When I asked Lenore about her writing process and her work, here's what she had to say ...
KC: Your view of the various levels of the afterlife in "The Memory of After" and "Chasing Before" is unique. I read a lot of YA sci-fi stories and have never come across a concept quite like this one. How did you come up with the idea?
LA: The original spark of the idea was imagining memories as currency in the afterlife, the question of whether some memories might be more valuable than others and why. Then one day, I asked myself: “What might a dystopian afterlife look like?” and the story developed from there. The concept of levels was a nod to Dante.
KC: What are some of the challenges of writing characters who don't have complete memories? How did you approach the writing so that it wouldn't be confusing for the reader even when the characters were confused about the past?
LA: There are three timelines in “The Memory of After” and two in “Chasing Before” and keeping them straight required a bit of outlining. Since the characters in “The Memory of After” don’t voluntarily view their unpleasant memories, it was easier to justify the fact that they wouldn’t remember certain events.
KC: You develop a love triangle fairly early in the first book that continues and becomes more complex in the second book. What are some of the challenges in writing realistic romantic relationships for teens?
LA: As we get older, we tend to forget how emotionally charged teen relationships are. My editor’s notes consisted of a lot of “add emotion”, since I often held back to avoid melodrama. When I went back to read my diaries from when I was a teen, I was surprised to discover just how exaggerated I was about all my crushes.
KC: Neil's character is fairly complex and is dealing with some tricky personal issues himself at the same time Felicia is struggling to define the nature, and future potential, of their relationship. How difficult was it to tell Neil's story through Felicia's eyes?
LA: The challenge with Neil in the first book was that he comes off as too idealistic, too perfect, because we are only getting to see Felicia’s good memories of him. In the second book, the challenge was to make him sympathetic, despite Felicia’s very real frustrations with his stances on certain issues. We do get a memory from Neil’s POV in THE BEST THINGS IN DEATH, and that was really refreshing to write, to show how much Neil struggled internally with being “good.”
KC: You've written picture books for very young readers and YA books for older readers. Who is your favorite audience to write for, and why?
LA: Both audiences are very rewarding. I love the picture books because they are a chance to be funny and silly whereas my YA novels tend to be much more serious. I always seem to kill people off!
KC: Who are some of your favorite YA authors, and main influences in your writing? What are you reading now?
LA: I have so many favorites: Laini Taylor, Lauren Oliver, AS King, Megan McCafferty, Mary E. Pearson, Adele Griffen, MT Anderson – I could go on and on! I’ve always gravitated towards authors who take risks and play with narrative structure, like David Mitchell. I am reading a few books right now. I am rereading my VCFA Advisor Louise Hawes’ excellent short story collection BLACK PEARLS, Debut Novelist Chelsey Philpot’s EVEN IN PARADISE, and Tana French’s THE SECRET PLACE.
Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Lenore. The Memory of After and Chasing Before are available at Amazon.com and many other places!