Mirth & Matter: The Journal of Elizabeth Bunce (elizabethcbunce) wrote,
Mirth & Matter: The Journal of Elizabeth Bunce

Morris Interview Series Part I: L.K. Madigan

I'm very excited to welcome Mirth & Matter's first-ever guest interview!  A conversation with the hilarious L.K. Madigan, author of Flash Burnout.

For more from Madigan, check out her interview at the YALSA blog.

From the Morris Shortlist:
"Blake’s life is way too complicated. He’s a sophomore in high school with a girlfriend and a friend who is a girl. One of them loves him. One of them needs him. Can he please them both?"

--First, give us the vital stats on FLASH BURNOUT: What was your inspiration for the novel? How long did it take to write? Was it truly your first book, or are there secret manuscripts lurking in desk drawers or dark closets? 

FLASH BURNOUT was a collision of inspirations.
I have a photo of a little girl we used to know – she’s about five in the photo – and she is beaming. But she has circles under her eyes. Of course, it’s probably a hereditary trait, but every time I looked at her photo, a sentence came into my head: “She had the most heartbroken eyes in the world.”
Right around the same time, I was talking to a friend about a different young adult novel I had written. After receiving a number of rejections, I was thinking I might give up on it. My friend, a medical examiner, said, “You know, I see a lot of meth cases. Did you ever think of writing a book about the meth problem?”
Suddenly, the sentence that kept pinging around in my head – the one about the heartbroken eyes – gave birth to a bunch of other sentences in my head. It got loud in there. A teenage boy’s voice started talking about a girl he knew … but it wasn’t his girlfriend. It was a friend. The better he got to know her, the more he learned about her troubled life, including her meth-addicted mother. How much was he willing to risk in order to help his friend?
I spent eight or nine months writing the book, and about six weeks revising it.
FLASH BURNOUT is my third novel. (If I count the obligatory coming-of-age novel written in college, it would be my fourth.)  

--Can you describe your path to publication and your writing process?  Has anything changed for you since your first sale? What's coming next? 

It took two years and twenty rejections for me to find my agent. She wasn’t even working as an agent when I started the search, so I’m glad it took that long. I cannot imagine a better fit for me. She’s super-sharp, scary smart, lightning-quick, and funny, to boot! 
After two years of slogging through Query World and Rejectionland, it was a thrill to get the call from my agent telling me we had an offer on my book … less than two months after she started sending it out.  
I don’t know if I have an actual writing process. On any given day, I might describe it differently. So TODAY, if I distilled my process down to three words, they would be: 
I don’t outline, I just open a blank document and start writing – PLUNGE! I usually have plenty of momentum to keep me going through the early chapters. Somewhere around the murky middle – when I’m not sure how to get my characters to the climactic scene (or scenes) – I have to force myself to keep going. PERSIST! This is a dangerous time – I’ve heard many writers talk about the lure of a new book idea tempting them away from their work-in-progress. But it’s important to finish the book. I’m going to paraphrase Scott Westerfeld, who was paraphrasing another author when he said this: finish your books, so you know how to do it. The writing process – all of it – takes practice. If you continually get swept away by exciting new ideas and start new books, but never finish them … when you finally get The Unbelievably Great Idea That Could Change Your Life, you won’t know how to write a whole book.
And because writing is hard (in case anyone didn’t know that!) I revise. A lot. Like … a LOT. I doubt there’s a single sentence in any of my books that has not gone through some kind of change. So the final step in my process is to POLISH!
My life has changed in that I’m busier than ever – trying to balance work, family, writing, and “author business.” But I’m very happy to face that challenge.
What’s coming next is my second novel – THE MERMAID’S MIRROR. It will be released in the fall, and it’s a fantasy about a girl surfer who finds a mermaid. Quite a change from the edgy contemporary realistic boy book.

--You posted a hilarious recap of getting "The Call" about your nomination on your blog. How familiar were you with the award?  Were you familiar with the other nominees' work? 

I did know about the award, and I can swear to you I had no notion that my book would ever be considered for it!  

I had read Malinda Lo’s lyrical ASH, and it’s impossible not to know about BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, if you are active in the online YA community. (I’m reading it now.) But I had not heard about HOLD STILL or THE EVERAFTER, so I’m really indebted to the Morris committee librarians – they brought some much-deserved attention to those amazing books. If I had to choose a winner, I would be paralyzed! 

--Tell us a little about the experience of being a first-time novelist.  Has it been what you expected? Any wisdom or insights or surprises to share about the joys or challenges of life during and after the first book? 

I expected to be deliriously happy that my book was out there in the world … a tangible object with covers and pages and a jacket.  
I am. I’m utterly thrilled.  
I expected that my book would not be everyone’s cup of tea.  
It’s not. But my first scathing review hurt more than I thought it would. 
Those two emotions are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but they have one thing in common. I shared them both with supportive writer friends. If I had one piece of advice to share beyond, “FINISH THE BOOK,” it would be: 

Develop friendships with other writers. You’re going to need them for celebration and commiseration. 

--And finally: How much do you love librarians? 

I have been a fan of librarians my whole life … it makes me almost giddy to discover that I have fans among them! 

Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Elizabeth!

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