Saturday, March 29, 2008

Author Interview: Lauren Baratz-Logsted!


Let me tell you why Lauren Baratz-Logsted is awesome (and really nice!). I emailed her on Thursday asking to do an interview. Three hours later, she emails me back saying sure, let's do the interview! I was psyched. I sent off some questions for her, thinking no way in hell would she get back to me before at least a week. She got back to me on the very next day. Tell me, does it get any awesomer or nicer than this? Nope, it doesn't.

To read the Angel's Choice review, please click here.

Now, for the actual interview...

About Lauren:
Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of international bestseller, The Thin Pink Line. She's also written many adult novels for Red Dress Ink. Among her novels for the younger audience are the young adult books Angel's Choice and Secrets of My Suburban Life; tween book Me, In Between; and her upcoming children's book series, The Sisters Eight. Visit her website at http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com/.


Questions For Lauren About Lauren:


Reviewer X: You write such a wide range of books--from literary historical to YA to MG [middle grade] to adult chick lit. Where do you get your ideas? Do you like one genre better than the other? Do you think in the future you will explore more genres?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted: I get my ideas from The Idea Fairy? Seriously, several times a year I get struck with ideas that I immediately see have a whole book in them...if only I'll put in the elbow grease. I never set out to write in specific genres so much as the idea dictates the genre. I actually love writing it all and feel that writing in so many areas keeps me feeling fresh about the writing as a result of which - hopefully! - the writing is better than if I just mined the same genre over and over again. In terms of what I haven't tried that I yet might: I have an idea for an epic fantasy that I'd like to give a shot someday. One thing that's safe to say: It's unlikely I'll ever write a Western...but you never know!


RX:
What's your writing regimen like? How do you deal with writer's block?

LBL: On weekdays, I start writing at 7 when my daughter leaves for school and stop when she gets home at 4. I'll also put more hours in at night if a story is hot. And I'll write on weekends too. As for writer’s block - please don’t hate me! - but I've never had it. What does happen sometimes, though, is that I might get bogged down in the middle of a book or get sluggish toward the end. It’s not that I don’t know what I need to write, just that something else is going on in my busy little mind. What I do then to keep my writing hand in is one of two things: 1) I work on another writing project for a day or even do some blogging, so that I always feel like I’m creating something; or 2) jump ahead to a scene in the novel I am dying to write and then later return to the scene that’s been slowing me down, cleaning over the traces when I revise.


RX:
Now, for the age-old question: How do you pronounce your last name?

LBL: HA! In terms of my looong name, I'll bet you can handle Lauren and Logsted just fine. Although people always want to shove an 'a' into 'Logsted,' creating 'Logstead,' it's the Baratz part that gives all the trouble. If you think of the Barrett in Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and then make that Barrett plural - Barretts - you'll be right on the money.


RX:
What is the best thing about writing for a living? What's the worst?

LBL: The best is the actual writing. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love it so much. I get to explore all sorts of themes that fascinate me. I get to create the world as I want it to be. The worst is the relentless nature of it all. People think the hardest thing is breaking into the game and selling a book, but the truth is that it's just as hard to stay in the game once you're there. OK, I've just depressed myself. Next!


RX:
What advice do you give writers out there who are looking to get published?

LBL: Here's my standard answer: Read widely. I know that sounds like old-lady advice, but you have no idea how many people of all ages tell me they want to write, and then it turns out they never read anything! So read, read a lot, and be sure to read outside your comfort zone. You can learn a lot from people who write different things and you can often learn as much from what you don’t like than what you do. Then, when you’re ready to write, please ignore the writing-school advice to “write what you know.” Rather, write about ideas and themes you’re dying to explore or write the world as you would like it to be. Also, consider paying the $30/year to join Backspace: http://www.bksp.org/. It's a site of @700 writers, including me, at various stages of their writing careers, from just starting to write to a few NYT bestsellers. It's the best place on the Internet to learn the business, get/give support and network with other writers. Finally, the last thing I say to every would-be writer, no matter what the age: If being a writer is what you truly dream to be, then always remember, the only person who can ever really take you out of the game is you.


