Sunday, September 9, 2012

Interview: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke


Smashed was released 8/21/2012. Enjoy the synopsis and interview!

    Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

    Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

1. Smashed shows a teen on a downward spiral with addiction. What brought you to write this story?
The car accident was the genesis of the story; it’s the scene I saw first in my head. But the accident needed to be someone’s fault to be the beginning of a complex and compelling story. Alcohol use and abuse are common among teenagers, so this was an easy choice.

At the time I began the book—this is many, many years ago—I hadn’t seen alcohol abuse tackled in a YA book, at least not in a believable way. I’ve always wanted to write stories that are complex and realistic, stories that ring true, and reflect the lives of real kids. Alcohol use is sometimes part of those lives.

2. Writing such a serious book could get emotional. Did you ever find yourself feeling the emotions Katie was feeling?

Sure, I think it’s a bit like acting in that you really have to go there for it to be authentic. You really have to get inside the characters’ heads—all of them. For Katie, who narrates the book, I had to express what she was thinking and feeling at any given moment in time, and her feelings are pretty intense.

There is one particular scene in the book that I just didn’t want to write for this reason (I won’t name it, because it would be a spoiler, but if you’ve read it, you can figure it out). I spent an entire day pacing around this writer’s colony where I was staying, then finally jumped in my car, went to a local bookstore, bought a book on the topic of the scene I was avoiding writing, and read that instead. After I finally wrote the scene, I only revised it once, at my editor’s request. I didn’t like going there.

3. Katie plays field hockey. What made you choose that sport?
I simply chose my favorite sport. As a first-time novelist, it was easiest to stick to a sport I knew well. I’d played field hockey for six years and coached it for three. And I had a great time catching up on the sport again--going to state tournaments and doing research on current recruiting practices, for example. It made the writing fun.

4. You hear of some authors being disappointed with the covers chosen for their book. How do you feel about the cover of Smashed?
I absolutely love it. It’s perfect. The girl even looks like Katie. When I saw it, I cried because it was so perfect.

5. When you wrote Smashed did you map the story out or just see where it went?

I mapped it, but I mapped in many times over. When a book is conceived in my head, it comes with a complex situation that interests me, so I knew the main conflicts. Soon after, I knew the big turning points, and the gist of the ending. It’s the scenes that glue all that together that are up for grabs. I know the story in my bones, but how can I convey it to the reader so that she feels it in her bones, too? So my map changed many times, right up to my last draft for Simon & Schuster.

6. Do you hope Smashed conveys a message or is just a great read? If so, what would the message be?
I don’t ever write to send a message. I write to tell honest, compelling stories. For me, it’s just the story of one kid’s reality, told as honestly as possible, in a way that I hope keeps people turning pages. The reader determines what the message is (if any). A bunch of people have told me that after they finished the book, they kept thinking about it for a long time afterward. They couldn’t get it out of their head. I like hearing that. The story meant something to each of them, but what it meant is likely different for each of them.

7. What is your favorite book and why?
I fall in love with just about every book I read, so my answer could be, “Whatever book I’m reading at the moment you ask.” But I read The Catcher in the Rye every year for more than a decade—from the time I was fifteen until I was in my mid-twenties. I haven’t reread any other book that many times, so I’ll say that one. Why? I fell in love with Holden’s voice, and his sensitivity. The way he feels about his brother Allie, the way he hates Ackley for molesting girls, and his love and protectiveness for his sister Phoebe. I could relate to his confusion, and his sadness, and his anger. And his voice always makes me smile.

8. Recently I saw an article saying YA books are more honest about tough topics than adult books. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
Certainly not if you include memoir…those books are often brutally honest. Hmmm, I’m not sure I agree. The truths are just different. One of my favorite adult books in the last few years was Olive Kitteridge, which does not shy away from looking at the difficulties of aging (among other things).

9. Other than writing how do you keep yourself busy?
I practice Ashtanga yoga several times a week, and I love to hike in the woods and on the rural roads near my home. I have a full time day job as an editor of professional books for English Language arts teachers and a family, including a young daughter, that I love spending time with, too. It’s a more than busy life right now!

10. What's next for you? Are you currently writing another book?
Yes, I’m about 90-100 pages into another book. It’s set in the same town, but with an entirely different cast of characters, and very different conflicts. It’s told in the alternating points-of-view of two girls who become friends. I have three other books in my head that I’d like to write after that.

A big thanks to Lisa for taking the time to talk to me!

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