Today, we ask Lauren about writing, education & some of our other favorite questions:
The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove and Fallen were both meticulously plotted out before I wrote them. Character descriptions, paragraph long synopses for each chapter, “big” endings, the whole deal. Both outlines (along with a few chapters) were shared with writer-friends, agents and/or editors at very early stages. And because the stories were larger and more complicated than I’d first realized, I actually did revisions on the outlines. Way more plotting than I’d ever done before.
At the end of plotting, when I was ready to plunge into the story, it was comforting to sit down every day and know I had to write a chapter where x happened, followed by y, and then z. But sometimes, it was also uninspiring. Suddenly, Y bored me, and Z felt really predictable. But it was in the outline, which fit together like a puzzle! What to do? Eventually, I realized there were days when I would have to loosen my leash from my outlines, to let the story adapt and change organically as I went along. This was a very good decision, and I think the book is stronger because of both my plotting and my plot-straying.
If you met someone in a bookstore, and they were thinking about buying your book, what would you say to convince them?
My favorite kinds of stories are the ones with humor and heart that take me on some kind of unexpected journey. I try to write the kinds of books I like to read, so ideally, that would be the way I’d describe my own stories. Though it would take a LOT of gusto to be able to say that to a stranger in a bookstore!
At Novel Novice, one of our main goals is encouraging teens to read. What would you say to reluctant teen readers to convince them to pick up a book (any book)? Why do you think reading is so important?
I think, for many of us, recreation is another way of saying escape. We all need to be able to escape sometimes, and what separates books from TV, video games, and cell-phone apps—and makes them magically better—is that they require something back from you. To escape into the world of a book requires that you, the reader, participate in some way. You have to share the workload with the author to flesh out the setting and the characters in your mind. My Luce will look very different in my head than anyone else’s Luce, the love scenes and settings are unique to each reader. Everyone who picks up a book and really gets into a story has a contribution to make, and there’s something powerful—and empowering—about that.
Tell us about an educational experience you had that changed your life.
In seventh and eighth grade, I took an honors English class called PACE. It was two periods long instead of the one hour of English most of my friends took, and the teacher, Ms. Calloway, was incredible and intense and a little bit scary. I still remember the red convertible she drove. The fire-red of her crazy hair. We studied everything from Shakespeare to rap music to the psychology of dreams to creative writing. Ms. Calloway really challenged us, and treated us like adults. It was the first class I can remember really having to think for myself. At the end of the two years, Ms. Calloway took her eighth graders to Italy for Spring Break. Most of us started saving up for the trip at the beginning of seventh grade. We also kept journals from the first day of seventh grade up through the trip to Italy and turned them into Ms. Calloway at the end. I’d written a lot in mine, poems, stories, details about the big fight I got in with my best friend when we were on the trip to Italy. I remember being so nervous to get my journal back from Ms. Calloway over the summer. All she wrote in it was, “Lauren, you are an enigma. Keep writing.” I still don’t know whether she meant that as a compliment or a what-a-weird-kid kind of thing. But a lot of times, I think this is why I’m still writing.
What question do you always wish someone would ask you during an interview?
What do you think you’re life will look like in five years? (Mainly because I keep wondering this myself.)
Now answer that question.
Culinary School. Part time. I’ll have to save some time for the new teen series I want to be writing!
The Young Adult genre is booming right now, when many others are faltering. Any idea why? Why did you decide to write in that genre?
I think this has a bit to do with what I said above about escape. Teen novels are especially good for that because—while we all need escape—teens seem to be more likely to indulge the need than adults. Which is great. We should all do more escaping. I think paranormal teen novels in particular are doing so well right now because they are just far enough removed from reality that they’re exotic, and yet the characters are just accessible enough to give us a key to unlock the story.
What books would you recommend to fans hankering for more after reading your books?
I’m always reading about four books at once. Right now, it’s Save the Cat (a how-to book about screenwriting—yes, I’m thinking about it…), The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and The Hunger Games. All of them are excellent!