Students from our BookUpNYC site at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn recently read I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder. BookUp instructor Lissette Norman said her students loved the book so much that they chose to keep reading it during two BookUp sessions instead of doing an activity. The students sent us a few questions to pass on to Schroeder, who was generous enough to answer via email.
BookUp: Is the book I Heart You, You Haunt Me based on a true story?
Lisa Schroeder: No, I actually had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died, but he loved her so much he didn’t want to leave her. I woke up feeling a strong sense of love, and I really wanted to write about the teens in the dream. I didn’t know their names, I didn’t know how the guy died, I didn’t know much, except there was sadness and love. I don’t like scary things, so I knew it wouldn’t be a scary ghost story, but something different. As I started writing, Ava seemed to feel guilty, but I didn’t know why. I kept writing, trying to discover how he died, but nothing came to me. One day I was talking to a friend about the story, and she told me about something that happened when she was in high school—at a party a kid jumped off a cliff into the water below and was killed. It gave me chills, because as soon as she said it, I knew it was perfect for the book.
BU: Is it easier or harder to write a book in verse?
LS: This is a hard question to answer because each book is different and each book, no matter how it’s written, usually has things that are easy and other things that are difficult. But I guess, for me, verse is a little easier than prose. My brain seems to work well in trying to describe things in a short, poetic way. Other authors are gifted at being able to write long, beautiful paragraphs of description. That is not me! However, it can be difficult trying to balance the story and the poetry. Story should always be the most important thing, yet I’m constantly worried about being criticized for not being poetic enough. It’s a fine line that has to be walked throughout the entire novel. So it’s not exactly easy.
BU: Do you also write poetry?
LS: I’ve dabbled in poetry throughout the years, yes, but I don’t write much anymore, mostly because of lack of time. When I first started writing, I wrote rhyming picture book stories, which, to me, are like poetry. It’s not just the end words rhyming; it’s very much about rhythm and the words chosen to tell the story. Like I said, I seem to have a brain that enjoys that kind of writing.
BU: Who were some of your favorite authors when you were younger?
LS: I didn’t read a lot as a teen, probably because there wasn’t the wide selection of YA books there is now! You guys are so lucky to have so many books to choose from. But I read a lot when I was like 8-12 years old, and I especially loved Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
BU: Do you get ideas for your books from dreams you’ve had?
I’ve only had one dream that inspired a book. I wish it would happen more often! People always seem to be interested in where authors get their ideas, and really, inspiration is everywhere. I’ve been inspired by a song, by a story in the news, by a line in another book, and also just by brainstorming ideas. I keep a journal specifically for ideas, and I write all kinds of things in there—words and names I like and little seeds of ideas. I think keeping an idea journal is one of the best things an aspiring writer can do.
BU: Will you publish the book about the lion that you wrote when you were a young girl?
LS: One of the things I tell kids when I visit schools is that we don’t always have to write hoping for publication. I wrote for many, many years just because I enjoyed it. That little book I wrote was just for fun, and it’s actually not a very good story and no one else would really like it, trust me. So no, I won’t try to get it published. And even now, sometimes I write a story and I’m not sure if it’s good enough to be published, but I like writing, and so I write the book for myself and I don’t worry about what anyone else might think. I still have projects that don’t sell, but that’s okay. I am a writer because I love writing. And like anything else—sports, music, art—the only way I improve is by practicing a lot. For any of you who enjoy writing, I encourage you to write for yourself first and foremost. Write because it brings you joy. If anything happens after that—if it’s good enough to be published, great. And if not, it’s okay, because you had fun writing it!
Lisa Schroeder is a native Oregonian which means her childhood summers were spent camping, fishing, reading books (of course!), and playing in the sun, when it finally came out. These days, Lisa spends her summers, and every other part of the year, sharing all of the wonderful things Oregon has to offer with her husband and two sons. She is the author of numerous books for kids and teens, including The Day Before (Simon Pulse, 2011) and Sprinkles and Secrets (Aladdin, 2011).