Liz Gallagher - author, readergirlz diva, Through the Tollbooth blogger, VCFA grad and all around awesome friend is here to chat with us about her debut book, THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE and the companion novel, MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE (coming in May 2011!).
Thanks, Liz, for stopping by to tell us your secrets!
THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE is about Alice, a Seattle girl learning the difference between a crush and love and love and best-friendship as she’s caught between her always-been-there boy best friend and a crush who starts noticing her. It’s also about art and confidence, and it’s set at Halloween because I love that time of year.
MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE is a companion to OPPOSITE. It tells the story, set a few months later, of another Seattle girl’s struggle to keep from growing up too fast as she’s caught between her innocent old friends and a group of not-so-innocent older coworkers at an art shop. The girl in the companion is Vanessa, Alice's rival in OPPOSITE.
Holly Cupala: I love the Seattle in OPPOSITE, almost a character in itself. What was your inspiration?
Liz Gallagher: OPPOSITE was inspired by the fall and the Seattle neighborhood of Fremont, where it’s set. I was walking through Fremont one near-Halloween day, and I got the idea of a character trying on a witch dress at this junk shop. My original first line was, “It all started with this dress.”
The second book has a more unusual origin story: I never planned to do it! My agent and editor both thought it would be cool to explore one of the more minor characters in OPPOSITE, and Vanessa was my natural choice. Then, I had to do a lot of thinking about her and what her life is all about.
HC: You mentioned the unexpected - tell us more!
LG: Honestly, I never wanted to write a “broken” family, which I ended up doing to some extent with Vanessa. I knew early on that she lived with her mom and her grandfather, who had raised her together. But it took me a long time to deal with the issues of where her father and grandmother were. I simply did not want to face the reality of an absent parent.
HC: What inspires you?
LG: I’m inspired by YA in general. It’s such a rich field, with so many amazing people writing such awesome books. My favorite is M. T. Anderson. Just being part of the world of YA as a reader—even if I wasn’t a writer, I think I’d be a bookseller or librarian—is so inspiring to me.
As far as my own work, it’s so many things, but I think what it boils down to is a combo of my innermost thoughts—this emotional arc that I’m always following—and the mood of setting. I love Seattle, and I loved writing it in the fall. With Vanessa, I was able to write Seattle in spring, which is so different from the fall. I use the weather and the natural surroundings to help me get into the emotion of a character.
HC: How long did it take you to write, and did you have to go through a lot of drafts? How did the story evolve as you revised?
LG: Both of my books took about two years to write. I go through a lot of drafts, but I don’t call them drafts. I just start a new “version” of the document when I know I’m making a big change. I’m the kind of writer who doesn’t plan a lot out before I start to write, which means I’m writing down a lot of paths and some of them don’t go where I want them to, so I end up ditching them. But that’s still a valuable part of my process. The stories change SO much as I go, I can’t even tell you. In both books, for example, there are characters who were originally two characters; I blended them together (One of them is actually Vanessa! She used to have a counterpart named Amber.) The emotional core, though, that tends to stay the same.
HC: Have your life experiences helped you get to the heart of your story?
LG: I think this touches on why I didn’t want to ever write a broken family – I have two parents who have been married forever. At first, it felt false for me to pretend to know what it’s like to have a missing father. But then I realized that I can still be true to my own understanding of the world even if a character is in a situation that I’ve never experienced. After all, it’s fiction. Neither of my main characters—Alice or Vanessa—is me. I do try, though, to imagine how I’d feel in each situation I get them into, but then I go back to see if SHE would do what I would do. Considering my own experience gives me a starting point to get inside of the reactions my character has to everything that happens in a book.
HC: What part of the book do you wish were true?
LG: I wish I’d grown up with a boy best friend – both of my characters have one. But, in their ways, those friendships grew out of my actual friendships. So I guess, in a way, I did have the best friends. (And I still do!)
Thank you, Liz!
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY:
One lucky commenter will receive a copy of OPPOSITE, generously donated by Liz! For a chance to win, leave a comment below on one of the following: a) why you'd love to read the book, b) if you've ever had a rival who loved the same things you did, and were you able to work out a friendship? or c) if you've had a best boy friend (or if you are a boy, best girl friend), and how did that friendship differ from other friendships?
Contest is open until Monday at midnight. Comment away! And readers, check out the cool trailer and the book - I promise you'll love them!