you looked, dressed and behaved, and the same qualities that landed one person in the in-crowd could lead another to be an outcast. Having said that, I will freely admit that I was a misfit at school, although I rebelled in a quiet, obedient way, so as not to disturb anyone.
Do you plan on publishing a collection of short stories in the future, or are you focusing on full-length novels now?
I'm definitely focusing on novels, and my second, Extreme Kissing, will be out in April 2009. I do still write short stories occasionally, but teenage magazines don't really feature fiction any more. I'm sad that the youth of today is growing up without photo love stories to guide them in how to stand about pointing at their friends, talking in speech-bubble-sized sound bites. I console myself by thinking of the dozens of fantastic teen novels published every year.
What prompted you to start the Chicklish blog?
I have some great online writer friends and we decided to get together to promote teenage fiction in the UK. Keris Stainton describes it brilliantly on Beth Kephart's blog. At the time we started Chicklish, there were very few UK sites dedicated to teen fiction, especially the type of fiction that doesn't tend to win awards. I would finish a book, look it up and be disappointed at the lack of discussion about it online. We wanted to change this, and I think it's happening, gradually. Our site has been active for more than two years now - incredible, but true - and our hits are ever-increasing, as are our comments from readers. Lately I've discovered some great new UK blogs by and/or for teenage readers. This makes me very happy. We also gladly accept book reviews for Chicklish from readers!
What are your ten all-time favorite books?
Oh, Little Willow, I know that you know that this is an impossible question! You only have to look at a comprehensive book site like Bildungsroman to see that narrowing a booklist down to ten favourites is a task that could take a lifetime. Even if I managed it, I'd probably change my mind after five minutes in Elsewhere. ;)
I'll tell you ten books I love right this second - books that spring to mind now because I've read them several times and I'll probably read them again. Here goes, in no particular order: Masha by Mara Kay (my childhood inspiration to write); A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone (Rachel's inspiration in Split by a Kiss); Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume; Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart; Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones; Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty; Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin; Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig, Let's Get Lost by Sarra Manning; Good Girls by Laura Ruby. Oops, that's 11. And sincere apologies to all the other books I love passionately. Please can I list a hundred instead?
This is the second of five interviews I conducted for this year's Winter Blog Blast Tour, a week-long series of author interviews being held at various blogs. Read my other 2008 WBBT interviews and consult my complete interview archive.
Tuesday's WBBT schedule:
Ellen Datlow at Chasing Ray
Tony DiTerlizzi at Miss Erin
Melissa Walker at HipWriterMama
Luisa Plaja at Bildungsroman
DM Cornish at Finding Wonderland
L.J. Smith at The YA YA YAs
Kathleen Duey at Bookshelves of Doom