It's a treat to welcome Lisa Yee, author of ABSOLUTELY MAYBE (recently out in paperback) and the featured author this month at readergirlz, to dish on all of her Story Secrets today.
How did Maybe come into being?
ABSOLUTELY MAYBE is just out in paperback right now, but it wasn't even supposed to be a book. At least, my editors had never heard of it until I handed it in instead of something else they were expecting. I had a funny middle grade novel under contract called CHARM SCHOOL DROPOUT about a tomboy whose mom wants to make her into a beauty queen.
Only, as I started writing, the story began to morph. The main character went from 12 to 14, to finally 17. The plot changed drastically, too. It got much darker and heavier, albeit, still humorous. When I sent it to to my agent to read, she said, "This is great, but it's not what you signed a contract to write!" Luckily, my editors loved it and it became my first YA.
ABSOLUTELY MAYBE is about a goth girl who's raised by an alcoholic ex-beauty queen. When Maybelline (her mother named her after the mascara) is almost raped by her mother's latest fiance, she runs away to Hollywood to find the father who doesn't even know she exists. It's edgy, snarky, funny and, hopefully, quite compelling.
How do you work as a writer? Any surprises along the way?
Even though I worked from an outline, I ended up deviating from it quite a bit. It was almost as if I were just going along for the ride. Maybe's best friend Ted was such a hoot to write. His personality is HUGE and almost threatened to take over the story, so I had to reign him in a bit. And when I hit upon the idea that Maybe would work on a taco truck, I became obsessed with tacos and started eating at every taco truck I saw.
The novel was so liberating to write, especially since my other books are middle grade. There were no constraints whatsoever and that was fun. My husband came into my office one day looking worried. He said, "Are you okay? You've been swearing a lot lately." (I normally don't swear. Well, not that much.)
And I said, "Oh, I'm a teen runaway, but don't worry, I'll be in fourth grade soon." (After I finished ABSOLUTELY MAYBE I wrote a book called BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) about a fourth grader).
Who inspires you?
I find inspiration in many places--like in my sock drawer. Snort! Oh. Ouch. That was a dumb joke, wasn't it? Okay, seriously, my kids inspire me and my readers do, too. I always have someone in mind when I'm writing a book. For this one, I thought of my teenaged daughter. Would she like this? Would she think this was authentic? Would this make her cringe? I'd ask myself questions like that all the time.
Any secrets you'd be willing to share? Besides how you got this picture of Laurie Halse Anderson as Maybe??
I think of ABSOLUTELY MAYBE as my love letter to Los Angeles. I grew up here and I included lots of my old haunts, like USC, where I went to college, and the Griffith Park Observatory, and Pink's Hot Dogs. Sometimes writing a book can be painful, but for this one I enjoyed every minute, every noun, verb and adjective. Okay, that's not true. There were some adjectives that I didn't care for, but they got replaced in the rewrite.
I've got a the second of a chapter book series coming out in August. It's called BOBBY THE BRAVE (SOMETIMES), and I'm just starting an new YA novel. This one's a mystery and I'm so excited about it. But I can't say too much about it because 1) I don't want to jinx it, and 2) I haven't figured out "who done it" yet.
Thank you, Lisa! Readers, you can visit the official ABSOLUTELY MAYBE site, read Lisa's blog, and see previous Story Secrets here.