Interview with Luisa Plaja

LuisaPlajaLuisa Plaja is the author of several novels for teenagers, including Split by a Kiss and Kiss Date Love Hate, published by Random House, and Diary of a Mall Girl, published by Curious Fox. Luisa also edits the teen fiction site Chicklish (http://www.chicklish.co.uk) and runs book clubs wherever possible. She loves reading, writing and talking about books.

Website: http://www.luisaplaja.co.uk
Twitter: @LuisaPlaja

Is it harder to review books when you are published yourself?
Not really. I love talking and writing about books a lot, and having my own books published hasn’t changed this. Oh, except that it means I get to visit libraries and schools and run book clubs, so I talk about books even more! (I post details of my Devon-based Waterstones book club on my website.)

What do you think are the differences between UK and US YA?
That’s a brilliant, tough question, and I’d love to hear other people’s answers. As I see it, the books we all call ‘YA’ are probably aimed at slightly different ages in the US and UK, due to our different educational systems and the different ways our teen lives tend to be split. I think ‘YA’ in the US is high school literature – after middle grade, or 14+. We don’t exactly have ‘middle grades’ in the UK. 11-year-olds start secondary school and mix with 16-year-olds on a daily basis. So perhaps our YA fiction is sometimes a little ‘younger’ in tone, aimed more at ages 12+. In addition to this, teenagers in the UK usually start driving at an older age and drinking alcohol legally at a younger age, both of which affect social lives. We have major exams at different times, with the age of 16 still being a huge milestone in British education, despite the onset of the new compulsory leaving age. There are other cultural differences at play, not to mention linguistic differences… but don’t get me started on those! (I’ve worked for many years as a linguist specialising in US and UK English, and I could discuss this all day!) I do think these differences affect our literature. And I love reading YA fiction from both countries!

I’ll admit it: 2 years ago I avoided ‘chick-lit’ on principle. I just assumed the stories wouldn’t interest me without given them a chance. I have turned my thinking around, in part because books you wrote/recommended (thank you btw). Do you get frustrated by people like me? What would you like to say/do to us?
Oh no, I don’t get frustrated – everyone is entitled to read whatever they like for whatever reason. Well, OK, I suppose I sometimes feel a bit sad for people who don’t read my favourite kinds of books! I can’t help but think they’re missing out, especially if it’s a genre they’ve never tried. Sometimes books like mine are dismissed for reasons that don’t make sense to me, for example because they have pink covers and/or because they are clearly about the experiences of young women. Maybe because these books are often light-hearted, they’re perceived as being less important than other books. But, actually, isn’t it great that words and stories can move you to smile or even laugh on an otherwise difficult day?

I have had some odd experiences of this prejudice. For example, I was once approached by a parent at a book signing who told me, “I would never let my teenage daughter read books like yours.” (She proceeded to tell me that she hadn’t actually read any of my books.) It’s one of those remarks you spend time dreaming up clever retorts for years later, wishing you’d thought of one at the time. (My actual reply was something like, “Oh! OK! Thank you!”) I’m still not completely sure what I could have said, except maybe, “Read one! Go on… I dare you!” Anyway, I believe that ‘books like mine’ are usually filled with positive reflections of teen-girl life. Yes, there’s romance, but the books are ultimately about young women discovering how to feel comfortable in their own skin, and how to stand up for themselves. They are coming-of-age stories, focusing on inner strength and self-acceptance in a world that’s often lightning-quick to put girls down. And, OK, they can also be stories about kissing. 🙂

I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed some of the books I’ve recommended! I loved your feature ‘The Pink Thing’, where you focused on books with pink covers. I’m so happy that blogs like yours exist. I’ve also found a lot of brilliant book recommendations on your site, so thank YOU!

