Please welcome Lizzie Friend to the blog! Her debut novel, POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS just came out and she was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the new book!
Your debut novel, Poor Little Dead Girls, just came out! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us about yourself and your background?
I have always wanted to write, but I didn’t take the typical path toward becoming an author. I’m always impressed by writers who say they spent their childhood hunched over spiral-bound notebooks, but I was always way too lazy for that. Instead, I read constantly, obsessively even, at the dinner table, while walking home from school, in the backseat on long drives, using the headlights behind me to light the pages in the pre-kindle dark ages. I channeled my urge to write into journalism in high school and eventually ended up getting a degree and working at a luxury lifestyle magazine. I spent a year following incredibly wealthy people around on their yachts before realizing that I much preferred made-up characters to real ones.
These days I’m an analyst at a strategy consulting firm, so what I do during the day is just about the polar opposite of my “night job.” I pore over numbers and spreadsheets and write about profit margins and marketing campaigns, making it all the sweeter when I get to go home and make up stories about homicidal cheerleaders.
Poor Little Dead Girls is a thriller with a girl named Sadie at the center. Will you tell us more about Sadi and why you think readers might connect with her?
I’m a huge fan of Sadie’s, but one of the most interesting things about her is that she’s not all that likeable—at least not all of the time. She judges and complains and has a huge chip on her shoulder about being the new kid, but I think flaws are ultimately what make characters relatable. I find perfect characters to be a little exhausting and intimidating. Everyone’s a little horrible deep down, so it’s comforting to find a main character that’s just a little bit awful, too.
And on the plus side, Sadie is also brave, and tough, and funny, and fiercely loyal to her friends, and I had a great time telling the story through her eyes. If I was stuck in a cabin-in-the-woods-style horror movie, I’d definitely want Sadie on my side.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I love a Wikipedia black hole as much as anyone, so even though this was a contemporary I did a lot of research on boarding schools, DC, and the area of Virginia where the book is (very loosely) set. I was also going for a somewhat over-the-top, escapist-horror kind of setting, so I used a lot of artistic license and didn’t necessarily try to make everything realistic. I did a lot of reading about the most prestigious private schools in England and snooped around (virtually) some of the most prestigious East Coast schools. I also had a lot of fun with Civil War history in the area. There are a few key figures whose stories I borrowed from heavily (and twisted considerably), which was a lot of fun as well.
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plotter all the way, but I always point out that just because I have a plan, doesn’t mean I follow it. I love an outline and I start each book with a full structure in mind, but undoubtedly it gets tweaked, adjusted and completely turned on its head frequently throughout the process. I must have changed the ending to PLDG dozens of times throughout the process, but I love where everything ended up.
How did you celebrate when you found out Poor Little Dead Girls would be published?
I was actually in a tiny little conference room at work when I found out, so celebrating had to be pretty discreet. I had to book a room last-minute to take the call with my agent, so of course the only one available was a converted closet that was basically a square box with no windows. I danced silently, jumped up and down, and otherwise made a complete fool of myself. It’s a moment I won’t forget any time soon.
What are some of your favorite books?
I read pretty widely, and while I fiercely love YA, my all-time favorites are in the adult category. My longest-standing reading relationship has been with Ken Follett—I discovered Pillars of the Earth at 14 and spent the next decade reading and rereading all of his books. They’re such fun combinations of historical fiction, page-turning thriller, political drama, and soap opera, and I just can’t get enough. These days I’ve also really been loving Gillian Flynn. I love any author who will describe herself as, “not a nice little girl,” and her wicked female characters as “nasty black orchids.” She’s a one of a kind, and I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next. My absolute favorite book that I’ve read lately is Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple. Read it immediately and laugh your butt off.
What are you reading now?
I just finished The Circle, by Dave Eggers, and started in on Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. I recently made a work-related cross-country move to LA, somewhere I never thought I would end up in a million years, so I’ve been loving all of the Hollywood commentary. It’s a strange place, that’s for sure.
You write about some pretty terrifying stuff in Poor Little Dead Girls, but what is something that truly terrifies you?
Snakes. Oh god, snakes. I know it’s silly and juvenile and embarrassingly stereotypical, but I have an awful, visceral reaction to them, even just in pictures. Do not want.
You mention in your bio that you enjoy “fantastically awful TV shows.” Care to elaborate? 😀
Always! I will take any opportunity to talk low-brow TV. I’m a huge fan of Survivor, The Bachelor, and America’s fifth major sport, MTV’s The Challenge. Don’t try to convince me these shows are cultural black holes. Remember, that’s what everybody used to say about Shakespeare.
I’m kidding (sort of), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mindless television. My husband and I do pools and brackets with some of our friends, and it’s a great way to unwind with wine at the end of the day. I also love lots of other (more appreciated) TV shows, and consider myself to be in a very successful long-term relationship with my Netflix profile.
You’re also a food lover…what’s one of your favorite dishes?
Doughnuts. All I need are doughnuts. Preferably glazed old fashioned, with no cronut-y funny business.
What’s next for you?
If the universe allows, more books! I have some other manuscripts in the works that I’m really excited about, so I hope to have more good news soon. I’d love to write another YA thriller and experiment with adult thrillers as well.
About POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS:
The first time she is blindfolded and kidnapped, star-athlete and posh boarding school newbie Sadie is terrified. She wakes up in a dark room surrounded by hushed whispers, hooded strangers, and a mysterious voice whispering not-so-sweet nothings in her ear. But once the robes come off, she realizes it’s just an elaborate prank designed to induct her into the group that’s been pulling the strings at Keating Hall for generations. The circle has it all–incredible connections; fabulous parties; and, of course, an in with the brother society’s gorgeous pledges. The instant popularity is enough to make Sadie forget about the unexplained marks on her body, the creepy ceremonial rituals, and the incident that befell one of her teammates the year before. So the next time Sadie is kidnapped, she isn’t scared, but she should be. The worst of Keating Hall is yet to come.