We all know people who are funny. We might even know some writers who are funny. But I can assure you, we know far fewer people/writers who can write funny. It's not as easy as it looks. In fact, it's not easy at all. Who said on his deathbed, "Dying is easy; comedy's hard." But just to break the curve, here's a writer who makes it look easy (and thus fools us into thinking we can all do it, darn her).
Title: The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz
Release date: Fall 2010
Imprint/Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, MacMillan
Genre: upper MG, lower YA
Target age group: 10 -14
Synopsis: Native New Yorker, Amy is emotionally stranded when her best friend moves away for the year, leaving her to hang with girls who are dorkier than she is and crush on hunkaliscious hot guy all by herself. But before she knows it, she’s teamed up with her elderly neighbor and her neighbor’s very religious (Hasidic) nephew to uncover a hundred year old mystery. This not only leads them to cool places around New York, but prompts Amy to discover herself in the process.
1) Every good story starts at the point of change. What is the point of change in this story?
Amy’s best friend moves away for the year, leaving her to fend for herself. Suddenly she has to go from being part of an inseparable, bff duo to being a solo act. So, then the question becomes, who is she by herself? What does she do now? I think this is a situation everyone has had to experience at some point in their lives and can relate to.
2) What do you want that you can’t have? How would your main character answer the same question?
A royal bloodline, maybe? Certainly too late for that, at least in this incarnation. Living in America, you could probably have anything you wanted if you wanted it badly enough. But then…would it make you happy? That’s probably the real philosophical question for me, Grasshopper…
I believe that Amy wants that elusive thing that all teenagers imagine that someone else has: beauty, popularity, the ability to ‘fit in.’ That’s why when Amy teams up with very religious Beryl Plotsky and all he sincerely wants is to be a good person and do good deeds, she has to re-evaluate herself.
3) Did another book serve as a model for yours, either in structure or inspiration? Tell us how.
This book, and especially the format, was really inspired by my own life; the letters, play and stories my bff and me used to write to each other. The format is a little unusual since it’s all in letters and little one act plays. But I’ve certainly been inspired by other books such as Catcher in the Rye, and writers such as Woody Allen, Kurt Vonnegut, Beckett, Dickens, Meg Cabot and Louise Rennison. I love humor that is edgy and that exposes us, our humanity, our relationships and all our crazy contradictions.
4) Tell us about a real-life person or situation that crept into this book.
I was kind of a smart-ass dork in middle school and high school, so there’s a lot of me in Amy. The inspiration for Amy and Beryl at Houdini’s grave on Halloween, for example, was inspired by the many ridiculous situations I somehow got myself into as a teenager.
5) Wildcard question: What’s the weirdest thing you ever ate?
Once at some Bulgarian restaurant on Avenue A, I ordered calamari with pasta. It came out of the kitchen, literally, a small, totally intact octopus plopped on a mound of spaghetti. I think I tasted one of the tentacles…I blocked out the rest.
6) What are you wishing I would get around to asking already? (And what’s the answer, wise guy!)
You’ve done a brilliant job! I can’t think of a thing you've neglected to ask…Well, maybe one thing. How about: what pisses you off about being a writer?
Answer: That I have to go through a process of drafts and my brain just won’t skip to the finished version. Bad brain!
7) What can we expect from you next?
Well, I’m working on something that will poke fun at all the supernatural stuff out there, but with romance, suspense and, of course, humor. It’s still in the writing phase, but no pressure on me or anything…(sticks sharp spork into chest and keels over).
Thanks for doing the interview, Laura! Can't wait to read Amy!
Readers, don't forget to share a limerick in the comments of the previous post to win a signed copy of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by another funny writer and Tenner, Josh Berk.
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