Interview with Lauren Bjorkman + A Writerly Contest

I have a super-fun guest with me today – LAUREN BJORKMAN
Lauren and I met on Facebook -she liked my status messages and I liked her book- and she’s is so much fun to talk to! Get a glimpse of her awesomeness as she talks about her debut book, people watching, agents, fictional crushes and much more.
Your book is about..
My Invented Life is a comedy of errors with mistaken identities, ambiguous sexuality, skate Gods, stage geeks and true love. It’s about two sisters who adore and sabotage each other in ways that only sisters can. It’s also a romp through the theater geek crowd and a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
What about you?
I grew up on a boat and sailed all over the world with my family. When I became an adult (more or less), I kept on traveling by less watery means. Because I’m afraid of the ocean. Doing things outdoors in cities and in nature makes me happy. I love people watching.
What sparked the idea for My Invented Life
It took me some time to figure out what to write. First, I tried travel stories with a humorous twist. Think Pico Iyer or Tim Cahill. Later, I wrote a novel set in a middle school based on my personal experiences of re-entering American life after living overseas. Which gave me a taste for writing fiction. I found out that semi-autobiography, though, hampers my creativity.
Events around my high school reunion inspired me include LGBT characters in my novel. The drama of coming out to one’s classmates, even years later, intrigued me. I had to write about it!
After I finished My Invented Life, I suddenly had an insight into why the subject called to me. During my childhood and teen-aged years, my dad had asked me to keep a family secret, a secret about how my mom died. Which made me feel like an outcast—someone who is socially unacceptable. I could identify with teens that kept their sexual orientation a secret.
Also, during the writing process, I told many of my friends and acquaintances about my project. In return, many shared their secrets with me. Some were actually bi, or had a lesbian phase in college, or had a crush on another woman once or twice. This made me want to write about the in-between sexual orientations, and greatly influenced the direction my story took.
How much of yourself do you see in your characters?
I based Roz very loosely on a young woman I noticed while people watching. She gave me the idea for an energetic, slightly clueless, center-of-attention-craving character. While I’m kind of quiet and careful with other people’s feelings. Except for being the annoying little sister! Of course, I share some things with all my characters—a sense of humor, and a way of looking at the world.
I think the cover’s pretty cool. Did your input go into it?
My editor asked me for ideas, so I showed her covers I liked, and we brain stormed concepts. In the end, an in-house designer at Holt came up with the cover, though. Luckily, I like it. One blogger commented that it looks like a photo of two friends in a booth at a fair. I agree.
How did you bag your agent?
First, I researched how to query an agent, and then sent five letters to start. One agent bit, and requested a full manuscript. After reading my novel, he passed, but gave me excellent editorial feedback. I wrote him back, and he agreed to look at it again if I revised. These revisions took me almost a year! When he turned me down a second time, it broke my heart. After I recovered, I started on another project. My instructor at a novel writing workshop liked the piece I’d submitted, and referred me to his agent. The rest is history.
Give us a glimpse into the glamorous life of a published author.
LOL! I won’t be buying a mansion or hiring a driver any time soon. Actually, though, there are some glamorous parts. Like getting fan mail. And the fact that my dad keeps telling me how proud he is. I don’t mind being on the radio and in the newspaper J. And when a fan sent me a My Invented Life book trailer he’d made, I had a heart attack (the good kind). What an amazing gift.
Outline or wing it?
Outlining ruins the experience for me and wrecks my imagination. I do character sketches and loose plotting in advance, so that I have an idea where the story is going. During the first draft stage, I jot down ideas that come to me—scenes or bits of dialog—on scraps of paper or at the end of the mss if I’m on the computer. I refer to these if I get stuck. I also use them while revising.
This method means writing scenes that get cut later, or extra characters that have to be telescoped into a single character. It also requires a ton of revision. I spend about a quarter of my time writing the first draft, and the rest revising.
Sagely advice for writers..
Write what you care about. If you choose your subject with only publication in mind, your heart won’t be in it.
Have fun with revision—add in interesting character traits, spice up your dialog, add atmosphere to your scenes, and sneak in extra jokes. Revision isn’t all about commas and grammar.
And if you truly love writing, never stop!
Okay, 5 random things about yourself in the next 5 seconds.
I prefer cheap and fun jewelry. I worry about losing expensive things.
I collect nesting dolls. My favorite is a Japanese Daruma
I love popcorn, but my husband doesn’t like how it makes the house smell.
I hate lumps in my food.
I prefer to go around barefoot.
What can we expect from you next?
My next YA novel, Miss Fortune Cookie, is set in SF Chinatown. It’s about an unstable friendship triangle, love-at-first sight, teen pregnancy, and an advice blog gone awry. It will come out in 2011.
Finally, if you could date any fictional character, who would it be and why?
My first literary crushes were on Finny in A Separate Peace and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Recently, I’ve fallen for Zack in Waiting to Score, Sammy in Struts and Frets, and Peeta in The Hunger Games. I go for the sensitive, usually talkative, and slightly geeky guys. Vampire boyfriends are out of the question! I enjoy life too much.
Oh man, you had me in splits. Thank you so much for being here, Lauren 🙂
Thanks for having me, Bidisha!
Now, for the Writerly Contest. Actually, anyone, anywhere can join in provided you can write (or, erm, well, lets pretend that you can). Lauren’s giving away a writing journal WITH a My Invented Life book jacket as its cover. How cool is that?
Like I said, anyone, anywhere is eligible to enter. All you have to do is tell me why you want the writing journal in the comments section below (and leave an email link alongside). Go on!
And more importantly, My Invented Life is in stores now!
CONTEST CLOSED

20 thoughts on “Interview with Lauren Bjorkman + A Writerly Contest

  1. what an awesome interview, Bee!! so cool! great questions and really interesting answers — i love these kinds of things!thanks so much for sharing!! 😀

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  2. Hey, wonderful interview! And okay, I want that journal! Why? Because a girl can NEVER have enough storage space. In this case, for my writing ideas!lydiakang(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  3. Lovely interview Bee! I loved your questions,the answers (obviously) being even better :)And…I want the journal!! Why? Well because I am hoping some of Lauren's great ideas and wonderful writing abilities pass onto me through the journal! I am in dire need of some inspiration!! 😛 frndz.debas@gmail.com

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  4. I'd love the journal because I used to journal and write story ideas down all the time, but lately I find myself jotting down ideas and notes on random scraps of paper that I then lose. So I'd love to be able to get back to keeping things all together neatly and channel my creativity.krystenlindsay (at) gmail (dot) com

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  5. Really fun interview. I am re-inventing my life as we speak. I would love to write it sketch it whirl it twirl it whip it splash it and kiss it good day. Need that journal so I can fan its pages with love!

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  6. Such a fun interview!This book is going to the top of my TBR pile :)Would love to win the journal so I can, well, write!nitemag@rediffmail.com

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  7. Fantastic interview! ;)I want that journal because..I feel utterly compelled to keep a journal to record all of the casually stirring thoughts I have that have become lost in time, and *hopefully* Lauren's inventive creativity will help inspire me and get those thoughts back and whirring again! 🙂

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  8. Loved the interview! I can relate to the story agent broke my heart because that is what my mom is going through right now for her book. I want this journal because I actually collect journals and this journal's cover would be fab.dawnpnr(at)aol(dot)com

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