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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Interview with Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Author of Crazy Beautiful

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to the multi-talented Lauren Baratz- Logsted, author of numerous books for teens, adults and children. Her upcoming novel Crazy Beautiful is a modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast and releases September 7th 2009. In addition to discussing this much anticipated novel, we will talk about the responsibility that comes with writing for teens, as well as a few of her most memorable experiences within industry.

Your upcoming young adult novel Crazy Beautiful “is a contemporary re-visioning of Beauty & the Beast, told in he-said/she-said fashion, about a boy with hooks for hands and a gorgeous girl who meet on their first day at a new school.” What prompted you to want to do a modern day retelling of the classic fairytale? Was there something in particular that inspired you to give the Lucius (the beast) hooks in place of hands?

I've always loved "Beauty & the Beast." Of all the Disneyfied fairy tales it's been the most successfully translated to stage and screen, I think in large part because it's the only one where the male is as compelling, if not more so, than the female; in most other fairy tales the male exists as a goal for the female, functioning simply to make her look better. As for the hooks, I just found the idea of them compelling - so visual! But if people think I'm equating physical disabilities with beastliness, that would be a mistake. In "Beauty & the Beast," the Beast's outer condition is tragically a result of his own past behavior. The same is true for Lucius. Students at Lucius' new school treat him like a beast, because of a combination of his physical appearance and the rumors of how he got that way, but what Lucius really needs to do is come to terms with how he was the agent of his own condition and then he needs to take steps to transcend it.

Some early reviewers for Crazy Beautiful have mentioned a desire to read more of Lucius and Aurora’s back story. Any chance we’d ever see a prequel to Crazy Beautiful?

I had not thought about writing one. One thing I do think will happen is that I'll do more re-visionings of classic fairy tales and stories. I get enormous enjoyment of taking books I've loved and giving them a contemporary spin.

Many writers are encouraged by publishing professionals to find a genre that works best for them and stick with it. You’ve followed your own unique path and written novels for a wide array of ages, from the popular children's Sisters 8 Series to the psychologically suspenseful adult novel .Vertigo. Out of all the genres you’ve written in, is there one in particular that is your favorite?

I hope you won't take this as a cop-out, but I love them all! That said, I'm partial to The Sisters 8 series in many ways - how could I not be, since I get to work on it with my daughter??? But I do love YA. It's just such an exciting place for a writer to be. These days you can write YA with plots and themes as sophisticated as anything on the adult side of the bookstore, yet the audience still finds the world and ideas to be fresh, and I think that makes the writing fresher too.

As a writer, what has been your most memorable experience in the industry (good and bad)?

Most memorable? There have been a lot! Getting a starred Kirkus for my first book, the adult novel The Thin Pink Line, when no books from that publisher had ever received a starred Kirkus before - that was a good day. Having an editor tell me she gave The Thin Pink Line to Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York - tough to beat the idea of royalty maybe reading one's book. But probably the best recent memory comes from right after my family finished our first book signing for The Sisters 8 at a New England trade book show. We were standing in front of the publisher's booth and my nine-year-old daughter and coauthor, Jackie, happened to be holding a copy when two booksellers came up. "Did you read that book?" one of the booksellers asked sweetly. Jackie raised an eyebrow before replying, "I wrote that book!" After the booksellers recovered from fainting, they asked for her autograph.

Bad memories? I'm a working writer, and that means that both good and bad things happen every day. But I choose not to focus on the bad. I think I'm just lucky to have the career I have.

What is your writing schedule like? Do you have any writing quirks (favorite cup of coffee, music to listen to, cozy nook to tuck yourself away in)?

During the school year, I start work as soon as Jackie gets on the bus at seven and work almost straight through until she returns at four. I also work nights and weekends as necessary. In the summer, it's a little more catch-as-catch-can. No writing quirks here: don't drink coffee, almost never listen to music while writing, my "cozy nook" is a messy basement cave with no windows. If I have one writing quirk it's that I try to arrange the workday so that rather than working on a novel, I can just answer email correspondence etc instead when three p.m. hits so I can turn on General Hospital. I love that show and they had better not kill off Jason. Of course just because I don't have any writing quirks doesn't mean I don't have personality quirks. I'm an intensely quirky human being.

