Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Interview with Morris Award Winner L.K. Madigan

So, yesterday, we reminded you of this blog post. A little while after went up here and on Youtube, we got the coolest shout out from the author of Flash Burnout  L.K. Madigan, on her blog. You can check it out here. Well, after that, we couldn't help but ask her if she would mind doing us the EXTREME favor of letting us feature her in an interview.

Not only was willing, and got us answers back the next day, but she has some really great things to share.For all of you future writers out there, check out her last question, I think you'll find it inspiring.

Also, take a look at what she has to say about the difference between writing boy and girl protagonists, I bet it will make you think!

 Would you mind giving us a quick description of "Flash Burnout?"
Fifteen-year-old Blake has his first girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him, the other one needs him. Shannon is his girlfriend – smart, pretty, funny. Marissa is his friend from Photo class, and her long-lost meth-addicted mother has just reappeared in her life, causing havoc. How far is Blake willing to go to be a loyal Friend and Boyfriend?
Blake has a pretty awesome family; did you draw on your own family for inspiration? How did you come up with Blake's parents very different professions? Also, the details of Blake's Dad's cases are amazing, where did those come from?
Thank you! I enjoyed writing the family scenes, although they were not based on my own. I grew up with one sister and two step-brothers. My son was only eight years old when I started writing Flash Burnout, so he was not a handy specimen of teen behavior.
We have a family friend who is a Medical Examiner and a neighbor who is a hospital chaplain. The M.E. showed me around his workplace and talked to me about cases. All the ones mentioned in the book are true, although I changed a couple of small details, to protect privacy.
Blake and Marissa are both very interested in photography. Is this a hobby that you enjoy yourself? Did you have to do a lot of research into the subject?
Yes, I do enjoy photography. My photos fall more in the “pretty” category, much like Marissa’s. I did read lots of books about photography for research, which was almost as much fun as writing the novel. I included a list of my favorites at the end of Flash Burnout.
Which character in "Flash Burnout" was your favorite to write?
Well, I loved writing all of the characters, because they were all so distinct in my mind … even Marissa’s mother. But the truth is, I had the most fun writing Blake. He’s such a clown, but he’s also very compassionate. Despite his mistakes, he has a good heart.
I really love the dialog in "FB," it really feels authentic. Did you do a lot of studying teens in their natural habitats to capture the way they speak so well, or was it all from your imagination?
I seem to have an “ear” for dialogue – I pay attention to it wherever I go, almost without realizing it. I notice patterns of speech, I pick up slang from radio and TV, I file away bits of overheard conversation, and I have been known to observe teens in their natural habitats … making sure to appear uninterested, of course!
What was it like finding out that you had won the second William C. Morris YA Debut Award?
Crying was involved. And laughing. And difficulty breathing. All at the same time.
I know you have a new book coming out soon; could you tell us a little bit about it?
The Mermaid’s Mirror is a contemporary fantasy about a girl surfer who finds a mermaid.
You talk about being in touch with your "inner boy" on your blog, it's definitely true, Blake is such a guy's guy. Is it very different to write from a male protagonist's perspective like you did in "Flash Burnout" than from a female's as you are doing in "The Mermaid's Mirror"?
In some ways, writing from the male perspective was liberating. I didn’t feel the need to censor Blake’s salty language or his frank admiration of Shannon’s physical attributes. Even in our enlightened 21st century, some people will still judge a girl harshly for behavior that boys are permitted. Would readers have connected with the character if the tables were turned, and it was Shannon swearing and admiring Blake’s body?
I do think recent YA novels are slowly breaking down that double standard. Two terrific new books – A Match Made in High School, by Kristin Walker, and The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson – have female protagonists who occasionally utter a swear word, and who are exploring the boundaries of love and lust.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is wherever I can find enough brain space to string together sentences. I have written in the following places:
The library.
My car.
Hotel rooms.
My big, squashy red chair.
The kitchen table.
A variety of waiting rooms.
What sorts of things inspire you?

I get inspired every time I leave my house.
When you're writing, do you talk with teens or show them your drafts?

I didn’t share a draft of Flash Burnout with any teens, although I did share two very different drafts of The Mermaid’s Mirror – seven years apart! – with two teen girls.
Do you have a favorite YA author or book?
Way too many to choose just one! I could easily list fifty favorites, but I will winnow it down to these few – and full disclosure, I know some of these authors personally, but not all:
Markus Zusak
Sara Zarr
Lisa Schroeder
April Henry
Saundra Mitchell
Sarah Rees Brennan
L.A. Meyer
Louise Rennison
Sonia Gensler (whose first historical ghost story will be out in Spring, 2011)
Do you have any advice for our teens who want to pursue writing as a career?
There’s a quote in Flash Burnout from photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst.”
In writing, we translate that to, “Your first million words are your worst.”
Read as much as possible. Read wonderful books that make you sigh with amazement, or cry from heartbreak, or wish that they wouldn’t end. Read mediocre books that leave no lasting impression. Read “guilty pleasure” books that are more style than substance, because they’re fun and delicious, like M&Ms. Read even bad books that make you say, “I write better than that!” Then start writing. Begin your million words. Find your voice.
Ms. Madigan, thank you so much for dropping by! We are definitely looking forward to "The Mermaid's Mirror" and lots more to come from you! You can find out more about the author at her website and blog.


Anonymous said...

Awesome questions and awesome answers!

lkmadigan said...

Thanks so much for having me, Nico!