Acclaimed author (“Blue is for Nightmares” and “Deadly Little Lies” series) Laurie Faria Stolarz answers my questions about Wicca, Salem and writing and tells us more about her upcoming books & scary urban legends…
Hi Laurie, welcome to “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please say a few words about yourself? Could you describe yourself (then your books) with three words?
I’m laid back, motivated, and perceptive. For my books: suspenseful, humorous, romantic.
“Deadly Little Lies” will be out in November 2009. Can you reveal a few spoilers about those little lies (tell the truth!)?
There are so many lies in DEADLY LITTLE LIES. Just when you think you know who’s telling the truth, you find out that person might be lying. I’m really excited about the release. I think fans of DEADLY LITTLE SECRET will be pleased with this latest installment of the TOUCH SERIES. There are tons of twists and turns and a romantic triangle develops.
You wrote the bestselling series “Blue is for Nightmares”. Can you pitch it in a few lines, to spark the interest of those who haven’t read it yet?
The BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES SERIES centers around Stacey Brown, a 16-year-old hereditary Witch who experiences premonitions about the fate of herself and her friends. She uses folk magic as a way to bring those premonitions to fruition, so she can stop the impending danger before it’s too late.
The graphic novel “Black is for Beginnings” is in bookstores since September 2009. What can we except from Stacey and her friends in this new addition to the series? Will there be another book?
When my editor approached me with the idea of writing a graphic novel, I was very intrigued because it gave me the opportunity to not only try something new, but to really picture the book as a movie. I have a background in screenwriting and wrote BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS in screenplay format, adding in ideas for illustrations and sidebars. It was an absolute thrill to write, and to have the opportunity to work with an illustrator for these characters and situations I’d created. BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS does not take the place of a regular prose novel in the series. It is a companion piece, complimenting the entire series as a whole. It picks up where RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE left off, and also shows some fan-favorite scenes from the entire series. As for another book in the series, I’m not sure yet. I’m open to the idea, so we’ll see. A spin-off or companion series could also be fun.
You were born in Salem (who doesn’t know about the Salem Witch Trials?). Is there a connection between your hometown and your writing?
Yes and no. I first started BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES in an adolescent fiction writing workshop in graduate school. I knew I wanted to write a mystery/thriller. I loved suspense novels as a young adult and I really wanted to write something that would have appealed to me at that age, adding in elements of humor, romance, and drama. When I started the novel, I had no idea I would delve into the world of magic and witchcraft – that is until I did a free-writing exercise in my workshop class. I wrote a scene in which Stacey, my main character, was meditating in front of a blue candle. Students in my class suggested that since Stacey had a candle, and since I’m originally from Salem, I make her a practicing Wiccan.
A very predictable question for an author writing about magic: do you believe in magic, witches and supernatural powers?
Having been raised in Salem, MA, and having done a lot of research on Witchcraft, I do have a lot of respect for the Wiccan religion. Growing up, it was really no big deal to have practicing Wiccans in class with you in school. They’re normal people, with normal jobs, who go about their normal lives. It’s a major religion in Salem, and people take it very seriously. I think Salem’s biggest influence on me is that I’m open to that. But, no, I am not a Witch and do not practice magic, though I do love home remedies and lighting an occasional soy candle.
When did you start writing? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
I tried selling my first novel BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES for over two years before I finally found an editor who was willing to work with me. That editor, Megan Atwood, though no longer at Llewellyn Publications, was really excited about the project and so I knew I was in good hands.
Finding a suitable agent or editor is a full-time pursuit and luckily I didn’t give up – even 50 rejection letters later. When I was trying to sell, I kept a log detailing to whom I had sent my work, what exactly I had sent (i.e. a query letter, sample pages, the full manuscript), how long he or she had kept it, and what the outcome was.
My favorite rejection letter came 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 150,000 copies, was named a Reluctant Reader Quick Pick through the American Library Association, a Popular Paperback, was nominated for YALSA’s Top Ten Teen pick list, and has been translated into a dozen different languages. When I speak to young people and aspiring writers, I always tell them this story, that if I had stopped persevering, I may never have been able to enjoy the success of my work.
How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits? What about the writer’s block?
I don’t have any rituals or habits, except that when I’m on deadline, I write at least 10 pages per week.
As for writer’s block, I don’t allow myself to get it. Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I grab a notebook and pen, and get away from the computer. I start taking notes on my work in progress – where I am in my story, what I know for sure, and where I need to be. I remind myself of my main character’s motivations and obstacles, and try to think of new and interesting ways to throw my reader off track.
Catastrophe scenario: imagine you wake up tomorrow and find out you’re not an author anymore. What will you do?
I love health and nutrition. I think I might go back to school to become out a holistic nutritionist. I’d also take a trip to Maui.
If you had a faerie in a bottle granting you three wishes, what would you ask for?
To end suffering, poverty, and intolerance.
Do you know a scary urban legend you’d like to share?
