Monday, January 7, 2008

The warm and wonderful Liz Gallagher...

Liz and her famous Liz-smile! Not to mention her (always required) latte...

Our debut author of the week is LIZ GALLAGHER, whose first YA novel, The Opposite of Invisible, just hit stores! Today we're sitting down and asking Liz a few questions, getting the skinny on her book, her coffee shop habit, her MFA, her agent search, and the next novel in her arsenal.

2k8: So, Liz... where do you do most of your writing? What's it look like?

LG: I write mainly in coffee shops around Seattle. The most frequent one, and the one where I wrote at least 90% of The Opposite of Invisible, is called Caffee Ladro. It's right down the street from my house, has great, long tables, and yummy lattes. (Will try to include a pic in my planned weekend excursion). Ladro has several locations around the city, but I like this one for its proximity to my bed and for its warehousey/lofty feel. The walls are dep olive and soothing red; the art rotates every month. I tend to sit at the community tables, with other people working on their laptops. There's a brigade of laptop offices in Seattle, and the coffee shops are home to lots of 'em.

2k8: Can you tell us how the book came about?

LG: I started Opposite as a short story for my first MFA workshop at Vermont College. Each semester, you submit some pages that your group will read before the MFA residency, and discuss during workshop. At first, I didn't think that Opposite would become a novel. I didn't know that I could write a novel. So it started as a short story focused on Alice and Jewel buying a dress at a junk shop for Alice to wear to the upcoming Halloween dance at school. That scene, though revised, still exists in the novel and is still important to the novel. I remember that the first sentence of the short story was something like, "It all started with this dress." That could still be the opening line, though its changed as Alice's world expanded from a short story one to a novel one. In that workshop, I had some positive feedback and\n some helpful questions. I spent my first residency, with Lisa Jahn-Clough as my adviser, working on developing the characters and taking the story beyond a short story. Then I spent the remaining three semesters taking the story in different directions 'til it was ready to send to agents! I owe this book to the focus and feedback of Vermont College's program.

2k8: And how did it find a publisher? Give us the real dirt!

LG: My goal toward the end of my time at Vermont was to find a publisher. So, I sent the manuscript to three agents (and queried one other agent, who did not want to read the manuscript). I ended up signing with Rosemary Stimola right before graduation. She submitted the manuscript to seven editors; three were interested, and Wendy Lamb (Wendy Lamb Books, Random House) made a pre-emptive offer. This path sounds so easy written out like that, but it happened "easily" at that point because I had done my homework -- had a solid manuscript to send out, knew which agents were up my alley, how to write a query, etc. I owe that to my own research and to the mentorship of my friend Lara Zeises, an author who believes in paying it forward, publishing-wise.

2k8: Did anything surprise you or caught you off guard when you were writing your book?

LG: I had one very surprising moment. It's to do with talking about what I was writing, and the realization that, for the first time, I was writing something that might be read by people other than me and my teachers: an actual audience! When my brother and his wife asked me some simple questions right around the time I signed my contract -- What's it about? Who are your characters? -- I literally couldn't answer. I started cracking up, laughing harder than I've ever laughed! I just couldn't take these characters in my head and allow them to BE in the real world! I'm getting better at that. It's actually\n a good thing for me that the publishing process is a slow one. That time has given me the chance to ease into seeing myself as an author of novels that will be on bookstore and library shelves.

2k8: Imagine you have an offer from your dream press to publish your dream book, no matter how insane or unmarketable it might be (though of course it might not be). What story do you want to write next/someday and why?

LG: Wow. I already feel like I'm living my dream! What I want to work on next is a manuscript that I'm about 75% finished with, and have been for two years. It's much darker in subject matter than Opposite; it deals with teen suicide and mental illness, and was inspired by a speech I heard given by the surviving best friend of a guerrilla artist who died mysteriously on train tracks. I just feel these characters so strongly, and I really want to spend some publisher-sanctioned time with them! I could also see myself someday working on a series of biographies of artists -- but only really strange artists! I'm interested in what's behind art, and would love to spend some time doing that.

2k8: What question won't most people know to ask you? What's your answer?

LG: Nobody's asked me yet about why I write specifically YA books. There's a simple answer: YA books are awesome. There's so much great literature on those shelves, and I'm honored to be among that literature. I recently read an interview with Nick Hornby in which he said that he'd found a hidden treasure trove in the book store, and he was talking about the YA section. Personally, I'm drawn to the themes of adolescence: firsts, friends, coming out from under your family (even if they're a great family!), goals, most of your life in front of you.

2k8: Well, we're certainly glad you *are* writing for teens! Thanks so much for hanging out with us this week, Liz. I'm sure readers will be excited to hear about all of this. Congrats and good LUCK!!!! We hope you sell a kazillion copies.

And to all you blog readers out there-- check back tomorrow for a virtual tour of Fremont, the town Opposite of Invisible is set in!


Anonymous said...

Awesome interview. I'm so glad to get to know you a little better, Liz. :)

Marissa Doyle said...

Ooh, a fellow coffee addict!

Excellent interview, Laurel and Liz!

Erin said...

Really great interview!

Courtney said...

Loved reading the interview - congratulations again!

Regina Scott said...

I love writing about artists too. There's something mystical about the way they work. But then, people might say that about writers too!

Great interview!

Little Willow said...

Happy release day!

Barrie said...

So, The Opposite of Invisible started as a short story. Very interesting.

And how great that you did an MFA at Vermont!

Thanks for the interview!

Kristin Tubb said...

What a fun interview, Liz! OPPOSITE is really making waves - way to go!

Patty Palmer said...

Thanks for the interview. Can't wait to read the book. Congratulations of becoming published!