Good morning everybody! Today we are in for an amazing interview. We get to have a conversation with two amazing authors. One you have met already. She is another contributor on Pots ‘N Pens, Michelle McLean. *blows kisses to our wonderful readers* The other is the beautiful Lisa Amowitz. *smiles and waves to everyone while the room irrupts with applause*
Lisa is an artist, graphic designer and illustrator who writes young adult fiction. She is a mom of an actual teen, so YA; She's living it. She is represented by the incredibly awesome Victoria Marini of Gelfman, Schneider, and is currently working on her most recent book, BREAKING GLASS. You can visit her on the web at: http://lisa-amowitzya.blogspot.com/
Hello Ladies, welcome to the table! If you were serving one of your characters his or her ideal meal, what would it be and why?
LA: Well, let's see. I write both dark supernatural YA and illustrate and write picture books (I have just completed a collaboration with your blogmate, Michelle McLean), so I would have to feed my two most recent MCs very different meals. For Jeremy Glass, the lovesick boy from BREAKING GLASS, I'd make chicken soup. Poor Jeremy can really use some mothering. As for Lyria, Michelle and my highly imaginative MC from our picture book, LYRIA'S EXTRAORDINARY WISH, I'd probably make something nutritious, yet magical--like a delicious yogurt parfait, topped blueberries, bananas, strawberries and honey.
MM – LOL the first thing I thought of was this cake I saw that was called Unicorn Birthday cake (or something like that). It was seven layers, each color of the rainbow, neon bright, covered in white frosting that glittered with sugar crystals. I think Lyria would LOVE that :)
I think my daughter would love that cake as well! She loves unicorns and glitter…Anyway back to your character. Let's say they are raiding your fridge right now, what are they most likely to eat? Are they disappointed or excited about what they find?
LA: I think BOTH my MCs would be incredibly unhappy. Jeremy exists on a diet of pizza, meatball heroes, Indian food and whatever takeout stuff his dad brings in. Lyria would most likely want mint butterscotch chocolate ice cream or whatever. I don't bring much sugary stuff into my house, so if either MC is interested in leftover broccoli soup or seafood pasta (actually Jeremy might approve of that) they'll be in heaven.
MM - I agree. Lyria is pretty much unhappy with everything about her ordinary world, and there is certainly nothing extraordinary in my fridge. She could probably dream up something fabulous though.
Share your favorite literary feast or treat. What makes this food and/or writing so memorable?
LA: I guess a memorable moment for me is when, in the first book of the Hunger Games, Katniss is treated to her very first sumptious meal in the train on the way to the Games. The way her mouth waters, even though she is consumed with guilt over how her friends and family back home will never experience such a savory delight, is so vivid and well written I can still practically taste the meal.
MM – one scene that has always stuck with me is that one from Harry Potter and the Order of the
(I believe) where Voldemort possesses Harry for a moment. Dumbledore and his friends are standing there helpless while Harry writhes in agony trying to fight Voldemort off. Just the thought of watching a loved one suffer like that, or suffering like that for your loved ones, was an very memorable image for me. If we are going for plain food…every feast scene in Harry Potter LOL How awesome would it be to just have tables full of amazing food appear before your eyes! Phoenix
Is there a food you'd love to learn how to cook or a different genre or type of book you'd love to try to write?
LA: Hmmm...I think working on this picture book with Michelle was a big stretch for me. Though I am trained as an artist and illustrator and have been writing YA for years, I found writing in picture book language was nearly impossible. That's how I ended up begging the amazing Michelle for help. But I got more than help. I got a partner--a partner who has inspired me and spurred me toward real enthusiasm for the project. One thing I do plan to tackle down the road is a middle grade book. But first my agent would dearly like me to write another YA thriller to pair nicely with BREAKING GLASS.
MM – I’ve got to say, working on the picture book with Lisa has been beyond amazing for me. I actually write several different genres. Non-fiction, historical romances, and YA urban fantasies, as well as picture books. But I can’t draw to save my life. And the really stunning ideas for PBs aren’t always there for me. So to pair with Lisa, who had this amazing vision and is able to create these absolutely gorgeous illustrations has been a dream come true for me.
Actual cooking…yeah, I’d like to do it ALL better LOL I can bake, but my husband is the gourmet cook in the family. When I attempt anything other than spaghetti, the family revolts :)
What are three must-have foods/seasonings in your kitchen?
LA: pepper. olive oil. fresh garlic.
MM – chocolate, bread, chocolate :D
I love chocolate too, but my kids can sniff it out so it is never in my kitchen longer than a few hours. Speaking of kitchen, what's your favorite kitchen accessory or appliance? How about a favorite writing accessory or reference?
