Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher

Liz Gallagher grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was an English major at Penn State. She worked on the editorial staff of Highlights for Children. She is a graduate of the University of Denver Publishing Institute and the Vermont College MFA program in writing for children and young adults. Her home in Seattle is within chomping distance of the Fremont Troll. This novel is her first, and her dream come true. Visit her online at www.lizgallagher.com

MaryP: Tell us about The Opposite of Invisible.

Liz: Sure! It's a story about a fifteen-year-old girl, Alice, who has been in a comfy cocoon (metaphorically speaking!) with her best friend, Jewel, a boy she grew up with. He's an outsider-artist type of guy, so she has that same reputation around school. But she's getting itchy to break out of their cocoon. She wants a date for the Halloween dance that's coming up at school,and that is totally not the type of event Jewel would attend, except as a joke. So when things start happening with a popular boy she has a crush on, she steps onto a new road. And Jewel starts spending time with uber-artist Vanessa, who has a bit of a rivalry with Alice. They live in Seattle, and one of the parts I like about the book is how the rainy setting works; it helps to heighten both cozy moods and uncomfortable ones.

MaryP: What was your inspiration for this story?

Liz: When I needed a piece for my first workshop in Vermont College's MFA program, I wanted to write about Halloween. I must've been walking to my old job at a school when I passed this junk shop in my neighborhood, and they had a Halloween display in the window. I don't think there was actually a witch dress in the window, but I loved the idea of buying the perfect costume at a junk shop like that. And then came the characters of Alice and Jewel, who shop at places like that and spend a lot of time walking around their neighborhood -- which is my neighborhood! I knew that Alice's dress would end up being an important catalyst for change. The first draft of this story opened with, "It all started because of this dress."

MaryP: It came out in Italy before it did here. Can you tell us about that?

Liz: Sure. One of the things that my agent, Rosemary Stimola, works toward is selling foreign publisher rights. With the help of her subsidiary rights agent, that happened for me with RCS Libri in Italy. I still can't believe that my words have been translated into Italian! The original publication schedule called for OPPOSITE to come out both in Italy and here in the states during September, 2007. When the American schedule changed (to January, 2008), RCS Libri decided to keep theirs the same. So the book, in Italian, did come out first over there!

MaryP: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Liz: Without a doubt, it's sticking to a schedule and pushing the rest of my responsibilities out of my head!

MaryP: Oh boy, I think that's every writer's lament, including mine. How did you become a writer?

Liz: My kindergarten teacher encouraged me to write. I think that always stuck with me, and was reinforced by other teachers all the way through college. Still, knowing I wanted to work in the book world, I thought I'd be an editor. I didn't think I'd actually be a novelist until I decided to go to Vermont College's MFA program. In the program, with the help of the amazing faculty and of my classmates, I proved to myself that I can actually do it. I wrote THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE during the program, and started a few other things. Right before graduation, I signed on with my agent, Rosemary Stimola. And she talked to Wendy Lamb, and here we are!

MaryP: Was there any part that you struggled with or avoided writing?

Liz: Yes. The biggest struggle was how to take the character of Simon -- who is basically a popular jock -- out of the stereotype of a popular jock. For a lot of drafts, he was kind of mean and interested only in that proverbial One Thing. He was pretty flat as a character. I had to work hard to take him beyond that, and it was difficult. He went through lots of incarnations. He didn't just show up intact, like some of my characters do. In the end, though, I do think he is close to how I want him to be -- a kind, funny, interesting guy who just also happens to be popular at school and good at sports.

MaryP: What's on your nightstand right now?

Liz: My nightstand is home to my alarm clock and a pile of hair tie things that I pull out in my sleep. But I do have a BIG stack of books waiting to be read. The four on the top of the pile are advance reader's copies of books by some of my Class of 2k8 classmates! We're all first-time middle-grade or young adult novelists. I can't wait to read those books, and for the world to get to know these writers. Also near the top of the pile is Libba Bray's new one: THE SWEET FAR THING. So excited to read it, but sad for the trilogy to end. It was a door into the genre of not-quite-realistic fiction. I read magic-power books and vampire books as a kid, but not at all since then, until Libba's fabulous characters came around. The series also brought me back to historical fiction.

Thank you for the insights, Liz. We wish you and THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE much success!

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Liz, post them in the comments. She'd love to hear from you!