What motivated you to move away from the YA genre dealing with cosmeticsurgery and Hollywood to the middle grade genre?
When I'm in the early stages of developing ideas I'm not thinking in terms of age group or genre. I start with character and story.Annabelle appeared as a sixth grader, and her story was set in junior high school. The transition from YA to middle grade was organic. That said, I'm thrilled it happened because adolescence is such an exciting and dynamic time. There's so much material to draw from.
Which of your characters do you think you resemble the most...Annabelle,
Cameron, Allie, or Jasmine?
I didn't mean to write any of my characters as myself. However, Price of Admission is the most personal novel I've ever written, so I suppose I feel most similar to Jasmine. Of course, my high school English teacher read both novels and he claims to see a lot of me in Allie – at least when I was fifteen. And I suppose I can see that, as well –although I was, am, and always will be a terrible soccer player.
What inspired you to write about plastic surgery in Fix?
When I began to formulate the idea, reality television shows about plastic surgery like The Swan, I Want A Famous Face, and Dr. 90210 were very popular. This horrified me, because on television, plastic surgery is often treated way too casually. All surgery is risky and serious business – literally life-threatening. So what's to romanticize? Plastic surgery is too often treated as a joke or a punch line, which makes it easy to dismiss. Yet it's a billion dollar industry that grows stronger each year. There are so many issues to explore. One – why is it that 91% of all cosmetic procedure patients are women, while most cosmetic surgeons are men?
What sort of research went into the writing of Fix?
I interviewed plastic surgeons, as well as teenagers who'd had plastic surgery, and some who hadn't. I read a lot about the issue and also watched too much makeover/plastic surgery reality-TV. The latter was my least favorite part. It gave me nightmares.
One thing that really stands out in Fix is how objective your writing is. Did you set out to make it that way, and was it hard to do?
Thank you. That was a huge challenge. The more research I did and the more I thought about it, the more cosmetic surgery scared and depressed me. Breast implants, especially, left me with strong opinions, because I spoke with numerous women whose lives have been destroyed due to complications related to their implants. But no one likes to be preached to – especially teenagers and especially in fiction.
Why did you choose the rich lifestyle of the family of a Hollywood executive as the setting of Price of Admission?
Again, the character came first and then the story. But as I mentioned before, Price of Admission is more personal than my other novels. My father was a Hollywood executive and that certainly influenced me in numerous ways, growing up, but not how people might assume. I don't understand why so many books about Hollywood focus on the superficial -money and looks and excess and labels. Not every teenager is obsessed with shopping or cares about brand names. I wasn't. None of my friends ever were. I think teenagers are smarter and more nuanced. I really wanted to write something different – a novel set against the backdrop of Hollywood that wasn't 'aspirational'.
What's one thing you'd like teens to get out of your novels?
My goal is to write smart, honest fiction that sparks independent thought.
What was one of your favorite books when you were a teen?
I think these are the five books I loved the most when I was in high school: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf, White Noise, by Don Delillo, The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, and The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger.
What are you planning on writing next?
I just finished Girls Acting Catty, the sequel to Boys Are Dogs. And I've been working on some new ideas – one having to do with friendship and aliens, and another having to do with a magical ice cream shop. I'm not sure what I'm going to focus on next, but so far, all of my novels have been set in Southern California. I've been in New York for over ten years, so I think it's time to write something set there.
What's one author, living or deceased, you'd like to have a discussion with?
Virginia Woolf. Do you know how I can get in touch with her?
Thanks so much, Leslie!