RX:
What books/authors in the YA field do you enjoy?

LBL: You can't go wrong with Laurie Halse Anderson, David Levithan, Dana Reinhardt. Some specific titles: Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief and Veronica Bennett's Angelmonster. And if you're looking for something slightly commercial, I love Simone Elkeles, also E. Lockhart's The Boyfriend List.


RX:
What are you reading right now?

LBL: The best YA that I read recently is my friend Lisa McMann's Wake. And it's not just me saying so because she's my friend: Wake just hit the New York Times Bestseller List.


RX:
You have some new children's books coming soon, The Sisters Eight series. What can you tell us about that?

LBL: It's a projected nine-book series, the first two of which will come out in December as lead titles from Houghton Mifflin. THE SISTERS EIGHT is about octuplets whose parents disappear on New Year's Eve when Mommy goes out to the kitchen for eggnog, Daddy goes to the shed for more firewood...and neither comes back. Now the Eights, as they are known, must endeavor to discover what happened to Mommy and Daddy while keeping the world from realizing that eight little girls are living home alone. The series is being cowritten with my husband, the novelist Greg Logsted (SOMETHING HAPPENED, Simon Pulse, Nov) and our eight-year-old daughter Jackie. We all got the idea together when we were snowbound in Colorado the December before last. In terms of the actual writing, you could say I'm "the pen," but nothing gets sent off to the publisher until everyone has brainstormed, weighed in and weighed in some more.


RX:
Tell us, does writing for young adults rock or what?

LBL: It DOES! Seriously, I love all the writing I do, but I find writing for a younger audience particularly rewarding. The responsibilities and challenges are bigger, but the rewards are also greater.

(RX: Hence the reason we like Lauren.)


Questions For Lauren About Angel's Choice:


RX:
In Angel's Choice, you explore teen pregnancy, which is a very delicate subject. How did you create such a strong, authentic character like Angel?

LBL: It is a delicate subject and as the author I feel an enormous responsibility, particularly when writing for teens, not to send messages that could be damaging. In many ways, I'd say Angel's story and that of the other women in her world is an amalgamation of the history of girls/women regarding pregnancy. I don't think you can grow up in this country, attend high school, and not come across girls who find themselves facing Angel's choice. So I suppose I was drawing on all that history while trying to tap into my inner-teen voice. Hopefully, I was successful.


RX:
Angel is faced with three options of what she could do with her baby: abortion, adoption, or keeping it. How did you figure out which she'd choose? Did you always know, or was it a realization midway through the novel?

LBL: No. I did know from the start. What I didn't know was when she would know! There are many novels that explore the other two options you describe, and in fact Angel does entertain the idea of both of those other options. But for this story to work, there was only ever one choice for Angel to make. That said, Angel is careful to say, and I am careful to say, that Angel's story is not intended to provide a prescription for everyone else's choice. We're only saying that every individual needs to make her own choice, even if it's hard and even if nearly everyone in your world is screaming at you to choose otherwise.

(SPOILERS BELOW!)


RX:
In the novel, Angel is hesitant to tell her guidance counselor that she wants to be a writer. Did you ever feel this way when you were starting out? On the same note, how do people react nowadays when they find out you're a writer?

LBL: No, I was never hesitant to tell anyone once I decided I did want to be a writer. Of course, I was much older than Angel when I made my decision. As for your other question, it's funny because often I hear other writers complain about the reactions they get: people think they're wealthy like Rowling, or sitting around all day in bathrobes eating chocolate, that a writer doesn't really work. And I have gotten some of that too. But mostly, I find, people are fascinated. I shoot a lot of pool and I find when I'm out, that whenever people learn what I do - even if they haven't read a book in years! - they're tickled by the idea of someone bucking convention to live a dream. Oh, and then there are all the people, from strangers to surgeons in the operating room, who want to share their stories in the hopes of finding out how they can be published too.


