A warm welcome to one of Vermont College of Fine Arts' newest alumnae, one of the Allies in Wonderland, Lisa Papademetriou. Lisa's new graphic novel hybrid Homeroom Diaries (co-authored with James Patterson ((cool, huh!)) ) is just out and Lisa's dropped in to the Launch Pad to tell us all about it-
Margaret "Cuckoo" Clarke recently had a brief stay in a mental institution following an emotional breakdown, but she's turning over a new leaf with her "Operation Happiness". She's determined to beat down the bad vibes of the Haters, the Terror Teachers, and all of the trials and tribulations of high school by writing and drawing in her diary. And when life gets really tough, she works through her own moments of uncertainty through imaginary conversations with her favorite literary characters.
Cuckoo's also got a nearly impossible mission: she, along with her misfit band of self-deprecating friends (who call themselves "the Freakshow") decide to bridge the gap between warring cliques and "bring the Nations together". Not everyone is so willing to join hands and get along, but Cuckoo never stops smiling... until one of her closest friends, pushed to desperation by a Hater prank, decides that enough is enough.
Welcome, Lisa! What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?
Jim and I reworked the opening approximately five jillion times before we were satisfied. Openings are, to me, the hardest thing to write. In fact, I almost always write a "placeholder opening," which I then rework or rewrite entirely after I finish the first draft.
What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?
I love E.M. Forster's sentences. For plot, I always look at Dickens and Austen. I adore complicated, intertwined plots, and consider myself a plot writer. Character is something I tend to look at in the second draft. I love the efficient way Dickens and Austen create memorable characters--especially their secondary and tertiary characters. But I also love the nuance in Edith Wharton's characters.
Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?
I always write in silence--except for this book. For me, this book has a one-song soundtrack: Let Go by Frou Frou. Jim had a very clear vision of the main character, Cuckoo, but it took a long time for me to connect with her. One day, while jogging, I heard this song, and I felt like I understood her instantly and completely. The feelings I wanted to capture are very, very present in that song.
How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?
I know that I'm a much better writer since attending VCFA. That did not surprise me. What did surprise me, however, is how much happier I am as a writer. I have been a working writer for about fifteen years, but my time at VCFA made me feel that I was finally doing the work I really wanted to do, with "my" people.
Lisa Papademetriou is also the author of the Confectionately Yours series, and a bunch of other stuff. Her next novel will be out shortly and we can't wait to see her back at the Launch Pad. You can read more about Lisa at lisapapa.com
Homeroom Diaries was published by Little Brown and is available in bookstores everywhere.