Black Book: Laurie Faria Stolarz Interviewed
Laurie Faria Stolarz is the acclaimed author of such young adult books as Bleed, Project 17, and the Touch series. In this interview, Stolarz explains what inspired her to create her latest work, Black Is for Beginnings, as a graphic novel companion to her Blue Is for Nightmares series and discusses how she was able to transition easily between the two formats. She also describes how her upbringing in Salem, Massachusetts, influenced her writing and research on the paranormal subjects in her work and reveals how she stays current on what’s important to her teen audiences.
What got you interested in creating this companion book to the Blue Is for Nightmares series in a graphic-novel format?
I wanted to try something different with the series, and so when my editor approached me with the idea of writing a graphic novel, I was very intrigued. It gave me the opportunity to not only try something new, but to really picture the book as a movie. Because I have a background in screenwriting, I wrote Black Is for Beginnings in screenplay format, adding in ideas for illustrations and sidebars. I was able to picture where the cuts would be, and how the action and dramatic beats would play out on the page. It was an absolute thrill to write, to return to my love of screenplay, and to have the opportunity to work with such a talented illustrator [Janina Gorrissen].
Were there any surprises for you in the process of adapting your story to a graphic format? Did the way you envision any of the characters or settings change or evolve as you shifted formats?
Because I love the art of screenplay so much, it was a really nice transition. Even when I write my prose novels, I always picture them as movies along the way. I knew where I wanted to go with Black Is for Beginnings, and it was really rewarding to write. I receive somewhere between 75 and 100 fan emails per week from readers, all asking the same question: Will Jacob and Stacey get back together? It was very satisfying to be able to provide that answer in a new and exciting way.
Dreams play an important role in your books. Do you believe that dreams are significant? Do you have any recurring or unusual ones?
I believe that dreams are our subconscious’s way of alerting us to particular events or circumstances in our lives that might need attention. I think you can train yourself to become a better or more effective dreamer, but it takes practice. I’ve had recurring dreams in my lifetime, but never as dramatic as Stacey’s.
Have you ever dabbled in Wicca yourself? What source or sources do you use for information about Wicca?
No, no Wicca-dabbling for me, though I do love a good aromatherapy candle every once in a while, as well as an effective home remedy here and there. I did a ton of research on witchcraft, Wicca and folk magic as I was writing Blue Is for Nightmares, talking to real-life witches and reading lots of books on the craft. Having been raised in Salem, Massachusetts, and having done this research, I was able to see that my main character practices a familial type of hereditary folk magic. Growing up in Salem, it was really no big deal to have practicing Wiccans in class with you in school. They’re normal people, with normal jobs, who go about their normal lives. It’s a major religion in Salem, and people take it very seriously. I think Salem’s biggest influence on me is that I’m open to that.
What do you find most appealing about writing young-adult paranormal romances?
I love the writing about forbidden love, and when it’s paranormal forbidden love, the stakes are all the higher and more exciting. The first three books in the Blue Is for Nightmares series explore the main character’s struggle with the idea of falling in love with someone who could potentially be dangerous. I continued exploring this concept in my novel Bleed, where one of my main characters falls in love with someone convicted for the murder of his girlfriend. I also continued the forbidden love concept with my new Touch series, in which the male protagonist has the power of psychometry (the ability to sense things through touch). Lastly, I love exploring how sometimes even the most extraordinary of powers can also be a curse.
You have had great success with the Blue Is for Nightmares series. How many other books do you envision in the series? Have you already decided how the series will end?
I’m not sure yet. A spin-off/companion series might be a fun idea. We’ll see….
Will there be a prose version of Black Is for Beginnings?
I’m not sure yet. Possibly. We’ll see….
You were a teacher before you turned to writing. How does your background as a teacher inform your writing?
I think connecting with teens is so important when you write for them. I’m constantly keeping myself updated on what teens like and what’s important to them. When I was teaching high school, I was surrounded by teens every day, so it was a bit easier. Now I have to work harder for my research. I read teen books and magazines, both fiction and nonfiction. I watch an embarrassing amount of TV marketed to teens and eavesdrop on them at Starbucks.
Were you a big reader as a child and teenager? What were your favorite books?
Actually, no. I was definitely what’s considered a “reluctant reader.” As soon as a book lost my interest, I’d close the cover. And so I gravitated toward “page-turners,” mostly mysteries. When I started Blue Is for Nightmares, I wanted to target reluctant readers like me. I knew that I wanted to write a mystery/suspense book. I knew that my main character needed to be relatable on many levels. She couldn’t be the prettiest girl in school, nor the smartest, or the most popular. She wasn’t going to have the best relationship with her parents, and she had to be in love with her best friend’s boyfriend. Throw in a good stalker and you’d have something I would have liked as a teen.
Are there any up-and-coming writers of graphic novels whom you particularly enjoy?
I was really inspired by Breaking Up, a graphic novel by Aimee Friedman. When I read that, I knew that I had to write my own graphic novel. I also loved Blankets by Craig Thompson and The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, to name just a few.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m currently working on the edits for Deadly Little Game, the third book in the Touch series. I’m also working on the third book in the Amanda Project (Do You See?).