Lauren Bjorkman’s My Invented Life
Author Lauren Bjorkman dishes with SheKnows Chick Lit on sisterhood, secrets, a skate god, Shakespeare and so much more -- all deliciously wrapped up in her teen novel, My Invented Life.
SheKnows: Congrats on your book for teens. Tell us a bit about it.
Lauren Bjorkman: One Line Summary: My Invented Life is a comedy of errors with mistaken identities, ambiguous sexuality, skate Gods, stage geeks and true love. It's about two sisters who simultaneously adore and sabotage each other in ways that only sisters can. It's also a romp through the theater geek crowd and a loose retelling of Shakespeare's As You Like It. One teen book blogger, The Shelf Elf, summed it up with this pithy equation: Funny plus depth equals pure reading bliss.
SheKnows: Love the title -- was this the original title or give us the scoop behind this.
Lauren Bjorkman: At first, I called it Count Me Out -- a pun on the conflict. Roz wants her sister to "come out" based on very dubious information. And shy Eva wants nothing to do with Roz and her crazy plans. But I knew that the title wasn't engaging enough. One afternoon, while washing dishes, I daydreamed myself onto the Oprah Winfrey Show. As I was laughing at my invented interview, the title came to me in a flash. Like me, Roz experiences fantasy moments where her life unfolds according to her dreams. In fact, she often prefers reverie to reality.
SheKnows: Tell us a bit about the sisters -- Roz and Eva. How are the alike, how are they different?
Lauren Bjorkman: Both Roz and Eva love being on stage, and appreciate a well-executed practical joke. That's where the similarity ends. Zany Roz lives to be the center of attention, while Eva prefers to melt into the background. This makes their approach to relationships and sexual orientation so different. Eva is the major talent. But Roz has talent, too -- a flair for the dramatic, and a gift for saying the wrong thing. She suffers from Little Sister Syndrome, worshipping Eva one minute, and trying to one-up her the next. When Eva needs a confidante most, Roz fails to rise to the challenge. At the heart of the novel, Roz grows up enough to rebuild the friendship.
SheKnows: What's the scoop on sexy Skate God Bryan?
Lauren Bjorkman: Ah, he's so tempting, is he not? I knew a boy like him in high school -- a real player. His mission, as far as I could tell, was to seduce every girl at school. I loved to watch him in action, until one day he really hurt a friend of mine. I created Bryan as a sort of revenge. I didn't mean for him to be a villain exactly. More like a warning. Avoid boys like this! And if you ever fall under the influence of a player, do what Roz did. Make a Bryan voodoo doll.
Memories of sister
SheKnows: What is one of your best memories with your own sister?
Lauren Bjorkman: When she was thirteen and I was ten, we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on our family boat. We took night watches together -- two hours on, two hours off—so that our dad could sleep. To keep awake, we composed naughty lyrics to familiar melodies, mostly songs by the Beatles. One time we laughed so hard we both wet our pants. I also loved it when she went below and came back with creative snacks like raw brown rice deep-fried in oil. I still remember how warm and crunchy it was.
SheKnows: What is one of the worst memories with your own sister?
Lauren Bjorkman: We competed for everything, especially for friends in new ports of call. I almost always lost. When we moved off the boat and into a house, we drifted apart. That time was painful for me. During my freshman year in high school, she rarely acknowledged me in public. Still, I remember one day she came over to where I ate lunch with my friends to whisper that my outfit -- a peach velour top with forest-green dittos -- clashed. I was so grateful that she wanted to help me.
SheKnows: Love the Shakesperean thread in the book -- and the fun insults. What is your favorite work by Shakespeare and why?
Lauren Bjorkman: I enjoy Shakespeare's quick wit, convoluted plots, intelligent heroines, and playful romances. Much Ado About Nothing embodies all of these. I chose As You Like It for my novel because Rosalind's hidden identity plays off against Roz's masquerade.
Bjorkman's world view
SheKnows: You had a unique childhood, how has your past -- growing up on a sail boat -- made you a better writer?
Lauren Bjorkman: I think so. For one it showed me the big wide world in all its glorious diversity and contradictions. And for another, I had to learn how to entertain myself with my own mind.
SheKnows: Your favorite authors and books -- growing up and today?
Lauren Bjorkman: I can still see the orange bookcase my dad built in our forecastle bedroom. My favorites from that time are Harriet the Spy, James and the Giant Peach, and the Island of the Blue Dolphins. I read each of them many times. When I went to middle school, I devoured every Judy Blume novel in the library. My favorite reads in high school were A Separate Peace and Martin Eden. In college, I adored Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, and a Chinese novel called The Story of the Stone. Later I discovered scads of awesome young adult authors -- from Sarah Dessen and Carolyn Mackler, to Ellen Wittlinger, John Green and Sherman Alexie -- to name just a few of my favorites.
SheKnows: What's the secret to writing for young adults?
Lauren Bjorkman: I've always been an observer. People-watching makes for great entertainment. Just yesterday at a café, I noticed a tough dude with a grizzled beard and work boots ordering a decaf mocha. When he complained that they'd forgotten the whipped cream, I couldn't help giggling to myself. My memories from my teen years are intense and detailed, which helps with my writing. I read teen blogs, online poetry, and peruse teen magazines to stay on top of current trends. When starting a new project, I begin with engaging characters and a page-turning plot. Both are requirements for a teen novel. Most importantly, teens have sensitive BS-detectors. I do my best to be honest.
SheKnows: What is the secret life of a teenager?
Lauren Bjorkman: Their secret lives are elusive because teens are so diverse. The contradictions interest me the most -- eg many teens can be intently focused on self, yet altruistic and caring of others. A teen girl might question the value of society one day, and go on a shopping spree at the mall the next.
SheKnows: What do you love about teens?
Lauren Bjorkman: Their passion for life, the way they quest for truth and understanding, the lengths they go to for friends and family, the intensity of their daily lives, their playfulness, their hopefulness and the way they can change themselves.
SheKnows: What is the secret life of Lauren Bjorkman?
Lauren Bjorkman: I'm shy in crowds, and prefer to hang out and laugh with family and friends than to go to parties. I'm the opposite of a daredevil, but I married one. Because of him, I've kayaked in Glacier Bay, camped with the Grizzly bears, and spent a sleepless night among roaming hyenas in the Serengeti. When left to my own devices, I gravitate to quiet things -- beading, knitting, and crossword puzzles. Though I can't tell my left side from my right, I practice aikido with my two sons. Luckily, our sensei is very patient. Good food makes me very happy.
SheKnows: Why do you love what you do?
Lauren Bjorkman: I love to observe things and think about them. If I didn't write, my head might explode. And I adore books of all kinds. They're almost like a drug to me, but maybe not so dangerous. I've always wanted to write a book that would affect others like I've been affected.
SheKnows: You've created a fun blog by Roz, tell us about it and how readers can find you and Roz online?
Lauren Bjorkman: Girls should live in a world where they can flaunt their intelligence, grand ideas, and their own power. That's the idea behind my blog GirlPower. For now it features an advice column by Roz and Eva called Ask My Sister. I plan to expand to spotlight books with strong female protagonists, and to offer a space for teen writers to share their prose and poetry about strong girls.
SheKnows: Five words to describe your book?
Lauren Bjorkman: Sisters, secrets, sexuality, shenanigans and Shakespeare. Do I get extra-credit for alliterating?
Win a signed copy of Lauren Bjorkman's book, My Invented Life, and a pair of sister necklaces (made by the author herself) -- one for you and one for your sister or close friend.