Interview with Award-Winning Author Lisa Yee

Get to know Lisa…

With the publication of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Lisa has realized her lifelong dream of becoming an author. The winner of the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award, there are over 300,000 copies of MILLIE in print. Lisa’s second novel, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time won the Chinese American Librarian Association Best Book of the Year award, and was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Lisa was also named the 2007 Thurber House Children’s Author-in-Residence. Her third novel, So Totally Emily Ebers came out in 2007 and so did Good Luck, Ivy, an American Girl historical novel.

Lisa has also penned her own newspaper column, written TV and radio commercials, menus that have been read by millions, jingles for waffles, and television specials for Disney. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Where do you get your ideas?

Well, one of my best ideas came from the lobby of a hotel in Berkeley, CA. I had just dropped off my daughter at Girl Scout camps and was struggling with my first novel, MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS. I just couldn’t seem to get a grasp on the plot. Then suddenly it hit me, “They lie—they lie about who’s being tutored.” And that thought fueled the story.

However, not all my ideas come from Berkeley and not all my ideas smack me in the side of the head like that. More likely it’s something odd that I see or take note of. I scribble things down on small slips of paper, and eventually a few of the notes turn into novels.

When are you the most productive?

Night. No question about it. I don’t even attempt to write in the mornings. Just pretending to be awake is strain enough. I write most afternoons, however I’m at my best when it is dark outside and quiet in the house. This leads to late-night hours. My best writing comes between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

All of them. They were all the easiest to write once they were finished. Writing a book is like giving birth. It’s an agonizing experience, and once it’s over, you forget the pain and think, “Well that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

That said, the book that most closely approximated writing itself was ABSOLUTELY MAYBE. It was sold on proposal as a funny middle grade novel, but ended up being a slightly edgy YA. I didn’t notice the change in direction because I was so immersed in the writing and having so much fun.

The hardest book to write was probably WARP SPEED. Not because of structure or plot or anything like that, but because of the content. It’s about a Star Trek geek who gets beat up every day at school. Emotionally, the story was hard for me because my heart ached for Marley Sandelski. There are some scenes that are pretty raw and I could feel the pain each time Marley was hit and humiliated.

Random Question: What is your favorite dessert?

I love piecrust without the pie part. That is, just the crust of, say, an apple pie. I’m not a fan of cooked fruit, but somehow when there’s pastry crust involved, I’m drawn to it. I simply regale the fruit off to the side dig in. (My brother loves pie without the crust, so this worked to our advantage when we were growing up.)

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