An Interview with Lara M. Zeises
On her website, Lara M. Zeises is described as "Dorkus Extremis and pop culture junkie, not to mention the young adult author of Bringing Up the Bones and Contents Under Pressure." I think I can speak for all of us at Pop! by saying that Lara's definitely not a Dorkus Extremis in our book, especially since she was kind enough to agree to be interviewed by me!
1. What is your favorite thing about being an author? What is your least favorite?
My favorite thing varies from day to day. But first and foremost, I have to say there's nothing better than getting paid to do what you love. Whether it's write books, or teach classes on writing, or speaking to YA advocates about books and writing and reading - it's all very, very lovely stuff, and to make an actual living off my passion ... that's rare.
My least favorite thing is a purely grown-up concern, and that is I don't have health care insurance. You don't care about things like benefits when you're 16, but at almost 30, not having medical insurance is kind of scary.
2. You've chosen to take your second book, Contents Under Pressure, beyond the confines of a book by having the main character continue her story in a LiveJournal. What have you discovered about writing and your characters by doing this?
It's a lot harder than it looks to keep up Lucy's journal. It's not because it's journal format but because A) my editor originally asked me to try to not lock Lucy into any plot lines in case some day they might want to do a sequel and B) Lucy now is almost two years older than when the book ended. In fact, she turns 16 at the end of August. Lucy @ 16 is very different from Lucy @ 14, and I have to keep track of that whenever I write a new entry.
Fans of the journal are rabid, though. They want more, more, more! It's flattering but a lot of pressure, especially when I'm under a zillion deadlines.
3. As you write your books, have you found that working as an instructor at a university helps shape your characters? What about the teens you interact with during your workshops?
While I like working with my freshmen at UD, and the teens who take my writing workshops, I rarely use them as inspiration for characters. Sometimes I'll bounce ideas off my UD students - like, when I got the first draft of the cover for ANYONE BUT YOU, I asked them for feedback. But mostly my characters are born in my brain, not in the classroom.
Although that's not entirely true. One student of mine last fall intrigued the hell out of me, and I was thinking of writing a book based on her life. She was the only girl in a family full of cops and military men, and she knew from birth pretty much that she was expected to go to law school and get into politics. She was someone who had beliefs completely opposite of mine, yet she was so genuine, smart, and cool that I adored her. So I wanted to see if I could write from the perspective of someone completely opposite from me.
4. Many people love reading your LJ because of your great love for pop culture. What do you like about pop culture?
Pop culture IS my culture. Technically I'm part Russian, part Lithuanian, and part English, and technically I'm 100% Jewish, but I was raised without religion and without any sense of ethnicity. So, pop culture gave me a context in which to exist. Television played a huge part in that. I can chart most major moments of my life by what was on TV at the time. For instance, the Fresh Prince, Blossom, and the casts of SAVED BY THE BELL and 90210 graduated high school the year I graduated high school. The rerun of the series finale to THE WONDER YEARS? My mom and I sobbed to it two nights before I left for college. Felicity entered NYU my first year at Emerson (where I got my MFA in creative writing).
See what I mean?
5. What five pop culture artifacts (games, toys, books, CDs, anything!) would you want to have on a desert island?
A TiVo-ready TV w/ digital cable
A lifetime subscription to Entertainment Weekly
My tiny rubber figurine of The Little Prince with the fox, because they watch over me as I write
And Scrabble - but only if I'm NOT alone on the island.
6. Finally, a question from all the members of Pop Goes the Library!: with all you do, when do you find time for sleep?
*laughing* I don't sleep much, really. And then I'll go through a week or two where that's all I can do. The best analogy I can come up with is that I'm like an associate at a law firm, where I need to work 60 to 80 hour weeks and have little to no personal life because eventually, in three to five years, I'm going to make partner. And once that happens, I can actually slow down a little and pay attention to life. That's where I am: a midlist author still trying to make a name for herself. Hopefully it will pay off eventually, you know?
Lara's new book, Anyone but You, will be published in November by Delacorte. Many many thanks to Lara for participating in this interview!