Your latest novel is Better Off Friends. What do you like the most about it? Which aspect of it makes you feel more proud?
My favorite part of Better Off Friends is the banter between Macallan and Levi at the beginning of every chapter. I think you can really tell a lot about a relationship from simply hearing two people talk to each other. It was a lot of fun to write, but I think why I’m so proud of it is because I never thought I would get away with it! I knew if I told my editor, “So I’m going to open my book with dialogue in different fonts and the reader won’t know who’s talking at first…” he’d think I was crazy. Fortunately, I just put in the book and he loved it!
Both The Lonely Hearts Club and Take A Bow show your love for music. Which part of you can we find in Better off Friends?
I decided, almost on a whim, to set Better Off Friends in the state of Wisconsin where I’m originally from. So much of my childhood, and favorite things about growing up in Wisconsin, ended up popping up throughout the book (mostly the food and I also put a lot of inside nods to my favorite American football team, the Green Bay Packers). Probably the biggest influence was the character of Uncle Adam, he’s heavily influence by the relationship that I have with my Uncle Peter. My father was very proud that I did that.
Why have you decided to continue Penny Lane's story now, five years after publishing The Lonely Hearts Club?
I’ve wanted to write a sequel since I finished writing The Lonely Hearts Club. I feel out of all my books, that one needs a sequel the most. Since The Lonely Hearts Club is all about putting yourself and your friends first, the question for the sequel really is, what happens when you get a boyfriend? How do you balance your friends and a guy? The reason it took so long was that I was under contract for other books. Last summer I realized it was now or never and began working on the sequel!
How did you become a Beatles fan? Did it run in the family as in Penny's case?
Unfortunately, my parents aren’t huge Beatles fans. The Beatles always crept into my life growing up: we sang Beatles songs during my music class at school, I was taught Beatles songs on the piano and clarinet. I got a few Beatles CDs as a teen and couldn’t believe how many of their songs I already knew. Then I went to college and studied abroad in London, did the whole Beatles walking tour (including a walk on the infamous Abbey Road zebra crossing) and became officially obsessed!
You have written four more books after The Lonely Hearts Club. When you came back to the story, did you notice any changes in you as a writer?
I was terrified to re-read The Lonely Hearts Club. It had been five years since I really looked at the book and I knew (or at least hoped!) that I had grown as a writer. I thought I would be cringing throughout it, but I really enjoyed it! HA! There were some verbal and grammar crutches that I had back then that I grew out of, but since it’s Penny Lane’s voice, I tried to keep her voice consistent. The funniest part about revisiting the book after so much time was that I forgot about a few scenes. I wrote around seventeen drafts of that book so I always have trouble remember what stayed in and what didn’t!
Prom & Prejudice is a Pride and Prejudice retelling. If you had to retell another classic, which one would you choose?
Oh, this is such a good question! I do find myself sometimes looking longingly at a few of Jane Austen’s other novels, but at this point I’m pretty focused on telling my own stories.
Which one of your five published novels was the most difficult to write and why?
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality—I had to combine two ideas that I had (a story about a girl who’s the funny and clever girl guys never see that way and a story about a girl whose younger sister does beauty pageants) and put it into one book. I also didn’t take my own advice and sat down to write before I really knew what I was doing. There were a lot of false starts and tears, but I’m happy with the final product.
Of all the covers of the different editions of your books, which one is your favorite?
I’m really fortunate that I love so many of my covers. My absolutely favorite cover would have to be The Lonely Hearts Club, which a lot of foreign countries used. My favorite foreign cover is the Spanish cover of Better Off Friends!
You've worked as a publicist for Scholastic and Little, Brown. How has this previous experience helped you write your own novels?
It hasn’t really helped the writing part, but it has helped with everything else: working with my different publishers, social media, doing events, etc. There are a lot of elements of being a writer that have nothing to do with the actual writing, so the experience working at a publisher has helped immensely with that. Plus, there are many times that Author Elizabeth and Publicist Elizabeth come to blows. Generally, Author Elizabeth has some sort of nervous breakdown and thinks she’s a failure, and Publicist Elizabeth swoops in to calm her down. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
In 2011 you decided to quit your job as a publicist and devote your time to writing. What are the pros and cons of being a full-time writer?
The pros: getting to wake up every morning to do my dream job, focusing on myself and my career, I can work from anywhere (so I see my family a lot more now), and I am my own boss (although I can be pretty hard on myself when I’m slacking!).
The cons: no steady paycheck and I have to pay for my own health insurance (which has gotten better in the United States, but it’s still really expensive).
There isn’t a part that I dislike, but my favorite is probably at the very beginning. When I’m sitting on my bed with a stack of index cards just writing out possible scenes and characters and mapping it all out. That moment when all of the “what if” questions I’ve been asking start to come together to form a story. I also really like the editing process with an editor, I know some authors hate this, but I want my story to be the best that it can be. At that stage, it’s been in my head for so long it’s nice to talk through it with someone else.
You are very active in the Internet. Which one is your favorite social network to keep in touch with your readers?
Probably Twitter. Since there are only 140 characters, it’s easier for me to stay on top of all the comments there. I do really try to get back to everybody. I’m so grateful to my readers—I wouldn’t have this job without them!
We've read in your Facebook that you are working on three different projects. We suppose one of them is We Can Work It Out and we can't help but ask... what can you tell us about the other two?
Yes, one of those projects is We Can Work it Out, which I’m very close to finishing. I can’t really say much about the other two since they aren’t currently under contract, but I can say this: they are very different from what I’ve done in the past and not necessarily for a teen reader! I really, REALLY hope I’ll be able to share these projects with people soon.