Friday, November 22, 2013

A Conversation with Kristen Lippert-Martin, Author of TABULA RASA

Hello and Howdy - If you stopped in for PitchWars, HOORAH! Take a minute and read this interview with the lovely Kristen Lippert-Martin (@klipmart) before jumping down to the next blog entry. Her thriller, Tabula Rasa, comes out next fall! Whoot!
Kristen Lippert-Martin, author of Tabula Rasa

Hi, Kristen! I'm almost nervous to have you on my blog. You seriously raise the funny bar. So I've got to know. Your debut novel, Tabula Rasa, is a thriller. Please tell me your wicked sense of humor shines through in your characters!

Here's the thing, thriller and funny don't necessarily go that well together because you're trying to build tension, not deflate it. So it was a real challenge to keep my inner wiseguy in check, especially when I was creating Sarah's (my MC) voice. Sarah does a few things that are unintentionally funny, but she's the first character I've ever created who does not use humor as a defense mechanism. Of course that left me with a problem: What to do with all the leftover wisecrackery that builds up in my blood stream on a daily basis? I ended up dividing it between two other characters, one of whom is the villain.

Yep, I can see how that would be tricky. But a wise cracking villain is awesome! Which begs the question, who are some of your absolute favorite fictional bad guys?

Gosh, I must admit that I have a soft spot for the Wicked Witch of the West. I mean, dude, she's waited and waited forever and those ruby slippers were all but hers and then some upstart farm girl drops out of the sky and JUST TAKES THEM? What is that, I ask you?

I also like Hans Gruber from Die Hard, mostly because, duh, Alan Rickman is awesome and I also appreciate a nattily dressed villain with a great b*tchface. I like villains like Khan from Star Trek, Tom Ripley (The Talented Mr. Ripley), Voldemort, and that badass Queen Alien from Aliens. These are people (or giant lizard creatures) who don't see themselves as villains at all, and in some alternate, twisted tale could be considered the hero. They're just quietly going about the business of world domination and some lesser somebody/jerky kid with green eyes comes along and messes it all up for them. TOTALLY NOT FAIR AT ALL.

Poor little alien lizard lady :0(, and Alan Rickman, Yes! I love him. So speaking of awesome characters. Which comes first for you, characters or plot? How did Tabula Rasa come together?

It's so hard to tease character and plot apart, but I will say that TR is the first time I consciously set out to write a certain kind of book, in this case, an action-thriller. I guess making that choice created certain creative parameters to start from. I guess that's what genre does for you, gives you some rules to follow initially. 

From there, I got this image of my MC tied to a chair with restraints. I had to figure out who she was and how she ended up in these circumstances. I decided she was an angry person who couldn't remember what she was angry about or what she could do about it even if she could remember. She's beaten, she's given up, she's kind of indifferent to being alive at all, really. It was hard to balance her moody introspection with the action-oriented story I'd imagined, but I guess that became the challenge: How do I get this character, who seemingly doesn't care about anything, to stand up and fight for her life?

Man, that sounds like a potent character arc! That balance of inner arc to outer physical arc is one of my FAVORITE things about writing, and a thriller that does it well...golden. Now I'm even more excited for Tabula Rasa. Which brings up the obvious question, what other YA genres are you interested in exploring? Any cool new ideas in the brain closet?

As a matter of fact, my WiP is a YA fantasy, and I've never written fantasy before. Some days I wonder if I've gotten in over my head. Other days I'm certain I've gotten in over my head. But it keeps things from getting stale. I figure if I'm having fun writing something it'll show in the story.

In some ways I think the world-building in a fantasy might be easier than figuring out how to make a thriller convincing and suspenseful - oh, who am I kidding it's all difficult! And fun! Anyway, thanks, Kristen, for stopping in for a chat and now it's your turn to add to our Exquisite Corpse game! Please add your own sentence to the following paragraph (or start a new paragraph if it's time!).

Thanks, JRo! 

Exquisite Corpse:

Yesterday, at the asylum, Johnny got lost in a hole. One moment he was occupying stall #6 of the third floor boy's restroom, the next he was gone, nothing but a flush and a startled scream in his wake.  Briefly, he wondered how he'd talk himself out of this mess when they found him...if they found him. But a howling sound suddenly echoed through the surrounding darkness and he knew; there wasn’t time to worry. He'd landed on his hands and knees on a stone floor covered with a foul-smelling, slimy liquid that made him glad he'd skipped lunch. When the howling sounded again--this time much closer--Johnny scrambled to his feet. 

He felt a blast of hot wind. No, not wind. Breath. He turned slowly, hoping that he was wrong, but he knew what he would find, what he's always been warned about but never believed truly lived in these dark recesses. A pair of eyes emerged from the tunnel, dark and somewhat bulgy. The beast snorted. It's tongue hung from the corner of its mouth. It was the biggest WerePug he had ever seen, and worse, it looked hungry. 

Next week I'll be on a Thanksgiving blog break, but be sure and stop back in for my chat with Leigh Ann Kopans on December 5th when we talk pub decisions and world-building. And a giveaway of your choice of her 3 books!

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