And now with that out of the way... please help me welcome our next guest to the blog - Maryrose Wood. Maryrose sat next to me on the panel at the Teen Author Carnival and I was so fascinated by what she was telling us about THE POISON DIARIES, I cheekily asked her if she happened to have any ARCs with her she'd be willing to part with. She had one. And she gave that one to me. And now (after I devoured it, of course) I am passing it along to you.
Maryrose grew up in the wild suburbs of Long Island, moved to New York City at age 17 to study acting at New York University, then dropped out to be in the chorus of a Broadway musical — which flopped.
She spent the next few years doing stand-up comedy and writing for the theater and film, as a lyricist, librettist, playwright and screenwriter. She was the first recipient of the Georgia Bogardus Holof Lyricist Award, and is a three-time recipient of the Richard Rodgers Award for New Musicals.
You've probably read some of her books (and if you haven't you should!) Maryrose is the author of SEX KITTENS AND HORN DAWGS FALL IN LOVE, the Morgan Rawlison series, WHY I LET MY HAIR GROW OUT, HOW I FOUND THE PERFECT DRESS, and WHAT I WORE TO SAVE THE WORLD, MY LIFE: THE MUSICAL, and the middle grade series, THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE.
Maryrose did eventually graduate from NYU’s Gallatin School. She enjoys gardening, biking, kayaking, napping, reading books and trying new vegetarian recipes. She lives in New York with her two children, two cats and a small, feisty, red-headed dog.
In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.
When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .
"Lyrical and lovely..." - Ally Carter, author of Heist Society "Intriguing fantasy..." -Booklist
What inspired you to write The Poison Diaries?
My editor at Balzer + Bray, Donna Bray, called me up one day and told me about this very cool idea they were excited about: a boy who had the power to communicate with poisonous plants. The concept had been created by the Duchess of Northumberland, who built a real-life poison garden at Alnwick Castle and is fascinated by the history and uses of these powerful plants. We talked about how this intriguing idea might be developed as a YA trilogy, and Donna asked me to come up with a treatment for the book. The best part was being invited to visit the Duchess at Alnwick and spend time with her exploring the environment there, hearing about the history of the castle and its surroundings, and taking a tour of the poison garden itself. It’s not often that the setting of a book comes to life in such rich detail! It was a great experience.
What was the most interesting thing you learned while doing research for this book?
One of the places the Duchess took me to see was Soutra Aisle. It’s in Scotland, on this windy hilltop with panoramic views. All that’s left now are some ruins, but it was the site of a medieval monastery that included a hospital. The monks there had a sophisticated knowledge of how to use plants for medical purposes. They even had a way to make anesthesia for performing surgery. Most sources will tell you that the first surgical anesthetic was ether in the 1840s, but these monks had an herbal formula that they were using five centuries before that. It was mind-boggling.
What is an average writing day like for you?
I usually have some kid-related responsibility to attend to in the morning, whether it’s rousing the young’uns, packing a lunch, driving somebody somewhere, etc. Cats need to be fed and the dog must be walked. So I usually get up, deal with kids and pets, and then regroup with a cup of coffee and breakfast and then get my workday started. I sometimes deal with emails and interviews and business things for a while if I need time to wake up. if I’m raring to go I’ll plunge right into book mode and save the administrative stuff for later. I tend to drag my computer all over the place and find different places to work. I find it helps prevent me from getting too sluggish if I go sit outside on the porch for a while, or take the computer out to some fresh locale. Needless to say, the Internet is the devils’ own invention and must be avoided as much as possible while writing! However, I do tend to look things up a lot as I write, so I don’t usually go cold turkey in terms of online access.
Do you have any special writing rituals or totems to connect with your muse?
Not at all. I write on trains, in parks, anywhere I can grab some time and a place to sit. I’m not sure about this muse business, personally. To me, writing is no different than kids playing in a sandbox. Nobody asks them where they got the inspiration to build the sandcastle, or what they do when they get “sandcastle block.” We just accept that kids have imaginations and play and make stuff up. That’s what writers do, too!. Why grownups think they need a muse to make stuff up is puzzling to me. Also, when it’s your job to write, you can’t really make a fuss about it. Other people go to work whether they feel like it or not; authors must do the same!
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Did you know that I have a purple belt in karate? Or that I’ve been to the Taj Mahal? Whoops, now everyone knows. Next someone asks me this question I’ll be stumped.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Don’t look now, but everything’s about to change.” Another nugget of pithy wisdom brought to you by Agatha Swanburne, a fictional character of my own devising! Agatha Swanburne’s sayings are scattered through the Incorrigible Children series; I have a lot of fun making them up.
What are you working on now?
I just turned in revisions to The Hidden Gallery, the second book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. That book will be out in March of 2011. Now I’m about to start drafting the second book in The Poison Diaries trilogy (and when I say “about to start,” I mean, as soon as I finish this interview!)
What is an interesting writing quirk of yours?
I often stop and read the text aloud as I’m writing and revising. I need to hear the sound and rhythm of a sentence to know if I’ve gotten it right. This is a habit I developed while working as a lyricist. When you’re crafting the words to a song, they have to fit the music exactly. You have to come up with words that say what you want them to say, while also having the right combination of singable consonants and vowels and the right number of syllables with all the stresses in the right places. Often they have to rhyme, too! It’s like doing a puzzle. It made me very sensitive to all those issues, even when writing prose.
If The Poison Diaries were made into a movie, whom would you like to see in the role of Jessamine? Weed? Thomas?
I really hope that The Poison Diaries is made into a movie, because the setting of Northumberland is so spectacular, it kind of begs to be filmed. Given how long it takes movies to get made, the actors who would play Jessamine and Weed a few years hence are probably currently unknown, so we’d have to do a big talent search for them. Get your resumes ready, young British stars of the future! As for Thomas Luxton, the obsessed apothecary, wouldn’t Robert Downey Jr. be great? (Linda's note... YES!!! I love Robert Downey, Jr., and I could see him making this a memorable role!)
The Freebie: To win the ARC of THE POISON DIARIES, leave a comment below, telling me, what is your favorite plant? Is it poisonous? This drawing will remain open until Wednesday, July 21.