I LOVE my blending stick. It's how I make all my puree soups. My favorite writing accessory is the software Scrivener. I put all my research in there and do my outlining.
MM – umm it’s a toss - up between my microwave and toaster :D For writing, google. And I’m just starting to use Scrivener and liking it so far.
What is your A+, number 1 writing snack?
LA: that's easy--late at night it's a steaming mug of chai tea. For a writing lunch its egg salad on a rice cracker topped with a slice of tomato. Or if I want a quick breakfast, I make a scrambled egg, melt some cheddar cheese and top that with a slice of tomato.
MM – okay, Lisa is making me feel like such a slob LOL I generally go straight for the Goldfish crackers :)
If you could borrow one person's zest for writing and/or life, whose and why?
LA: I think I would borrow Michelle's! She is one of the most disciplined, positive and amazing people I know. And she is lightning quick, reliable and super-efficient. Then there is my critique-mate Dhonielle Clayton, who is brimming with ideas, plans, and so much imagination I don't know how it fits into one tiny little woman. And last, can I borrow genius? I would borrow a QUARTER of the brain of my critique-mate Kate Milford (THE BONESHAKER, 2010). This woman is utterly, insanely brilliant and so jaw-droppingly creative it takes my breath away. And, guess what, she's as nice as a person can be. And one more? How about the amazing Libba Bray? I have had the good fortune of meeting her several times and she is SO funny, and kind that I would like a little (or a lot) of her GRACE. To be so successful, yet so grounded and have a sense of humor about herself is a thing to behold.
MM – I think my kids’ zest for everything. They get so excited over the littlest things – it always reminds me to look at the good in everything. Last Christmas, we got my kids little work desks and I stocked them with office supplies – pens, crayons, glue, paper – and I wrapped everything just for fun. My son opened the paper, looked confused but with a smile, and then said “I don’t know what to do with this but it’s awesome!” :) And I’d love to have their energy for sure :)
Please share one cheesy "writing is like cooking" thought.
LA: Don't have one of these.
MM – *crickets*
What inspired your latest book, and what ingredients do you hope make it a tasty treat for readers?
LA: I guess part of what inspired BREAKING GLASS was thinking back to high school and how there was always some guy who would put me on a pedestal, but not really like me for who I really was. In other words, they would form some romantic notion of me, and love that person. I had a boyfriend like that and it always annoyed me that I couldn't really be myself. That's why we broke up after I went to college, because I came back as ME and that was that. Then, there is the somewhat spooky magical
Northern Westchester town my close friends live in. The town is Croton-on-Hudson and the town in BREAKING GLASS (Riverton) is close visual replica of Croton, with its winding roads, gorges, reservoirs and rivers. Otherwise, I have no clue---it's just a mishmash of the dust collecting in my head.
MM – My lips are sealed on this one. Sorry.
Hey. I totally get it. What's cooking? Can you share a bit about your next project?
LA: Michelle has a whole lot of PB ideas up her sleeve, so she'll have to fill you in on those. My next WIP will be about a country boy who finds himself afflicted with a strange supernatural malady that puts him on the trail of a serial killer. I don't really want to say too much more about it!
MM – ah yes, poor Lisa…I’ll keep her drawing till the end of the century :) Since Lyria’s story is a bit more girl-centric, we want to do a book with a cute little boy hero who will have all sorts of fabulous adventures. And…I have a few more but I don’t want to send the illustrator into a panic attack ;-) For my other projects, I have an NF book on how to write poetry and my fiction WIPs a historical about 3 sisters set in Gold Rush California and a YA urban fantasy partial verse novel :)
What's your go-to meal when you need to serve something quick and easy?
LA: A variation of the above---melted cheese on a rice cracker topped with tomato.
MM – spaghetti – it’s fast, easy, and my kids will eat it
If your book were a menu item, describe the restaurant that would serve it?
LA: BREAKING GLASS CAFE would be dark, moody and candlelit. There would be Tarot card readings and the waitresses would all be dressed like Pirate Queens. There would be no alcohol, but you'll have to read the book to find out why.
MM – hmm I think it would be very bright and colorful, with wispy drapes of iridescent fabrics hanging from the ceilings, crystal drop chandeliers, with a glass bottomed floor above a massive fish tank…and they would only serve desserts :D
LA: I think I’d rather eat at Lyria’s Luncheonette than the Breaking Glass Café. J
Tell us about your edible specialty, and rate your skill in the kitchen: novice, not bad, or nominate me for a Michelin star.
LA: I make a great ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini and polenta. I would rate myself as an intermediate cook--definitely not Julia Child, but not half bad. No one starves in my house. One thing I am awful at is baking. I leave that to my husband (not that he is that good, but beggars can't be choosers). :)
MM – I can bake – I make a chocolate cake to die for :D but cooking…yeah, not so much. I mean I’m not horrible…but I’m close :D
Describe the best cook you know and something wonderful he or she has served you.
