Monday, January 07, 2008

What's Fresh with Laura Wiess's Leftovers

A devastating novel of desperation and revenge from one of today's most compelling new voices in fiction. In this follow-up to her heartbreaking debut, Such a Pretty Girl, Laura Wiess once again spins a shattering tale of the tragedies that befall young women who are considered society's Leftovers.

Blair and Ardith are best friends who have committed an unforgivable act in the name of love and justice. But in order to understand what could drive two young women to such extreme measures, first you'll have to understand why. You'll have to listen as they describe parents who are alternately absent and smothering, classmates who mock and shun anyone different, and young men who are allowed to hurt and dominate without consequence. You will have to learn what it's like to be a teenage girl who locks her bedroom door at night, who has been written off by the adults around her as damaged goods. A girl who has no one to trust except the one person she's forbidden to see. You'll have to understand what it's really like to be forgotten and abandoned in America today.

Are you ready?

Hi Laura, it's great to have you here! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Laura: My mom loves books and is a voracious reader. I grew up being read to, and taken on weekly trips to the library where we'd leave with a big bag of books. From there I started writing stories of my own and did that for years for my own amusement until one day I stopped and asked myself if I wanted to see if I had what it took – whatever that was – to try and get something published.

That was scary because I knew there would be a lot to learn about the craft – as much as any other profession – and it would be taking something I did just because I loved it and getting serious. So I went back to the library and pulled out every book I could find about how to write. Studied, learned, wrote, got rejected, wrote more, learned more, got more rejections. Kept going because during the learning I realized that yes, this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

My first acceptance was a short story for middle readers in an inspirational magazine. That acceptance meant more to me than anything because I had finally created something from my imagination that someone else – a stranger -- thought was good enough to buy. Yow.

My first YA book was called Downtown Boy. It was a problem/romance novel and was published with HarperCollins back in 1993 under my former last name of Battyanyi-Petose. My first husband passed away shortly after the next books, a ten book YA series called Girlfriends written under the pseudonym Nicole Grey and published by Kensington, came out.

Some years later I remarried and became Laura Wiess, and that's the name I write under now.

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Before the characters actually come alive and are still forming in my mind, I'm up with coffee and doing a quick email check, then mulling, what-iffing, trying on ideas, researching random ideas, listening for the characters and then hopefully starting to write.

Once the characters are formed and I'm caught up in their lives I usually grab coffee and go right to work, rereading a page or two where I left off and then disappearing straight into the manuscript. I take bathroom and food breaks. Sometimes I get up and stretch and perform a quick, mindless task to give my subconscious and the characters time to figure out what happens next but other than that, I'm pretty focused. My husband and cats know that this is not the time for interruptions, and that sooner or later I'll resurface and rejoin the living. This daily routine continues until the book is done or I'm stuck and need some distance to get things moving again.

I also don't read anything while I'm in this stage because I've found out (the hard way) that I'm susceptible to other writing styles and don't want to jeopardize the grasp I have on the fledgling story. So it's a voluntary isolation and it works.

Please tell us about your latest novel LEFTOVERS and what we can expect from your characters.

Laura: LEFTOVERS was just released on January 1, 2008 and is published by MTV Books/S&S.

Blair and Ardith, the main characters, are best friends who have committed an unforgivable act in the name of love and justice. LEFTOVERS is the why behind the act, the feeling alone and powerless, being tormented and targeted, the beauty of their firsts, hopes and dreams, how the girls soak up and internalize different influences – school, guys, parents, media, messages, and family -- and how their desperation and anger ultimately manifests.

Laura, I was wowed by SUCH A PRETTY GIRL, and I'm looking forward to LEFTOVERS. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Laura: I'm working on my next MTV Book right now, and am haunted by and exploring several questions: How is love born and how does it die? How far will you go for a real love, and how far is that real love willing to go for you in return? And what is it specifically that you just don't want to turn and look right at because the cost is too high?

Thank you for chatting with us, Laura! Best of luck with writing career. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Laura: Sure. Try not to censor anything while you're writing the story, especially in a first draft. Just write what's happening and make it as real and true as possible, cutting nothing (at first) no matter how intense it might be. Write characters that make you wish you knew them in real life, so I as the reader can wish the same. I want to become emotionally involved with your characters and their struggles, triumphs and dreams. I want to root for them, and I want the passion the author has for the characters, subjects, issues, whatever to sweep me up and carry me in.

And don't let rejection stop you because it's just another step in the journey. Keep going, what-iffing, learning, reading and writing. Don't give up.

Laura Wiess is the author of the critically acclaimed thriller Such a Pretty Girl and the newly-released Leftovers, both published by MTV Books. For more information please visit or

5 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Hello, Laura, thank you for joining us at YA FRESH. I really enjoyed reading about you, your books, and your writing processes, and will definitely check out your latest book!

Jessica Burkhart said...

Sounds great! I loved, loved SUCH A PRETTY GIRL and can't wait to read this one. :)

laura wiess said...

Thanks so much, Tina and Jessica, and of course Kelly for inviting me over. Writing is so solitary sometimes that I always enjoy time spent in good company!

Kelly Parra said...

You're welcome, Laura! It was great having you here! And I know what you mean, I'm glad we got to chat!

Melissa said...

I won Leftovers when I thought of a title for author Teri Brown's newsletter, and I cannot wait until it comes up in the (admittedly large) to-read pile by my bed. Thanks for some of the backstory, Laura!