RX:
One of the toughest things Angel has to face because of her pregnancy is drifting away from Karin, her best friend. Do you believe the distance is permanent?

LBL: No. I don't. I do think that the confrontation scene were Karin expresses her insecurities and Angel explains that she only wants to choose for herself, that she doesn't want the responsibility of choosing for the rest of the world, goes a long way toward healing theor rift.


RX:
Angel's parents were taken aback when they found out she was pregnant, but they soon came together to help her. Do you think, had their reaction been any different, Angel would've made the same choice?

LBL: I think Angel has a very strong sense of self, so I think she would have held firm. But obviously her future will be easier because of the support she receives and she is careful to say, and I am careful to say, that for any teen without that support, such a path would be much, much harder.


RX:
On the subject of Tim O'Mara: Do you think his age and potential immaturity in the face of such staggering realizations were the reasons for his abandonment? Do you think, were he any older and the circumstances not so daunting, he wouldn't have turned his back on Angel?

LBL: I think a certain amount of forgiveness can be granted Tim due to his age and the daunting circumstances. But just as the variety of girls finding themselves in Angel's situation respond in various ways, so do boys finding themselves in Tim's positions. Some run for the hills, others are supportive. I do think Tim's response - that whole thing with the receipt - is particularly wormy.

RX:
Why did Danny's view of Angel change towards the end of her pregnancy? Why did he begin to take her more seriously then?

LBL: I think Danny, as he himself finally admits, has always had special feelings for Angel and has always regarded her as special; in fact, the depth of his feelings for her is what has always intimidated him. But when he sees her essentially facing off againt the world on her own, he's finally able to get over himself and let those feelings show. Her bravery makes him brave.


RX:
What message do you hope the reader took with them when they finished Angel's Choice?
LBL: I got a handwritten letter from a teen who wrote: "This book has taught me to make my own decisions and say 'no'." I can't think of a better letter for an author to get. Angel's problems don't start with the pregnancy, of course; they start at the beginning of the book when she says 'yes' to something she'd really rather say 'no' to. The teen who wrote this letter obviously got the message that whether it's having sex in the first place or deciding what to do about the consequences, should there be consequences, the decision comes down to the individual; a person shouldn't let others take the power to decide away from them.

---

And that's all, folks! Hope that any of you who read this have gotten to know Lauren a bit better. If you read Angel's Choice, I hope the questions and answers were insightful!

New reviews and interviews will be rolling in soon. Next up is a YA e-novella and an interview with the author, Joseph Boutilier. Stay tuned.

Angel's Choice by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Summary
All I remember is the sensation of things slipping away from me....

In one night Angel Hansen's life changes forever: She has sex for the first time. Not that she remembers the act itself -- not the pain or the pleasure. But she is left with something that will never let her forget it: an unplanned pregnancy.

Angel must make a choice. Abortion? Adoption? Keep it? None of these choices are easy and none of them are perfect. But there is one thing Angel is sure of. Whatever choice she makes, it must be the right one for her. Braced with that knowledge, Angel faces the toughest decision of her life.


Grade: A - Roxstatic

In fifty words or less, why is this book so great?
The protagonist, Angel Hansen, is strong, courageous, and most importantly, genuine. Given the book's subject matter, it'd be easy to either create a whiny character or come off with a preachy narrator. However, Lauren Baratz-Logsted does neither; she lets the real Angel shine through.

Review time yet? (Hell yeah!)
To me, the most important factor in any book is the characters and their voices. This book, judging by how much I love it, really delivered.

