Interview: Margaret Lesh
Author Margaret Lesh talks with the Monster about her book, Normalish. We chat about alternate scenes, casting for the movie (if/when it happens), and researching and writing about those enigmatic creatures known as teenagers.
In your book, Normalish, are there any missing chapters that you had to edit out of the book? What did you have to cut out of the book that was the hardest for you?
Hahaha. Oh, boy, are there ever! I went through four sets of revisions while working with a literary agent. Each time, we experimented with different things. At one point, I had a different ending. Then later, when I was working with my editor, I changed things a bit more and added scenes. The story is basically the same, though, as first written. I did soften a scene with Stacy and the bad boy character Anthony quite a bit where originally she had to forcefully fight him off. In the end, I don’t think the book needed it, and I’m actually glad I changed it.
Did the book turn out the way you planned? Did the starting idea for the book mirror the finished novel?
Pretty much, although the story did take a few unexpected turns. I had a general idea of where I was going but wasn’t exactly sure how I’d get there, which is what makes writing so fun. Or not.
I was surprised at how well you captured the image and life of a teenager. What was your inspiration for Stacy’s character? Did you have to do a lot of research on those elusive creatures we call teenagers or did you pull from life experience?
Normal is something that I think about a lot–how it’s largely this arbitrary notion, and that one can never really tell what’s going on in someone’s life looking in from the outside. I used that subject as a jumping off point, calling upon my own experiences as a teen who felt like a fish out of water, and tapping into those feelings. I also used my son and his friends as touchstones, sometimes just watching them interact and listening to conversations. He also updated me on a couple of slang terms I wasn’t familiar with. (As an aside, I love teen slang and, like, totally for sure used it back in my day.)
If Normalish was turned into a movie, what actress do you think should play Stacy? Or the other characters: Horrible Vanessa, Freaky Daria, Chad, Anthony, Summer, and Bobby?
Oooh, casting the movie. This is soooo much fun!
Stacy: I can really see Ariel Winter (Modern Family’s Alex). I think she’d capture Stacy’s brand of humor, snark, and self-consciousness really well.
Anthony: Adam Irigoyen (actor, rapper, singer, dancer) says bad boy Anthony to me. (Not a commentary on him as a person at all. He’s probably very nice.)
Becca: I’ve always pictured Mae Whitman (Amber on Parenthood). She’s edgy but so likable. Perfect.
Bobby: Ezra Miller (Perks of Being a Wallflower) is so talented. He’d be a great Bobby.
Chad: Nolan Gould (Luke on Modern Family) would be adorable as Chad. He has the right amount of goofy awkwardness. In real life, he’s much smarter than the character he portrays on Modern Family, so he’d be able to kick it up a few notches intellectually to play Chad.
Freaky Daria: Kaitlin Mastandrea (Weird Ashley on The Middle) is right on the money. (Sorry, Kaitlin, for typecasting you!)
The reviews for the book have been overwhelmingly four and five stars. I’m sure you hoped the book would do well, but is there anything that surprised you about fans’ reactions to the book? Something that stuck out to them that you didn’t see?
I had prepared myself before the release of Normalish that people would probably love it or hate it. Realistic contemporary YA seems to have its own fan base, with the fans often having polarizing views on certain books. While I don’t remember anyone saying they hated Normalish (so far, crossing fingers), I did find it really interesting how readers kind of bonded with certain characters. Some of them may not have liked main character Stacy so much, but then they really identified with her sister Becca. A few readers mentioned that they loved Roman’s relationship with the family and thought he was a stand-up guy. Someone even mentioned that she loved Freaky Daria and wanted to read more of her story. (Now that I think of it, that may not be a bad idea.)
Anything else you want readers to know about?
For younger readers–those in high school or middle school who may not be having the best time of their lives–I say: Take heart. You will get through this, go on, and be happy(er).
As far as books go, my newest project is quite a bit of a departure from Normalish. Mr. Katz is a Zombie–available October 14, 2014–is a fun, silly paranormal/humor romp which I describe as The Hardy Boys meets Ghostbusters, and I have two more books planned in that series.
I do also have a project I’ve started working on–not a sequel, but a companion book to Normalish told from Stacy’s sister Becca’s perspective. Not sure when that one will be ready–probably not for a couple of years.
And readers are welcome to say hello on Twitter, where I hang out from time to time @MargaretLesh. I’m also on Goodreads and Facebook. Look me up!