Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Author Interview: Lisa Glass (Blue)

Blue is Lisa Glass's brilliant new YA novel all about sun, surfing and romance. I posted my review earlier today which you can read here, and I'm really excited that Lisa has answered some of my questions. Yay!

Read on to learn more about Iris, Zeke and Blue!


Wondrous Reads: Hi Lisa! Thanks for answering my questions. For anyone who hasn't heard of your debut YA novel, Blue, can you explain what it's about? 

Lisa Glass: It’s a coming-of-age story and a romance set in the surf town of Newquay in Cornwall.

WR: It's always interesting to hear how authors get their first books published. What's your story? 

LG: I’ve been writing novels for ten years. I was signed by my first literary agent way back in 2005 and I got a book deal for my first adult novel with a small Scottish publisher in 2007, and then there’s been nothing in the way of traditional publishing until now (although I did self-publish a YA book called Snake Beach on Amazon). That’s not to say I haven’t been writing other novels, because I have (several) but I was unable to get them published. I’m on my third literary agent now, Ben Illis, who is really amazing at his job (hi, Ben!) and he got me this three-book deal with Quercus.

WR: Ooh, so is Blue the start of a trilogy? 

LG: Well, I don’t know! It could be, but I suspect that will only happen if the first two Iris and Zeke books do well. Otherwise, I’ll write a standalone novel for Book 3.

WR: Surfing and the location of Newquay both play a huge part in Blue. Are those aspects of the novel autobiographical? 

LG: Yes. I moved to Newquay twelve years ago and feel very privileged to live here because it is breathtakingly beautiful with great surf beaches and there are loads of interesting people around, including, naturally, lots of surfers. As you might have guessed, I am very interested in surfing. When the international surf contests are broadcast over the internet, I will happily watch live surfing all day, or night, depending on the location of the contest, and find myself completely gripped. I surf a bit myself (although not lately as I’ve just had a baby and have absolutely no core strength, which is pretty important for surfing, and, uh, my wetsuit no longer fits) but even on my best day, I’m no Iris. Having said that, surfing is the best fun I’ve ever had and if anyone reading this fancies trying out surfing, I would really encourage them to do so. And if you come to Newquay, I can recommend some excellent surf schools (such as Errant Surf School, run by a nice guy called Max who looks like a movie star and is a complete chatterbox). The first time I went surfing it was with a brilliant new female friend and I hired a foamie for a fiver at Fistral and had so much fun, but my surfing improved when I paid for some one-to-one lessons, so I would highly recommend doing that.

 [Lisa Glass on Fistral Beach.]

WR: Wow, you seem to know a lot about surfing – you’re clearly passionate about it! Have you competed in any competitions or anything like that? More importantly, given the difficulty of the sport, would you want to? 

LG: God, no. I make enough of a spectacle of myself as it is and that’s without video cameras following my every move. The day before I left for London to meet the publishers interested in Blue, I was distracted and had a cartoonish fall from my surfboard. It was a hilarious wipe-out (hilarious to onlookers, at least, not to me!). I somersaulted headfirst over the front of the board, legs waving in the air and then jarred my neck so badly when I hit the water that it was stiff for a week. I’d go to pieces under the pressure of a contest, even if I was good enough to enter, which I’m not. Having said that, some of my favourite local surfers are elderly ladies in their seventies, so if I’m still surfing at their age, I promise you I’ll enter one of the silver surfer contests. I’ll be better at it by then.

WR: Zeke is a great character, the kind of guy I'm sure we'd all like to meet. Is he based on any one person, an amalgamation of several people or completely fictional? 

LG: Ah, this is quite a complicated one to answer, so please bear with me. A few people have asked me versions of this question, and some have added, ‘Zeke is John John Florence, right? Or Sebastian Zietz?’ They are both wonderful young Hawaiian surfers but Zeke is not based on either of them.

