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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview with Laura Ruby and Bad Apple Giveaway!

Laura Ruby lives in Chicago with her family. She spent much of her misguided youth writing angry, angsty poems and dyeing her hair lots of colors not found in nature. She is the author of GOOD GIRLS and PLAY ME as well as several other books for children and adults.

I'm thrilled to welcome author Laura Ruby to my blog. Laura is the author of numerous books for children, teens and adults. She stopped by to talk about her latest novel, BAD APPLE, which is in stores now.

In BAD APPLE, sixteen year old Tola Riley is an outcast with her ever changing hair color and unorthodox clothing style. After being accused of having an affair with her favorite art teacher, Tola’s whole world is turned even more upside down from the scandal. Can you discuss how the idea for BAD APPLE evolved from a tiny spark into a full length novel?

I came to this story in a very long, roundabout sort of way. The earliest draft was written more than fifteen years ago, when I was very young. At the time, my family was a little like Tola’s in that there were divorces, remarriages, reconfigurations that were difficult for me to deal with. I rewrote the story many times over the years with the family issues in mind. I knew that children of divorce often seemed jaded and sarcastic, but so many – myself included – were secretly romantic. Secretly yearned for a fairy tale ending. So, I stumbled onto Tola’s fairy tale obsessions.

Again, however, that wasn’t enough to focus the novel. So, I worked on a number of other projects, including GOOD GIRLS, but then read an adult novel called THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, which is about a woman who, when she was a teen, claimed she’d been kidnapped by a man and abused. Later, her therapist writes a book about the incident, claiming that she made the story up. BUT…did she? Or…? More than a decade later, she doesn’t even know for sure.

The book is the mutability of memory, and the way other people try to tell our stories for us, especially when we’re young. And sometimes the stories that people tell about us are so powerful, we forget our own version of our stories. We give up our identities to others. (Also, the title comes from another book, a work of non-fiction called THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, which is a psychology book about the importance of fairy tales).

The author of this novel, Heidi Julavits, said that she had been inspired by another novel, IN THE LAKE IN THE WOODS, by Tim O’Brien, which is the story of a man who could have murdered his wife, but no one can prove it. This story is told in numerous, often contradictory viewpoints.

After reading these novels, I kept thinking about fairy tales and fairy tale tropes (such as poison apples), about crime and punishment, and about rumor. A number of YA novels had been written about student-teacher affairs, but I wondered what would happen if a girl with an already tarnished reputation was accused of an affair, but there was no real proof? How much chaos would ensue? How would her fractured family cope? How would such a girl explain herself when she’s long been thought a storyteller? And where would such a girl find her happy ending?

Tola is a sixteen year old girl with a razor sharp wit and an obsession with Brother’s Grimm fairy tales. With all the modern day remakes popping up in books and movies, why do you think people keep returning to the old fairy tales, even in today’s modern times?

One reason is the shared knowledge of them, I think. We all know the tales, we can all reference Little Red Riding Hood, or Snow White, or Cinderella. None of them require explanation.

I also think fairy tales are powerful because — as fantastical as they can be — they seem to be hyped-up and/or boiled down versions of modern situations. A girl who feels out of place in a new stepfamily can relate to Cinderella or Snow White. Any child who feels lost or abandoned gets Hansel & Gretel.

In BAD APPLE, Tola’s nemesis starts a slanderous website called “TruthAboutTolaRiley.com to hurt Tola’s credibility. In GOOD GIRLS, Audrey Porter is humiliated when a compromising photo spreads around like wildfire. What types of reflection and discussion are you hoping to initiate among young readers? If there was one message you'd want them to reflect upon and possibly apply to their lives, what would that be?

I do have an obsession with technology, no? Even in my second teen novel, PLAY ME, my main character is plagued by an internet troll who derails his hopes to win an MTV movie-making contest.

Okay, so what’s with all this internet/cell phone/troll stuff? What fascinates me isn’t so much that people use the technology for ill. Of course they do. In the age of paper and pens people wrote nasty notes, scrawled obscene things on bathroom walls, passed horrible gossip in the hallways or the lunchroom, etc. The thing that’s so different about today’s technology is twofold. 1) That people can remain anonymous, and that anonymity can lead people to say and do waaaaaay more vicious things than they might say/do in person, or if everyone knew where the rumors were coming from. And 2) the speed at which rumors/photos can make the rounds.

