Amy Holder is the debut author of The Lipstick Laws which released in early April. She also sent my students a big stack of bookmarks and stickers, which they all loved to pieces! One student has read and enjoyed Amy’s debut, and more are looking forward to reading it as well 🙂 Thank you, Amy, for doing this with my students!
Summary of The Lipstick Laws (From Goodreads): At Penford High School, Britney Taylor is the queen bee. She dates whomever she likes, rules over her inner circle of friends like Genghis Khan, and can ruin anyone’s life with a snap of perfectly manicured fingers. Just ask the unfortunate few who have crossed her. For April Bowers, Britney is also the answer to her prayers. April is so unpopular, kids don’t even know she exists. But one lunch spent at Britney’s table, and April is basking in the glow of popularity. But Britney’s friendship comes with a high price tag. How much is April willing to pay?
**Note- Amy was awesome and answered the questions in detail, so this is a long interview :)**
- Were you like April in high school? What were you like?
I definitely shared some things in common with April as a teen. Friends were very important to me, I was unsure of myself at times, slightly boy-crazy, loved the mall and my phone, had a quirky sense of humor (and still do), had naturally curly hair (and still do)… and I also dealt with some of the same feelings that April does with regards to wanting to be accepted and fit in. I think those are pretty common feelings during adolescence, regardless of where you fit in on the social hierarchy totem pole.
- Did you know anyone like Britney?
Thankfully I haven’t known anyone exactly like Britney, but I have known some people with a few of her unfavorable personality traits. I won’t name names… because I’d like to remain in one piece.
- Would you have done what the Lipstick Lawbreakers did to Britney? Why or why not?
Although I admit revenge is sometimes fun to fantasize about, I don’t think I could have pulled off what the Lipstick Lawbreakers did to Britney. For one, I’m not quite brave enough… and two, I have an overactive conscience. On the other hand, if Britney did what she did to April to me, I’d probably want to stand up to her somehow.
- Do you think all schools have girls like Britney and her followers?
I’m sure there are many teens all over the place with varying degrees of the Lipstick Lawlords’ personality traits, but I would hope that most schools don’t have girls quite as ruthless as Britney and her followers. I wrote their characters to be a little over the top, partly for entertainment purposes and partly to show how unreasonable popularity climbing can be. Unfortunately, I’m sure there are also some girls out there who are worse than Britney and her followers… especially with all the horrible bullying that is so prevalent in some of today’s schools.
- Do you think that many “mean girls” are the way they are because of who their parents are, like Britney?
I think some people are strongly influenced by their parents and the way they are raised. Of course, other factors like experiences, education, friends, morals, aspirations, etc. help shape people as well. I believe there are also people whose personalities are strong and stable without much wiggle-room to be swayed from outside influences. Nature versus nurture is an age old debate, and I really think that would be something to be assessed on an individual basis. In Britney’s specific case, her parents’ divorce and her mother’s superficiality played a big part in molding her. However, I think she had to have a bit of personality predisposition along with some type of reinforcement for her mean girl tendencies to be able to become a mean girl in the first place…I don’t think her parents can be solely blamed. Everyone can make their own choices regarding how they choose to act.
- Are you the type of person to “get even” or let things go and be “the bigger person”?
I like to think I choose to take the higher road by being the bigger person in most instances, but that’s not to say that I haven’t been tempted to get even if someone really hurts me. The temptation is there, but acting out temptation is a completely different thing. Writing about fictional revenge is a much safer outlet.
- Is this originally how you wrote the book, or did you change sections?
There were several aspects of the book that I changed through different parts of the revision and editorial process. Some examples are: I cut five characters, I rewrote the first chapter, chapter four was added in after I wrote the whole manuscript, in the first draft April was still in touch with friends from her old school, I changed Britney’s name, and I even had a different working title as I wrote the first few chapters of the rough draft.
- Are you working on any other books?
I am! I’m currently working on another humorous YA contemporary manuscript…but this one has a bit of a paranormal twist. I’m also thinking about a Lipstick Laws sequel. We’ll see…
- How do you come up with your storyline?
The storyline for The Lipstick Laws evolved through putting April (the main character/narrator) in what-if scenarios and brainstorming from there. April’s voice was the first part of the story to come to me, so she really inspired the entire plot to come to fruition by free-writing in her voice. Once I had enough of the plot figured out, I created a loose outline to help keep me on track as I wrote, but still allowed for ad-lib surprises and story growth.
