Today I have the pleasure of opening this fabulous tour with an interview with Lisa Williamson where she tells us a little more about “All About Mia” her recently published second novel. It is my second interview with Lisa and I hope she will come back many more time.
1) Could you sum up in one sentence what “All About Mia” is about?
All About Mia is about sisters, best friends, making mistakes and figuring out what makes you special.
2) As your second novel was “All About Mia” easier to write than “The Art Of Being Normal? Anything you learned previously that helped you this time around? If anything, All About Mia was harder to write. Following the publication of The Art of Being Normal I experienced major commitment issues and really struggled to come up with a new idea and stick to it. The possibilities were infinite and I was terrified of making the wrong choice. I was very aware of the positive response to The Art of Being Normal and kept getting bogged down worrying about what people who enjoyed that might want, rather than just telling a story I was excited about. I started six different novels, even completing a full draft of one, before deciding to write Mia’s story. For a while I was worried it wasn’t ‘important’ enough a story. It’s only really now the book is finished and I can take a step back, I’ve realised a story doesn’t have to be about something dark or hard-hitting to pack an emotional punch or make a difference.
I actually made a lot of the same mistakes the second time round! I tend to want to get the opening right before moving on and as a result spend ages crafting and re-crafting the first few chapters instead of just getting a draft down and then going back to the beginning. I’m hoping I’ll finally learn my lesson for book #3! I’m trying my best to embrace my natural writing process and accept my inability to plan and my tendency to have to try loads of different things out before committing to a character or plotline. Knowing you’ve done it all before does help though. At one point I was really struggling with the chapter openings and closings in All About Mia; they lacked energy and pace and I didn’t know how to fix them. My editor suggested referring to The Art of Being Normal as a good example of how to keep the action moving and the readers turning the pages. I was skeptical but turning to my own work for help was actually really empowering.
3) How did the concept of a sibling relationship come about? I have just the one sister and I’ve always wanted more.
One of my favourite activities as a kid was a role-play game called ‘Big Family’. I’d invent this massive family and play all the different parts, from the baby up to the patriarchal grandfather. I’ve also always loved books about sibling relationships (I Capture The Castle, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, The Outsiders, My Naughty Little Sister) so it’s not all that surprising to me I’ve ended up writing about sisters. I love how complicated and contradictory sibling relationships can be. I’ve never experienced that curious mixture of love and hate with anyone other than my sister.
4) Why the focus on the middle child in particular?
I think we all have a rough idea of what a typical middle child might be like. While writing the book, I chatted to lots of people about their sibling relationships, including several middle children. Everyone seemed to agree that birth order was significant and that they or their siblings displayed certain traits that reflected this. Although Mia doesn’t fit all the typical middle child traits, she definitely embodies some of the major ones, for example her quest of justice, her rebelliousness and her independence. To raise the stakes, I decided to sandwich her between two incredibly high achieving sisters and then see how she reacts when one of the sisters finally makes a mistake.
5) Was the choice of 3 x sisters deliberate or were you tempted by introducing a brother in the trio? And if so, what made you change your mind?
It was always going to be three sisters. I wanted to make things as hard for Mia as possible and I think introducing a brother to the trio may have neutralized the pressure she piles on herself because she fears she’ll never measure up to Grace’s academic brilliance or Audrey’s sporting prowess. It’s unfair, but I think we’re more likely to draw comparisons between the achievements of siblings if they’re the same gender. Also from a storyteller’s point of view, I just really liked the dynamic of three sisters.
6) How much of you do you feel is in Mia, or are you 2 complete polar opposites?
On the surface, Mia and I have very little in common, especially when I think of me at her age. She’s loud, impulsive and sexually confident, three things I most definitely wasn’t at sixteen. She isn’t afraid to rock the boat whereas I’ve always been a bit of a people pleaser, desperate to keep everyone happy at whatever cost. Having said this, I can’t help but see a tiny of myself in my characters and Mia is no exception. We’re both very determined although it perhaps manifests itself in different ways. I like to keep my head down and graft away quietly. In contrast, Mia is still trying to figure out where to channel her drive and ambition often resulting in some questionable behaviour! Her bravado hides a lot of insecurities and I think that’s why I wanted to write about her. Girls like Mia don’t get to be the protagonist very often. In any other book, she might be written off as the one-dimensional cool, popular girl. I wanted to dig a little deeper and find out what was really going on behind the big hair and spiky attitude. Mia does lots of stupid things over the course of the book but I like to think readers will understand why she does them.
7) Any particular moments you have including in the book that are taken from real life?
I don’t think so. When I first started writing I found it really difficult to stray from my own experiences. As a result, my old laptop is full of opening chapters featuring heroines that look and sound a bit like me. The Art of Being Normal really freed me from that and proved I was capable of writing about experiences outside my own and it’s been a really joyful shift. What I’m more likely to do is use locations from real life. For example, I can’t help but picture a mashed-up version of my hometown when I write. When Mia is at school, it’s always my old school I have in mind, the same goes for the park where she gets drunk and the venue where her parents get married; they’re all real places or bits of real places.
8) Any good book that you have read recently that you would like to recommend?
Can I have three please?
I read these all in January and really liked them all:
- Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (smart, funny, feminist essays – I recommend the audiobook!)
- The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (totally addictive with a great narrator)
- Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (swoony and inventive YA romance)
9) As a superfan of “The Art Of Being Being Normal”, I have to ask. Would you consider writing a sequel? I would love to see are David is doing :).
I get asked this a lot! I am tempted but at the same time very hesitant. From the emails I receive it’s very clear a lot of readers want things to go in a certain direction and I would be so scared of disappointing people by doing something a bit different! I do think about the characters a lot though and have an idea of what they might get up to next. I’m also very attracted to the idea of writing a story featuring trans protagonists that doesn’t have a coming out narrative. In conclusion, no immediate plans but never say never!
Thank you Lisa, it is always a pleasure!
Lisa is also the author of the amazing “The Art Of Being Normal” and if you are interested in finding out a little more, feel free to read my review.
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