Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Interview with the Author of DRAWN - Marie Lamba

I am so pleased to host author, Marie Lamba, on my blog. Like so many of my writer friends, I first met Marie at Verla Kay's Blue Boards. When I found out about her new release, DRAWN, I jumped at the chance to interview her here. (Plus it allowed me the opportunity to read her novel, pre-release, and I was not disappointed!) As an art teacher, I love books that feature an artistic element and DRAWN definitely falls into this category.
Tell us briefly about your new novel, DRAWN.

Drawn is about Michelle De Freccio, a teen artist from New Jersey who moves to England with her dad in hopes of a more normal life.  But once in England, an unknown guy starts appearing in her drawings.  And then she meets and falls for him.  So the big question is: Exactly how normal can your life be when you fall for a medieval ghost with a sketchy past?

In DRAWN, you use Michelle’s artistic ability as sort of a portal to another dimension. (kind of like the DeLorean in Back to the Future) What led you to this idea?
This idea actually took hold when I myself was a teen artist from New Jersey! In my high school we had this guest visitor who was an artist that painted historic buildings.  She showed us spots where ghostly visitors seemed to appear in her work, and was convinced she’d channeled these spirits. The images of people in Colonial dress were woven into the dappled shadows, and it was pretty eerie.  
I didn’t exactly believe her, but I thought it would be amazing if it were true. So in Drawn I made it true.

Michelle is gifted in drawing and printmaking. Did you choose these mediums because of a personal reason? Or because they were transportable and have been around for centuries?
You know, I didn’t even think about how these mediums were around for centuries until right this moment when you mentioned it!  Actually, I stuck mainly to these because they are my own favorite mediums to work in. I never could quite get the knack of blending colors, but mixing black, white and gray comes easy to me. That’s why the cover is done the way it is. I drew this image specifically for the book, and painted it with a wash of India ink.
At a point in the book, Michelle’s drawings become almost like a crystal ball (and I don’t want to say too much and give story away) - was this intentional or did it grow organically with the story?
My brain tends to organize images into relationships of black and white, and into patterns and connections of lines, if that makes sense.  And when I draw something, I start to notice things I never had before. So it was a natural step for me to make Michelle view the world more closely through her art.  As she says in the book: 
Things make sense when I draw. Everything is angles and texture and relationships. I sketch the pews and the rough wooden beams on the ceiling, which I hadn’t noticed at first, and the bowed heads of the women praying, and the way the light plays against the rough stone walls, and I feel at home.
So, given the idea planted in my brain way back in high school of an artist channeling ghosts, it was a quick leap for me to have her drawings provide a real link to a particular spirit. A spirit that she feels attracted to:
I can’t seem to look away. It’s as if I’m studying him for a portrait. I notice he tends to raise his chin. The very corners of his mouth curve up, making him seem slightly arrogant. And his eyes. Their light color gives them endless depth. Yet they seem so full of…of what?
But she’s also frightened by him: 
It’s been nearly a week since I’d been at the castle and beside that grave. I had wandered home and found myself sitting on my bed, again trying to sketch with the hopes that it would somehow calm me. With my drawing pad resting on my knees, I had let my pencil wander across the page in free-flowing strokes. An image quickly organized itself of that delusion named Christopher, his teeth bared, his face savage. His sword raised high, about to strike a man who cowered, waiting for the blow. I cowered. And I threw the drawing pad across the room.
As their lives become more and more intimately intertwined, she questions more and more what is real. Should she trust her heart? Should she trust Christopher? Or should she believe the confusing images that she sketches, and the treacherous history she uncovers that points to a savage murder?
Ultimately she must use her own strong powers of observation to draw her own conclusions (pun intended!) and tip the fates.

What role does art-making or creativity play in your own world as an author, other than being able to create so many cute guys for Michelle to choose from!
I always had planned to be a writer AND illustrator, but when I graduated from college, writing seemed more accessible for me, and I devoted myself to that. Honestly, with a busy life and with raising two daughters, I let my art slide.  
When it came time to do the cover for Drawn, I was committed to creating the image myself. But I had my doubts. Could I still draw after so many years? It had been so long that many of my art supplies were in ruins. My ink pots dry and crusty. My paint tubes hardened.  I had to go to the art store and buy everything anew.  But when I sat down to paint the cover, it was with a breath of relief that I found myself connecting with the paper and creating that “delusion known as Christopher.”
But while my actual drawing, etc., has been essentially neglected for many years, the artist’s brain remains, and it has always been a part of my writing.  When I picture scenes in my mind, my left hand twitches (I’m a lefty) and my finger traces what I imagine: the line of a jaw, the edge of a church spire, the tilt of a grin. 
It’s my hope that this tactile relationship to my thoughts results in world-building that is solid and detailed and real for my readers. I want you to feel that your own eyes are running over Christopher as he leans closer.