- Why does Britney have so much control over everyone? How’d she get so popular in the first place?
Britney is a master of social manipulation and control. She is very good at sucking friends in by making them feel important and “chosen”, and then keeping them inferior with her backhanded compliments and dictator-like domination. I believe her friends put up with her nonsense because the thought of losing their popularity status and becoming a Lipstick Law reject is more unbearable than Britney’s control. Acceptance is like gold in her followers’ eyes. As for everyone else, she’s put up on a popularity pedestal by most of her peers…even if they don’t genuinely like her.
Britney climbed the popularity ladder in the beginning of middle school after a summer of popularity planning and complete change. A lot of thought and scheming went into her rise in popularity, and it paid off for her. She created a new image, attitude and the Lipstick Laws… and soon after she had the school wrapped around her manicured finger.
- Where’d you come up with your character names?
For this book I mostly chose names that I like that are also pretty common. Delvin’s name is the most uncommon in the book. His name came to me spontaneously because I liked the way it sounded and thought it fit him perfectly. Britney’s name was more of a struggle. She originally had a different first name, which also happened to be the first name of a relative of mine. The initial name selection had no correlation to my relative at all; I just thought it sounded like the name of a pretty, popular teen. Just to be safe and avoid hurt feelings, I changed it to Britney during the editorial process because I would never want my relative (who is very sweet) to think she inspired Britney’s character.
- How long did it take to write this story?
Between writing and revising the manuscript, it took me about six months to complete it and submit it to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Once it was acquired for publication, the editorial process added on a bit more revision time….and chocolate eating, a vital part of the editorial process.
- Is this book based on your high school years?
I’m happy and relieved to say absolutely not! Although I could definitely relate to some of April’s feelings as a teen, this story is pure fiction and not a reflection of my own experience at all — thank goodness! I would have been a Lipstick Lawbreaker in 2.5 seconds if so.
- How did you start writing?
I started writing humorous poetry when I was six years old after falling in love with A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC by Shel Silverstein. His quirky poetry is what first sparked my love of writing (and reading). I haven’t stopped since, and have enjoyed writing as a hobby in different genres for various age groups over the years. Even though being an author was a childhood dream, I didn’t truly consider it as a possible career choice (because it seemed slightly unrealistic) until after college. That’s when I realized that I wouldn’t feel completely fulfilled unless I did something I truly adore… writing is that something and I feel very lucky to have accomplished my childhood dream.
- How do you get your ideas? Real life, other people, other books?
I can find idea inspiration from anywhere or nowhere at all. I’ve always had a very vivid imagination, so sometimes idea sparks will come to me out of thin air…some may call that insanity. Creative inspiration can also be triggered by memories, something I hear or see, a song, a smell, a quirky word, an interaction, something that makes me laugh, a dream, etc. Writing can be a full sensory experience (aka insanity)!
- The book is based around a very popular girl and a highly un-popular girl in high school, where did you fit in during your HS years?
I don’t think I was either highly unpopular or a queen bee in high school; I fit somewhere in the middle. In the beginning of ninth grade, I was set on moving up on the popularity totem pole… but once I succeeded, I found it wasn’t as great as I thought. After that, I tried not to get stuck in one clique, and branched out to make friends in lots of different social groups. One thing I really couldn’t stand about high school was the clique mentality… I think it’s important to be friends with whomever you like, regardless of their social status.
- In one blog you wrote out ten of your teen traumas, are any of those in the book?
Thanks for checking out my guest blog post! I had fun writing it. For those of you who haven’t read it (warning: I embarrass myself a little), here is the link: http://www.bookscompleteme.com/2011/04/guest-post-with-amy-holder-author-of.html
Now to answer your question, I didn’t put any exact memories or experiences in the book, but parts of the story were loosely influenced by some of the teen traumas I wrote about in that post. For example, April is feeling very lonely at the start of her school year because her best friend moved away. A couple of my good friends moved away in high school (referenced in Teen Trauma #8) and I felt some of April’s same feelings. Also, I explain in Teen Trauma #6 that I found popularity wasn’t all it was cracked up to be once I climbed the popularity ladder… which is something April also experiences in the book. Finally, if you read the post, you’ll find that I survived several embarrassing events during my teen years (and many more that I didn’t mention). April’s story is full of embarrassing events, so we have that in common as well – we’re both embarrassment magnets.
Thank you so much for all the wonderful questions and for reading my book! You are a great group and I really appreciate the interview! 🙂