Winter Blog Blast Tour: Lily Archer
The Poison Apples is one of those books that you find yourself reading out loud to other people because there’s so many good parts that need to be shared to be fully appreciated. I personally loved the bits about Reena’s stepmother who seems to outdo her step children in the realm of being ethnic. I had the chance to interview Lily Archer and find out a little more about her writing process and her future plans.
So all you Poison Apple fans, read and enjoy.
How did you come up with the idea of The Poison Apples?
The idea for The Poison Apples came to me while I was sitting in a movie theater. I don’t even remember what movie I was watching.
Suddenly I thought: three girls form a secret society to take refuge from/get revenge on their stepmothers. I liked it as a kind of “high concept” idea, but then I really started thinking about the moral implications of it all, what evil really means, etc.
Can you describe your writing process? Do you listen to music or do anything special for inspiration?
I actually CAN’T listen to music–it influences my writing to such an extent that if I listen to different songs while writing, each paragraph appears to be written by a different person. So I have to sit in silence, and just listen to the voices in my brain.
Readers get a first person narration from each of the girls, instead of just one point of view. Why write from the point of view of all three instead of just one or using a third-person narration?
I decided to let all three girls narrate the book because one of the things I’m most interested in is the totally fractured nature of our social universe. Honestly, I was tempted to let the STEPMOTHERS narrate half the book, but then it would have ended up being a thousand pages long. Anyway, the fact that each girl tells her own story allowed me to play with the idea of the unreliable narrator. All the girls are WRONG at some point during the book. It also means that I–the author–was never pretending to fashion some kind of objective portrait of an evil stepmother. Shanti Shruti feels evil to Reena, and that’s all that matters.
Writing humor is pretty tough but you pull it off effortlessly in The Poison Apples, do you have any insights or advice to writers as to how to communicate humor well?
Whenever I try to be funny, I fail completely. It’s when I don’t care about being funny and start writing truthfully that things end being kind of comedic. Real life is really, really weird and funny. You don’t have to try to make it anything other than what it is.
Is Reena Paruchuri’s character based on a real person? She’s the coolest!
Unfortunately, she’s not. She’s little bits of a lot of people I know, a little bit of myself, and my fantasy of the Best Friend I Never Had at boarding school.
Which of your characters were you most like as a teen? And which of your characters would the teenage you have most wanted to be like?
Oh, man. I think I was a lot like Molly Miller, although when I was sixteen I sort of unexpectedly morphed into Alice Bingley-Beckerman without realizing it. When a guy asked me out for the first time I honestly thought someone was playing a trick on me. I would’ve liked to be like Reena, because she’s so self-confident and funny. And she has great clothes.
If The Poison Apples were turned into a movie who would you cast as Alice, Reena, and Molly?
Great question. I can’t say that I haven’t secretly fantasized about this already. I think Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Big Love) would be a great Alice. I’m still thinking about Reena and Molly. Let me know if you have any ideas!
The cover of The Poison Apples is eye-catching. Did you collaborate with a designer to get the end result?
It was all Rich Deas, who’s the creative director at Feiwel and Friends. They emailed me the cover and I was like: oh my god. I actually like this.
Are you currently working on another book? Like a sequel to The Poison Apples perhaps?
I am working on another book. It’s also about friendship, in its way, but this one takes place in China, in the Empress Dowager’s court. The lives of the Empress Dowager and her ladies-in-waiting were unbelievably decadent and fascinating.
Any advice for young women growing up with an evil stepmother?
Instead of thinking about her as “evil,” try figuring her out. Is she crazy? Is she traumatized? What was her childhood like? Even though being forced to deal with a (bad) step-parent is really, really hard (and ideally none of us would have to go through it), it is kind of an incredible learning experience. You will be way smarter and more mature and able to deal with crazy people than your friends with the super-functional-happy married parents.
Evil stepmothers are a common motif in fairy tales. What are your favorite fairy tales?
Maybe Hansel and Gretel. It’s just so WEIRD. Also A.S. Byatt wrote a short story/fairy tale called “The Thing in the Forest,” and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve read in recent years.
Who are your literary influences?
In terms of YA and children’s literature: Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones, Norton Juster, and this very strange but amazing book I read when I was thirteen about dolls in an attic who are also dead people? And who also eat the wallpaper? Whoa. I should go back and find out the title. But I think about it all the time.
Thanks Lily! We’re looking forward to your upcoming book. I think I speak for all the fans of The Poison Apples when I say, please write a sequel to The Poison Apples we’d love to know what happens to Kristen.
Visit these other cool cat sites for more author interviews:
Loree Griffin Burns at Chasing Ray
Rick Riordan at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Gabrielle Zevin at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Dia Calhoun at lectitans
Shannon Hale at Miss Erin
Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple at Shaken & Stirred
Alan Gratz at Interactive Reader
Lisa Yee at Hip Writer Mama