Debut Club

The Debut Club: An Interview with Lindsey Roth Culli

Swanky Seventeener Anna Meriano recently interviewed Lindsey Roth Culli, author of THIS ABOVE ALL, a YA contemporary novel published by Curiosity Quills Press on August 30th 2016.

About the Book:


When sixteen-year old Piper is cast as Romeo in her school’s production, she’s as surprised as everyone else. Not only because she’s a girl, but also because she’s from one of the region’s most notorious ultraconservative families.

But when the school principal demands that the part be recast “appropriately” or the show cannot go on, Piper faces a choice: become the figurehead to appeal the principal’s decision or accept the message the administration’s ultimatum sends to the school’s gay students, including her new friends. Namely, that they should be ashamed of who they are or whom they happen to love.

Preorder at  Amazon.

About the Author:

lindseyrothculliphotoLindsey Roth Culli writes books for teens and people who used to be teens. She was born in Denver, Colorado, raised in Springfield, Illinois and currently lives in Baltimore. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing in 2010 and now splits her time between writing novels and teaching college students how to write papers. She is Team Oxford Comma, and her favorite word is synchronicity.

Lindsey can be found online at ,  and

The Interview:

Anna: First off, I’d love to hear about your process. How long did it take you to write and revise THIS ABOVE ALL? Outline or no outline? Were there any darlings you especially hated to kill?

Lindsey: Oh man. This book started out TOTALLY differently. Actually, it started as two books that merged together over the course of a year (or even two?) which means the entire first draft was something of a darling (I’m a serial killer, is what I’m saying).

I’m a plotter but one who tries to embrace (or at least find?) the joy in pantsing. I need to have a brief outline but I find as I write, characters surprise me and I think it can be really exciting to follow where they lead. Well, sometimes. Sometimes you gotta rein ‘em back in. Or, you know, kill them off.
Anna: You have experience with many types of writing (novels, academic essays, journalism). How is each type of writing different? What skills transfer through all types of writing? And of course, which is your favorite?
Lindsey: Even as a kid I knew I wanted to make a life for myself in words it just turns out the realities of adulthood (bills, bills, bills!) mean some types of words pay more than others. One thing I’ve discovered along the way is if you learn how to write well (concisely most especially!), that’s a skill that will transfer across industries AND one that is highly sought after almost everywhere.

I think the ability to revise— to completely reimagine the flow of a piece or cut out extraneous parts— is especially beneficial and something that I really began to understand as I progressed as a fiction writer. Fiction is my best love, for sure. But there is something really great about using your words to engage various populations and get them motivated enough to support causes, which is why development (grant proposals etc.) writing is my next favorite.

Anna: For your protagonist, Piper, theater is an escape and a passion. Do you share this love? Were you ever a theater kid?  

Lindsey: I was a theater-adjacent kid. I wanted to be a bona fide theater kid SO BADLY but I was always a ‘chorus’ kind of cast member. My biggest “role” was the Little Red Haired girl in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” which is a) not actually a role and b) basically required me to not dye my hair and to skip across the stage during Charlie Brown’s big moment at bat thus causing him to blow the game.

(I totally nailed it.)

I can (and often do!) sing along with every word of Hamilton. So, that’s… something.

Anna: Piper comes from an extremely religious background, while many of the other characters in the novel do not. Did you imagine yourself writing the book for kids like Piper, or for kids who might someday encounter Pipers in their lives? (Or both? Or neither?)

Lindsey: Both, I think? Throughout my life I’ve had friends all along the spectrum of religious engagement— from those who are uber religious to those who are atheists— and I think often we imagine that those whose worldviews are so far from our own must have challenges that are also worlds apart. One of the exciting pantsing things that happened when I was drafting is that Tony’s and Piper’s struggles—while fundamentally different—actually ended up mirroring each other in a lot of ways. And I hope that no matter where readers fall on the spectrum of religiousness, they will be able to identify with Piper in some way.

Lightning Round Question

When is the best time to write?

Whenever I can get an hour+ uninterrupted!

Do you write in silence or with music?


Favorite punctuation mark?

& (I have one tattooed on my wrist!)

Favorite overpriced beverage?

A fancy cocktail I can’t make at home

Favorite Shakespeare play?

Tie for gold: Hamlet & King Lear Bronze: Midsummer Night’s Dream

Favorite writing snack?



About the Interviewer


Anna Meriano is writer and part-time teacher in Houston, Texas. She spends her time knitting, studying ASL, and playing quidditch. Her debut novel, LOVE SUGAR MAGIC, will be published by Walden Pond Press/Harper Collins. You can follow her on twitter @annamisboring.

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC follows a girl who discovers that she comes from a long and distinguished line of brujas – witches of Mexican ancestry. But when she bungles a spell, she must race to fix it before her mother and sisters find out she’s been practicing magic in secret.




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