Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Interview with Debut Author Lara Zielin

As promised, below is the first author interview on this blog. Lara Zielin is the author of Donut Days, a YA novel enjoyed by adults as well as teenagers. Donut Days follows its heroine, Emma Goiner, as she navigates the perils of high school friendships, first loves, the pursuit of her love of journalism and choosing an appropriate college in which to pursue her dream, and trying to make sense of her own beliefs against the tricky backdrop of her family's evangelical Christian faith. The original and fun setting for all of this is the Crispy Dream donut camp, a throng of local people and travelers camping out to welcome the opening of a Crispy Dream franchise in her town. Below Lara answers questions about writing, the life of a newly-published author, and, of course, donuts. Read to the end for an opportunity to win an autographed copy of Donut Days.

In reading your novel, blog, and some interviews, it's pretty clear that you like donuts. Do you have a fave flavor?

It’s true—I love donuts, and it’s only gotten worse since I published DONUT DAYS. I have yet to meet a donut I didn’t like, and this poses myriad problems, especially for my waistline. This Halloween, I even dressed up as a donut. I think this is bordering on obsession, but I’m okay with that since at least I’m not obsessed with, you know, collecting eyeballs or something.

What's the best and/ or most unusual donut you've ever tried?

I haven’t tried that many unusual donuts, but Voodoo Doughnut in Portland seems to have the market cornered on awesome donut flavors I’d like to try. I mean, they have one with Butterfinger crumbles on it! I also heard about a French toast donut (::drools on floor::) and I personally would love for someone to make a Nutella and peanut butter donut. Like, where the peanut butter would be baked into the dough and Nutella could be the filling. Not that I’ve thought about it much. I just … came up with that idea spontaneously. Um, yeah.

This is your first fiction book published. What has been one of the most fun parts of being a newly published author?

Blogs like this! I’m not actually being snarky and sarcastic. It’s true! I have connected with such a wide range of wonderful people over this fandangled thing they call the interwebs. Some people have even read my book as a result. I know, crazy, right? I’m actually so impressed with how organized writers and reviewers are as a collective whole. And I’ve loved meeting other YA authors and readers. Hooray for this series of connected tubes!

There have been a number of articles published recently on how authors cope with negative book reviews (in recent news, Alice Hoffman, Alain de Botton). Although Donut Days has been widely praised, have you had to deal with any negative book reviews? What outlets did you use/ How did you cope with these?

My very good friend Ellen Baker was published about a year and a half before DONUT DAYS came out, and I remember her taking bad reviews to heart. And at the time I was all like, “Oh, Ellen, don’t let them get you down. It’s totally okay. You can’t control them, you can only control your reaction…” on and on, ad nauseum.

I’m really surprised Ellen didn’t hit me, because that advice pretty much sucks. When it’s your book, your baby, something you’ve put your heart and soul into, it really hurts when someone doesn’t jump up and down and absolutely gush about how much they want to name their firstborn after you.

Nowadays, I think better advice would be to take the energy spent on fretting about book reviews and pour it into connecting with other authors, or promoting your book, or finding people who love it. It’s okay to feel badly—because it hurts. And then it feels really good to turn that hurt into something that’s totally productive and sells more copies.

You have recently been touring the Midwest on a book tour. How did it go?

So! Awesome! I went to fabulous and friendly independent bookstores like the Red Balloon in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Northern Lights in Duluth, Minnesota, and I was able to drop in on some book clubs as well.

The thing that’s so great about book tours is meeting people in person who have read what you wrote and say that it resonated with them in one way or another.

Also really cool? Is seeing copies of your book stacked along the bookshelf alongside other authors. It makes being published so totally real. It also makes the other parts of a self-funded book tour (sleeping in the lumpy bunk-bed of a friend’s daughter, eating McDonald’s, spending your life’s savings on gas) totally worth it.

The online writing culture can be filled with both positivity and negativity. What is one piece of encouragement or positive advice that you can give to burgeoning writers?

Some people are born to write. And some people are very, very good at their craft the moment their pen touches paper. The planets align, the heavens open, and light shines upon their brilliant prose.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

True, I love to write—and becoming a writer was the only thing I ever wanted to do when I grew up. But here’s the truth: It’s taken me a long time to get to that place where my writing can be stomached by anyone but me—and maybe my parents.

I know I’m a writer. I know that I’ve come a long way. But sometimes I pick up a book and my heart despairs a little bit because it’s so astoundingly good, and I realize I might never in my life write like that.

It’s a spectrum, see? Some people, like me, have the writing bug bad, and it’s only through great struggle and practice that we ever get to the place where our stuff is any good. Other people have the bug and just—well, their talent scale might be dipping a bit more in the red. Their work is just really freakishly awesome right off the bat.

If, like me, you’re on the “great struggle” side of the spectrum, then I say keep at it, and don’t stop writing. Also, read like there’s no tomorrow. I truly believe my writing has been greatly helped by the fact that I read good books, especially good YA!

What can we look forward to seeing from you next?

I am currently editing my second novel, PROMGATE, with Putnam, the same folks who published DONUT DAYS. The book centers around the fallout when a pregnant teen is elected prom queen in a small Midwestern town. It’s loosely based on events that happened in my Wisconsin high school when I was a student there, and it’s due out in summer 2011.

Are you interested in winning an autographed copy of Lara Zielin's Donut Days? If so, leave a comment below with your name, city and state, or pets name, BUT alter them to make them as donut-y as possible. A delicious but calorie-free exercise in creativity for readers and writers.

P.S. If the ID you select won't let you officially change your name, or if you don't have an ID and choose the Anonymous selection, just leave your donut-alter-ego in the comment itself.


  1. MMM.....Nutella Donut.....

    Cool and insightful interview! I always enjoy reading about the experiences of young or new authors. I have a craving for donuts now, though...

    John Lacrueller, Chicaglazed, Cream Fillinois

  2. I rushed over here as soon as I heard about this interview! I love Lara's Editing Letter video, and can't wait to read the book! (Here's hoping I get a copy for free...)

    Karrie Kreme, of Crumblidge, Maplechusetts

  3. Great interview! Looking forward to reading the book.

    Sprinkles Vrbancic, Chocolate Cake, Icingois