105 Ways to Give a Book

Lisa Graff Interview

The problem with being almost last on an author’s seven-day blog tour is that all the good questions are taken. As the week went by, I saw all my questions posted here and there and here again. Big A, little a hit most closely to home using two questions specific to the book that were also on my thought list. I was glad to see that I was on the same page as the fantastic Kelly by wondering about (a) how did she mangage to make the book mostly about regular life problems, while having a character with such personal issues of being a dwarf, and (b) while other books make adults stupid, silly or useless, why did she have her book make them kind, well-meaning and supportive? I also may have said, in my head, “son of a bitch.” (Kidding, Kelly.)

However, the problem of interviewing after everyone else — with the additional issue of being asked to interview another author within the same time period — led me to a breakthrough. I now have a standard interview. It’s back-to-the-basics kind of questioning, but I like it because it is open to interpretation and should work for everyone.

Now, as a bonus for the book tour, the first three people to email thethingaboutgeorgie@harpercollins.com (it should say “Georgie Giveaway” in the subject line) with their name, address, and the blog where they saw my interview that day (i.e., MotherReader) will get a copy of The Thing About Georgie. Yay!

Let me present the lovely and talented Lisa Graff.

When did you start writing?

I’ve written just for fun since I was in elementary school, and I attempted to write my first novel when I was 14. But I guess I started taking myself seriously as a writer my junior year of college. I was studying in Italy, and for a year-long language project one of my professors helped me translate a children’s novel I’d written into Italian. It worked wonders for my Italian vocabulary, but it also gave me a unique in-depth look at my process of stringing words together and telling a story. That project made me realize that I had a very long way to go before my books would be something other people would want to read, but it also made me realize how much I loved telling stories, and how important it was to me to get better at it.

Where do you do your best thinking?

I get a lot of ideas when I’m on the subway or walking around the city. I think my subconscious is always chugging away at things, and it just takes a small spark of something to give me an idea. Living in New York is perfect for that, because there are interesting things going on everywhere you look. When I was in the midst of revising The Thing About Georgie two summers ago, I had been desperately trying to come up with a way to demonstrate Georgie and Andy’s strong friendship, while simultaneously thinking up some catalyst for their big fight, but I couldn’t find anything that worked. Then one evening I left my apartment to do laundry, and I passed a woman walking five Bichon Frises — and just like that, I knew that Andy and Georgie should run a dog walking business. (Who knows how the book would have turned out if I’d seen someone making balloon animals or training monkeys to roller skate or something…)

Who inspires you personally and/or professionally?

At my day job (I work as an editorial assistant at a children’s book publisher) I get to interact with a lot of writers on a regular basis. When I first starting working there, I was always hesitant when I had to call authors on the phone, because they seemed like these unapproachable geniuses to me, and how would they respond to me, the lowly assistant/wannabe writer? But they’re all so nice and friendly... it almost makes you forget they really are geniuses. It’s great to be around people like that, whose work you admire, and whom you really enjoy talking to as well.

Why did you need to write this book?

I have no idea, honestly. People often ask what inspired me to write Georgie, and the truth of the matter is that writing about a boy with dwarfism just sounded interesting at the time. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized that what I had actually written about was a topic that has interested me my whole life. Really, I think Georgie is about perception — the way others perceive us and if that affects how we perceive ourselves. The book was a way for me mull over topics that had been on my mind me for a long while.

How does this book reflect your own life experience?

Well, my life is very different from Georgie’s in a lot of obvious ways. For one thing, he’s a dwarf and I’m very tall. I often got teased or stared at because of my height, but not nearly to the extent that Georgie is singled out for his dwarfism. I’ve also never had a dog walking business or been in a play about the U.S. presidents. But some things are based on experience. Andy’s Italian family, for instance, is loosely based on the host family I lived with when I first began studying in Italy. And I think Jeanie the Meanie is the girl I would have been if I hadn’t been so shy when I was little. I was always bursting with opinions to tell people — some of them quite mean — but I was too much of a coward to let any of it out. Writing Jeanie’s character was a lot of fun (and a little bit cathartic) for me, because I could have her say and do anything at all.

What’s next for you?

My next novel is called The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower, and it’s in the midst of copyediting and design right now. Those are nice stages for me as an author because it’s mostly sit-back-and-relax on my part. The book is about a twelve-year-old girl who, after having been framed by her ex-best friend for running a school-wide cheating ring at her private school, takes up conning shoppers at the local mall to earn back her lost scholarship money. It’s very heisty, in the tradition of The Sting or Ocean’s Eleven, and it should be a lot of fun. It comes out in January 2008.

I’ll actually have to review The Thing about Georgie later today or tomorrow, because I have to get to work — as in my actual job. I slept until 10:00 a.m. this morning, putting a serious dent in my blogging time, but I must have really needed the rest to have slept so long. You can read reviews at just about any other site on the blog tour, and I will give the book my personal thumbs-up as an enjoyable read for boys and girls (and grown-up bloggers).


Anonymous said...

Very good questions, MR. Great interview!

Little Willow said...

Yay interview!

I like this question especially:

"How does this book reflect your own life experience?"

Kelly said...

Great interview, MR! I learned a lot more about Lisa and the book!! I especially liked the first question.