Maria T. Lennon stops by The Hiding Spot today to talk about Watch Out, Hollywood, her second book featuring reformed bully Charlie C. Cooper, a 'so-called middle child' who is determined to make it as an actress. Read on to learn more about Maria's decision to write about a flawed, not-always-so-nice MG character, her personal 'hiding spot', and her current writing project - a YA novel!
About the author
Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper. When not driving one of her four children to school or volunteering at school libraries, she can be found sitting in a parked car, a café, or a library, writing novels, travel articles, or just passed out. To learn more, visit her website.
Watch Out, Hollywood is subtitled More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child. Did you draw on any personal experiences for Charlie’s ‘middle child’ personality traits?
Oh, yeah. This book was totally inspired by my middle child and the things she went through in elementary school. Middle children seem to share many traits, it doesn’t matter if they’re male or female. I remember so many second-time moms pulling their hair out at the playground not understanding why their second child was so totally different from their first. The biggest difference most of the time was that while first children were usually so concerned with doing everything right, painting in the lines, eating an ice-cream cone without dripping, the second child had a blast creating total chaos.
Charlie is not always a nice or likeable character, though readers can tell that she generally means well. Can you speak a bit about your decision to make Charlie a ‘reformed bully.’
That’s a great question. Most kids I know aren’t all that likeable all the time. They’re growing, learning and making mistakes. It’s tough to be young. I have always looked for books about kids who are having a hard time, who aren’t perfect because kids aren’t perfect. Kids lie, cheat, are mean to the defenseless, are materialistic and jealous. And in a way, they’re supposed to be because they’re learning. I wanted Charlie to be someone who is learning how to be a good person. I wanted to show that inner dialogue of the good and the bad.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
I almost always start with a person. A kid. And the situation that particular kid finds himself in. I attempt an outline, I attempt all the tricks in the book for organization. I buy Scrivener and take a month to learn how to use it. And fail. Sadly, it never really works for me. I envy writers who write an outline and stick to it. For me, the moment I get into a story, the story takes over and everything changes, which is exciting but also means a lot of editing afterwards. I try very hard to cut, cut, cut because honestly I have a short attention span and I like books to move fast.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?
I taught creative writing while I lived in Italy, which was great, but probably the job that taught me the most was writing short headlines stories for a health and travel website. I learned how to write and cut on a very tight schedule.
If you had to pick a favorite word, which would it be and why?
Right now, strangely, my favorite word is inexorable. Because some things in life just can’t be stopped, the momentum behind them is undeniable.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Ah, my bed. I love my bed. It’s in a small nook, on top of a wood loft, like a cabin. It’s at the end of the house and so I can’t hear the kids arguing over the television or the video games.
What can your readers look forward to next?
I am very excited about this new Young Adult book I’ve been working on, called Rich Kid, about a 17-year old whose future is so bright everyone knows he’s destined for greatness. He’s got girls following him, teachers loving him, he’s magnetic, funny, cocky and can do no wrong. Until his father loses all their money. And he is suddenly, sadly, poor. What happens when someone so entitled loses everything that gives him his identity? The story is loosely based on a true story.
And don't miss my review of Watch Out, Hollywood and your chance to win both novels featuring the precocious Charlie, here.