Next week, Liz will officially become a published author when her debut novel The Opposite of Invisible hits the shelves on January 8th. I'm so happy for her. The book is delightful, and I just know it is going to find its way into a lot of hearts.
Liz and I both like to talk - to others or to ourselves - so here we are, talking to each other, and letting you listen in!
Your book begins with the line:
"Some girls have journals. I talk to my poster."
How about you?
I talk to myself! There's a pretty constant dialogue going on in my head, between me and . . . some other version of me. My conscience? Maybe, but it's more like a best friend in my brain.
When I was younger (and this is embarrassing to admit), I'd pretend to talk to Oprah. That's actually an idea I'm trying to work into the character I'm writing now; I think characters who are as internal as mine tend to be need some sort of outlet for their toughts/emotions/plans.
I've always been bad about keeping journals; I'd start them and then totally slack off. I have one from when I was about eight years old, though. It has entries like, "Today I have gum!" and "The Cosby Show is on tonight!" Scintillating stuff.
The poster is real, though. And the details about where it came from are, too: I got it on a trip to the Picasso museum in Barcelona.
From the very start of the book, it is apparent that Alice and Jewel have a strong, long-time friendship. Did you draw from any of your own experiences while crafting these characters?
I write a lot of boy-girl friendships, and I'm not sure why. I certainly never had a boy best friend. I do have some awesome friendships that go back to kindergarten (and elementary and middle school, and some that are much younger but no less important!), and I thought a lot about how I acted and wanted to act when I was in 8th and 9th grade to write the friendship scenes between Alice and Jewel, like when they shop at the junk store. I would've loved doing stuff like that, and drinking lattes in the rain. I was definitely more an observer than a doer. Still am.
You set your novel in your own Seattle neighborhood. Have you ever caught a glimpse of someone who resembles one of your characters?
That would freak me out. No, but most of the landmarks are real. I live just half a block from the Troll. I do know some people who are about Alice and Jewel's age, and I think they're pretty true to Seattle teenagers. The Seattle teenagers I know seem very aware culturally and have a lot of independence. And cool hair.
Alice is an introvert whose art helps her come out of her shell, just a little, just enough. Do you share any of her artistic skills?
I wish I did, but I am not a visual artist at all. When I worked with preschool-aged kids (which I did for five years), I loved drawing with them. A new set of markers or pastels is a beautiful thing.
Who are your favorite artists?
Pretty much all of the artists in the book! I love Picasso, and even have a tattoo of one of his drawings. I'm not so into cubism, but I love Picasso's simple drawings and paintings, and his posters.
In college, I went through a phase of being very interested in Duchamp and Dada artists -- actually, I'm still kind of in that phase. I also love Matisse, for color and shape. Van Gogh's famous paintings, sunflowers and Starry Night, will always be some of my favorites. Dali's museum in Figures, Spain, is one of the coolest places I've ever been. Any ideas for my next tattoo?
Instead of being stereotypical wholly nasty types, the would-be antagonists in the story are drawn in gray. Was it difficult to make them likable? Likewise, was it difficult to give faults to your main characters?
Oh, yeah. Making Simon and Vanessa not just big ol' manipulative meanies was the biggest challenge for me in writing the book. But I like to write about people who seem real, and no one person is all good or all bad. Just ask the kids who write in to the magazine Highlights for Children (where I worked for a year): they're always saying that Goofus and Gallant don't seem real and that Goofus should do something nice. Those kids are onto something big. Giving faults to main characters isn't as difficult for me -- I know when I start thinking about a new main character that she or he needs to have faults so that he or she has something to strive for; if there were no faults, there would be no story.
At your website (which I was happy to create), you list some books you wish you'd written. You included Bringing Up the Bones by Lara Zeises, which I also love, and which is also a boy-girl friendship. Do you recommend any other similar titles?
Ron Koertge is someone who writes about boys and girls a lot, with overtones of romance but more of a grounding in friendship. STONER AND SPAZ is one of his that works like that. Also Carrie Jones' TIPS ON HAVING A GAY EX-BOYFRIEND, though in that one it's pretty immediately obvious why they're just friends. Still a great read!
I adore Say Goodnight, Gracie by Julie Reece Deaver, but it's tragic.
I'll have to check out Say Goodnight, Gracie.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
[This is] difficult!
When I like an author, I really like an author:
Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
Love, Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
Feed (MT Anderson)
Burger Wuss (MT Anderson)
Octavian Nothing (MT Anderson)
Blasts from the past:
The Big Orange Splot (Daniel Pinkwater)
Miss Nelson is Missing (Harry G. Allard and James Marshall)
And, a theme:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson)
Holidays on Ice (David Sedaris)
See what Liz has to say at her LiveJournal.
Attend Liz's upcoming signings:
Saturday, January 12th
Chester County Book Company
975 Paoli Pike (West Goshen Center)
West Chester, PA
@ 1:00 PM