I'm very fortunate to be able to present to you today an interview with wonder YA author, Luisa Plaja! Luisa, who is the author of Split by a Kiss, Extreme Kissing, and Swapped by a Kiss which will be released 29th April, and the editor of the awesome YA book review blog, Chicklish, answered some questions on Swapped by a Kiss to give us a bit of a taster of what's to come.
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions about your next release, Luisa! Swapped by a Kiss is the sequel to Split by a Kiss. Can you please tell us a little about it?
Thanks for having me here! OK... In Swapped by a Kiss, the focus is on Rachel, Jo's friend from Split by a Kiss. She leaves her Boston home to surprise her on/off boyfriend David at a British music festival - but she's the one who gets the surprise when she sees him kissing Jo in a dance tent. Rachel has always been jealous of Jo, and she runs away, wishing she could actually be Jo instead of being herself. And then she finds herself back in the dance tent with David – and she’s in Jo's body.
In Split, Jo becomes two versions of herself, each making opposite choices when Jo has to make a decision, and in Swapped, Rachel and Jo swap bodies. How did these storylines come to you?
I didn't set out to write the 'split' in Split by a Kiss - it happened as I was writing. I'd started a book about British/American culture shock, but when I reached the 'kissing a hot boy in a cupboard' scene, I realised Jo's recent experiences could have changed her. I thought she might react in two completely different ways depending on how much she'd decided to adapt to her new friends, and I wanted to try out both reactions, which meant sending my character in two different directions. Then I followed her down each path.
As I wrote Split by a Kiss, I knew there was a lot more I wanted to say about the prickly, outspoken, misunderstood character of Rachel. Her story kept brewing after I completed the book, and I realised that a body swap between Rachel and Jo would be the perfect way to explore Rachel's issues. It fits perfectly because Rachel isn't comfortable in her own skin, because she’s not-so-secretly jealous of Jo - and also because Jo mentions in Split by a Kiss that one of her favourite films is Freaky Friday!
Split by a Kiss has been compared to the movie Sliding Doors by many people, including myself. From reading the summary of Swapped by a Kiss, it’s easy to guess people may make comparisons between the books and the many versions of the movie Freaky Friday. Does it bother you that people do, and may, make these comparisons? Were you inspired by either movie when writing the books?
It doesn't bother me at all - I'd make the comparisons myself! Anyway, no story exists in a vacuum - every single one is influenced by other stories. I think I'm possibly more inspired by books than films, though, in general. Freaky Friday was definitely part of the inspiration for Swapped by a Kiss, but I tend to think of the original Mary Rodgers novel rather than the three movie versions. I read that book hundreds of times as a child! I have seen Sliding Doors, but again I think books were a bigger inspiration for Split by a Kiss - for example, when I started writing it, I'd recently read Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, the non-fiction book that later inspired the movie Mean Girls. Another book that has always stuck in my mind is one I read when I was a teenager myself: Her Living Image by Jane Rogers. In that book, aimed at adults, a character splits into parallel lives after being hit by a car - or not. There's a crucial difference between the premise of this story (and that of Sliding Doors) and Split by a Kiss, though - Jo's split doesn't happen by chance. She makes a deliberate decision that takes her down two different paths. Where the Sliding Doors story might be shaped by fate and destiny, Jo's story is about the intentional steps she takes due to her wavering sense of identity and self-worth. (Oh, and it’s a comedy!)
With Split, you fell back on your own experiences when writing about Jo, a British girl, living in America. In Swapped, Rachel, one of Jo’s American friends, is narrating the story of her visiting Jo in England. Was it harder for you write about Rachel’s experiences of England than Jo’s experiences of America?
I don't think I had any trouble seeing England as an outsider - I've had a mixed upbringing and England wasn't the first country I lived in. I know a bit about culture shock! I did struggle with Rachel's vocabulary at first, though. In an effort to get it exactly right, I started off being very careful not to let Rachel use a single British idiom. At one stage, I was trawling the internet for every other phrase Rachel used, making sure it had been uttered by someone in the USA at some point. It was taking ages! Then I remembered that Rachel was heavily influenced by being close friends with half-British David for years - in fact, she'd always deliberately copied his language. After that, I relaxed and Rachel's voice came naturally to me.
Do you have any plans to continue writing with these characters? Can we look forward to a third book? And have you decided on a name for this duology, or perhaps – at least – trilogy?
I call them "the kiss books" to myself - but that includes Extreme Kissing which, as you know, is a standalone. I don't know yet whether there will be more books about the Split by a Kiss characters. I always have lots of juicy ideas keeping me up at night, though!
What can we look forward to reading by you next?
I should have another book out in 2011. It should feature a teenage heroine, comedy, romance and possibly some magic. That's all I can say at the moment!
Thank you very much for these really great questions, Jo! It's been a pleasure to be interviewed by you.
Thank you for letting me interview you! So what are you waiting for, pre-order Swapped by a Kiss from The Book Depository now! If you've not yet read the first in the series, you can also buy Split by a Kiss, as well as Luisa's stand alone novel, Extreme Kissing, from The Book Depository, both of which I highly recommend.