Friday, June 27, 2014

Feature Friday: Laurie Stolarz

Special Note:  This is the last Feature Friday for (at least) the summer.  I'm taking a long break from Feature Fridays.  I will send a large Goodreads invite out if/when I start doing them again, so make sure you're following me on Goodreads!

Laurie Faria Stolarz is the author of several popular young adult novels including the Touch series (the latest release of which is Deadly Little Lessons), Project 17, and Bleed, (all published by Disney/Hyperion Books for Children), as well as the bestselling Blue is for Nightmares series (Flux Publications).  With more than a million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on numerous award lists, including the Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list and the Top Ten Teen Pick list, both through the American Library Association.  She is currently working on her new Dark House series, also with Disney/Hyperion Books for Children.  The first book in that series, Welcome to the Dark House, will be out in July, 2014.  For more information, please visit her Web site at www.lauriestolarz.com.



Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Laurie: 
My biggest piece of advice is to persevere.  There are many talented writers who give up after 5, 10, or even 50 rejection letters.  Be open to learning and to getting better in your craft.  If more than one person criticizes the same point in your work – i.e. your main character whines too much – chances are you need to look at that point again.  Never pay reading fees while trying to get published – ever.  Do your homework.  Know to whom you’re sending your query letter, who that person’s clients are, what that person’s track record is (i.e. the details of his or her most recent acquisitions), and what that person is looking for.  Every letter should be personalized and reflect that you’ve done your research.  And, lastly, consider joining a writers group.  There’s nothing better than being in a group of like-minded writers who can help inspire and cheer you on, and who can provide constructive feedback that can help to strengthen your work. 

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Laurie: 
It's way too hard to pick just one.  I love different books for different reasons, i.e. I love the subtlety of Kate Chopin's The Awakening;  I love the language of Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block and Gravel Queen by Tea Benduhn; I love the voice of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Bringing up the Bones by Lara Zeises.  I love Wally Lamb's narration in She's Come Undone.  I love the pacing and thrill of Misery by Stephen King and Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. I also love work by Amy Bloom, Laura Wiess, Steven Goldman, and Ellen Hopkins. Seriously, I could go on and on.  

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Welcome to the Dark House?

Laurie: 
A lot of readers ask me if I ever get my ideas from dreams or nightmares.  The truth is that I don't.  I don't really dream too much – not that I can remember, anyway.  But about two years ago, I did have a nightmare and Welcome to the Dark House is the result.  I dreamed about a contest in which horror film fanatics (all of them eagerly awaiting the next film in a certain famed director's cult-followed movie series) enter a contest in which they have to submit their worst nightmare. The winners would get flown from all over the country to see the director's long-awaited, highly anticipated film. As the winners arrive, they couldn’t be more excited. The place where they’re staying has been hand-tailored to all of their tastes.  They can’t wait to meet the director and see the film.  This is a once-and-a-lifetime opportunity - or so it seems. My nightmare continued, and let’s just say there’s a creepy amusement park involved, but I don’t want to give too much away.  You’ll have to read the book;)

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Welcome to the Dark House is your favorite and why?

Laurie: 
I really like the complexity of Ivy's character.  I love how secretive she is and how, as a victim, there's a degree of shame. I feel as though she's just beginning her learning curve in this book.  She has a long way to go in terms of her growth, gaining her courage back, and rising above all the trauma she's had to endure.  We can see the ways in which she's tried to deal with her scars, and how her trauma has reared its ugly head in her daily life.  I feel as though she's just beginning her journey in this book. 

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Laurie: 
My initial path to publication was a rough one.  I approached editors and agents at the same time, trying to target those who worked with writers like me (namely, writers who wrote in the young adult supernatural/paranormal genre).  It took me over a year to sell my first novel.  I have a folder filled with rejection letters. My favorite one is from an editor who said: “While this is an interesting project, I do not feel it is strong enough to compete in today’s competitive young adult market.”  That same young adult novel, BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, has sold over 200,000 copies, has been translated into numerous different languages, has appeared on many different award lists, and was optioned by Blondie Girl Productions (Ashley Tisdale's production company) in partnership with Mandalay Entertainment, and sold to ABC Family for a TV series.

When I speak to young people and aspiring writers, I always tell them this story, that if I had stopped persevering, after I received my first – or my 40th rejection letter – I may never have been able to enjoy the success of my career.  BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES came out in 2003 and it's still in print.  I followed "Blue" up with WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, SILVER IS FOR SECRETS, RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE, and BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS, all published by Llewellyn/Flux. 

I’ve also published several books with Disney/Hyperion: BLEED (2006) and PROJECT 17 (2007); these are companion books to one another, though stand-alone titles. I also published my five-book TOUCH series with Disney/Hyperion, the first book of which is DEADLY LITTLE SECRET (2008), and now WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE, the first book in my DARK HOUSE series is also with Disney Hyperion.

I’m grateful to have been very busy with work after publishing my first novel.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Laurie: 
I'm working on the sequel to Welcome to the Dark House.  It's called Return to the Dark House and it will be out next summer.

A.L.:
What was it like growing up in Salem?

Laurie: 
I didn't really appreciate growing up in Salem until I became an adult; it was simply the place where I lived and went to school.  I'd walk through Gallow's Hill every day on my way home from school (ho hum). I'd pass by the Salem Witch Dungeon, the cemetery where Giles Corey was crushed to death, the House of Seven Gables, the plot foundation for the house where Tituba lived, the house where Judge Hathorne's body was secretly buried, etc., etc., and not think twice. All of these places (aside from Gallow's Hill and Tituba's place, which are both off the beaten path) were always surrounded by tourists, and so that's the way I compartmentalized them in my head; these were tourist traps.  It wasn't until adulthood that I really got into the history and culture of Salem and the old Salem Village (Danvers). As part of my research for Blue is for Nightmares, I even worked at the Salem Witch Museum for a couple of months to learn as much as I could about the history and about modern-day Witchcraft as a religion. 

A.L.:
You've written in a number of different YA genres.  which would you say you gravitate toward the most?

Laurie:
I love intense drama and suspense and entangling the two.

A.L.:
If any two of your characters from any two novels that you've written could be friends, who would you like to befriend whom and why?

Laurie:
I think Ivy needs a friend. I think she could learn a ton from Stacey Brown, the main character in my Blue is for Nightmares series. Having grown over the course of five books, Stacey is a confident, fearless, no-nonsense type of character who's been through the ringer and is stronger for it. Ivy could use that kind of mentorship.

The Giveaway:
Laurie is giving away a copy of WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE as well as the winner's choice of one of Laurie's TOUCH series books.

Welcome to the Dark House:  What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.


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