Lisa Lutz is the New York Times bestselling author of The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, The Spellmans Strike Again, and Heads You Lose (with David Hayward). Lutz has won the Alex award and been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel.
The latest installment of the Spellman saga, Trail of the Spellmans (Document #5) will be released next week and Lisa took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions about her popular series, the craft of writing and the worst job she’s ever had.
Can you sum up Trail of the Spellmans in 140 characters?
I refuse to reduce my entire novel to the size of a Tweet!
Which of the Spellmans do you identify with the most?
All of them.
How far ahead have you planned the Spellman series? Will we see Izzy running a branch of the agency in a nursing home in Document #23?
Never! Well, maybe. . . . The idea is already growing on me. But that might happen in Document #9.
The Spellmans would be perfect on TV or in a feature film. Let’s do a bit of casting. Who would be perfect for the roles of Izzy, Rae, Albert, Olivia, David and Uncle Ray?
Going alone with the nursing home theme:
Izzy: Cloris Leachman
Rae: Betty White
David: Abe Vigoda (he didn’t age well)
Uncle Ray: Ditto
Do you listen to any music while you write?
Sometimes. My neighbor really likes Frank Sinatra.
What’s the last great book you read?
Recent reads that I thought were awesome: So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman is probably the book that stuck with me most.
I noticed you contributed to Don’t Forget to Write from 826 National. Can you describe your involvement with the 826 organization and some of your thoughts on the importance of writing for young kids?
I wrote a lesson plan called “How to Write a Fan Letter Without Getting a Restraining Order.” A skill we should all have. I’m not sure I have anything smarter to say on the subject than anyone else. It just seems obvious that reading and writing and playing in the streets have been replaced by watching television and video games.
I understand that city streets aren’t that safe anymore, so I guess I wish I saw more kids on the treadmill reading books at the gym.
How do you think the proliferation of ebooks will affect the publishing industry?
This is a subject I could go on and on about. I’m not inherently against ebooks. But they’ve made self-publishing much easier which muddies the publishing waters. Many authors are found through the slush pile in an agent’s office (I was!). Ebooks eliminate the middleman and force your average reader to deal with the slush pile. I always like to remind people that a book is not a bargain if it sucks.
As for how publishers navigate this terrain, time will tell. But I think it’s important for readers to understand that binding and paper and even delivery to a bookstore don’t constitute even half of the cost of creating a novel. The price of a book is about agents, authors, editors, and the entire publishing community. Sometimes the prices may seem high for a digital file, but a lot of work went into that book you’re clicking through.
What are some of the biggest differences between writing a screenplay and writing a novel?
The list is endless. I wouldn’t know where to begin. A screenplay is a blueprint. A book is a completed house.
What’s the best book you’ve read about the art of writing?
I’ll never read a book on writing. I know many people who do and it helps them, but it’s always been better for me to shuck the rules and figure it out on my own.
You’ve spent most of your time in California but with book tours and travel, what are some of your favorite cities in the U.S.?
Lately New York City has really grown on me. I used to find it too overwhelming, but now that I have a better handle on the subway and I figured out how to walk down the street—draft off someone who moves at the same pace as you—I’m quite smitten.
Your Wikipedia entry states that you had “many low-paying jobs” in the 1990s. What’s the worst job you ever had?
I was a dishwasher (which really sucked) and a telemarketer (not recommended if you hate the telephone and rejection) but hands down the worst job was an assistant at a San Francisco talent agent’s office. It was a nonstop phone job, which consisted mostly of phoning “actors” and giving them the coordinates of their next audition and often fielding questions about whether they had the right “look.” Every night I went home and unplugged my phone. To end on an up-note: look how far I’ve come.
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Get your copy of Lisa Lutz’s latest installment of the Spellman Files, Trail of the Spellmans or go back in the series and start from the beginning. Lutz is also the co-author of Heads You Lose with David Hyward, a tag-team novel that reads like Weeds meets Adaptation. You can learn more about Lisa on her website LisaLutz.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.