There are lots of British pro-surfers living in and around Newquay, but the Newquay surf scene is also fairly international and we have some foreign big name pro-surfers coming through the town at various times of the year and when they do, I try to get out and observe them with my trusty miniature notepad in my back pocket (in truth I almost always forget the notepad, and spend the whole time thinking must remember that). You can generally spot these pro-surfers at Fistral Beach because they will be the ones doing airs, which as the term suggests are spectacular aerial manoeuvres, and these surfers are a complete joy to watch. So back in 2011 I knew some pro-surfers were in town and I decided to buy a ticket to the UK premiere of an eco-surf film called Minds in the Water, made by a group of surfer activists called Surfers for Cetaceans and there I met a Californian pro-surfer (well, he’s a freesurfer, really, which means he is sponsored but doesn’t have to compete) called Chris del Moro. He was very engaged with environmental issues, incredibly laid-back, a fellow vegetarian and he just had this vibe of total confidence and positivity going on and I found myself drawn to that and thought I’d like to write a character who shared some of those traits. Another member of Surfers for Cetaceans is the famous (in surf circles, at least) freesurfer Dave Rastovich and he is also similar in some ways to Zeke. I should point out here that in terms of decency, kindness and forthrightness, Zeke is exactly like my husband (hi, Jon!).

WR: Well, I officially have no idea who you’re talking about when you mention professional surfers! Are these guys your personal favourites? Maybe I should look them up online…

LG: Yes, looking up surfers online is always a worthwhile activity, I feel. Don’t ask me about my personal favourites, though, because we’ll be here all day. (There are the freesurfers, the big wave surfers, the longboarders, the contest surfers, the groms, the veterans). I almost put a list of my favourite surfers in the back of my book, but even after being really strict with myself and narrowing it down, there were still over fifty names and I felt bad about the ones I’d left out.

WR: What do you think of Blue's cover? (I love it - it says everything about the book in one image!) 

LG: The first time I saw the cover it made me blush. I had to close the jpg file straight away and familiarise myself with it over about a week. This is purely because the person on the cover so closely resembles my mental image of Zeke. I shouldn’t be surprised by this because when briefing the cover, my editor asked me if I could give them a specific idea of how I imagined Zeke to look. After I finished writing the book I found a pro-surfer who sort of looked like how I imagined Zeke and so I merrily forwarded them images of him (Eric Geiselman, I’m looking at you, wink, wink, drool) but somehow, and I really don’t know how, they found an image that resembled my idea of Zeke even more than Eric Geiselman, so well done them! Now, I realise I’ve gone straight to the hot boy and ignored the rest of the cover, but I love the colours and the way the title appears on the surfboard and I’m even fond of the herring gull (although a member of my family made me laugh by saying: ‘Nice cover. Shame about the shite hawk.’) Yeah, down in Cornwall they’re not a popular bird.

WR: Ha! I actually couldn’t tear my eyes away from the cover model when my copy of the book first arrived so I know exactly where you’re coming from. Do you want Iris to appear on the second book’s cover, or maybe Iris and Zeke together? 

LG: I would love Iris to appear on the second book.

WR: Did you have to do a lot of research in order to write Blue? Specifically when it came to the professional surfing world and the behind the scenes politics involved? 

LG: Yes, loads. I was able to interview both male and female pro-surfers and sometimes also their partners, which was illuminating, and I read nothing but surfing books and magazines for about six months. And when I put on the telly, it was to watch surf films or tune into surf competition webcasts. Basically, I became completely obsessed with surfing and I couldn’t stop thinking about the book, to the point where I developed terrible insomnia.

WR: You're currently working on the sequel to Blue, which is due to be published in 2015. Is there anything you can tell us about it now? 

LG: Yes, Iris and Zeke are in a foreign country and finding their life together to be far more complicated and challenging than they expected…

WR: But not too challenging, right? They’ll have some happy time together? *bites nails* 

LG: I’ve typed and deleted an answer to this question six times now, so I think I’m going to have to opt for the ever popular: you’ll just have to wait and see. . .


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