INTERVIEW: Lois Metzger, Author of Change Places with Me
YA fiction is one of the most underrated genres in the literary world right now – there’s much more to it than just The Hunger Games. If you undervalue what’s coming out of the scene right now, you do so at your own peril.
One of the names helping to buoy the movement of exciting new books in the genre is Lois Metzger, the author of the recent Change Places with Me. We chatted about popcorn, writing to a schedule and trying to remember to retweet.
Hi, Lois, how are you?
It’s the height of summer right now in New York City, about a hundred degrees and high humidity. It’s too hot!
What was the last thing you ate? Score out of 10?
A bag of Kettle-flavored “PopCorners,” triangle-shaped popcorn chips. They are really, really good, both salty and sweet. I was only going to eat part of the bag… Score: 10.
Tell us about your work, what do you have coming up for us?
I try to write fun, fast-paced books about things that aren’t fun or fast-paced at all—loss, grief, illness, loneliness. My latest book, Change Places with Me, is about a girl who will do almost anything to avoid deep, intense feelings. It takes place in the near future so she has access to procedures that don’t exist, at least not yet.
When did you realize that you have a love for writing?
I was 14 when I wrote my first short story. It was called “Let Me Tell You a Little Bit About Myself,” and it was written from the point of view of my best friend at the time. The first line was, “I love Paul and I always will.” Soon after saying this, she breaks up with Paul and falls in love with several other guys. At the end she gets back together with Paul. The last line was, “I love Paul and I always will.” It was so great to speak in someone else’s voice, and I liked how the first and last lines were the same but different because you knew this girl was very flaky. This story got me hooked. That, and (also at age14) reading J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. I wanted to write that tenth story.
What’s your writing schedule like? Do you have set days where you force yourself to sit down and write or do you wait until it comes?
If you wait you may wait forever. I remember someone telling me, about writing—“Don’t hate it, don’t love it, just do it.” I thought that was helpful. It’s a job in the sense that it has to get done. Too much hate or love can complicate things and wear you out.
What are some of the problems you have faced as a modern author?
I should tweet more. I read other people’s tweets and they’re so good! I do, however, re-tweet.
Describe a writer’s life in three words.
Paperwork. (From Peter de Vries, a great comic novelist: “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”)
Rejection. (One of my novels was rejected nearly 30 times before getting accepted.)
Sitzfleisch. (German word that means the ability to sit still and get through the task at hand.)
Who else should we be reading right now?
There are so many people writing quality YA these days—it’s a Renaissance. Here are some people I’ve read in the past few months: David Levithan, Kathryn Holmes, Corey Ann Haydu, John Corey Whaley, Kate Scelsa, Julie Murphy, Lindsay Ribar, Becky Albertalli, Kate Axelrod, Tara Altebrando, Eileen Cook, Jennifer Castle, Nicola Yoon, David Arnold.
Do you have a favorite quote from a novel?
“It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”
“You know, what’s so dreadful about dying is that you are completely on your own.”
Both from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
And finally, who would win in a boxing match: a kangaroo with one leg or a baby gorilla with vertigo?
I know how it feels to have vertigo—it’s like a knock-out punch. Decision: Kangaroo.