From teen pregnancy in Angel’s Choice to the loss of a parent in Secrets of My Suburban Life, your young adult novels have handled a wide variety of weighty topics. How is writing for teens different than writing for other genres? What sort of feedback do you get from teens that have read your novels and contacted you?

Teens have more demands on their time and electronic distractions than any previous generation so it becomes imperative to grab the reader early. There's not the luxury of leisurely storytelling that you sometimes see in adult fiction. I also feel a greater responsibility when writing for teens or younger. It's important to make sure you're not sending messages you don't want to be sending. As the title character says at the end of Angel's Choice, "My story should come with a warning, and that warning should say, in big letters, 'HEY, KIDS, DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!'" I wanted to be sure readers understood that I wasn't trying to write a prescription for everyone's behavior but rather, simply a description of one girl's choices. As for feedback, I love the letters I get from teens and younger. One teen wrote after reading Angel's Choice that the book made her resolve never to let others make up her mind for her. Writers can be egomaniacs and I'm no exception, but I'm also levelheaded enough to know my limitations. I know the Nobel, the Pulitzer, really all the big awards are outside my grasp, unless they start giving out awards for Best Multi-genre Writer Who Is Short and Can Kick Your Butt at Pool. But I do have that letter. That is quite a thing, and I am very lucky.

If you could go back to when you were a teenager, what advice would you give yourself?

That's easy. "Don't hurry Time. Don't be in such a rush to be older so you can do The Next Big Thing. You'll grow up before you know it and you'll be an adult for a very long time, so enjoy where you are now. Come to think of it, enjoy where you are at every stage of your life, younger or older."

Is there one question you wish an interviewer would ask you, but have yet to ever hear?

(insert starry-eyed look) "Lauren, why are you so wonderful?" Kidding. Kidding! Really, you're doing a great job - I don't want to louse it up!

Can you share with us a teaser or sneak peek look into Crazy Beautiful?

If I'd known then what I know now...

I'd have touched everything in sight, everything I could get my hands on. I'd have grabbed the nearest girl I could find and, not caring how crazy she thought me, touched my hands to her face just to know what that feels like.

Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?

I, never having loved before, have no real answer to the question.

What upcoming projects are you currently working on?

After Crazy Beautiful, which comes out on Sept 7, I have two more YAs scheduled: The Education of Bet, due out next spring and set in the Victorian era, about a 16-year-old girl who impersonates a boy to receive a proper education; and The Twin's Daughter, due out fall 2010, dark suspense about a Victorian teen whose world is turned inside out when she discovers her society mother has an identical twin who grew up in the poorhouse. In 2010 the next two volumes of The Sisters 8 series for young readers will also be published: Book 5: Marcia's Madness in April and Book 6: Petal's Problems in September.

A very special thanks to Lauren for taking the time out to speak with me!

You can visit Lauren at her Official Website, her RedRoom blog, Myspace, Amazon and twice a month at Teen Fiction Cafe! Crazy Beautiful releases September 7th 2009 and is available for pre-order now!


Lady Lazarus said...

I'm loving the sound of Crazy Beautiful :-)

jennilovevirgo said...

Great interview! This looks like a great book, and I can't wait to read it. I love retellings of classic stories.


Cat Connor said...

Great interview Lauren! Your upcoming projects blew me away!! :-)

infiniteshelf said...

Great interview! I love her answer to "What advice would you give to your teenage self?" I think I'd give my teenage self the same, and that would have said a lot of stress!

Fantastic Book Review said...

Fantastic Interview! I wonder what classic fairy tale stories she's thinking about retelling. I look forward to reading CB!

bookjourney said...

That is a great interview! What diversity in writing! How much fun is that! I hope to write one day and this author really inspires me!

Really an awesome post!

Kim said...

I loved her advice to her teenage self --I could've used that when I was a teenager. The upcoming projects look amazing, especially the one about the Victorian teen who finds out about her mom's twin!