A Peek at the Creative Space of Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder is the versatile author of young adult, middle grade, and picture book titles including Chasing Brooklyn (currently a finalist of the RWA Rita Awards–congrats, Lisa!); I Heart You, You Haunt Me; Far From You; It’s Raining Cupcakes; and Chimp’s Big Day. Her latest is the YA novel The Day Before which is publishing next week:

Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of her family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.

Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell that he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.

The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him. And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now–he’s living like each moment is his last.

The Booklist review says, “Readers will find plenty of appeal factors in this outing. The basic frame is a sort of noir Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which two teens decide to spend a perfect day together before their respective fates claim them.”

Sprinkles and Secrets, a follow up to her middle grade novel It’s Raining Cupcakes, will be published later this year in September.

If you’re in the New York area, Lisa will be signing books at the awesome indie children’s bookstore Books of Wonder with three other YA authors on June 30.

If you’d like to learn more about Lisa, visit her blog/website, follow her on Twitter, or “like” her author page on Facebook.  

Describe your workspace.

I use the designated office space in our home for working. Most of my writing is done in that room. Sitting down at my desk says to me–okay, time to get to work. Besides a computer desk, I have two book shelves, a rocking chair in case I feel the need to take a reading break or look up something in a craft book, and lots of pictures and knickknacks that make me happy.

Describe a typical workday.

I get the kids off to school then I spend some time answering e-mails, preparing mailings to go out, tweeting, doing promotional stuff if I have some, etc. Then I’ll open the document and hopefully get a couple of hours of writing in. Sometimes my husband comes home for lunch, and if so, I’ll take a break and eat with him. During the school year, I have to pick one of my sons up early every other day, so I do that if necessary, and then come back and try to write for an hour or so more. When I’m revising instead of drafting, I may go back to the computer later for more work. But I find with a first draft, 2-3 hours in a day is really all I can do. By 3:00 or so, I’m done so I can do things around the house, run to the store if I need to, walk the dog, cook dinner, etc.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

My dear friend, Lisa Madigan, made me a card to celebrate the release of my first novel, I Heart You, You Haunt Me. 

She also made me a picture “It’s Raining Cupcakes” to celebrate my middle grade novel by the same name. Lisa, as many know, passed away in February from pancreatic cancer. I miss her every day. She was a good friend and also gave me good advice when it came to my work. Sometimes it feels a bit like I’m writing without a right hand, not having her to bounce things off of or to read my work. So I’ll look at the things she gave me and I draw strength from them. She would want me to keep going, to dig deep and do my best, even when it’s hard.

The third item is a jar of buttons that belonged to my grandma Ellamae. I used to sit and play with the big box of buttons she had. It reminds me to never forget to be childlike with my writing–to play and have fun and to trust that part of the writing process is discovering things as you go along. I try to remember that we can’t know everything going in to a story, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s wonderful! Discovering hidden gems that make their way into the story is one of the best things that can happen as we write.

What do you listen to while you work?

Sometimes nothing. Sometimes a song or two that make me feel the way I want my reader to feel when they read my book. For me, it’s all about the emotions the music brings out in me. When I was writing The Day Before, I listened to “Glitter in The Air” a lot as well as some music by Schuyler Fisk.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Tea for sure. When I’m revising, I crave diet coke too, in the afternoons, even though I’m trying not to drink the stuff. On the really hard days, I give in. It’s like I bribe my muse–okay, you can have some if you give me some good stuff this afternoon. Promise? You do? Okay, I believe you.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Haha–focus? What IS that? I don’t know if I have a good answer to this question. Mostly I think I give myself mini-deadlines. Write for an hour, then I can check e-mail and twitter. It’s a beautiful thing when a scene sucks you in and you get lost in it and look up hours later and can’t believe how much time has passed. I wish that would happen more often!

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

On the computer. I type really, really fast, so when I’m in the zone, I can get a lot of words down quickly. I write longhand for working out plot problems and other things. When I’m working on a book, I’ll have pages of notes in a notebook, where I’ve written down thoughts, questions, etc.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I start with what I call a few seeds of ideas, and then I plant them and see what happens. Usually I can tell a few chapters in if I have enough of a story to “grow” a whole book. Each project is different in terms of how I approach it. Sometimes I have some thoughts jotted down, sometimes I go in with nothing. Often, about halfway through the book, I do have to stop and take a close look at how my plot is developing and if I have all the necessary elements there. My friend, Lindsey Leavitt (author of Princess for Hire series) shared this link with me, and I find it really helpful when looking at how a plot should go: http://www.screenplaymastery.com/structure.htm It’s written for screenplays, but I think it applies nicely to books as well.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I’m gonna go with Sarah Dessen. She blogs a lot about TV shows and movies she likes, being a mom, and all kinds of things and I’ve always felt like if she lived next door, we’d be best friends. I’d love to share a workspace and find out if I’m right!

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Lisa and I went to a book signing with Markus Zusak a few years back and she asked him for his best writing advice in five words or less. He said, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” And I really think this is so important. We often hesitate to write that idea down in our head because we’re afraid it won’t be as good as how it is in our head. It probably won’t be. But we have to try, and if it doesn’t go the way we hoped, oh well. I think it also applies when we’re wondering about trying something new–we often give up on ourselves before we even try, afraid of failing. But I always tell myself, how will I know unless I give it a shot?

7 Responses to “A Peek at the Creative Space of Lisa Schroeder”

  1. Debbie Maxwell Allen

    Love the Markus Zusak post!

    Jennifer, I wanted to get you this link earlier today, but a leaky garage stole my attention. Your guest post is up today, and here's the link: http://bit.ly/jperMg

    Thank you so much for your wonderful thoughts!


  2. Rosanne Parry

    Hi Lisa!

    So nice to get a peek into your writing world. And you're absolutely right, so easy to talk yourself out of an idea before you write it all the way through. Because then even if the story fails completely there's going to be something there to work with.

  3. Amanda Milner

    I loved this! I followed the link from your guest post and was delighted to see this interview with Lisa Schroeder!
    I loved seeing her workplace. Ahhh, an office with a real desk and library! It's a beautiful thing. Much more coveted than my desk/table/catch-all in my office/dining room! Lol!

  4. Kelly Hashway

    Great interview. I didn't know Lisa had a picture book too. I love her schedule. I hope to have a similar one after my daughter starts school. (Though I'm dreading not having my little girl around all the time.)

  5. Sverige

    I thought reading books like this will be boring or something, but when I started reading and fall in the characters, I realized that I’m starting not just to like it but I fell in love with the book.