Elizabeth Laban: Students at a prep school study classic literary tragedies while their own tragedy unfolds. #tragedypaper
EL: I have always been intrigued by young adult books, and really wanted to write one. When I was in high school, I wrote an extensive paper about Greek and Shakespearean tragedy that stuck with me. About three years ago, my agent Uwe Stender suggested I read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werter. I loved the story, and especially the structure of the story. I started playing around with ways to modernize and retell it. Being one of the classic tragedies, it sparked my memory of the paper I wrote in high school, which, in turn, brought back that whole world for me. It all started coming together in my mind and The Tragedy Paper was born.
EL: My biggest surprise was how long it took between the time my editor made an offer, and the time the book appeared in stores. It was a solid two years. I was so eager to get it out there that it seemed like forever, but I can see now that it was a luxury to have a publisher take such good care of the manuscript and not rush the process. Along the same lines, I was also surprised by how many times the book went through the copyediting process.
EL: One of the most memorable books we read this year as a family was R.J. Palacio’s Wonder. I read it to myself first because I couldn’t wait, and then out loud to my kids (ages 11 and 13), and I just loved it both times. We still talk about Auggie quite regularly and quote from the book. Another debut novel I recently bought and look forward to reading soon is Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements.
EL: I am working on another young adult novel. This one is from a girl’s point of view, and it takes place in a city. There is a school, but not a boarding school. And there is an important classroom assignment that features prominently in the story.
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