So many times after I read a good book, I wish I could sit down with the author and drill them with questions. Well, I had the privilege to this with Lisa Burstein after reading her YA book, Dear Cassie. I met Lisa at Wordstock Book Festival in Portland this fall, when we spoke on a panel together about realistic fiction while she was promoting her debut novel, Pretty Amy.
I was lucky to get a sneak peek at her second novel, Dear Cassie, due out March 5th. I highly recommend this book to teenagers, teachers, librarians, even adults. It’s a great mix of angst, humor, and sexual tension and will open up many interesting topics for discussion. Lisa has a gift for being brutally honest with her writing.
What is this book about? Imagine something like The Breakfast Club released in wilderness camp and you get the idea. For a full synopsis, check out Lisa’s website.
Here is my interview with Lisa about her upcoming spring release. Links to find out more about Lisa Burstein and her books are posted below.
1. If you could go back and give your teenage self some words of advice, what would you say?
He probably doesn’t really love you. Horrible I know, but I can’t tell you how many boys fooled me into thinking they really cared about me and got me to do things I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with as a result. Also I would say, there will come a day when you are happy with who you are even if you can’t see it now.
2. I was tempted to do a character interview with Cassie, because she is ridiculously funny. She has so many great one liners. Where do you come up with these? Is Cassie based off of anyone you know?
She is a hyperbolic version of me. Through her I can say all the snarky things I think ;). I have always been a funny person, if I didn’t have stage fright I might have become a comedian.
3. Although Cassie mocks her assessment journal, writing down her thoughts helps to clear her head. Do you journal about your own personal life? Is it something you recommend teenagers do?
I don’t journal, but I did in high school and if nothing else it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I always had someone to “talk” to who would listen without judgment.
4. Your first book, Pretty Amy, faced censorship issues. Dear Cassie is well seasoned with the f-bomb. Do you ever worry about how readers will react? Do you feel like you push boundaries as a writer?
Certainly I think about readers, but Cassie as a character uses swear words as a defense mechanism and it would have been wrong to censor her. In terms of pushing boundaries, it isn’t something I try to do, but I will say that I do my best to be truthful. I try to be completely real in my work. I think for some people that may push boundaries because the truth is a scary thing.
5. Color symbolism is used throughout this book, very emotionally at times. Can you discuss what inspired you to use this technique?
It wasn’t intentional. As I was drafting I saw the color RED come up a lot, so I thought maybe there’s something to this and the way Cassie feels about RED. I explored that in a scene and it was really powerful, so it made sense to play it up a bit. It seemed only natural that as Cassie started to heal and feel, that BLUE would be a color she would gravitate towards.
6. Ben, the male protagonist, is determined to not give up on Cassie. Is there someone who has been consistently encouraging in your life?
My parents for sure. Even when for YEARS when I was not being published they always “knew” I would be one day and they never hesitated to keep reminding me of that as I struggled.
7. This book tackles some challenging issues. I don’t want to give too much away here, but is any of it based on your own experiences? Were you sent to a camp like this (please say yes):
Not a camp like this, but when I was in high school I was sent to a Psychiatric Ward for teens for about a week. I was in a very messed up place in my life, running away, skipping school and my parents were at the end of what they felt they could do for me. I was livid at the time, but looking back I have come to understand they felt like they had no options. Certainly a lot of Cassie’s feelings about being at the camp come from my experiences from that week.
8. I’m always impressed when writers are willing to take risks in their writing, and touch on darker topics. Is there a scene or character in this book that you’re particularly proud of writing?
Troyer (the mute). She just came to me and I knew immediately she would be the perfect foil to Cassie because Cassie is someone who uses words to cover up her feelings. Troyer is someone who chooses to be silent. I am really proud at how well Troyer comes across as a character when she literally does not speak for 3/4 of the book.
So, there you have it! Now go out and get yourself a copy (available March 5th). And I’d also like to thank Lisa for taking the time to give me a behind-the-scenes look into this book.
For more information on Dear Cassie, and where you can purchase it, check out: http://www.lisaburstein.com/Books.html