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Author Tales: Lesley Livingston

Lesley Livingston is the author for this Thursdays Author Tales. Lesley is the author of Wondrous Strange, which is like one of my most favorite faerie novels of all time! Loved it! I'm thrilled that there is going to be another book! If you would like more information on Lesley and her novels, you can check out her website:

Where did you come up for the idea for Wondrous Strange?

When I signed with my literary agent (for another project entirely), I went to New York to meet her face to face. I went with another YA author friend of mine, Adrienne Kress, who was meeting her publisher for the first time. Both of us were wowed by the city as a whole, but I was absolutely captivated by Central Park. Even in February. We did the touristy stuff on that trip – carriage ride, Tavern on the Green (both of which are now plot points in my book!) – but it was on my next trip that I really got to wander around the Park with some New Yorker friends. We spent hours there, night and day, and I started to get ideas. Ideas about things in Central Park that the average park-goer doesn't get to experience. Magical things.

At the time, I was also rehearsing and performing Shakespeare on the stage – I'm a founding member and principle performer with a theatre company called TEMPEST THEATRE GROUP – and I had already written a short story about an actress in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Those two disparate elements sort of crashed together and began fermenting in my brain and it all came together in a flash of inspiration prompted by an off-hand comment from my boyfriend (bless him!). And then, lo, Sonny and Kelley and Co. presented themselves to me, en masse and emphatically.

I know Wondrous Strange is fictional, but what kind of research if any, did you do for this novel?

Well, I already had a good grasp of Shakespeare and the theatre and the business of acting. My knowledge of Faerie lore has always been reasonably extensive – I've always read a lot of mythology and folklore and history. But – once I decided to write this story, I needed to do a fair bit of research on my setting – Central Park. Setting has always been vitally important to the stories I write and I discovered some immensely cool factoids about the Park, about one of its founders, and the Carousel and some of the landmarks – stuff that became intrinsic to the story, itself. I have been back to the New York on several occasions since I began writing Kelley and Sonny's story, and I always make sure to spend time in the Park (busily populating it with beings from the Otherworld – do be careful where you walk, not all of them are friendly...)

What was the most difficult part of WS to write?

I'm not sure I could honestly call any of it 'difficult'. Hard work, yes. But I really had so much fun writing WONDROUS STRANGE. Sure there were times when my eyeballs would dry out as I sat there staring at a blank screen, but those instances were vastly outweighed in this case by the ones where I could barely type fast enough to keep up with what my characters were doing! (Not always the case with some projects!)

Who is your favorite character, and which one do you relate to the most.

I relate to different aspects of different characters, I think. There are bits of me in both Kelley and Sonny, but also Tyff and Bob… even Mabh and probably even Lucky!

And, while I can't in good conscience play favorites, I'm really awfully fond of Bob! His lines are usually the ones that appear on the page needing the least editing – his voice is very clear in my mind's ear, so I guess that says something! So is Gentleman Jack's.

Did you include in personal aspects on your days of theater into the novel?

Sadly, er... yes. Kelley's disastrous rehearsal is, in fact, a scenario lifted pretty much intact from my theatre-school days *shudders at the memory*. Fortunately, Kelley also gets to experience some of the real highs of life on the stage, too, and those moments were also mine.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

I've always loved the act of storytelling. I guess that's why I became an actor. But I probably made the decision to become a writer (years before I was even aware of it!) when I stumbled across an author named Parke Godwin. He wrote a book about King Arthur called FIRELORD which I devoured in the backseat of the car on a vacation trip to Montana when I was a teen. I read that book over and over and over again, reveled in the language (man, Godwin can write!), and fell in love with the idea that stories and characters like that – so vivid and real and exciting to me – could exist in-between pages. Then I found other stories and other authors that struck me in the same way – and in different ways (for example, I adore Tom Robbins for the sheer exuberance with which he plays with language for the sake of it!) – and at some point down the road, I guess I decided to try my hand at creating stories of my own.

Why did you decide to write for young adults?

I don't know if I decided to write for young adults or if I just decided to write stories that happened to have young adults in them. I tend not to consciously differentiate between 'writing for young adults' and just 'writing'. I don't approach my stories any differently – meaning I don't alter my word usage or plot progression in any kind of significant way – but it's really all about perspective. For teens, a lot of what they experience, they do so with fresh eyes and remarkable passion. In that sense, YA is enormously freeing and so much fun to write, because I get to throw myself into those never-before-worn shoes and experience that same rush of emotion as my characters and, hopefully, my readers do. It's also slightly terrifying because – I can tell you from performing for teens – they are both the scariest and the best audiences possible. Because they are never neutral. They love something or they hate it and they are, in my experience, not shy about letting you know which it is. So if you can get them – truly get them – it is the best. thing. ever.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? What's the best writing advice you've ever received?

You guys have all heard this one before. READ. Read everything. Through sheer osmosis you will pick up on cadence and structure and pacing and all that good stuff. Read.

Aside from that? The best writing advice I ever received was – WRITE. I'm not being facetious. And I know you guys have all heard that one before, too, and it's true. You can't edit a page full of nothing. And you can't call yourself a writer unless you write. Write. Keep writing.

Who are some of your favorite YA authors?

Back when I was a young adult, one of my favorite authors was Guy Gavriel Kay. His Fionavar Tapestry series was about a group of university-age students so I guess it's technically YA, although classifications weren't as defined back then. Now, there is so much great stuff out there (most of my YA recommendations I get from blogs like yours!) it's hard to choose faves! But I will tell you one to keep on the lookout for – I'm reading an ARC right now of EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev and I'm having a great time with it – she'll be on the shelves in a few months and she's terrific.

Are you working on any other novels? And can you tell us a little bit about it?

I'm actually just finishing up manuscript revisions on Book Two in the WONDROUS STRANGE trilogy! After that, it'll be on to Book Three! The next two books are a direct continuation of the story, so you will definitely being seeing more of Sonny and Kelley. And company. (And maybe a new face or two!)

Thank you so much for hosting me, Story Siren! This was a blast!!

Would you like to win a signed copy of Wondrous Strange! Leave a comment on this post by February 5, 2009 to be entered! This contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

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Author Tales: Lesley Livingston + script