Yes, when I was writing PROJECT 17, I did a ton of research on the former Danvers State Hospital, the abandoned mental institution on which the novel is based. When I was in high school, the hospital would get broken into on a regular basis. Kids would go up there at night, searching for adventure. The hospital, now mostly condos, is rumored to have been haunted as a result of all the suffering that went on there. The hospital was also built on the land where Judge Hathorne’s, (the judge for the Salem Witch Trials), house had been. I spoke with a psychic claiming to have gone to Danvers to do a séance shortly after it’d been closed down. According to her, when she climbed the main steps of the Kirkbride Building, she got violently ill, completely disturbed by what she’d sensed.
If you could trade places with anybody for one day, who would that be?
Seriously? My cat. She sleeps for most of the day, stops for a little playtime, eats really well, and gets lots of attention.
Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how? Can you remember your best/worst Halloween memory? Who would go as this year?
Yes, I celebrate by taking my kids trick-o’-treating. We hit the retirement home first, and then make our way around the neighborhood. We decorate the house with faux-cobwebs, spiders, a black cauldron that gives off fog, and jack-o’-lanterns. We also play scary music that blares out the windows, so passersby can hear. My worst Halloween story? I spent the evening in Salem – it’s like Mardi Gras in Salem on Halloween. Some guy wearing a Michael Myers hockey mask (from the movie Halloween) followed me all over the city. He never said a word and I couldn’t get away from him.
Could you advise some good Halloween-themed reads for those who want to feel All Hallow’s Eve magic during whole October?
Anything by Stephen King.
What are you working on next? Do you wish to add something, Laurie?
I’m currently working on DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES. I’m also working on DO YOU SEE, the third book in the Amanda Project.
I’d like to also inform readers about the contest I’m currently running, the winner of which could have their creative writing critiqued by my editor.
BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS CONTEST – DEADLINE OCTOBER 15TH
1. Go get yourself a copy of BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS.
2. Read it.
3. Come up with a playlist of at least 10 songs based on BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS. The songs can be of any music genre and of any time period you feel is most suitable (feel free to mix things up). Send the list, along with a brief explanation for each song, as to why you think it’s a good fit for the book, to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Winning entries will reflect an understanding of the book’s themes, characters, issues, scenes, and overall story. The winning playlist will appear on my site, along with your first name.
FORMAT: Your entries should appear like this: “Name of Song” by “Artist.” I chose this song because it reminds me of the scene where Stacey blah, blah, blah…
DEADLINE: Midnight, EST, October 15, 2009.
NOTIFICATION: Winners will be notified no later than November 1st, 2009.
PRIZE: The winner of the contest will get to have up to ten pages of his or her creative writing, (12-point font, double-spaced, standard margins), critiqued by Brian Farrey, my amazing and talented acquisitions editor at Llewellyn/Flux Publications (the publisher of my BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series).
ALTERNATE PRIZE: If you are not a creative writer and would prefer an alternate prize, my publisher is having some BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS apparel made up (we’re thinking it might be a T-shirt or sweatshirt – details coming soon). It’ll have a graphic from “BLACK” on there, and if you’d like I can autograph it for you.
TOUCH SERIES CONTEST COMING SOON
Also, I will be announcing a TOUCH SERIES contest very soon, the winner of which will get a minor character in DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES named after him or her. Details coming soon, so please keep checking my website: www.lauriestolarz.com
And here comes the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question” I’ve been asking for three years: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
I’d use it toward a day at the spa. It’s been way too long since I’ve treated myself to a seaweed wrap and massage.
Author & Book: Can’t pick just one, but one of my favorite books of all time is The Awakening by Kate Chopin. As for what I’m reading at the moment, I’m currently on an Ellen Hopkins spree.
Movies: Never Been Kissed, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Juno, Green Card, Once, The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones Diary, Thelma & Louise, Mean Girls, Moonstruck, Clueless, Under the Tuscan Sun, and anything with John Cusack.
TV shows: The Hills, The City, Real Housewives of (wherever), The Real World, America’s Next Top Model, and Supernatural.
Food: Indian food – onion chutney, curried vegetables, and kashmir bread. I also love cheeseless pizza from Bertucci’s.
Music: Fergie, James Blunt, Tori Amos, Sting, Sarah MacLachlin, Gwen Stefani, Black-eyed Peas, Gavin Rossdale
Hobbies: Walking, napping, cooking, shopping, interior decorating.
Place to write in: My office.
Quote or Motto: Perseverance is key.
“Tea or Coffee?”
Tea or Coffee? Coffee. Bold and black.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant with friends.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Crazy Megapolis.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Depends on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Wannabe couch potato who does dance-aerobics, yoga, Pilates, and plays tennis. I do love my potato time, though.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Both.
Thank you, Laurie!
You can learn more about Laurie Faria Stolarz and her books at http://www.lauriestolarz.com
Laurie’s Reading List for Halloween
Anything by Stephen King.