Wednesday 10 November 2010

Siobhan Vivian - Author Profile

Siobhan Vivian, born in New York City but raised in Rutherford, NJ. She attended the University of the Arts and graduated with a degree in film writing. She has an MFA in Creative writing Children's Literature from The New School University. Besides writing amazing novels she also teaches Writing Youth Literature at the University of Pittsburg.

1. Your first university degree was in writing, as was your second and now you teach writing, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer of some sort. I was definitely the loud girl, the one who was constantly talking out of turn, gossiping and making jokes. But it didn't strike me until my senior year of high school, when I enrolled in a creative writing elective, that writing was something you could study in college. That's when it all came together for me.

2. Siobhan is a Irish form of Joan, your female characters seem to be variations on Joan of Arc, or at least to the extent that you write strong convincing female leads who all seem to go through a personal challenge, is that intentional?

Wow! I never noticed that before. But I am attracted to stories about girls growing and challenging themselves…now it all makes sense!

3. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

To be honest, I didn't read much in high school beyond what was assigned for class. But I did enroll in a Great Books class, and loved everything that was put in front of me. But it wasn't until college when reading became something I liked to do for pleasure. I had to read Rabbit, Run by John Updike for a class, and promptly became obsessed with that character. I would often blow off studying or writing so I could read my way through the Rabbit novels.

4. What were your favorite books as a teen?

In my early teens, I read a lot of 80's romance / horror books. The ones with the illustrated covers, where a girl goes to prom and her boyfriend dies and she needs to figure out who killed him. That sort of thing.

5. What are your favorite authors now?

I am a devotee of Melissa Bank.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I've been lucky enough to have a multi-book contract with Scholastic, as well as an editor who trusts me. So I will come up with an idea, pitch him a bit of a synopsis over lunch or something, and then get the official Thumbs Up to start the book.

7. How many drafts or major revisions are part of your writing process, and what is your goal or timeline for each?

It really depends on the book, but I typically take about 15 to 16 months to complete one novel. I might do two draft or ten drafts within that time frame.

8. You now teach writing, what was it like making the transition from student of the craft to teacher?

It wasn't too hard. I absolutely LOVE the work-shopping process, and I also have worked as an editor, so it was a pretty natural fit to step into that role.

9. What is the most important lesson you try to impart to your students?

To not get bogged down in the idea of "perfection" during a first draft. You can easily waste a good six months rewriting a first chapter that will probably get cut out completely once you actually write the book from start to finish and figure out the trajectory.

10. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

For me, it's rare if an old character pops into my head. I tend to give everything I have during the writing time, and then let them go off into the sunset once I hit The End.

11. Your books are written and published for teenagers, yet I discovered them from an adult reviewer and know many adults that love them, your books seem to really transcend that category, were they written to achieve that or was it just fortuitous to work out that way?

That is such a nice compliment. I think it boils down to this-a good story is a good story. I can remember being read to by my mom, and how we were both completely entranced by A Wrinkle In Time or Trumpeter of the Swan. I think a good story has the power to transcend its intended audience.

12. Your books are also marketed mainly to girls and women and yet I have read them and recommended them too many friends of the male gender who loved them. Do you see yourself writing a book aimed at a male audience? Much like Laurie Halse Anderson's Twisted?

That's excellent. I'd love to attempt something like that in the future.

13. When you wrote Not That Kind of Girl, what came first the title or the story line?

The story line. Actually, the idea came almost fully formed to me after I had the chance to sit down and speak with a girl during a high school visit I did in New Jersey.

14. Natalie Sterling in Not That Kind of Girl, wants to be in control and have everything perfect and under her expectations. Is that a reflection are part of your personality or just the character you created?

That is definitely all Natalie and no Siobhan. I'm too scatterbrained and disorganized to exert any control over my life. But I will say that I think Natalie's drive to succeed feels like a part of me.

15. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

This is such a nice compliment, because I feel like character is always the weakest link in my writing. But I personally tend to try and avoid the "Real People" trapping, because those characters always seem the least real in my stories. Weird, right?

16. You have a professed love of music, many authors today blog or publish a playlist either as recommended listening for a novel or music that was used while writing or editing. Do you find you end up with soundtracks while writing specific books? Have you considered sharing them?

I did have a sound track for Same Difference, which I published on my old site. But lately, I have trouble listening to music and writing. I get too distracted. I've been listening to Thunder and Rain lately. It's hilarious. It will be completely sunny and bright outside my office window, but the rain is pouring down on my desk.

17. Many people have commented on how each of your books would make great films. Have any of them been optioned or has any interest in actually developing them begun?

Alas, I have had zero film / television interest. I think the problem lies in that my books are not at all High Concept. They are just real girls in real situations, and I think that's a hard sell for Hollywood these days.

18. You just recently finished a manuscript can you give us a few hints about this new story?

Ah! I am SO NOT FINISHED! Actually, I just got my revision letter back and I've got an insane amount of work to do! But the book is about a list of the prettiest and the ugliest girl in each grade of a high school, and the story follows those eight girls for one week in their lives.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Hmm. Both of Melissa Bank's novels (2), John Updike's Rabbit novels (4, and I'll pass on the short story where Rabbit dies), Blankets, The Portable Dorothy Parker, The Chocolate War, The Great Gatsby.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

You can make a living doing what you love. I swear. Just be ready to embrace the hustle.

Siobhan Vivian, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and thank you for the awesome books.

Book by Siobhan Vivian:

A Little Friendly Advice
Same Difference
Not That King of Girl

For Children:
Vunce Upon A Time

Author Profile interview with Siobhvan Vivian.

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