We here at MaximumPop! got to chat to Alyssa Sheinmel, author of ‘Second Star’, ‘The Beautiful Between’ and now ‘Faceless’. Check out her thoughts on YA cliches, top reads and why she wanted to tell Maisie’s story.
We know all authors have to be at least a tiny bit fond of their writing. Can you quote your favourite line from your own work? I don’t think I have one particular very favorite line, but I do like the ending of the first chapter of Faceless, when Maisie is caught outside in an electrical storm:
Another flash of lightning illuminates the sky, but my neighbourhood is already saturated with light from the fire and the sparks coming off the wires. When they hit the wet ground, they sizzle.
I close my eyes and listen: the sizzles sound almost like whispers.
Hiss, hiss, hisssssss.
And obviously, authors not only love writing, but are big book nerds too. What’s your fave book EVER? I can’t name just one! But there are a few that are always at the top of my list: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen, ‘A Moveable Feast’ by Ernest Hemingway, ‘The White Album’ by Joan Didion, the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak, ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell … (I could go on and on. It’s a very long list!)
Any YA cliches that drive you crazy? I don’t know if there’s anything that drives me crazy! There are a lot of stories about mean girls, stories that pit girls against one another. Of course, those stories are very important to tell, but I also love stories that talk about how girls can stick together and help each other. That’s something that meant a lot to me when I wrote ‘Faceless’, writing about the friendship between Maisie (the protagonist) and her best friend Serena.
What made you want to tell Maisie’s story? A while back, I began drafting some notes for a book about a girl who got into an accident that changed her face forever, who would discover how much of who she was was tied to what she looked like. I kept coming back to this idea – but I never knew exactly how I wanted to tell this story.
So, when my American editor approached me about writing the story of a girl who’d survived a horrific accident, a girl for whom a face transplant was her best hope at having a normal life, I was pretty excited. I know it sounds corny, but I honestly felt like it was meant to be somehow, like this was the story I’d been waiting to write.
How has writing ‘Faceless’ been different from writing your other books? How enjoyable has it been? I really loved writing ‘Faceless’. I think a lot of that has to do with how much I loved Maisie, how much I enjoyed being in her head. Maisie is very different from me: she’s very competitive, she’s a runner who hates yoga (I’ve been practicing yoga for about ten years now), she’s got a dry sense of humor, and – before her accident, at least – she often says exactly what she’s thinking. One of my favorite things about being a writer is the chance to play ventriloquist, to get into someone else’s head and say the things they say and think the things they think. Of course, because I liked Maisie so much, it was pretty hard to write some of the book’s tougher moments – I wanted things to go well for this girl I liked so much! But most of the time, it just felt like such a treat to get to spend time in Maisie’s head.
Finally, because we all want to know where the magic happens, send us a picture of where you write. This is the view from my desk – what I stare at over the top of my computer when a particular sentence is stumping me:
I know it’s kind of corny, but every time I stare at these shelves – at some of the books that have inspired me and entertained me taught me about writing and storytelling – I get unstumped.
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