I have to admit that when I’m writing a book, I’m thinking less about lessons and messages readers could take away from the book and much more about telling a good story. But now that BAD APPLE is out, I guess I’m hoping that readers consider that a lot of what’s blaring around them — the texting, the twittering, the facebooking, the blogging, the trolling — is a great wall of noise. That the most important voice is your own, and you have to work hard to make sure it doesn’t get drown out by everyone else’s.

With the technology available to us today, it’s easy for people to hide behind screen names and become more vicious than ever with the types of lies and cyber bullying they can involve themselves with. Many teens (particularly young girls) have had to endure the stigma of having their reputation soiled by unfair rumor spreading. What advice would you offer a young girl in Tola's shoes?

I would say firstly, that the people who have a picture of you, or are spreading gossip about you do not own you. They have an image, or an idea of you, or a story about someone who looks like you, but it is NOT you. They don’t know what’s in your heart. They don’t know what’s in your head. Basically, they know squat.

Secondly, you have the option of turning it off and tuning it out. I know how hard this is. I used to read every comment, every review I could find about all my books. There are always people who won’t connect with your work and that’s fine, I don’t mind a critique. Every once in a while, however, someone would say something thoroughly horrible or nasty or incredibly weird and/or personal about me or something I’d written, and I would have nightmares over it. No matter how many nice things I’d read before, these little scraps of viciousness and disease would take over my thoughts, torturing me. A friend of mine said, “Uh, how about you stop reading all that crap?”


At first, this seemed impossible. I thought I HAD to know what everyone was thinking. But I don’t. And neither do you. You can pick and choose who to read, who to listen to, who to value.

So, I’d set up boundaries as best you can. I’d erase vicious blog posts or disallow comments altogether if that’s what you have to do. Don’t friend people you don’t like, and unfriend people who are nasty. Don’t read vicious comments about yourself, don’t listen to crank calls, etc. If you stumble onto something, step away from the computer/phone. Refuse to “listen.” Change your cell phone number if you have to. Whatever it takes.

You are a successful author who has written in adult, children’s and teen genres. Out of all the novels you’ve written, from the collection of short stories in I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS to the childrens novel THE CHAOS KING, is there one book that was your favorite to write? Which one, if any, was the most difficult to complete as well?

The weird thing about writing is that though you’d think you get better at it, each book is its own unique thing, has its own unique process. In other words, I don’t write in the same way twice. I’m Not Julia Roberts was eight years in the making. I spent that time writing and rewriting short stories, and then trying to fit them in the right order. I wrote the first draft of The Wall and the Wing, a fantasy for children, in just a few months. And, as I said earlier, the first pages of BAD APPLE were written in the mid-nineties.

But if I have to say which book was the hardest for me to write, I’d have to say THE CHAOS KING. It was a sequel to THE WALL AND THE WING, which I had a great time writing. But I’d never written a sequel before, and had the most difficult time trying to figure out how to get back into the story, how to view the characters, what the plot should be. After that experience, I have new respect for people who write series books. I can’t imagine doing that all the time.

As for the book that was my favorite to write, I’d have to say GOOD GIRLS. That book just flowed out of my fingers. Didn’t feel like work at all. And of course I have a soft spot for my first novel, LILY’S GHOSTS (a middle grade ghost story) just because I love ghost stories, and always will.

What type of feedback do you receive about your books from readers? Has there been one sentiment that especially touched you?

There was one girl who wrote me an email soon after the publication of GOOD GIRLS, something that has stuck with me for a few years now. She was only 13 years old, but she had experienced the same kind of humiliation that Audrey in my book had. She’d been taken advantage of, bullied, ostracized by friends and family. She said that when she read GOOD GIRLS, she got back a piece of herself, a little piece of herself that she didn’t even know was lost. I sometimes read her letter at conferences, and every time I do I have a hard time keeping my voice steady, I’m so moved by it.

Do you have any advice for all aspiring writers out there?

Just the boring stuff. Read everything you can. Even the stuff you don’t think you’ll like, cause you never know. And write, write, write. Practice! Make sure you finish what you start if you possibly can.

One more hint: read what you write aloud. You’ll hear repetitive words and phrases, clunky sentences, bad dialogue, boring spots, etc. so much more clearly when you read your work aloud. That’s something I try to do as much as I can.