Luna: *grin* Happy to hear it. You can find out about The Pink Thing here:

The Pink Thing

Can you give a top 5 of chick-lit books you recommend?
Er… no? Only 5? That’s impossible! OK, then – bearing in mind that others might disagree about what does and doesn’t fall into the genre – this is a list of brilliant books to try, just off the top of my head. Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty, the Butterfly novels by Denise Deegan, Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone, Girl Meets Cake/My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day, Good Girls by Laura Ruby, Fly on the Wall by Emily Lockhart. Anything by Meg Cabot or Rachel Vail… Er, that’s a lot more than 5, isn’t it? No, I’m sorry, I can’t do it!

Luna: I’ll let you off 😉  *goes to buy more books* 
Completely agree about The Butterfly novels by Denise Deegan, my favourite series last year and without you I never would have heard about it. *hugs Luisa*. Also Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt.
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Click on the book covers to link back to my reviews.

If I told you weren’t allowed to write or read for 1 week what would you do?
*whimper* Not allowed to write anything, even a tweet? Or read anything, even the back of a cereal box? I would… tell myself stories in my head, I think! And get everyone around me to tell me stories. You have been warned, cruel torturers.

What do you think about self-publishing?
I’ve read some fantastic self-published books in the past few years. Good books are good, no matter how they’re made available to readers.

Do you ever re-arrange book displays in bookshops?
Of course not! *looks shifty* OK, maybe a little bit, occasionally. I keep finding Split by a Kiss in the 9-12 section in WHSmith and it’s really a teen book, so, you know…

While we’re on the subject: What do you do when you see your books in shops?
I get very happy, and I decide it’s clearly a shop whose stockists have great taste. 😉 I usually proceed to buy a lot of books there.

I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
Wow! This is great! But I think I might have been on my soapbox enough for one interview, so I’ll just say… Keep reading and talking about books, wonderful readers!

Will you tell us a little about Kissing School?
Ah, my mysterious next book, to be published by Random House. 🙂 Sorry I can’t tell you anything else yet, but thank you very much for asking!

Worth a shot, looking forward to finding out more. 🙂

Reviews:

 Kiss, Date, Love, Hate by Luisa Plaja & Diary of a Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja

Quickfire Round:

Tea or coffee?
Tea! And plenty of it!

One thing you couldn’t write without?
My headphones. Even if I forget to put my playlist on a loop and I end up listening to silence, if my headphones are clamped to my ears, it’s a signal to the world (should the world care at all) that I’m writing.

What would be your superpower?
Super-wordage – the power to understand and be understood at all times. And I’d like everyone to share my power. I like superpowers that are based on reality, even if they’re a bit of a stretch. Please excuse the quote from my own book, but Rachel in Swapped by a Kiss is asked this exact question, and she replies, I don’t want girls to think they have to fall in a vat of acid or be bitten by a spider before they can stand up for themselves”… and I sort of have to agree with her! 😉

What’s the perfect cure to a bad day?
A good book, of course! (Is this absolutely the perfect interview question or WHAT?)

You’re at the airport with a free pass to get on any plane – where would you go?
Wow, this is difficult! Probably Italy, to sneak in an extra visit to my lovely extended family there. *waves* Ciao, famiglia Plaja!

What word describes you best?
Head-in-the-clouds-spacey-face #cheaty-hyphens

The last book you read?
Lessons In Love by Ali Cronin, book 4 in the Girl Heart Boy series. I love these books very much and can’t wait for the next one! Oh, at the same time I read The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson for book club, and I loved that too.

Favourite dish (that you can cook)?
Pasta pasta pasta.

When no one is watching, do you dance?
Yes! Also I dance a lot with my daughter on the Wii. I’m the current record-holder within my house at Beyonce’s Crazy In Love on Just Dance 3, and lagging pathetically behind at most tracks on Just Dance 4.

And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
This one! What a wonderful question. #Cheaty-McCheaterson-Supreme

Thank you very much for interviewing me, Luna’s Little Library!

You are very welcome, please come back soon! 🙂

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