Wed 24 Oct 2012
League of Strays (Abrams, 2012), a new young adult novel by debut author L.B. Schulman, explores that question. The book tells the story of a group of teens who feel left out and looked-over.
A charming, charismatic student brings them together for friendship and support, but turns out to have other motives as well.
How long will it take for everyone in the league to see that Kade might not be what he seems. And how much damage will happen before they do?
I’m thrilled to welcome L.B. Schulman to Read, Write, Repeat to answer some questions about her book and how it came to be.
Tell us about your process for writing and revising League of Strays?
I only had an hour a day to write this book (when my daughter napped), so it took a…w…h…i…l…e. Revising took much longer. It was the first book I ever wrote, so I had to do a lot of work to correct my initial newbie writing. If it had been my fourth, I’m sure the process would have gone quicker.
What was its path to publication? What did you learn along the way?
It was a serpentine path! I had two agents that weren’t right for me before I found The One (Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.) After a few rejection letters would come back with similar comments, I revised. I kept this up until two editors expressed interest in it at the same time. I then revised again for them, and Abrams accepted it first.
What I learned is that revision is essential to making a project work, and it isn’t something that is done quickly or easily, and also, that if you don’t give up on a project too early, you increase your odds of success tremendously.
The book discusses bullying, a topic that’s gotten a lot of attention in the media recently. Did you always intend for that to be a theme, or was that just how the plot evolved?
The book came out exactly as I’d intended. I wanted to portray a girl who gets sucked up into a bullying scheme and has to claw her way out of it. I wanted to explore the idea of “bullying the bullies” and examine why it’s not the right thing to do. I didn’t realize this was going to be such a controversial book, so that part surprised me.
I’ve had very surprising reactions to this book. People seem to love it or hate it, and most feel strongly about their opinions. I think the ideal reader enjoys thought-provoking books and has patience for characters that don’t always make the best decisions, because in life, this happens a lot.
We all make lousy decisions at times. Charlotte is swayed by the tenacious clutch of a sociopath who plays up on her need for attention, so it takes her longer to escape his influence. People who don’t mind controversial subjects and enjoy darker books will most likely enjoy League of Strays.
What do you say to the reviewers who feel that Kade is an obvious psychopath and that Charlotte should have run from chapter one?
I say, if I had done that, there wouldn’t be a book! Seriously, though, many people — men and women — get swept up by psychopaths. They tend to be charming, they lie without remorse, and they make people feel important. To expect that ALL teens would know to run away seems unrealistic to me.
What are you working on now?
I am very excited about my work-in-progress. It’s about a girl who discovers a huge family secret, as well as relatives who she thought were dead but are actually alive. She has to unravel the family past before it destroys those she loves. It involves a major historic situation that we are all familiar with, but that’s all I will say. I am ¾ of the way done and charging through now. I have a rule about writing: Don’t talk about it, write it.
What advice would you have for aspiring authors?
If you want to be published, you have to be persistent. You almost have to be an agent-querying machine. Get four rejection letters, then send out four more within 24 hours. I made rules like this to keep me focused and on target.
I also have a contract with a writing friend: Every day we write for at least one hour, which we report to the other person. This hour usually stretches on for longer. It’s amazing how fast a book moves forward when you are consistently writing and not letting excuses get in your way.
Thanks for inviting me on your site, Pat!
Thanks, Lisa! It was a pleasure having you stop by.