Recently I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu. I met Corey when she came to Portland for Wordstock Festival this past October. She was delightful and I was excited to hear her talk a bit about herself and her book OCD Love Story. I KNEW I had to ask her questions about her upcoming book Life By Committee as soon as I finished it. The book totally gave me Book Hangover…YES that IS a thing thank you very much….so here we are…
Please note, the below interview does contain spoilers for Life By Committee.
A long time ago I watched an amazing french film called LOVE ME IF YOU DARE. It’s like a very very dark Amelie. I saw it for the first time probably ten or twelve years ago. And I knew I wanted to write something that felt like that film. I liked the shape of the story– something going from playful to dangerous. I liked the unstoppable breathless feeling of the story. I liked the idea that someone could get caught up in something terrible without meaning to. It took me years to figure out how to tell a similar story, but I came up with the idea of an online community, as an entity that would push someone to do things they wouldn’t normally do.
So, how did you think up the website for LBC?
I spent a lot of time on other online forums populated by teens to try to get the community feeling right. But mostly the concept came from years of thinking through that beautiful film. In the movie two childhood friends play a game where they dare each other to do inappropriate and then dangerous and destructive things. They play from childhood well into adulthood. It is a substitution for love. I wanted to create something similar, but within a community instead of between only two people. LBC emerged from that. The way the community functions changed quite a bit over my drafts, and so did the whole concept of LBC. But it began there.
The really brilliant margin notes that Tabitha loves, which bring her to finding the website was a win for me. Are you a margin note person? Was that a later idea that you had to connect Tabitha to the site? Or did you start with her loving margin notes and think up the website later?
I love margin notes! It’s always been a way for me to connect to and focus on a book. I like interacting with the text in that way. And while Tabitha always loved margin notes, they weren’t originally how she found the site. There used to be a character named Hart who met Tabitha at her family’s cafe and gave her a business card leading her to the site. Hart was a pretty big character. I had to let go of him around my third draft.
WHOA! Missing character…how exciting! I love hearing such fun secrets!
I really appreciated that Tabitha’s parent’s were so involved. Even with the way they both had their own things going on, you created a wonderful family setting where Tabitha had support. Is having present parents important to you for your stories or when Tabitha came to you did she have parents?
You know it’s funny, in OCD LOVE STORY one of the main complaints I heard is that people wanted to have Bea’s parents be more present. In that book they simply weren’t an important part of the story, and I think they would have been a distraction. In LIFE BY COMMITTEE I wanted Tabitha to be losing many bits and pieces of her support system– I wanted comfortable things to be changing and shifting beneath her. So I gave her really close parents who were having a new baby, so that she had both the stability of a strong, close family and also the threat of losing it.
Not to mention, I love Gilmore Girls and I wanted to write a parental relationship that felt like Lorelei and Rory– something fun and loving and funny and quick-witted.
Are there secret chapters or deleted scenes or character bios that helped give you insight into other members on the LBC that you have that we may see in the future for fun? Personally, I would love to see a character bio for all the members that are not revealed at the end of the book. Like Zed … I always wondered who he is.
SO MUCH changed in the various drafts of this book. I don’t have any character bios, but I can reveal that Zed used to be a real life character, and I had a whole scene in his very sad apartment that Tabitha visits. There were dirty dishes and an always-on TV and lots of sad knick-knacks covering every surface. It was great writing about real life Zed, even though he didn’t make it into the actual book. I liked exposing him as someone very vulnerable and desperate.
OMG! I can totally picture Tabitha visiting him and how that feeling of loneliness would radiate out towards her. Thanks for sharing that!!The end…how did Tabitha getting up to share and then the whole auditorium getting involved come to mind? Do you wish you had that moment for yourself in front of peers?
Funny you should ask– a very similar thing occurred at my school when I was a sophomore. I had no idea I was going to use that memory when I was writing this book– it just came to me in the moment. I didn’t take part in the assembly at my school, but it was a really moving and strange day.
Man, I can only relate to that experience through your writing but I keep going back to wishing I could participate in something similar.Was the cover your idea or did the cover artist come up with it after reading the book? I love how it goes along with a specific moment of time in the book that starts the ball rolling!
I have nothing to do with my covers, which is as it should be– I’m not very visually inclined. I am absolutely in love with this cover though, and think it is GENIUS. I’m so lucky to have an amazing designer who really spent time with the book and came up with a perfect, evocative, beautiful cover that captures a huge part of the book without giving anything away!
When you wrote this story what ended up being your favorite moment?
I love the scene in Tea Cozy with Joe and Sasha and Tabitha and the cookies. I love the tension there. I also love the end and writing about the mountains of Vermont.
That was definitely a tense moment. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how Tabitha would react to what was happening.
What moment was the hardest to write?
Some of the parts between Tab and Joe were really painful to write. Especially the second time she goes to his house, wanting to talk to him about her bad day. I was going through a breakup when I was writing a lot of this book, so I found myself unusually connected to some bits and pieces of the plot that I I had understood in a very different way before. This tends to happen to me a lot– I start a book thinking it’s not super connected to my present-day life, and unexpected things happen in my real-person life, and they are strangely relevant to the writing of the book. That always makes the writing more challenging. And in the case of this book, I had to work with material that I didn’t feel as able to distance myself from as when I started. It was a huge challenge!
Wow thank you Corey for allowing me to ask you about your new book! I can’t wait to hear what my friends think of it! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions too!
Don’t miss Corey on the other stops of her blog tour!