LA: My dear friend Debbie Cohen is a great cook, but her son, college student Josh Karp is an awesome baker. Now, 20, when Josh was 13 he made a peach tart that was literally the best thing I ever tasted in my life. Sadly he is much too busy (and far away) at college--but I know we'll get him back in the kitchen eventually. (Hi Josh!)
MM – my husband. He really should have been a chef, he’s AMAZING. We do a huge taco night once or twice a month with the neighbors. He makes this incredible marinated shredded pork with homemade chips and a corn guacamole that I could live off of. And his souvlaki is soooo yummy!
Leftovers can be great, especially when the same ingredients are retasked into another magical meal. Name a book that you wish had a sequel (or another sequel) and what kind of story you think that literary remix would tell.
I adore the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. I would nearly sell my soul for a fourth book in that series (or fifth or sixth). AND I am still waiting for another book by Marcus Zusak of the Book Thief. Drumming my fingers. Marcus? What the heck is taking you so long? Oh, and while we are at it, Libba Bray, what about a sequel to Going Bovine? And lastly--if only there was a sequel to one of my favorite books of all time. The
. Hmmmm..maybe my MC can bring Frances Hodgson Burnett back from the dead to write that one. Secret Garden
MM – hmm you know, I really liked The Host by Stephanie Meyer. Keep hoping for a sequel to that one.
Not every idea is a winner. Written or not, what's the most ill-conceived story idea you've ever had?
LA: I had this idea of alien kids growing up on Earth with a jewel in their bellies that transmitted a signal to the other alien kids. Yeah. NOT!
MM – lol I wrote this picture book about a caveman who had to learn to share and he gathered a bunch of stuff for a meal and ended up sharing his fish and caveman salad with a dinosaur (because, you know, I wanted him to have a healthy meal lol) :D
Too much salt can ruin an exquisite meal and the perfect dessert tempers earlier mistakes. What ingredients can destroy a book through overuse or salvage a book despite its flaws?
LA: I have a long list...
LA: Too many exclamation points.
To many dialogue tags. Add adjectives and it gets even worse. (said, Mary, excitedly.)
Passive writing--I think that's what this is called (I saw the man lift the vase. I smelled the lingering smoke)
An unlikable MC
excessive description of items, scenes, etc that have nothing to do with the narrative
Telling the reader in the first paragraph the color of the mc's hair and eyes--particularly while they look in the mirror.
Beautiful, lyrical writing
a great mc with great dialogue
a clever and unique plot
MM – negatives – too much body language, especially during dialogue. Force-feeding the reader info or being redundant. Trying to use dialogue to info dump “You know Mom, the tall blonde with the glasses who went to Harvard and then gave up her career to raise five boys? She’s making lasagna for dinner, your favorite meal!”
For me, a great character saves the book every time. The rest might be dreadful but if I care about the character, I’ll usually put up with the rest.
Tell about a time when food inspired your writing or a book inspired your cooking.
LA: I have a blog post from February 2010. I had just seen Julie/Julia, the movie and ran out to buy a fancy French casserole dish. It was a time that I was feeling rather blue about my writing..but cooking excited me--and not just for the outcome, but for the simple joy of it. I decided to approach my writing the same way--focus on the process and worry about the results later. It paid off--that summer I signed with my wonderful, wonderful, (I can't praise her enough) agent Victoria Marini and haven't looked back. Oh--and I do like to make sure
gets her share of cupcakes, though she wouldn't want any I baked myself. :) Victoria
MM – I read a blog post from someone who had just come back from a trip to
. They had tried lime marmalade there and loved it. I’d heard of orange marmalade, but never lime. It sounded delicious lol So it became my MC’s favorite breakfast item :) England
If you could invite a character to dinner who would it be and what would you serve?
I would invite Molly Weasly from Harry Potter and ask her to conjure the meal. She is one tough chick and I love her!
MM – agreed!
Me too! She’d have to be a great cook with all those boys. One last question, if you were marooned on an island, and Pots 'N Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose?
LA: Oh--man. Harry Potter of course! And the food? Papaya? Refreshing, healthy and sweet? Uhhh--I think I would hate that after the first day if it was all I had to eat. Maybe I should change it to rice pudding. I never get sick of rice pudding, but I try to avoid it since it is one of the most fattening foods on the planet!
MM – hmm probably Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I love that book (well the series really). And it’s really long so that would be helpful. As for a food…something I wouldn’t find on the island…like steak LOL
Pudding and steak, sounds good to me. Thank you, ladies. It was a joy talking to you. We look forward to reading your work.