Today I'm interviewing YA author Elizabeth LaBan whose debut YA novel, The Tragedy Paper, is being published by RHCP in the UK on 10th January 2013. Read on for more:
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan - Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history. from Goodreads.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
On Twitter I describe myself as a mom, a writer and a well-fed wife which pretty much sums me up. I have two kids – my daughter Alice is 13 and my son Arthur is 10. I love working from home because I can be totally available to them if they need anything. Right now, for example, they are on winter break. I’ve been getting up early to work, but once the day starts we have been just hanging out, going out to lunch. It has been great. I say I am a well-fed wife because my husband is the restaurant critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer and food is a huge part of our lives. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am – to have a family I really want to be with and to be able to write – and now, to have a book published! I feel very, very lucky.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
Yes! As far back as fourth grade I played with the idea of writing a book. A friend and I created a character named Chopped Suey – he was a cool urban kid detective – but we could never agree on a case he had to solve! So instead we spent lots of afternoons designing the cover. Recently I helped my mom clean through a bunch of boxes in her apartment and I found my many attempts at books (one was actually called Me!), and I also found a stack of blank books filled with ideas.
How did you come up with the idea for The Tragedy Paper?
I have always been drawn to young adult books and really wanted to try to write one. When I was in high school I wrote an extensive paper about Greek and Shakespearean tragedy that always stuck with me. About three years ago, my agent suggested I read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werter. I loved the story, and especially the structure of the story. I started playing around with ways to modernize it. Of course, it is one of the classic tragedies, which sparked my memory about the paper I wrote in high school. The two started coming together in my mind and The Tragedy Paper was born.
If you could describe The Tragedy Paper in three words, what would they be?
Young, tragic, love.
Why will readers like your main characters, Tim and Duncan?
I think they will like Tim and Duncan because they are real teenagers, struggling with pretty typical teenage angst, but they each come at it from a different point. Also, they are both kind, likable people in a sea of less sympathetic people.
What research did you have to do for The Tragedy Paper? Was there anything you found that surprised you?
I did research about albinos and what they sometimes have to deal with. I wouldn’t say I was surprised by any of it, but I was very interested and I wanted to make sure I got it right. And then there was also the research about the terms that are used when talking about a tragedy in literature. I did have my old tragedy paper – so I used that as a reference – and I looked up whatever that couldn’t answer for me.
Tell us about how you write; do you write in a particular place? Do you have any music playing? Do you have any must-haves with you while writing?
I write very haphazardly at a laptop at our dining room table. There are often very messy piles of papers and books surrounding me. I don’t listen to music, but I don’t need quiet either. If I am deep into a scene, the kids can be screaming and my husband can be talking loudly on the phone and none of that bothers me. I think that’s because I spent about five years in various newsrooms where there can be chaos around you but you still have to be able to focus on your story.
What was most surprising to you during the writing process?
I was surprised by how long it took between the time my editor Erin Clarke bought the book and the time it will be in stores. It has been two solid years. Partly I think that is because Random House did such a wonderfully meticulous job making sure the story and the copyediting were as good as they could get, so I am very grateful about that. But it has been such a long process that I almost can’t believe we are finally at the end of it.
How does it feel to know your book will soon be in the hands of readers?
Amazing and scary! I have gotten a tiny taste of what it might be like through seeing what early readers are saying about the book, but I can’t wait for it to be widely available. At this point, I am really just counting down days until it is officially out there.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just that I am thrilled The Tragedy Paper is also being published in the U.K. – that is a thrill! And thank you so much for your interest in my book.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for such a great interview! So looking forward to reading The Tragedy Paper, it sounds amazing!! You can find Elizabeth on her website, Twitter, and Facebook. And you can view the trailer below.