LAURIE BOYLE CROMPTON interviews LAUREN BJORKMAN (who shares the BEST FORTUNE COOKIE STORY EVER!)
LAURIE BOYLE CROMPTON: In Miss Fortune Cookie your main character, Erin, gives advice. What's the one piece of advice you would tell a writer who hopes to publish YA novels?
LAUREN BJORKMAN: Read a lot in the genre. Things are changing fast. Strap on your helmet and hold on tight! Admire the books of distant past in your rear view mirror, but don’t write one.
LBC: Erin also keeps her identity a secret. Is there anyone in your 'real' life who doesn't know that you are an author?
LB: The idea cracks me up: Lauren, ordinary citizen by day, The Writing Human Torch by night.
I don’t tell everyone I run across that I’m a writer, so there are some acquaintances that don’t know, for sure. I think the guy at the postal annex does, because whenever I sign for a package, he jokes about selling the orange slip with my signature on eBay. Either that, or he’s just a weird guy.
LBC: Do you have a favorite writing ritual? Any snack or drink you can't do without while revising?
LB: Before I start each day, I mediate inside a circle drawn with powdered sugar, and chant-- ideas, you are mine. Seriously, though, it’s helpful to think about the scene ahead of time, before actually sitting down. Caffeine is an essential component. Otherwise writing feels like sprinting up hill. Chocolate chips are fairly crucial, too. I’m partial to dark Ghiradelli.
LBC: I'm always fascinated by writer's spaces. Would you care to post a photo of your writing desk or chair or couch or wherever you make the magic happen?
LB: I have photographs of my support team (family and friends) on both sides of my computer. Also heart shaped rocks and other little talismans like a Badger fetish, a mini turtle, and a psychedelic hedgehog.
LBC: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
LB: I love the moment when a good idea hits me. It’s often when I’m walking or driving or showering or washing dishes. Drafting is exciting, too, but exhausting. My favorite part, though, is tinkering. Futzing. Rearranging. I love adding bits—personality quirks, insights, and funny observations.
It’s also great when I know so much about a character that I start to like him or her despite the flaws, and wish we could meet in person.
LBC: What made you decide to write for a teen audience?
LB: I often travel to farflung places and have weird experiences. I started by writing travel essays at first. But an MG novel inspired by my own middle school experience was the thing that kept my butt-in-chair. Writing it became my gateway to YA. That, and discovering that I absolutely love the exuberance, pace, and passion of YA novels.
LBC: Are you a pantser or a planner? How close to your original ideas do your stories usually stay?
LB: Hybrid. I plan ahead, but things keep happening, and the story changes. A lot. Re-reading my first synopses and character sketches can be disorienting. It’s like when you play telephone with someone who deliberately changes everything up. “The elephant tried to climb the tree” becomes “the waffle lump dripped whipped cream.”
This means I spend a lot time revising.
LBC: I love the fortunes that are printed at the start of each chapter in Miss Fortune Cookie. Have you always saved fortunes from cookies? What is the strangest fortune you've ever gotten?
LB: Yes! I have a bowl full on the dresser next to my desk.
Weirdest ever: If you want it … take it.
Was this aimed to validate kleptos?
The best ever showed up about a month before I got “the call” from my agent offering representation: Your hard work will soon pay off.
Best fortune cookie story ever: While I was on a long trip last year, a friend stopped by my house twice a week to water the plants and tend the cats. One day she emailed me that my cats were misbehaving. They weren’t using the litter box. They were moving the furniture. They ate my cookies. None of it made sense. When we finally came home—jet lagged and exhausted—and entered the living room, we caught a glimpse of a raccoon escaping down the hall. It had been living in our house for a week! After luring it outside, I went to my office. It had found my box of fortune cookies that I used for giveaways, removed each one from the plastic wrapper, and had eaten them, leaving the fortune behind. 42 in all! I kept them all, of course.
Here is one he opened: If we are to have magical bodies, we must have magical minds.