As part of the tour for Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines, I’m very excited to present this interview with her!
Thank you so much for your time–loved the book!
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to talk with you, Annie! I started tuning in this summer to the sisterhood of YA bloggers. It’s an amazing network.
Your background prior to Girl in the Arena is poetry and so-called “literary” fiction. How did you end up writing a novel with a strong genre sense geared toward a YA audience?
I know this might sound funny, but I didn’t set out to write a YA book. I was simply writing my next novel about a world I had begun to fall into—and this one I fell into hard. I got completely absorbed from the first page in a world I had never even considered before. Like many writers, I simply write and see where it takes me, instead of trying to work from an outline, so I just followed along.
Anyway, it’s not uncommon for a book with a teenage protagonist to sell as YA. And being the mother of a 15 year-old daughter, I know that there are plenty of young women who want an intelligent read, something that doesn’t talk down to them, or treat them like all they care about is plot. What I love about doing YA is that it’s giving me a chance to connect with a whole world of younger readers like my daughter, and it keeps me in touch with my younger self, if that doesn’t sound too hokey.
Did you find the experience of writing a young adult book different from your other books? Why or why not?
No, I really didn’t. Once I was all done, my editor had a couple of suggestions, and I love her instincts. For example, I hadn’t made any mention of Lyn’s girlfriends. Lyn had had a falling out with them, but I hadn’t included those girls. Once my editor pointed this out, I got it right away. Most women, of any age, have this deep and abiding connection with their female friends. I certainly do—and always have. So I had to account for this. But whatever I write, I’ll always bring a flat-out love of language and a deep curiosity about human nature to it.
How did you come up with Lyn’s unusual predicament?
Initially, I wrote the scene with her stepfather Tommy in the arena. I was aware of the almost cartoonish quality of the whole arena world, but I also wanted to do something along the lines of a Greek tragedy. I don’t mean as in: I’m going to take myself too seriously as an author here, or you have to love Greek tragedy to get what I’m doing. I mean more along the lines of: what happens if the choices you make end up sabotaging you; what if you have to face your biggest fears; what if something goes terribly wrong and you realize you’re really the only one to push through and make something work, in the middle of the chaos.
Did you ever envision a different outcome for Lyn? What drove you to make the statement that you did?
I didn’t envision an outcome for a long time. And then my daughter and I sat down one afternoon and I ran some ideas by her and then she started to nail it and I took off from there. She has this perfect sense of story, and I knew the minute she made her suggestions that the book would work.
The statement, if there is one, is about something Lyn had to make, rather than me. She had something to say in that moment with her sword. Of course talking about a statement is tricky here, because I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone. And if you think about it, Lyn’s actions contain a mixed message. But in the end, I just let her rip. She just had to do what she had to do, the way I just had to write the book.
How does the world of Girl in the Arena reflect your own views of our world?
I very much want to answer this, and I certainly don’t want to be coy. But what I’d love more than anything is to hear from young women about their world views. You can only let an author do so much, and then it’s up to the reader to filter it through her perceptions. I really hope readers will contact me at my website and let me know what they think.
Do you plan to write any more dystopian or young adult fiction in the future? Why or why not?
I wouldn’t mind writing a sequel, but right now I’m working on something very different, but resonant with GIRL. The superstitious me has to hold off talking about it for a while. I hope you understand.
What young adult authors have you read and enjoyed recently and why?
I’m finally getting a chance to read Hunger Games, and I can understand the enthusiasm. I can definitely recommend: Another Faust and Lady MacBeth’s Daughter. Both drew me in quickly and had an elegant sense of history.
Thank you so much for taking the time to have me on your wonderful site, Annie. I begin to think the dedicated bloggers will keep reading alive for young women around the world. So thanks!!
Check out the other bloggers on the tour!
Abby the Librarian
A Patchwork of Books
All About Children’s Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Homeschool Book Buzz
Maw Books Blog
My Own Little Corner of the World
Reading is My Superpower
Through a Child’s Eyes