1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?
I think it’s some version of my younger bookworm self, always lost in fiction. Having said this, an editor once told me that my writing entices teenagers who perhaps wouldn’t normally read much. This is an enormous compliment! It would be great if I did encourage non-readers to pick up a book. Reading is wonderful.
2. For those readers who haven’t seen Fiction Express and the concept of interactive e-books before, could you give us a quick introduction, please?
Fiction Express publish children’s novels online in weekly instalments. Every chapter ends with a reader vote, guiding the author on what to write next. Fiction Express now runs in schools, encouraging young students to interact with writers on varied and entertaining novels.
You can read more about the project here.
3. How did you get involved in writing an interactive e-book?
I was approached by Fiction Express and asked whether I was interested in an innovative online writing project. I loved the thought of allowing readers to take an active part in shaping a novel.
4. I think I’m right in saying that when you originally wrote Diary of a Mall Girl, you had just a few days between receiving the votes for a chapter and having it published on the site. How stressful was it, working to such a short deadline?
You’re right. My vote result came in on Monday morning, and the chapter needed to be with my editor by 10am on Thursday, to be published on Friday. Let’s just say that I didn’t really sleep on a Wednesday night for the entire duration of the project!
5. How much planning could you do before you started writing the book? With so many possibilities depending on which way the voting went, I’m guessing it must have been very difficult to plan too far ahead!
I had a rough outline of the setting and the characters, but I couldn’t (and didn’t) really plan the storyline at all. Diary of a Mall Girl includes a romance, and I didn’t even know who the main love interest would be – the readers decided this with their votes. (They then seemed determined to destroy the main couple’s relationship with later votes… which was probably a good thing, from a story point of view. Thank you, readers!)
6. Would you say it was more or less enjoyable than writing a ‘normal’ book?
It was definitely more stressful, and possibly more fun. Writing a book in a conventional way now feels like a luxury!
7. What’s the top tip you’d give to someone writing an interactive e-book in this way?
Enjoy the reader feedback, and trust your story. I had no idea how certain themes in Diary of a Mall Girl would pan out, but everything came magically together in the end.
8. You’re active on Twitter and I know you do book clubs and school visits and things as well – did you get much feedback from people reading along as you were writing it? If so, what was it like?
Yes, I got some amazing feedback on Twitter, Facebook, book blogs and from the young members of my library book club throughout the process. Mostly it was extremely welcome encouragement, but people also made it clear which characters they liked and disliked. Thankfully, this mostly tallied with what I’d wanted them to think. It’s fantastic to hear from readers who are involved in your story and rooting for people you’ve made up. It definitely kept me writing!
9. Looking back, at any book ever written, which would you most like to have been written interactively so that you could have taken part in the voting for it? (And, if there’s anything you’d have voted to change, what would it have been?)
What a brilliant question! OK, without a doubt my answer would be Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, one of my all-time favourite teen books and a story I paid homage to in Swapped by a Kiss. (I reviewed it here) I would have voted for more scenes involving Annabel and Boris, or maybe I would have voted for more scenes full-stop.
10. What's next for Luisa Plaja?
My next couple of months are full of trips all over the country, including library visits, school visits and a literary festival. I can’t wait! After that, it’s back to the excitement of writing my next novel.
A huge thanks to Luisa for doing such a fab interview - especially at such short notice! You can find her at her website or on Twitter. Diary of a Mall Girl was released yesterday - according to Amazon, at least, I could have sworn I saw a copy 'in the wild' (or at least in a bookshop!) last weekend! It's published by Curious Fox.