Interview: Sarah Mlynowski
Current Mood: awake
Current Song: We're Here to Tell You from Whisper House by Duncan Sheik
Whether writing for teens for adults, Sarah Mlynowski always infuses her stories with fun. This upbeat author has found success with her bewitching YA comedies as well as her contemporary tales about twenty- and thirty-somethings. I'm pleased to be part of her blog tour today, and I hope you'll find this interview to be magical.
You were only twenty-four when MILKRUN was published. Was it the first novel you completed and submitted for consideration? What inspired the story?
Milkrun was the first novel I ever completed. At the time, I was working in the marketing department at Harlequin Enterprises. My job was to come up with cover ideas for books such as The Texas Sheik's Runaway Princess and The Millionaire Cowboy. Meanwhile, my boyfriend had just broken up with me to backpack in Australia, I shared a tiny mouse-infested apartment with a neat-freak roommate, and I kept dating weirdos who either secretly lived with their girlfriends, had gambling issues, or sang show tunes while in the movie theatre. You could say I was somewhat disillusioned with the possibility of Happily Ever After. I decided that the juxtaposition between the books I marketed and my single-in-the-big-city life would be the perfect experience to explore in fiction. Hence Milkrun. It's about Jackie, a romance copyeditor whose boyfriend dumps her to backpack in Thailand. Jackie lives in a mouse-infested apartment with a neat freak roommate and can't find a decent guy to date. It's, um, not autobiographical at all.
You then wrote multiple novels for adults - MILKRUN, FISHBOWL, AS SEEN ON TV, MONKEY BUSINESS, ME VS. ME - before dipping your toe into the waters of YA with BRAS & BROOMSTICKS. While writing your first novel for teens, what felt like the biggest challenge?
Writing YA felt really natural to me. But I guess the biggest challenge was learning to pick up the pace. I tend to take a few chapters to get to the story in my adult books, but my teen editors wanted me to get to the action right away.
Which (if any, if all) of your adult novels are appropriate for teen readers?
I'd say all of my adult novels are at least 16 and up. Milkrun and Fishbowl are probably the most teen friendly.
BROOMSTICKS led to three more books: FROGS & FRENCH KISSES, SPELLS & SLEEPING BAGS, and the brand-new PARTIES & POTIONS. Did you always intend for Rachel's story to be a series?
I always wanted to write lots of books about Rachel. I sold Bras & Broomsticks and Frogs & French Kisses together. I wanted to introduce the love interest in the first book and have a love spell go wrong in book two. After I finished Bras, I got the idea for Spells & Sleeping Bags. I thought it would be fun for Rachel's powers to finally kick in and go out of control at sleepaway camp. Spells was supposed to be the last book, but then Random House asked if I would do one more, and I was more than happy to. Since most of my readers wanted to know if Rachel would ever tell her boyfriend she was a witch I thought that secrecy and identity could be central themes in the book - concepts I hadn’t explored yet in the series.
How many more books are planned? Will there ever be a book from Miri's point of view?
At the moment, Parties & Potions is the last one, but who knows? I would love to write a book from Miri's perspective. What happens when Miri gets to high school - would she go to witch school, or would she follow in her sister's steps and accidentally convert the gym into a barn?
Who is your favorite fictional witch?
Glinda from The Wizard of Oz! She was so pretty and sparkly. I really, really wanted ruby slippers. I once got grounded for coloring in my brand-spanking-new white Keds with red marker. They looked awesome though.
You've written short stories as well, such as those in AMERICAN GIRLS ABOUT TOWN and SIXTEEN: Stories about That Sweet and Bitter Birthday. Do you ever have any short stories that turn into novels or vice-versa?
Kind of. The story I wrote for American Girls About Town was about a girl whose reality splits in two when she's debating cheating on her boyfriend on an airplane. In one reality she does, in the other she doesn't. I had a lot of fun with the split reality and decided to write Me vs. Me, which is about a women whose life splits in two - in one world, she moves to New York for her dream job, and in the other, she stays in Arizona with her fiancé.
How did you come to team up with Farrin Jacobs for SEE JANE WRITE: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit?
Farrin had been my editor for Me vs. Me. I thought that it would be fun to write a chick lit how-to book together. I liked the concept of the dual editor/author perspectives. I pitched her the idea, and she agreed.
How do you define the term "chick lit?" Do you love, loathe, embrace, or tolerate the phrase?
I'd define it as upbeat and funny fiction about female characters and their everyday issues. Basically, they're coming-of-age novels about young women. The phrase doesn't bother me at all. It's a marketing term, and it helps readers find the kind of books they're searching for. I do hate when any book written by a woman about a woman is labeled as chick-lit, though - and that seems to happen a lot.
When we spoke in May, you were on tour with E. Lockhart and Lauren Myracle to promote your collaborative novel HOW TO BE BAD. Do you prefer in-person events or blog tours?
In-person events, definitely. Blog tours are nice because I can do them with Law & Order in the background (although I've seen the episode currently playing on my television about seventy-four times), but the isolation is my least favorite part about being a writer. That was one of the reasons writing with Emily and Lauren was so much fun - it made the writing process far less lonely. I was supposed to tour for Parties & Potions but we had to cancel since I'm eight months pregnant. Blog tour to the rescue!
Congratulations to your family! Congratulations also on your various entertainment deals. More than one of your books have been optioned to be made into movies or TV shows. Any news on the Hollywood front?
Three of my books have been optioned - Bras & Broomsticks, Milkrun and Fishbowl. Currently, only Fishbowl is still under option. My fingers and toes are crossed it gets made.
I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed for you. What are your top ten favorite books?
Just ten? I know I'm going to forget something, but . . .
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
White Noise by Don Delilo
On Writing by Stephen King (mostly for writers)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume
Sati by Christopher Pike
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling (I'd say my favorite was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Sarah Mlynowski (2010)
Interview: E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle
Book Review: How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mlynowski
Book Reviews: The Magic in Manhattan books by Sarah Mlynowski
Visit Sarah's website.
Read an excerpt of Parties & Potions + watch the trailer!
Follow Sarah Mlynowski's blog tour!
January 13th: There.com
January 14th: Teen Book Review
January 15th: The Well-Read Child
January 16th: Melissa de la Cruz
January 20th: The Page Flipper
January 21st: E. Lockhart
January 22nd: Bildungsroman
January 23rd: Young Adult Books Central
January 26th: Ally Carter
January 27th: Cynsations
January 28th - February 6th: Random Buzzers