This novel is set in Britain and you did a great job with the accents.  I’m curious if you spent time there, either to research this novel, or at another time.
You got me there!  I spent a semester of college living in a town similar to the one in Drawn. And while there, I kept a detailed journal of my impressions, along with sketches I did of castles and graveyards and churches.  When writing the novel, I pulled descriptions from my journal for scenes at Glouchester Cathedral, at the tiny churchyard, at the drafty vast castle, and at the town’s High Street. It was endlessly useful.  
I’ve been back to England a number of times since, and I’m a devoted fan of British television, including the edgy slang-laced Skins series. But still, I’m no expert. Because I’ve written the novel from Michelle’s point of view, she’s supposed to get some stuff wrong (like calling a lorry a truck, or a puncture a flat, for example), because it is from her eyes. I tried to be careful with the dialogue used by my British characters. I even had my British sister-in-law scrutinize the language to help me out a bit. 
Still, I know that there will be stuff in here that someone from England may read and find not quite right. To them I offer my apologies! I just hope they remember that it’s fiction, and that I tried my best. 

You’ve been published by Random House in the past. Tell me about the decision to publish yourself with your subsequent novels. Do you feel this has been a positive career move? Positives? Negatives?

My first self-published novel OVER MY HEAD is actually the sequel to WHAT I MEANT…, and was written under contract for Random House.  This novel was completely edited, the cover was designed, and it was ready to go to final copyediting, when my editor left the house and the novel was “orphaned.”  With no one to champion it, the sequel was cancelled. This was just 3 weeks before WHAT I MEANT… was released, and before Publisher’s Weekly dubbed it “an impressive debut.”  But the book was dead, and this broke my heart. I knew this second novel was even stronger than the first. I loved it, and I felt as if I’d lost a child…
The manuscript sat on my shelf for years. Then along comes serious changes in publishing. Suddenly there is a way to professionally produce a novel and distribute it worldwide. Suddenly reputable authors are validating that this route is okay for serious writers. Suddenly I was able to bring OVER MY HEAD out for readers who have been asking and asking for the sequel.  So I decided to take the plunge, and I’m thrilled with the results, as are reviewers, who have overwhelmingly fallen in love with this novel. 
Now authors with strong manuscripts have other options. That orphaned book, that out-of-print title can now live on and be enjoyed by our readers forever. What’s not to love about that?
With the publishing industry and the economy contracting, it’s now tougher than ever to nab those big publishing contracts. This means that plenty of fabulous books aren’t reaching the shelves the way they should.  DRAWN attracted serious interest from a number of top editors at three of the “Big 6” publishers, which, to me, is a huge nod to the quality of this book. But in this economic climate they are searching for big hits by people with huge past sales.  My first book was orphaned, so my sales were respectable, but not smokin’ for that novel.  This labeled me a “mid-list” author, so…
But writers write to be read. I’d spent two years researching and writing DRAWN. My agent loves this novel. Top editors love this novel. So I have to believe that readers will love this novel too, and that they’ll be smitten by Michelle and Christopher and their hopeless yet hopeful entanglement. 
In short, I decided to go for it.  

Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank you so much for hosting me on your blog as part of my DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour
The community of writers and readers and book bloggers is so supportive of great writing, and I can’t begin to tell you what this support means to me. That’s why I want to thank everyone who takes the time to write a review of any book that they love, or to tell others that a certain story is worth reading. This means everything to an author. 
This is why great storytelling will always exist, no matter what. And this is why I love to write.   

Where can readers find DRAWN and you?
Drawn can be ordered in paperback ($12.99) from any bookstore or through Amazon.com, and it is available in ebook ($2.99) for every format through Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and Smashwords.com.
Readers can visit me at marielamba.com, find me on twitter at marielamba, and follow me on Facebook on my author page: Marie Lamba, Author.  Also, I’m on LibraryThing, Shelfari and Goodreads!  And be sure to check out the other stops on the DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour for more interviews, reviews, guest posts and giveaways too!

Marie Lamba (marielamba.com) is author of acclaimed young adult novels including What I Meant… (Random House), Over My Head, and Drawn. When she isn’t writing or trying to remember how to draw, she is working as an Associate Literary Agent at The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in NYC.


  1. Thanks for this sneak peek into Michelle's book. Drawn sounds like something I'm going to love!

  2. Drawn sound like my cup of Earl Grey. Going to order! Gothic mystery, contemporary setting, the creator and his creation (fabulous writerly theme) –WOW.

    1. Mirka,

      I'm literally sipping a cup of Earl Grey while reading your comment! Too funny :) Enjoy DRAWN...


  3. Thanks, inluvwithwords, for you kind words! I hope you enjoy the book.


  4. I love the English setting in this book as I used to live there- and funny that my son and I were talking about "lorry's" the other day. I love how the 2 characters from different eras become intertwined in each others "lives." Kudos Marie to re-viving your art talent for the cover - its wonderful! Something to use for future books, I hope! -Donna G.

  5. Hmm, it kind of sounds like you have synesthesia, the way you "see" relationships visually. Cool!

  6. I am over half way through Drawn and I loved reading this interview.
    Great Q's. I am loving Christopher, but I also like Roger and maybe William?



Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'