Luisa Plaja Interview
Posted on 12 February 2008. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
Writewords talks to Luisa Plaja, aka Luisa
Tell us about your writing background
I always fancied myself as a bit of a writer, even before I started school. In my teens, I wrote short stories, serials and photo stories for teenage magazines. I sold my first story to the now defunct Patches magazine when I was 14, and my first serial to the equally defunct (not my fault! Er, I don't think) Blue Jeans magazine at 15. Sigh, they don't make 'em like they used to! It was a huge thrill to be paid for my stories and see them in print, but I didn't really think writing fiction was something a grown-up could do for a living, much as I would have liked to. So I found other ways to work with words. I took a degree in Linguistics and worked as a lexicographer and dictionary editor, then as a television subtitler, then in linguistic software, maintaining dictionaries for speech recognition. I now specialise in UK/US English language differences, which might possibly have informed a couple of jokes in Split by a Kiss.
Since arming myself with a book deal, I've done occasional freelance work for a manuscript assessment and synopsis-writing service. This has taught me that it's far easier to take other people's work apart than it is your own.
How did you start writing?
Well, apart from writing on and off all my life... I started my first serious attempt at a novel for teenagers a few months after the birth of my second baby. I decided I wanted to do something totally selfish, non-work and non-baby-related. I also think I felt liberated at that point – I realised nothing in the world could expose me to more criticism than bringing up children. Er, not so far, at least.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
I love fiction written primarily for teenage girls and my favourite authors include E. Lockhart, Maureen Johnson, Rachel Vail, Jaclyn Moriarty and Sarra Manning. I admire the way they write with wit and honesty about relationships and growing up. I love their strong female characters, and the focus on a time in life when most major decisions have yet to be made.
I do enjoy grown-up fiction as well. Books I've loved recently have included Mothernight by Sarah Stovell, Prince Rupert's Teardrop by Lisa Glass and More Than Love Letters by Rosy Thornton. At the moment I'm reading a fantastic book of short stories: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. I've also always admired the work of Jane Rogers and Barbara Gowdy, among others whose names have annoyingly popped out of my head right now.
Is there a pressure to keep up with youth culture in the young adult writing world?
No, I don't think so. Writers usually find a way to create worlds based on their own experiences of having been a young person, give or take a mobile phone ringtone or two. Besides, when it comes to issues surrounding emotional development and 'coming of age', I'm pretty sure things haven't changed much for a couple of millennia.
What's the worst thing about writing?
Aching for more time to write. Oh, also banishing that annoying inner critic. I've got a really loud one here. Grr, go away.
And the best?
Getting completely involved in a world I've created myself. Or maybe that amazing feeling when other people 'get it' too.
How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?
After finishing my novel, I wrote query emails to two top UK children's literary agents, explaining the premise of my book. One of them wrote back the same day asking for the full manuscript. She phoned two weeks later, saying she loved my book and wanted to meet me. I signed with her at the meeting. After I followed her revision suggestions, she sold the book to Random House within three weeks of submitting it. It was a whirlwind of excitement and nothing like I ever expected the process could be, even in my wildest and most 'maybe-it's-not-all-rubbish-after-all' dreams.
Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing
It's early days yet for me, but I had some fantastic reviews (The Bookbag's reviewer called my book "the ultimate in teen fiction" – gulp!) and I've received a few lovely emails from people who have read my proof. I've also had a series of wonderful comments from teenaged readers. I wouldn't say any of this has affected my writing, but it has amazed and thrilled me to bits!
Comments by other Members