Siobhan Vivian is the author of the fabulous A Little Friendly Advice, an impressive debut about a sixteen-year-old girl named Ruby, her friends, her family, her possible love interest, and, well, life. It’s one that I highly recommend you all read as soon as possible! Anyway, without further ado, the interview. Thanks, Siobhan, for doing this!
Can you tell me a little about your road to publication?
It was a pretty straight shot that began and ended with my acceptance into the New School Univeristy MFA program in Writing for Children. I felt that hard-core training in this very specific genre was the best way for me to approach completing a YA novel. I wrote my butt off for two years whenever I could find a spare moment from my day job as an editor.
During my last semester at school, I started working on A Little Friendly Advice. David Levithan was my thesis advisor, and he helped me massage a very rough idea into a full-fledged novel. He was vital in helping me tell Ruby’s story in the best, most engaging way. I adored working with him!
After graduation, David said that he was interested in publishing ALFA. I got an agent and sold the book, unfinished, to Scholastic a few weeks later.
What authors are some of your biggest writing influences?
Rachel Cohn is a master of voice, Blake Nelson writes the most crisp, clean prose, David Levithan makes me fall in love with words, and Cecil Castellucci oozes creativity and inspiration.
One of the book’s characters, Beth, celebrates her birthday every year with a big Halloween party. What was your best Halloween ever?
I’m going to say sophomore year of college, when my two friends and I went as the PowerPuff Girls. Our costumes were dead on! Everyone knew who we were and wanted to take pictures with us. It was so awesome.
Are you a lot like Ruby, or one of the other characters?
Of all the characters, I think I’m the most like Ruby. We’re both thoughtful and optimistic (to a fault), a little bit weird, not too girly-girly, and we both love our Polaroid cameras.
Do you have a favorite character in the novel?
Hmm. Good question. I’ll say that Katherine was the most fun character to write. Whenever she showed up in a chapter, she brought so much tension with her. And I loved thinking up sharp, snappy things for her to say.
And Charlie was awesome too. I wished he was real, so he could be my boyfriend.
Do you outline before writing?
Yes! I am a firm believer in outlining. I like to know where I’m going before I get there. But I try not to put in too much detail when I’m writing an outline, so I can still let happy accidents and discoveries happen along the way.
How did A Little Friendly Advice change from first draft to final published book?
At the very, very beginning, ALFA was about four girls who came from divorced families. That circumstance was what united them as friends, and they all took care of each other. Ruby’s dad came back the same way he does in ALFA, but in the old version, he wanted to patch things up with her Mom. Ruby worried about how that would affect her friendships, so she actively tried to keep her parents from getting back together.
I still really like elements from that original concept, but it’s a lot stronger now.
A Little Friendly Advice is written for teenagers. Why did you choose to write for this audience, and do you or would you like to write for other audiences?
I have absolutely no interest in writing books for any other audience but YA. I’m a little like Peter Pan, in that I have very much resisted the idea that I had to grow up. I feel way more comfortable in a room full of teenagers than I do with adults. And the story ideas and characters floating around in my brain are always of that genre. I think it’s just how I’m programmed.
A Little Friendly Advice is realistic fiction. Do you or would you like to write other genres?
I’d like to try and write YA magical realism. I took a class on magical realism in college and loved every single book we read.
Ruby begins to take an interest in photography in this book, when her mother gives her an old Polaroid camera. Are you a photographer?
Not officially, but I love snapping photographs. I own a few cameras, including my beloved Polaroid, and took a few photography classes back in high school, when you actually had to load the film by hand in a dark room.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on my second young adult novel for Scholastic. It’ll be out in Spring 2009 and it’s called SAME DIFFERENCE. I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s about a girl named Emily who struggles with having two different identities—depending on whether she’s at home with the popular, suburban friends she grew up with, or hanging out in a city with a super cool, wild new girl she befriends in a summer art class.
What are some of your favorite books or authors?
Aw, thank you so much!