Can you talk about any upcoming projects you are working on right now? What can we look forward to from you next?

Hmm. Well, I just finished a draft of a mystery for middle-schoolers, though I’m not sure how long it will take to polish it up. And I’m working on a sort of fantasy, sci-fi-ish adventure for teens. Another YA, a love story. And then a horror novel, also for teens. I’m not sure which of these I’ll settle into yet, which will pique my interest enough to follow through to the end. I guess it will just have to be a surprise. : )


Junior Tola Riley doesn’t care what people say about her. She knows her ever-changing hair color and goth clothes make her an easy target. Whatever. But the latest rumor is different.... The entire school believes she had an affair with her art teacher. The rumors may be a lie, but the fallout is all too real. Will Tola finally stand up for the truth?

With a heroine you'll root for and a truly relevant story, Laura Ruby has once again brought the authentic teen experience to life for readers who relish dark humor and razor-sharp wit.
You can read my review of Bad Apple HERE.
You can purchase Bad Apple HERE.


Laura has generously offered to give one signed copy of Bad Apple away to a lucky winner!!

To Enter:
Leave a comment for Laura

Bonus Entries:
Link/Post to any social network of your choice

Contest Ends:
December 13th at Midnight Eastern Standard Time
(US Only Please)


Bethie said...

I love that Laura include technology in her books. These things are such a big part of young people's lives.

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

StephTheBookworm said...

This book sounds amazing. I think it is so touching that Good Girl helped that 13 year old feel better about herself. Just goes to show how books can truly be life changing. What a wonderful interview, and I plan on checking out many of your books.


Dar said...

No need to enter me Kim. Just dropping by to say I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

~Jennifer~ said...

Bullying is so common but when it happens, kids and teens always feel so alone. I think it's great that you show how vicious people can be to each other in your books. Once you realize that it happens to just about everyone at some point, it makes it a little easier to get through.

jennsicurella at verizon dot net

RKCharron said...

Thank you for the excellent interview. I enjoyed learning more about Laura Ruby and BAD APPLE.
Thanks for sharing.
All the best,
PS - Posted about this interview & giveaway on my blog for Fri Nov 20th 5am EST.

Wendy said...

Hi, Laura!

I love the cover for Bad Apple! Green ones are totally my favorite. :)

Great interview!

Wendy said...

Oh! I linked to your interview on my blog. :)

Andrea [Buried In Books] said...

Looks like a good read! It's been on my TBR :D

+ sidebar: ireadd.blogspot.com

Thanks :D

carrie said...

I was really moved by all the things Laura Ruby said about internet bullying and the girl who wrote her that letter. I'd LOVE to read Bad Apple! Thanks for an amazing interview Kim & Laura!!


brizmus said...

What a lovely interview! I can't believe she wrote the first draft 15 whole years ago. Craziness!
I wasn't sure about this book from the cover (which is, of course, how I judge a book), but the interview makes it sound fascinating! Grimm's Fairy Tales are super cool!


Lindsay's Photographys said...

I would LOVE to win this!
Thankyou!! :D:D:D:D



Jessy said...

It's really nice that you write things that teens can relate to. I was touched by the fan letter you received. I just think that's great that your book helped a teen that much. It's inspiring.

+1-Tweeted: http://twitter.com/Emma015/statuses/5893868461

findjessyhere at gmail dot com

terin said...

Sounds intriguing. Would love to win this book.


Jake Lsewhere said...

I have to commend Laura on saying that when she's writing she is just trying to tell a good story. It seems too many authors, especially those writing for young people, work backwards from a capital M message and tack a story on to it.

Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

tetewa said...

I'd like to be included, count me in! tWarner419@aol.com

Praying Mom said...

Laura, It seems like you can relate well to the teen readers! You topics are goo if your fans email you saying they relate to your characters!

I have a blog award for you!
I enjoy dropping by and reading often. I'll try to comment more! =)


Ashley said...

Ooh another book that's been on my TBR list for awhile! Please enter me, thanks. booksobsession(at)gmail(dot)com

I'm a follower and I posted this on my sidebar at http://booksobsession.blogspot.com

jpetroroy said...

I've been hoping to read this for a while!

jpetroroy at gmail dot com

+1 tweeted at https://twitter.com/jpetroroy/status/5905027533

Anonymous said...

