Dian: Hi Mary. Thank you for the fun book! I read it in one sitting and laughed out loud at parts and got teary at some others. Great job.
I notice in your bio that you have been writing for the teen audience for quite some time, including Sassy, Seventeen, 'TEEN Magazine as well as women's magazines such as Family Circle, Parenting, New Woman, Woman, First For Women and Fitness. When did you start writing?
Mary: I wrote my first novel in the third grade…an illustrated mini-novel called, “Eggward, the Unwanted Egg.” It was about an unhappy egg who rolled away from home. He got scrambled in traffic and fried on the sidewalk. Clearly, I was a drama queen even as a kid.
Dian: In THE SERIOUS KISS you have introduced a sassy, lovable heroine in Libby Madrigal. Where did you find your inspiration for this character? How much of yourself is in her?
Mary: Since this is my first published novel (no, Eggward never rolled into bookstores!), I definitely began with a girl similar to the kind of girl I was in middle school—a bit nerdy, always longing for love. But, very quickly, Libby took on a life of her own. I was often amazed at her perseverance in the face of calamity. I found myself rooting for her a lot.
Dian: Readers will start out thinking KISS is a comedy, but really, it’s an exploration of the all-to-common dysfunctional family in today’s society. What prompted you to address alcoholism and its effects on the entire family unit?
Mary: My goal in writing for young adults is to write REAL-LIFE stories from the unique perspective of a kid. And, real life is often funny, tragic, confusing, joyous. Kids really get that... it speaks to what they see around them. But, to answer your question specifically, I did grow up in an alcoholic family so I understand the chaos there. I knew I could write an authentic book about growing up in that kind of family. I’ve received a lot of emails from kids as well as adults who’ve had childhoods where secrets and shame dominate the family landscape. This book seems to have struck a chord.
Dian: So you like reading in bed while everyone’s asleep. What do you like to read?
Mary: Everything! I read a lot of young adult novels to keep up with the market. But, when I give in to my real reading passion, it’s True Crime. Right now, I’m reading a great new book called THE LOBOTOMIST, by Jack El-Hai. It’s not True Crime, but it is about the doctor who invented the lobotomy “cure” for mental illness. My secret is now out—I’m a closet ghoul.
Dian: Tell us a bit about the writing process you went through with KISS, from the planting of the seed of the idea to the final publication.
Mary: I wrote four YA novels before THE SERIOUS KISS was published. KISS was number two. I just kept chipping away at the impossible dream. My whole path to publication was “one step forward, two steps back.” My first agent died. My second agent dumped me after only a couple of rejections. My current agent, Laura Langlie, was the first light in a long, dark tunnel. She helped me whip THE SERIOUS KISS into shape. But, throughout it all, I kept writing. Which I’m completely grateful for. I’ve since sold three of the four novels. The first…well, I consider it my “pancake” novel. You always have to throw out the first, weird, misshapen one.
Dian: The grandmother’s living arrangement is unique in KISS. Where did the idea of living in a kitchen come about?
Mary: I LOVE food!!! But, besides that, I wanted the inside of Nana’s trailer to be a world onto itself. Sort of like walking into Oz. Only in my version of Oz, the Munchkins are making delicious dishes.
Dian: Now that KISS is in stores and you are on tour, what new ideas are brewing?
Mary: I’ll definitely keep writing in the Young Adult genre. I absolutely love writing characters that are 14 or 15…old enough to understand everything that’s going on around them, but too young to have any control over it. It’s the perfect cauldron for conflict to bubble up. As for new ideas…stay tuned. They are on the way!
Dian: Feel free to comment on anything you’d like about THE SERIOUS KISS that hasn’t been covered.
Mary: Without sounding too hokey, my HarperCollins editor, Amanda Maciel, had a huge impact on THE SERIOUS KISS. She really contributed a lot to what readers see in the bookstore. I feel as though we’re partners; her suggestions push me to become a better writer.
That said, I also want to mention how much I love feedback from readers. Even readers who don’t like THE SERIOUS KISS. Hearing from readers is how I grow. So, let ‘er rip! Post a review on my website www.maryhogan.com
Thanks, Dian. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you!