Ah, the Young Adult novel romance! No ripping bodice at this point. Perhaps a kiss here and there, and plenty of girlish screams, a few text messages here and there, and a pink book cover…oh and a close-up of two unbelievably gorgeous young folks on the cover. Well, Lizzy Charles, the author of Effortless With You does things differently. To begin with, her heroine Lucy (interesting how both of their names begin with an “L”) is a fully-fleshed out, independent high school girl, with plenty of spunk. She’s got so much spunk that it gets her in trouble, and her punishment is to (gasp!) get a summer job. There she meets Rochester-moody and exasperating Justin, and her summer fun is just about to begin. Gigberry reached out to Lizzy to get into the mind of the young author, and learn more about her creative process.
But first…Here’s a little about author Lizzy Charles that she’d like for you to know. Firstly, she is a Gemini. And more to the point, she’s a Minnesotan girl and mother of two—soon to be three. And wait, she is also a neonatal intensive care nurse and foodie (sushi, guacamole and marinated cactus are her specialties) who somehow manages all the aforementioned roles without pulling much of her blonde mane.
Is there a little bit of Lucy in you?
Because Effortless With You was the first novel I wrote, it was inevitable for Lucy to reflect a bit of me. Lucy’s got a wonderful heart, but sometimes what comes out of her mouth reflects the opposite of what’s going on inside. I remember feeling like that so often in high-school—still do, sometimes. Nothing I said came out right. Also, Lucy’s general pace of thought definitely reflects my own as a teenager. That self doubt, constant questioning and gentle oscillation between feelings. The feelings read real because it’s based off of truth.
You’re also a neonatal intensive care nurse. When you graduated from high school, were you tempted to major in Literature, and dissuaded by someone in your circle?
I always wanted to be an author, but I also really loved science. Chemistry and English were my favorite subjects in high-school. My teachers certainly encouraged me to take the medical route so I could leave college with a “set” career. I was good at English in high-school but not like “Whoa, this girl should try this!” In fact, I kind of kept my dream of being an author a secret from my teachers, because at the time it felt so foolish. I wasn’t “great” at it and I had no idea where to start. So I set forth with hopes of surviving nursing school and snagging a job that would help support a family but also lend to flexibility to grow my writing career. But my favorite college course? Yeah, definitely the honors course I took on the development of children and young adult literature. I was able to sneak that in my first semester, before I had to dive head in to my nursing curriculum.
In some past interviews, you’ve conveyed that the inspiration for your characters in Effortless With You stemmed from the love-hate relationship of the characters Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Some think that when romance novels glorify love-hate relationships and portray them as romantic that they are somehow sending wrong messages to young adult readers…about unhealthy relationships….Like, that they may not recognize a toxic relationship, since a great number of books portray love-hate relationships as romantic. What are your thoughts on this?
Oooh! This is perhaps my favorite question I’ve ever been asked as a writer. First, let me begin with saying that I do believe that true love/hate relationships can be toxic. But let’s talk about Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet. Their love/hate relationship is based off a misunderstanding of character, just like Justin and Lucy’s. They aren’t “in love” but also hate one another. No, both sets of characters grow in their awareness of one another and then fall in love. In their love, they do not hate. I’m not promoting that “I love him so much, but hate him” type drama that can be very unhealthy (and in fact, drives me nuts. I don’t have much tolerance for that.) The on-again/ off-again flings and the misunderstood “passion” that comes from that is absurd. And the slippery slope it lends to towards physical abuse and sexual abuse? Totally not cool. You’ll find as you read Effortless With You that this “love-hate” is not dramatic. It’s gentle and there is absolutely not a moment of “I love you so much, but I also hate you.” It’s a journey of discovering someone else’s personality that’s been mislabeled, and discovering that someone to be amazing.
When you knew for sure that you were going to be published, did you consider writing under a pseudonym to avoid confusion with other Lizzy Charles who might be out there?
Here’s a secret: Lizzy Charles is a pen name. I researched many names and landed on Lizzy Charles as one that hadn’t been overdone. I know, you’re thinking I chose Lizzy because of my love for Pride and Prejudice. But that’s actually my real name. I swapped my last name for various reasons—one being my actual last name is rather impossible to pronounce and spell.
How do you find time to write?
I write in the evening after my little one’s go to bed. Most days, my husband and I swap childcare duties, so when I’m home he’s at work and visa versa. We both work sets of evenings, so my evenings home with my kiddos are my writing evenings too. IF they haven’t worn me out so much that I don’t just stare at my laptop cross eyed. That happens a lot.
Where do you hope to take your career as a novelist?
I want to write as long as I love it and love the characters and stories that I’m promoting. I’d love to say my goal is to become a New York Times Bestseller, but, umm, isn’t that most author’s goals? This is all new to me and I’m taking it a word and novel at a time.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten as an author?
Is your family pretty much thrilled about your publishing success?
Yes! My family has been incredibly supportive. My own kids? They don’t have a clue. But that’s cool. Even when they grow up, I won’t force them to read my books. That’s up to them.
What was your favorite YA romance book growing up?
Confession, I didn’t read YA romance novels growing up. I was way more into Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables to notice. Referring to the [previous] love-hate question, again the Gilbert-Anne relationship is one of growth and falling in love. But contemporary novels? I loved Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anne Brashares.
Do you have some counsel for those who’d like to get published?
Get on Twitter and connect with other writers through #amwriting. Find critique partners at CPSeek.com. Offer help to others. Read writing blogs. There’s a wealth of information out there. Put yourself in a position where you can connect with it.
Are there some conceptions that you had about being an author, that you saw unravel before your eyes,
once publishing became a reality for you?
I’m still really new to the publishing side of things. I went in with the intent that I will be working very hard. And I have. Nothing has been easy. But it’s been worth it. Nothing has unraveled because I didn’t walk in with grand expectations. I walked in wanting to share my novel with the world and with the understanding that I’ll do the best I can to let the world know it’s there. But I will say the public has many misconceptions of what an author does/what they earn. I can’t tell you how many people—my boss included—who has asked me when I’m quitting my job as a nurse. I nearly fall off my chair laughing. Right now, it’s not about money for me. It’s about building a career and sharing my love of young adult literature. If you are writing only because you want to make money, you are in for a rude awakening. Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I really enjoyed participating in this interview.
Connect with Lizzy Charles HERE.