Eastern PA SCBWI member Laura Sibson’s newest book, Edie In Between, was released in August. Our PAL Coordinator, Lindsay Bandy, recently had a chance to catch up with Laura at our virtual café. Here’s what they had to say.
Lindsay: Hi there, Laura, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Café! Can we get you something to drink?
Laura: Thanks for having me, Lindsay. How about a latte? It’s been a while since I’ve had one of those.
Lindsay: And how about a little something to munch on, too?
Laura: Ooh, really? Chocolate croissant, please! Now I’ve got my fave items for a productive writing session.
Lindsay: Perfect! Coffee and a cheese Danish will do the trick for me. Soooo, congratulations on your newest book, Edie in Between! I’m so excited to talk with you about Edie’s story. Can you introduce her to our readers in five adjectives?
Laura: Determined, Logical, Reluctant, Grieving, Resourceful
Lindsay: Okay, let’s talk about that stunning, retro-tarot-card-inspired cover! Can you tell us a little bit about how tarot cards play into the story?
Laura: First of all, big shoutout to Lisa Sterle who illustrated the cover. Among many other things, she created the fabulous Modern Witch Tarot deck. As for tarot in the book, at the beginning of the story Edie is struggling over the loss of her mother and is reluctant to embrace her magic. She meets Rhia at the local occult shop, who gives her a tarot card that proves to be illuminating for Edie. Tarot does not play a huge part in the book but rather symbolizes Edie’s acceptance of this magical world she inhabits.
Lindsay: Did you have any special “aha” moments while writing this story?
Laura: Yes! There was a revelation that occurred in the drafting that completely surprised me. But I can’t tell you because it’s a surprise for readers as well.
Lindsay: Which of the characters is most like you?
Laura: Probably Edie. I love to run and use my running to process my thoughts and feelings and to enjoy nature. And I’d like to think I’m as determined as Edie. After all, it took me 10 years from the time I started writing fiction until I got published. But I think my emotions are more on the surface than they are for Edie.
Lindsay: Who were some of your favorite book/movie/TV witches growing up?
Laura: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I love that my editor calls my book Practical Magic for the modern day, but I don’t come close to Hoffman’s brilliance. I also loved the TV show Charmed, Willow in Buffy, and the movie The Craft, and Hermione, of course.
Lindsay: If you could cast a spell on your writing process, what difficult aspect would you choose to make magically easier?
Laura: Plot! I generally come to a story with a sense of the character’s emotional world, but I always struggle with creating a concrete plot. Sadly, for me, characters can’t sit around and emote all day.
Lindsay: Well, we are in the same boat, Laura. If you come across that spell, please, please, please cast it upon my writing desk, too! I think it’s really helpful for prepublished writers to know that even successful writers have trouble spots or aspects of writing that come more easily than others. Speaking of which, what’s the best writing advice you’ve received?
Laura: Aside from Butt-In-Chair because you can’t get published if you don’t finish the thing, I always return to a Neil Gaiman quote because it reminds me of the value of beta readers as well as the importance of trusting yourself as a writer: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
Lindsay: What is your favorite thing about being a YA author?
Laura: I like writing teen characters because I love exploring the tension between burgeoning identity and independence in the face of little true power. And there’s nothing like hearing from a teen who resonated with your words. I love being a YA author because the kidlit community is a generous and fun group of writers.
Lindsay: Many of our readers are working hard toward publishing their own books, writing, revising, querying, and building their social media platforms. What is one thing you wish someone would have told you before you signed your first contract?
Laura: I received wonderful, accurate advice: “Focus on what you can control. The publishing world is subjective. Don’t give up. You only need one YES.” The trouble is that I didn’t take the advice. I sometimes allowed fear to get in my way. I stopped querying. I quit on manuscripts. I didn’t believe obtaining an agent or a book deal would ever happen. I credit my writing friends for picking me up after each setback. So maybe the best advice is to identify beta readers and friends who understand what you are trying to achieve, who will support you, but who will also be truthful with you.
Lindsay: What keeps you going on difficult writing days?
Laura: See above. But also, at this point, I’m grouchy if I don’t write. Writing is both the way that I process my world and my escape from it, depending on the day. I need to write.
Lindsay: When readers turn the final page of Edie’s story, what do you hope they come away with?
Laura: I hope readers feel like they’ve been on a bit of a journey, made some great friends, and experienced a warm hug.
Lindsay: What’s next for you?
Laura: I’m working on another YA with a paranormal element. I’ve got an elite private school, an urban legend, a girl who wants to help her older brother, and a ghost hunter who gets in her way. But I’ve still got to nail down that pesky little plot. Lucky for me, I’ve got that latte and croissant you gave me. So, into the Writer’s Cave I go. Thanks so much for having me!
Lindsay: Thanks so much for stopping by and giving me an excuse to eat some Danish. Your advice has gotten me excited to tunnel back into my writing cave, and I’m sure our readers will be heading to their local bakery before plopping their butts in their writing chairs, too! Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
Laura Sibson holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Formerly a career counselor at the university level, she now writes and teaches creative writing in Philadelphia where she lives with her family. Edie In Between is her most recent young adult novel. She is also author of The Art of Breaking Things.
Great interview! Looking forward to opening that cool cover.