Swanky Seventeener Rosalyn Eves recently chatted with Sweet Sixteen debut Lisa Koosis about her YA speculative novel, RESURRECTING SUNSHINE (Albert Whitman Teen, October 1, 2016).
At seventeen, Adam Rhodes is famous, living on his own, and in a downward spiral since he lost the girl he loved. Until one day, an unexpected visitor presents Adam with a proposition that just might save him from himself. Using breakthrough cloning and memory-implantation techniques, scientists at Project Orpheus want to resurrect Marybeth, and they need Adam to “donate” intimate memories of his life with her. The memory retrieval process forces Adam to relive his life with Marybeth and the devastating path that brought them both to fame. Along the way, he must confront not only the circumstances of her death but also his growing relationship with the mysterious Genevieve, daughter of Project Orpheus’s founder. As the process sweeps Adam and Marybeth ever closer to reliving the tragedy that destroyed them, Adam must decide how far he’ll go to save her.
In high school, much to the dismay of her guidance counselor, Lisa Koosis traded AP English for a creative writing class and a class in speculative fiction. She never looked back. Lisa is a member of the SCBWI, an ambassador for National Novel Writing Month, and an active member of her local writing community. Her short stories have been published widely. When she isn’t writing, you’ll probably find her out walking her dog, or chilling with her cats.
Rosalyn: I love hearing author’s journeys (I love a good happily-ever-after story!). Can you tell me about yours? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Lisa: I think I’ve been writing—telling stories—since I could form words on a page. By high school I knew for certain that fiction writing was what I wanted to do—even if I tried to convince myself otherwise (with the help of some well-meaning guidance counselors and an inconvenient aptitude for math and science). But after college, with new, adult responsibilities, little by little I fell away from writing.
I was almost 30 before I came back to it fully. I’d stumbled onto an online writers’ site where not only could I connect with other writers but I could share my work and get feedback. There, I fell in with an amazing group of serious short story writers who were hell-bent on getting published. I did well, too. I sold a number of short stories back in those days.
It was on that site, as well, that I first heard about National Novel Writing Month, the 50,000-words-in-30-days challenge. That was 2003. I wrote my first book that year, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I wrote the book that was to become Resurrecting Sunshine. I’d already been querying agents at that point (with no success).
Though Resurrecting Sunshine was my first young adult novel, it was the seventh book I’d written, and the fourth book I’d queried. And in 2014, after nearly 200 rejections, I finally signed with my agent. Just shy of a year later, we got an offer on the book (two, actually!) and on October 1st of this year, Resurrecting Sunshine made its way into the world! So I was definitely not an overnight success story!
Rosalyn: The idea of the Orpheus project is so cool–resurrecting people in part by collecting other people’s memories of them. How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Lisa: The idea actually started out as a short story. I had wanted to write a story where the main character, the person who everyone else in the book revolved around (which led to the “sun” reference) never actually appeared in the short story. She’d be talked about, thought about, obsessed over…but she would never actually appear “onstage.”
Unfortunately, I could never get the short story to actually work, but a scene I’d written for it had a young man sitting in a dentist’s-office-style chair, all wired up, and scientists were collecting his memories. That scene, and the characters, stayed with me, and eventually I wrote them into a book.
Rosalyn: What was your favorite part of writing Resurrecting Sunshine? What was the hardest part?
Lisa: I loved writing the dream sequences. I enjoy writing really surreal, vivid, sometimes unsettling dream scenes. I find those great fun to play with because essentially, there are no rules, and you can dig deep into a character’s psyche that way.
The hardest part was probably ironing out the logistics of the plot, and then sewing up plot holes. It’s something I always struggle with. I tend to write fast, and I love letting a story just take me where it wants to go, but ultimately, in order for a book to be viable, it has to have a certain internal logic to make it work.
Rosalyn: What advice would you have for aspiring writers?
Lisa: If you want this, go for it. Be willing to work hard—really hard—and don’t be afraid of rejection. Rejection is going to come your way, and it’s okay. It’s just something you have to go through to get to your goal.
Also, be open. Be open to inspiration. Be open to the process. Be open to feedback (which is not to say that you have to take all of it). Get yourself a critique partner, someone who gets you, someone who gets your writing.
And most of all, don’t stop. This thing we do—writing—it isn’t always easy. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be envious. Just don’t let it stop you.
Lightning Round questions:
- Plotter or pantser? Pantser (although I prefer to call it Writing without a Roadmap!)
- Favorite writing snack? Ice cream
- Oddest job? Hmmm… Since I’m a writer, probably…math tutor!
- Adam’s “theme song”? Protect Me from What I Want by Placebo
- What were you reading at 16? Stephen King
- Favorite music to listen to while writing? Either a playlist specific to my work-in-progress or a really old New Age instrumental album that I love called Sedona Suite by Tom Barabas.