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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Author Interview: Luisa Perkins, "Dispirited"

Another author interview! I'm so excited about this one because Luisa gave me lots of fun details and advice. Read on!

Me: I loved the details about Holly House the the history of Kashkawan. It got me to wondering all about the town, what's real and what you made up, and how you chose it in the first place.
Luisa:Kashkawan is based on the town in which I live in New York's Hudson Highlands. A lot of the details--Route 403, Cat Rock Hill, the lake--are real. The way I've put the town together is different from reality, though, and a few key things aren't located in my town at all. Cathy's new house is based on a friend's house in another town, and Holly House itself is based on a house in Ireland.

Me: Where did the inspiration for "Dispirited" come from?
Luisa:When I was about 18, I read about astral projection--being able to leave your body and come back to it at will. I thought it sounded like it could be fun, but very dangerous. I worried about people leaving their bodies vulnerable to being taken over by other spirits. I've been kicking that idea around in my head for a long time.
One day, I saw a photograph on the wall at my doctor's office. The subject was an abandoned house nestled among tall trees. It completely captivated me and became Holly House. I was fortunate enough to be able to contact the photographer and purchase a license to use the photo on the cover of the book. I may be biased, but I think it's one of the best book covers ever.

Me: Are any of the characters or scenes based on real people or real things that happened to you?
Luisa: Well, none of the scary stuff happened to me, fortunately! But many of the details are autobiographical. Cathy's little sisters are based on my own sisters. Cathy's boyfriend, Rich, is based on a high school friend of mine. And the librarian, Mrs. Greenlese--she's a dear friend in my ward. Every detail about her is lifted from reality, right down to her name.  

Me: Who is your biggest writing cheerleader/buddy and how do they help you along the way?
Luisa: My husband, Patrick, is a fabulous cheerleader. He is always eager to read what I've written. He's also very honest and has quite discerning tastes, so I never let him read a story until I think it's my very best work. 
The amazingly talented Annette Lyon is my accountability partner. We email each other our daily writing goals, then text one another throughout the day to give updates on our progress. We keep each other focused and are constantly giving each other pep talks and advice. With Annette's help, I am far more productive than I would be otherwise.

Me: I have to ask this question for all the aspiring writers (including me) out there. Can you describe your publishing experience?
Luisa: I queried on Dispirited for three years, pitching it to just about every agent and editor who accepts fantasy. It was a very humbling experience. I got lots and lots of form rejections. I also got the feedback that people liked the story and my writing in general, but didn't think they could sell it. One day last fall, I was on Zarahemla's website to buy a book and decided to check out the posted submission guidelines. I sent off a query that day and got a manuscript request pretty quickly. Not long after that, it was accepted.
My editor, Stephen Carter, was terrific to work with. He is super smart and well-read, and his feedback made Dispirited a stronger book. Because Zarahemla is so small, I got to have tons of input on the cover--that NEVER happens with big New York publishers. I've been thrilled with my experience at Zarahemla.

Me: Now for important things. Your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Luisa: Anything with caramel in it. {Mmmm, good choice.}

Me: If "Dispirited" was made into a movie, which character would you want to play?
Luisa: Well, it would be great to be Cathy, but I certainly couldn't pass for a 17-year-old at this point. It would be awesome to play her mother, Athena Wright Harford.

Me: And what is your no-fail advice for other writers? :D
Lusia: Oh, don't get me started. I'm the oldest child in a very large family, so I'm very bossy. :D {That's a little crazy. Me too. On all counts: oldest, large family, very bossy.}
I guess I would tell other writers to read very widely, and read a lot. Get out of your comfort zone and read hard stuff--the classics, biographies and histories, critically acclaimed books outside your favorite genre. I believe that the better the quality of writing you are taking in, the better the quality of your output. 
And write. A lot. Six days a week for at least an hour per day, even if you are super busy. (I have six kids. If I can do it, you can do it.) You wouldn't expect to be able to master a Beethoven piano sonata with only sporadic practice. You won't write anything worth reading with only sporadic practice, either.  
And get an accountability partner whose writing is at least as good as yours. And set realistic, very specific goals based on things you can control. Don't say, "I'll be published by this time next year," because you don't control that (unless you self-publish). But you can say, "I'll have a polished draft of this book written by this time next year." That's a great goal.
And...see? I told you not to get me started! :D

Thanks SO much Luisa. If you all haven't already, go get a copy of Luisa's "Dispirted"! 

1 comment:

About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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