Who’s Reading What Wednesday: Interview with Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder is know for her YA books in verse: I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, FAR FROM YOU, and CHASING BROOKLYN.  I love these books and so do my step granddaughters (they inhaled them!) This month her MG book IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES was released.  I purchased the book at the local SCBWI-OR Gala a couple of Saturdays ago.

Oh my…what a refreshing, fun read! I read it Sunday with the rain coming down; had to fight the urge to make cupcakes.  Lisa is another terrific Portland area author that I have gotten to know better since the Portland Blogging  Conference.  I was able to interview about this book and her writing process.

MSMAC:  How did you switch from writing YA in verse to a MG novel?
LS: It really wasn’t that hard. I have always loved middle grade novels, and I specifically chose to write IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES in between verse projects because I wanted to do something different. My YA novels are sad at times, so I was ready to do something fun. Plus, in verse novels, you have to be careful about too much dialogue, so it was great to let my characters talk and talk and TALK!

 MSMAC:  I really enjoyed It’s Raining Cupcakes. Isabel’s notes in her passport book, a bit of poetry?  It was unexpected and I loved it.  Any back-story with it?
LS: I had written a few chapters of the book, and I was browsing at a bookstore one day and came across a passport holder. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. But I instantly thought, Isabel would LOVE this. But I didn’t want her to buy one and then have nothing happen with it. So, I tried out the notebook idea and I liked it.

 MSMAC:  The knock knock jokes, have you been practicing them on your family so they would work in the story? 
LS: Ha – no, not really. But I can tell you that before I named a couple of the characters, I googled knock knock jokes to find a name that would work well!

MSMAC:  Are any of these characters based on people you know?
LS: Stan is the name of my grandpa, who passed away last year. One of the nicest men you’ve ever met. He wasn’t a barber, and he didn’t look anything like Stan in the book. But in their hearts, I think they’re similar. My grandpa often had a few businesses that didn’t necessarily make him monetarily rich, but that made him happy. And that’s the best kind of business to have, I think.

 JRM: What about St. Valentine’s Cupcakes?  Is that a real place in NYC?
LS: No, I made it up.

JRM:  Drat.  I was hoping to go there!  Will have to go to St. Cupcake here in town instead. And the recipes (which I can’t wait to try) are they family recipes?
LS:  No they are my creations. My grandma would make applesauce in the microwave by cutting up apples, adding a little water, and sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar. So that became the basis ofthe applesauce cupcakes.

 JRM:  I love it!  That’s how I cook. Where did the idea for this story come from? Did you grow up in small town Oregon?
LS: I was driving home from work one day and thought – I want to write about something that makes me happy. Something that will make other people happy. And cupcakes popped into my brain. I thought – how fun to write a book that takes place in or around a cupcake shop. And that’s how it began. I was like Isabel growing up in that I hadn’t been out of the state of Oregon at her age, and I always wondered about faraway places. Not as much as she does, but I knew what that felt like – to want to see more of the world than the town where you are.

 The rest of the story, to be honest, came pretty organically as I wrote. It was a fun book to write and I’m not sure how everything came together and worked, but it did! 

 I grew up in Salem and then Lebanon later on, so both fairly small towns. There is just something so cozy about a small town, you know? I made up Willow so I could take liberties with it.

 MSMAC:  So what’s next for you?
LS: I don’t really know. I have a couple of things with editors now, so I’m in that waiting room writers come to know so well. Crossing my fingers at least one project gets a yes!

 MSMAC:  What books are on your night stand?
LS: PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt, MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL by Kristin Walker, THE NAUGHTY LIST by Suzanne Young

 MSMAC:  I am reading The Naughty List right now. Fun read. What does a day of work look like for you? Favorite time of day?
LS: I am 110% a morning person, so I get up early, answer e-mails, do a blog post while my kids are getting up and getting ready for school. Once they’re out the door, I move into my office which says “work” to me and I dive in on that day’s tasks. Some days that means writing, but often it means promotional stuff – answering interview questions, writing guest blogs, scheduling promotional opportunities, etc. I try to be done by 3:00 or so, because then it’s time to be mom and wife, and by then, I’m not as productive anyway.

 MSMAC:  Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
LS: You know, with each book it’s been different. Some books have been a chore to get a first draft down and I have to bribe myself to just get through to the end, while others have been fun and easy. IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES flowed from the first page to the last and I loved writing the first draft. I honestly don’t know – I like them both on a good day and hate them both on a bad day.

 MSMAC:  When did you know you wanted to write?
LS: I’ve always loved to write, but it was about ten years ago I decided I wanted to write seriously and see if I could get something published. I was reading a book about dreams in life, and when I closed my eyes and really listened, I heard “write for kids, write for kids.” I think I’d always been afraid to try, afraid of failing. But like anything, you don’t know until you try! And I’m so glad I did!

MSMAC:  If you were not a writer, what job would you like to have?

LS: A librarian all the way!!

 MSMAC:  Where do you find inspiration?
LS: Nature. Other books. An amazing movie. Music that touches my heart.

 MSMAC:  What advice do you have for would be writers?
LS: I think the most important thing is to play, explore, experiment – try to discover where YOUR strengths lie and then focus on those strengths. Do what YOU do best and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. My YA novels are very different, but I get many notes from readers who ask me to “keep writing books just like that.” Sure, not everyone likes them, but I’ve found an audience, and I’m making a name for myself writing verse novels with romance at the center.

 MSMAC:  What book do you wish you had written?

 MSMAC:  What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen?  As an adult? Any particular genre stand out?
LS: LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series was my favorite, along with the BETSY AND STAR books as a child. As a teen, I’d have to say WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. As an adult, too many favorites to list. I’m reading all the time now, both MG and YA, and the occasional adult novel as well. For me, it’s all about a book with characters who stick with me and a story that touches my heart.

 MSMAC:  Chocolate:  white, dark, or milk?
LS: All of it!

 MSMAC:  Coffee or tea?
LS: Tea

 MSMAC:  Dance funky chicken or the tango?
LS: Funky chicken, although I’d love to learn the tango!

Thanks, Lisa for stopping by today.  I enjoyed the book so much.  It is being passed around the fifth grade right now.

Happy Reading.