Friday, 23 September 2011

Interview: Elisa Ludwig

I am incredibly pleased to welcome Elisa Ludwig, author of June of Rock and the soon to be published Pretty Crooked to my blog today. After I read June of Rock I was just bursting to find out more, to dig into the story behind the story and find out more about Elisa so I went down on my knees and begged for an interview and I am very happy to say she obliged!

If you'd like to read my review of June of Rock you can find it here. Enjoy!

How would you describe June of Rock in a tweet (140 characters)?

Ooh, that's a good exercise. How about this?: Freshly dumped, aspiring drummer June Dixon heads off to all-girls rock camp for the summer. The only problem? She hates girls.

How did the story of June of Rock come to you?

When I first started hearing about the girl rock camp phenomenon here in the US, I knew I wanted to use that setting for a YA novel. In my own life, my summers at an arts camp and a pre-college painting program were wonderful, formative experiences with intense relationships that really helped me crystallize my identity. But a novel needs conflict, so I thought about what sort of challenges would make that summer away as difficult as it is enriching.

June is a very strong character, how do you go about creating a voice like hers?

As a writer I'm definitely inspired first and foremost by character and voice. In June's case, it just sort of flowed. This was one of my earliest attempts at writing YA, and I think she was just the first teen voice in my head. I later went back and made her more defensive and difficult in some parts, and more generous and (hopefully) likable in others.

The story is so authentic, I’m absolutely convinced you are some kind of rock guru. Is this true?

Well, that's very flattering, but sadly I am no guru. I used to play mostly classical piano when I was a kid but quit at around June's age. However, I was always a huge music nerd and it was a major part of my life, especially as a teenager. Going to shows and listening to (dating myself) CDs opened up my limited suburban point of view and it was also a way to connect with other kids pre-internet (again, dating myself). I'm really fascinated by how, for a lot of young people, what kind of music you like can be your whole identity, so that was another inspiration for this book. These days, I'm way less engaged with music on a daily basis, but my husband is a DJ (and a lot like Micah in his eclectic music tastes) so I get lots of ideas from him.

What are your writing habits? Are you the kind of writer who plans everything or are you a seat-of-your-pants writer?

I am, by nature, a total pantser, mainly because the character is always in my head first. However, writing Pretty Crooked, which is much more action-driven than June of Rock, taught me that a detailed outline can take a lot of angst out of the process. I still don't enjoy outlining and figuring everything out up-front but I'm always glad to have a road map once I'm in the thick of it.

What’s the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing for teens?

The most challenging aspect is finding fresh stories. Since I prefer to write contemporary books, it can be tricky to come up with something that feels new for readers. I'm always trying to figure out, how can I NOT write about high school? The most rewarding, hands down, is being able to connect with readers for whom reading means so much. I was at a conference recently and the writer Gary Paulsen said something to the effect of "Don't bother writing for adults". I wouldn't limit myself quite that much because I want adults to enjoy my YA books, too, but his point is that kids are your very best audience. I'm really, really excited about the prospect of meeting with more teens as my books get out there and finding out about their lives.

How would you compare the experience of self publishing June of Rock to the experience of getting Pretty Crooked published by HarperCollins? Which do you prefer?

Both are totally new to me and totally exciting. I only decided to self-publish June of Rock after I had the deal for Pretty Crooked (and the two books that will follow it). I figured I would just put it out there and see if readers would a) find it, and b) get something out of it. Right now, because I have my official debut with Pretty Crooked in March, I'm sort of just letting (or hoping to let) June of Rock catch on with word of mouth. So the process is pretty laid-back. For Pretty Crooked, it's been much more of a team effort, working with my fabulous editor Claudia Gabel, the cover designers, the copy editors, and soon, the publicist, etc. So you feel more secure in that a whole bunch of people have vetted this thing and are helping you send it out into the world.

If you had room on your bookshelf for only 3 books, what would they be?

Oh man. I'm going to just stick with YA here, to make this a tiny bit easier. I would say Feed by M.T. Anderson, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King.

Apart from June of Rock, what is your top teen fiction recommendation from 2011?

I am so far behind on 2011 reading it's not even funny, but I enjoyed Moonglass by Jessi Kirby quite a bit.

Can you tell us a bit about your next book, Pretty Crooked?

Pretty Crooked is the story of Willa Fox, who moves to a very wealthy community with her mom, and falls in with the elite crowd right away. Only later does she realize these girls are bullying the scholarship kids at their school. Disturbed by their behavior, and wanting to take a stand, she decides to go Robin Hood on them, and steals from the rich kids to give (secretly) to the poorer ones, ultimately risking everything to try to do what she thinks is right. Of course, there's a little romance mixed in there as well.

And there you have it! A huge thanks to Elisa for providing really interesting answers to my questions, as well as some new YA recommendations for my ever expanding wishlist...

If you'd like to know more about Elisa Ludwig and her books then do visit her website at or follow her on Twitter on @ElisaLudwigYA. June of Rock is available to download now - and I highly recommend that you do! - from and

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