Liesl Shurtliff was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the mountains for her playground. Growing up, Liesl was shy about her name. Not only did it rhyme with weasel, she could never find it on any of those personalized key chains in gift shops. But over the years she’s grown to love having an unusual name—and today she wouldn’t change it for the world!
Before she became a writer, Liesl graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in music, dance, and theater. She now lives in Chicago with her husband and three young children, where she still dreams of the mountains. Rump is her first novel. Her second novel, Jack, will release April 2015. For more info, visit her website.
If you could live anywhere for one year, all expenses paid, where would you live?
Which of the seven dwarfs describes you best?
Grumpy. I’m not mean, but my natural disposition is just a little grumpy, and sometimes I want to punch super happy people in the nose! (Okay, I’m a little mean.)
If you could have a lead role in a remake of a movie, which movie would you star in?
Maria in The Sound of Music. I want to twirl on the top of that mountain and sing! Then again, nobody could ever trump Julie Andrews, so why bother?
Favorite fictional villain?
The Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
What vegetable do you most resemble?
An artichoke. A little tough in some spots, a bit sharp in others, but the heart is tender and delicious.
Is your glass half full or half empty? What’s inside your glass?
Half empty, and in the glass is my morning green drink.
What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
Writing is something I’ve always loved, but never thought of pursuing as a career until I graduated from college. For fun, I took a course on writing for children, and had the opportunity to work with Kirby Larson. She was a fantastic mentor and I absolutely fell in love with writing. I started submitting to magazines and newspapers, and as I had more success I began to feel confident that this was something I could do for a job.
What books are you reading right now?
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. I love her writing and stories. I’ve been reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar to my kids, which was one of my favorites as a kid, and it’s just as delightful to read now than it was then.
Can you share a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up? How did you find the motivation to continue?
Quite early in my writing endeavors I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. It was so frustrating to have what I thought were such amazing ideas, only to have them fall completely flat on the page. I didn’t have the skills necessary to execute my ideas well, and I felt like such a failure. But I hate failure, and I detest giving up, so it was my stubbornness that kept me going. I believed that I had the talent, but not the skills. I committed myself to writing every day for a year, even if it was painful. Even if it felt like everything I wrote was awful. (And lots of stuff I wrote was horrible.) But I got better. I kept going, and now I know that most great writing comes from simply sticking with it. It doesn’t make it any easier, but I know what it takes and have more confidence.
If you can’t listen to the above advice, find joy in the process, even when it’s excruciating.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always been fascinated by fairy-tales and their ability to span generations and cultures. Also, they’re so quirky and bizarre! The tale of Rumpelstiltskin particularly fascinates me because although he is the title character, we know next to nothing about him. Where does he come from? How did he get his name? Why is it so important? How did he learn to spin straw to gold and why on earth does he want a baby? So I set out to write a story from his point of view and answer these questions. I went the extra mile and decided I wanted Rumpelstiltskin to be not only understood, but also loveable. I found the center and voice of his story when I shortened his name to the bare minimum. How can you not love a runty fellow called Rump?
What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.
I think I’m damn good at bringing together humor and emotional depth. Funny doesn’t always have to be shallow, and depth needn’t always be so serious. I think I bring the two together in a natural way. It’s nothing I’ve worked on; it’s very natural to my own character.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your novels?
Sure. Though I love and adore my books, there are a few things I wish I could go back and change, but they’re small things and it doesn’t bug me that much.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?
Drafting is torture! Ideas are the only things that come easily. Revising isn’t easy, but it’s satisfying. Execution is a beast.
Who is your favorite author? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
Oh, must I choose one? This probably changes every day, but I’m going to go with Roald Dahl today. He’s such a fantastic storyteller, such vibrant plots and characters, and he’s not afraid to go overboard with the villains. Such despicable beings, and yet we love them all the more for it.