Angel Hansen finds herself pregnant in the middle of senior year, and while everyone else is worried about getting into college, their SATs, usual high school stuff, she's got much bigger things to worry about. Does she ever complain about it? No. Does she ever let herself wallow in self-pity? Again, no. She is, throughout the book, met with many conflicts that she does not wiggle herself out of--she combats them full-on. By no means is her pregnancy easy. Being a pregnant teen in today's society means you're constantly the object of judgment, ostracism and alienation. It takes its toll on a person. But, again, does Angel cower away? You guessed it--she doesn't.

The choice she makes has strong repercussions in very important relationships in her life--with her best friend, Karin, her parents, her aunt, and Danny, a guy from school who is more than a friend but less than a boyfriend. This is what makes this novel so, so authentic. Nothing comes without a certain weight.

And of course, Angel is a truly identifiable character. Sometimes while I read this book, in the many times I have read it, I was struck by how many introspective passages sounded like my own thoughts and my own reasoning. She's got her weaknesses, her fears, her imperfections, all of which perfect shape an admirable heroine.

All in all, this book's got it all: superb writing, characters you can relate to, authenticity, and one great main character.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Authors I've Interviewed

March 2008
Lauren Baratz-Logsted

April 2008
Joseph Boutilier
Jennifer Echols
Catherine Ryan Hyde

May 2008
Jennifer Banash
Jody Gehrman
Jay Asher

June 2008
Jennifer Ziegler (Phone Chat Transcript)
Claudia Gray
Kathryn Williams (Guest Blog)

July 2008
Annette Curtis Klause
Brooke Taylor

Books I've Reviewed

To see all my reviews, click here.

Browse By Author Name:
Author Last Name: A-G
Author Last Name: H-M
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Browse By Grade:
Grade: A
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All-Time Highly Recommended

Browse Reviews By Alphabetical Order:
(TIP: To find a specific review, click CTRL and F on your keyboard simultaneously. When the tool comes up, type either the author name or book title and hit click on "Next". If I have reviewed the book, the tool will highlight it on this post. If I haven't, it'll say "No matches found".)

- A -
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (!) [QnA]
Angel's Choice by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

- B -
The Boys Next Door [QnA] by Jennifer Echols
Becoming Chloe [QnA][AW] by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Bliss by Lauren Myracle
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Actually this is a nonreview...)

- C -
Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty [QnA] by Jody Gehrman

- D -
Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber
Death by Latte by Linda Gerber
Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

- E -
The Elite by Jennifer Banash
Evernight [QnA] by Claudia Gray

- F -
Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling
The Fold by An Na
Frenemies by Alexa Young

- G -

- H -
How NOT To Be Popular [QnA] by Jennifer Ziegler
How To Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (!)

- I -
I Know It's Over by CK Kelly Martin
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert (!)
I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter
Inside by Joseph Boutilier
Invisible Touch by Kelly Parra

- J -
Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser

- K -

- L -
Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles
Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (!)

- M -
Madapple by Christina Meldrum (!)
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger (!)

- N -
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Nothing by Robin Friedman

- O -
Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs
Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter

- P -
Paper Towns by John Green (!)
Peeled by Joan Bauer
Prom Crashers by Erin Downing
The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas

- Q -

- R -

- S -
Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head by Nancy Viau
The Squad: Killer Spirit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren by Wendy Toliver
The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies by Lizabeth Zindel
Sorority 101 #1: Zeta or Omega
by Kate Harmon
Sorority 101 #2: The New Sisters by Kate Harmon
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson (!)

- T -
Take Me There by Susane Colasanti
Talent by Zoey Dean
Teach Me by R. A. Nelson
The Temptress Four by Gaby Triana [QnA]
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Total Knckout: Tale of an Ex-Class President by Taylor Morris
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

- U -
Undone by Brooke Taylor (!) [QnA]

- V -
Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler

- W -
Wake by Lisa McMann

- X -

- Y -
The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance [QnA][AW] by Catherine Ryan Hyde (!)
You Know Where To Find Me by Rachel Cohn

- Z -


Key:
[QnA] = Book QnA
[AW] = Author Week Book
(!) = All Time Recommended Book