Summer Blog Blast Tour: Laura Ruby
It’s been a busy couple of years for Laura Ruby. Her debut novel, Lily’s Ghosts was published in 2003. Then came The Wall and the Wing last February, Good Girls in September, I Am Not Julia Roberts this past January, and The Chaos King, the sequel to The Wall and the Wing, in May. If you’re keeping track, that’s one middle grade mystery, two middle grade fantasies, one contemporary YA novel, and one adult fiction collection. Whew! So we’re grateful that Laura took the time to answer our questions for the Summer Blog Blast Tour.
So far you’ve had three middle-grade novels, one YA novel, and one adult story collection published. How did you get started writing for the different age groups?
As a writer, I have multiple personality disorder. When I was in high school, I wrote a lot of stuff with adult characters. After I graduated college, I wrote (or, um, tried to write) a picture book manuscript. After that, I tried my hand at a contemporary YA novel, then more stories for adults, then a middle grade. I think this is because I love to read across age groups and genres, and maybe because I get bored easily and like to change things up. Writing for difference audiences keeps me fresh creatively, allows me to try different tones, different points-of-view, different tenses, etc. But I don’t plan it. What happens is that I get a story idea and I know immediately which audience it’s for. The “process” – such as it is – is the same for all my books. The idea comes and I mull it over in my head, turning it, chewing on it, feeling it out to see if it works conceptually. Then, after I’ve decided whether I like it or not, I start to come up with some scenes. Some writers claim to hear the voices of their narrators speaking directly to them, but that’s not what happens for me. I’m more a voyeur, a fly on the wall in the lives of my characters. I watch their lives unfold, taking mental notes. And then I start to see the text on the page before I even begin to write.
You’ve written fantasy and realistic fiction. What’s the appeal of writing both? Do you have a different approach/mindset when writing each? Do you plan on sticking only to fantasy and contemporary fiction, or are you also interested in writing other genres?
Fantasy is so much fun but also a lot of work. When I write fantasy I have to spend more time world-building, discovering the laws that will govern my fantasy universe, plotting, etc. That means more outlining and a great many Post-Its pasted around my computer screen. With realistic fiction, I have a tendency to plan less and write more, letting my characters dictate the plotlines. But I don’t plan on sticking with any particular genre. I’ve published a mystery, Lily’s Ghosts, and I have a draft of an historical novel sitting on my desk waiting for revisions.
When you wrote The Wall and the Wing, did you plan on writing a sequel? Was it easier or harder than you expected? Will you write another book in the series?
I sold The Wall and the Wing with an unwritten sequel but I had NO IDEA how hard writing a sequel would be. I now have a deep, deep, DEEP respect for series writers, because coming up with a new story with the same world and characters was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. If I didn’t have the help and encouragement of my friend Anne Ursu, who was working on her series The Cronus Chronicles at the same time – The Wall and the Wing is dedicated to her and to my friend Gretchen Moran Laskas – I don’t think I would have been able to finish the book.
That said, I adore the characters and the world I created. So I’m not really sure that I wouldn’t do another book in the series. I’ll just have to wait and see if the mood strikes.
In your note at TeenReads.com, you discuss the inspiration behind Good Girls. How did you balance your anger with writing a book that was not shrill or preachy? Have you received mail from teens about the book? Also, the book deals with a pretty racy subject, yet I don’t recall it being very explicit, especially compared to several other recent YA books.
I’m often motivated to write because I’m angry about something, so writing without whining, preaching, howling at the moon, whatever, is always a big challenge, especially when I’m writing about a subject – in this case teen sexuality – I knew would freak out a lot of people. The thing is, my very adult anger at stereotypes, double-standards and privacy invasion that prompted me to write the book disappeared as soon as I started to tell Audrey’s story. Writing Good Girls was one of the most amazing experiences of my professional life; I loved working on it. And so far, the reaction from teens has been great, and sometimes heartbreaking, when they write to tell me that they, too, have had horrible rumors spread about them or had a friend betray them. They don’t have much to say about the sexual content, which I personally don’t believe is explicit in comparison to a lot of other YA novels, and really wasn’t the point of the novel anyway. What they seem to key in on is how one has to learn to move forward in the face of what seems to be a world-shattering humiliation.
Anyway, it’s up to these teen readers to decide whether what I wrote was angry or whether it was honest. Hopefully, they feel it’s the latter.
Since all your books are published under the same name, do you worry that younger fans (or their parents) will pick up one of your books meant for older readers and freak out at the content?
Oh yeah, I’ve given that a lot of thought, which is why my books are separated by age range on my website, and why I’m totally up front about the content/subject matter of Good Girls. Also, my books are shelved in completely different sections of libraries and bookstores, so there’s less of a chance of a mix-up. So far, so good.
Even if we hadn’t looked at your website, we could have guessed you’re more of a cat person than a dog person. What’s your favorite cat book (any age, any genre)?
I’d have to give that to Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy because of the god-turned-cat, Mogget.
Judging by the books you’ve written, you have pretty eclectic tastes. What books are on your nightstand now?
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (I’ve read this about four times already), Ghostwalk, by Rebecca Stott, The Poe Shadow, by Matthew Pearl, Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Any predictions regarding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Like, Snape: redeemed or reprehensible?
Oh, redeemed for sure.
Do you listen to music while you write? Can you share a playlist with us?
I love music, but I can’t listen while I write because it’s too distracting (there’s much singing and dancing and waving of arms. It gets ugly).
But here is a list are some of my current favorite songs, which would, of course, be completely different if you asked me an hour from now:
Us, Regina Spektor
Dashboard, Modest Mouse
Half-Jack, Dresden Dolls
Whole Wide World, Wreckless Eric
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, Rufus Wainwright
I Put A Spell On You, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
How did you get such a cool cover for Good Girls?
A fabulous designer and a lot of good luck. My publisher even let me have a say in the model chosen for the cover. That was so cool.
Also, what are some of your favorite YA book covers?
Anatomy of a Boyfriend gives me severe cover envy. And I think the cover for Wicked Lovely is wicked lovely. : )
Thanks again, Laura! And I agree, the cover of Wicked Lovely is gorgeous. Laura has already been interviewed by Kelly Fineman at Writing and Ruminating, Erin at Miss Erin, and Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy for the Summer Blog Blast Tour. Or, visit Laura’s website and blog.
Today’s Summer Blog Blast Tour interviews:
Eddie Campbell at Chasing Ray
Sara Zarr at Writing and Ruminating
Brent Hartinger at Interactive Reader
Justine Larbalestier at Big A, little a
Cecil Castellucci at Shaken & Stirred
Ysabeau Wilce at Bildungsroman
Jordan Sonnenblick at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Chris Crutcher at Finding Wonderland
Kazu Kibuishi at lectitans
Mitali Perkins at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast