Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Novel in Verse? What's THAT!?

So, now that you've toasted Lisa's big DEBUT novel, gotten to know her a little, and snooped around in her acknowledgements page...

We want to talk about the book itself.

But one major thing you need to understand about I Heart You, You Haunt Me is that it's a novel in verse. Which begs the questions, what's that???

(Erato, the muse of romantic poetry, is new to the YA section of the bookstore!)

2k8: Lisa? As our resident expert in verse-novels, maybe you can answer?

Well, I'm going to cheat a little. Wikipedia defines it this way:"Verse novels are a contemporary genre combining the power ofnarrative with the rich, evocative language of verse or poetry." I like that definition.

2k8: So... why did you choose to write I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME this way?

To be honest, I didn't really choose it. When I sat down to write, and Ava's pain about losing her boyfriend was trying to come from my brain to the page, that's the way it wanted to come out. And it seemed to be working really well. So I went with it.

Not all stories can be told in verse, especially books for kids/teens, because a lot of dialogue doesn't work in a verse novel. But for this book, with the paranormal aspect combined with Ava's deep grief, it worked well, and created an atmosphere I don't know that I could have created with prose.

2k8: What are some of the challenges in writing a book in verse?

I'm not sure what they might be for other writers, but for me, with this book in particular, it was challenging developing the characters. With each revision, I worked on that more and more. And now, looking back, I wish I had worked on Jackson a bit more. The other challenge is the balancing act between making each page poetic and keeping the story accessible. It's hard!

My editor and I talked about it and I decided that in any book there are going to be passages or pages that blow you away and others that don't. And it's okay - you do the best you can. And hopefully, the overall story is one that sticks with readers when the last page is turned.

2k8: What would you say to a teen who says, a story told through poems? Yuck!

I'd say, Come on, try it, you might like it!

Many people aren't quite sure they'll like it and find out the opposite is true. Even some of our own classmates have told me they were a little hesitant about reading a book in verse and discovered they really enjoyed it. Keep in mind, there is still a plot and there are still realistic teen characters, it's just that the story is told in a different way. And because there is so much white space on the page, and it's a fairly quick read, my book is especially great for reluctant readers.

2k8: Wow, that's not something I would have thought of, but it makes sense! One last question-- are there other novels-in-verse people should check out?

Oh, I love a lot of them, but some faves are:

Reaching for the Sun, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Hugging the Rock, by Susan Taylor Brown, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, by Sonya Sones, and Rubber Houses, by Ellen Yeomans. Those are all great!

2k8: Fabulous! This was wonderful , Lisa. Thanks so much for answering our questions...

And for those of you who want to know more about Lisa, and her awesome verse-novel, Lisa will be taking questions all day today (Thursday) at the YA Authors Cafe. Pop by and harass her!

Pretty please?


PJ Hoover said...

So interesting to know about the writing of this! Thanks, Lisa!

Anonymous said...

I find it so interesting that you didn't set out to write it in verse it just came out that way.

Ellen Booraem said...

That is interesting about white space, Lisa--never thought of that. That's also one of the reasons why newspaper paragraphs and the legs on the columns tend to be so short--you entice readers by building in as much white space as you can and making the stories look short.

Can't wait to read this book! I think I may be able to pick it up at the nearest independent bookstore tomorrow. Yay!

Anonymous said...

My daughter can't wait to read this--after much bragging about you, and the book, on my part.
(She's jealous that I got to read it, and she has to study for SATs first.)
when she does, she'll be your personal and official high school ambassador who will instantly get the word out to hundreds of readers.
-Nancy Viau