How’s it going, verse novel challenge participants? I have quite a treat for you today.
I’m thrilled to share with you an interview with Lisa Schroeder. Stick around and enter to win a signed copy of her book, FAR FROM YOU.
Can you tell us about FAR FROM YOU?
It’s a book about 16 year-old Alice, who is struggling to come to terms with her step mother and new half-sister, as her dad has been able to move on after her mother’s death while Alice is still missing her terribly.
What inspired you to write this story?
With each of my stories there is usually a seed or two that sparks the book. And until I start writing, I’m not sure if it will work as a book or not.
I had been thinking about the wonderful verse novel OUT OF THE DUST, by Karen Hesse, and how she did such a great job conveying the heat and the dust through her verse, and I thought, I bet a snowstorm would be a great thing to write about in verse as well. Especially since lots of dialogue doesn’t work well in a verse novel, and someone being trapped in a storm would allow for lots of inner reflection.
I had also wanted to write a story about a girl who was a singer/songwriter, and a book with Alice in Wonderland elements had appealed to me as well. So I combined those three things and a book was made!
How does verse serve this story best?
For me, verse is all about atmosphere. I don’t know why other authors choose to write in verse, but I choose to do it because it helps me to create an atmosphere I can’t get with regular prose. After my agent read my first novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, she wrote in her e-mail back, asking to set up a time to talk, that “the verse created such a unique atmosphere for the story.”
It also allows me to get to the emotional truths of the story, and to accentuate them.
You have successfully published three novels-in-verse. What is it about this technique that attracts you? Challenges you? Feels like the right fit for your writing?
My strength is not beautiful, flowery prose. At times, I wish it were. I read Laini Taylor’s work, and the way she puts words and sentences together, and I’m in awe.
I seem to do well trying to convey scenes, thoughts, emotions, etc. in a sparse, poetic way. I have always loved music, and in some ways, writing a novel-in-verse feels like writing a giant song to me. The rhythm and the flow and trying to say a lot in a few words – it’s challenging, absolutely, but my brain works well that way.
I fought it, at first, when I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, my first verse novel, wanted to come out in verse. I thought, what am I doing? I don’t know how to write like this. But I decided to give it a try, and the novel poured out of me and I had a draft written in about six weeks. That little book, which my agent and I had a hard time placing because no one seemed quite sure what to do with it, is now in its 9th printing and over two years after it released, I still get e-mails about how much it’s touched people.
I didn’t choose the verse as much as it chose me, and with each book I’ve written in verse, it added to the story rather than detracted from it. Not all stories are going to work in verse. In fact, I’d probably argue, most stories won’t work in verse. But when it does, it’s a beautiful thing, I think!
What books have shaped you as a reader and writer, from childhood to the present?
My favorites growing up were Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Betsy and Star, Encyclopedia Brown, and Ramona the Pest. I still remember the first book that made me cry – WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. And even today, my favorite books are the ones that make me laugh and make me cry.
My tastes today run more contemporary. I love John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen, L.K. Madigan, Matthew Quick, Cheryl Renee Herbsman, and many more.
I think with every book I read, it helps me as a writer. There is always so much to learn about character development, plot, pacing, setting, romance, suspense, etc. So really, every book shapes me, if that makes sense.
What is one thing people misunderstand about verse novels?
That’s easy. People think they’re going to be hard to follow. That they’ll be too poetic to be interesting.
Story should always be first and foremost, with any novel, no matter how the writer chooses to write it. This is certainly true of my books. If there isn’t an interesting plot and realistic characters, the verse is irrelevant.
I want my verse to be accessible. Some critics may say I’m not poetic enough. Well, I’d rather err on that side than the other side, because if I’m too poetic, I will lose readers. It’s a fine line, and it’s not easy.
But for me it’s always about story and characters first, and verse second. With my books, no one has to worry that they’ll be too hard to read or understand.
And if anyone doesn’t believe me, I challenge you to try one, and then report back to me. I’d love to hear what you think.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone is going to like verse novels. I know some people don’t. Some people find it too sparse and boring, and prefer lush prose in the stories they read. But the great thing about being in the golden age of young adult literature is there is literally something for everyone. So, I don’t write my books for those people. I write my books for all the teens who write to me and say, I usually hate to read, but I love your books.
Verse novels are GREAT for reluctant readers. All that white space, and no chapters to wade through so they can stop on any page and come back and pick it up – there is nothing else like them in that way.
Are you working on anything new?
My next verse novel will be out in Spring 2011, called THE DAY BEFORE. I just finished revisions on it, and I’m very excited and think my readers are going to enjoy it. I hope so anyway.
Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to share with us today. If you would like to win a signed copy of FAR FROM YOU, please leave a comment below. International friends are welcome to enter.
The contest closes Tuesday, July 20, at 6:00 PM CDT.
Best of luck!