Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author Liz Czukas, whose YA debut, ASK AGAIN LATER, releases today!
Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there’s only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.
Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother’s best friend really be?
Tails: The theater geek…with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart’s interests–even if he wants to share all his feelings?
Heart’s simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all…
GN: Congratulations on your debut, Liz! How did you come up with the idea for telling Heart’s prom night story? And what made you decide to tell it from two timelines?
LC: I don’t remember exactly what got me started thinking about this, but I found myself wondering what it would be like to know both outcomes of a decision. What if you actually knew what would happen? Heart was already a character in search of a story in my mind, and her personality seemed to fit the idea of the inevitable disasters that would come from living out two versions of a decision simultaneously. When I started thinking about the juggling act I was going to have to do with two timelines, I realized I should probably limit it to a short timeframe. And what one night could be more eventful than prom night, right?
GN: I’m dying to know HOW you wrote this book. Did you write each timeline separately? Together? Did you plaster post-it notes all over the walls of your living room with string leading from plot point to plot point?
LC: LOL, it was not easy! I started out with rough outlines of what I thought might happen in each version of the night. Then I tried alternating chapters so I could keep a basic chronology of the night going, but eventually it became too hard to keep it all straight. I had to write each night separately and then shuffle them together like a deck of cards. There were no post-it notes involved, but I had notebooks filled with scribblings about each timeline. There are certain events that act as signposts. They occur in both timelines, and I had to be sure they fit together. I would definitely not recommend a split timeline story as your first attempt at writing a book–it’ll drive you batty! Luckily, I’d written other books before so I knew I could make it to the light at the end of the tunnel!
GN: If you were Heart, who would you have chosen to go to prom with — Troy the jock, or Ryan the theater geek? Or would you have said no to both and gone with your friends?
LC: It’s definitely a tough call. I probably would have wanted to go with my friends, but presented with in-person invitations from either of them I might have been guilted into going. I don’t think I would have resorted to Heart’s methods to choose, though!
GN: I read on your blog that you went to an all-girls’ Catholic high school. I did too! All-girls’ school means the girls have to do the asking-to-prom, and sometimes you get two proms (one at your school and one at your date’s school). Who did you ask to prom? Or did you go with friends?
LC: I did go to two proms! My boyfriend in high school was older than me, so he took me to his prom when I was a sophomore. We’d been together long enough by then that he didn’t even really ask me, just told me when it was going to be. Same thing for my junior prom, although he was in college by then so I didn’t know if he’d be able to come home for it! He did, but I had to drive up to his school to pick him up that day! We were almost late. Years later, I married him, so I guess it worked out okay.
GN: Was your prom as eventful as Heart’s? In other words, were any of the scenes in the book inspired by real life prom moments?
LC: My prom(s) were nowhere near as eventful! There were a few scenes in the book inspired by real life experiences, but none of them happened on prom night. They tend to be small things, like ripping a dress. That happened to me on stage during a play I did in high school and I had to safety pin it while standing in the background of the next scene.
GN: Without giving too much away, which scene in the book was your favorite to write, and why?
LC: The ending when the split timelines come back together. It was the first scene I imagined for this book and I couldn’t wait to get to it! There is a special element to it that made it fun to write–I had to think about unique ways to describe things because one of the primary descriptive techniques wasn’t available to me. Is that obscure enough? 🙂
GN: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.
LC: I am TERRIFIED of snakes. Like, so scared I can’t even talk about them or think about them too long or I start to get panicky. I freak out if I even see one on TV. There was one in my yard once, and I almost lost my mind. There was screaming, running, refusing to go back outside…keep in mind that I live in Wisconsin so it’s not like we’ve got a lot of deadly vipers or cobras hanging out in our yards.
I have no fear of public speaking. I know that’s the number one fear of adults, but it’s never bothered me. I’ll talk in front of any size group about anything!
Thank you for the interview, Liz! And congratulations on ASK AGAIN LATER!
Liz Czukas is a freelance writer living outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ASK AGAIN LATER (HarperTeen Winter 2014) is her first novel. She collects college degrees she doesn’t use, types too loud, and always has a song stuck in her head. In high school, Liz went to two proms, but not at the same time.
|Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She spends her early mornings writing, her days practicing law, and her evenings trying to stay up past eight o’clock. She chats about writing and figure skating on her blog Writing and Stuff, and spends too much time on Twitter. Her debut contemporary MG novel, DON’T FALL DOWN, will be out from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in Spring 2015.|