I loved this post...please add my name to the giveaway. thanks.


Jill of The O.W.L. said...

Thanks for this interview. I feel like I really understand what this book is about now. Sometimes the summaries just don't tell you enough.

Enter me please :)

foltzsfantasticbooks at gmail.com

Jake Lsewhere said...

I've also blogged about this giveaway here.


Ann Diana Dinh, said...

I totally agree with Laura on her advice she would give advice to young girls. People who gossip about you are not worth your time!


Martha Lawson said...

would love to win this one!!

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Martha Lawson said...

I follow on google.

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Martha Lawson said...

I subscribe by email

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

purplg8r said...

This book looks so good and is on my WL! And your upcoming projects sound intriguing too!

And I blogged about the contest here.


Veronica :) said...

Laura, this books sounds and looks amazing :) I really hope I win this!! If I don't win this, I'll probably buy it (but still, I reallyreally wanna win this!) I love the main character already. I already have a full-blown detailed image on the main character! =D

Sidebar! http://www.theveronicaproject.blogspot.com

email. theveronicaproject[at]gmail[dot]com

throuthehaze said...

This book sounds very interesting. I would definitely love to read it.

throuthehaze at gmail dot com


To Enter:
Thank you Laura for being generous and giving away your book. It truly sounds like an amazing read!

Bonus Entries:
I linked about contest on my blog sidebar:http://lafemmereaders.blogspot.com/

Thanks Kim!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kim, for asking such thoughtful questions. And thanks everyone, for taking the time to read and comment!


Laura Ruby

Anonymous said...

Laura, this sounds like a wonderful book and thanks for the interview!

BONUS ENTRY: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/245685-bad-apple-by-laura-ruby

Jackie Noel said...

Ohhhh! This one looks really good! Regardless of if I win, looks like I will be reading it. And what an attractive cover!


Link posted in my sidebar of blog:

And Tweeted: http://twitter.com/teenbookguide/status/6053946100

-Jackie =]

mabelilly28 said...

I too will always find fairy tales some of the fascinating literature available!

mabelilly28 at yahoo dot com

aurora M. said...

I had never heard of this book but after reading the interview I will put it on my must read list...Maybe someone will get this for me for Christmas! Please enter me in your contest.

Sarah (Limerick) said...

I like that comment Laura made about being abused on the internet. That although they may have a picture of you or a name, it isn't you. That's the most important things we have to realize. But I admit, I've never heard of any YA student-teacher affairs before.

I linked this contest to my sidebar

Thanks for the contest Kim!
two_of_hearts_101 at yahoo dot com

Marie said...

This sounds like a great book and very relevant. I was bullied constantly throughout my school years, I can only imagine how much worse it would have been with the technology available today!


Marie said...

This sounds like a great book and very relevant. I was bullied constantly throughout my school years, I can only imagine how much worse it would have been with the technology available today!


The Prom Queen said...

What a GREAT interview! I'd love to win this book! Laura, your writing skills are so amazing!




mindy said...

your writing style is phenomenal thanks minsthins at optonline dot net

Amaliazy said...

I read another interview with Laura, this book sounds so great, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.


Linda Henderson said...

I enjoyed the interview very much. The book sounds very interesting and I would love to read it.

seriousreader at live dot com

Deedles said...

Thank you for the interview. This sounds like a great read.

Homemaker said...

Hi Laura!! I have and love your book "I'm Not Julia Roberts"!! If this book is just as good as that one then you got me!
Thanks for writing great books :o)


Anonymous said...

The book sounds like a great read.


nfmgirl said...

This sounds interesting! And I think it could help satisfy my YA challenge for 2010! Please count me in. Thank you!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...


nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

aqtbenz said...

This book sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it!

Blogged: http://qtbookworm.blogspot.com
Twittered: http://twitter.com/abbey_lee
Twittered on my other account: http://twitter.com/qtbookworm
Facebooked: http://www.facebook.com/#/profile.php?ref=profile&id=829782801

Aik said...

I've always wanted to read this book!


aikychien at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I would love to read this book. It looks very interesting!

nicoliolipoli said...

Laura, I came soo close to getting your book, but I ran out of money on my barnes and noble girtcard :(


Nancye said...

This sounds like an awesome book! Thanks for the giveaway!

Tweet! Tweet!


nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net