Tuesday, December 4, 2012
A TOTALLY PLEASURABLE INTERVIEW!
I just took part in one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever had as a writer. Twelve-year-old Jaime Beaumont read my YA thriller, MIRROR, MIRROR, and elected to write a book report on it for her class. Part of the project involved her interviewing me and below is that interview. Her mother told me that she hadn’t helped her at all—the questions were wholly Jaime’s—and they’re some of the best questions I’ve ever been asked about my writing. I think she’s got a very bright future as an interviewer should she ever elect to! And… Paris Review interviewers? Look out—here comes your future competition!
Jaime Beaumont interview with author Les Edgerton over his YA thriller novel, Mirror, Mirror, for the 7th Grade Language Arts Class, Teacher--Ms. Bangs, Calibre Academy in Surprise,AZ
Question: What made you write a YA novel?
A. I began this book not even thinking of publication. I simply intended it as a personal gift for my then pre-teen daughter, Britney. I wanted to use whatever talent I had as a writer to create something just for her. Britney was an avid reader and especially enjoyed fantasy and “scary” books, so I began to think of ways I could scare her that weren’t along the lines of “the monster under the bed” or in the basement. Something that, if created cleverly, could come across as a possibility in the imagination. I’ve just never thought vampire or zombie novels were scary, simply because I’m pretty sure they don’t exist, so I wanted something that could be seen as possible. I think Mirror People are infinitely more of a possibility than zombies… Kind of a parallel universe…
Question: Will you ever write another YA? If so, will it be related to Mirror, Mirror?
A. I’ve been thinking about it and it would be fun to write another one. And, yep, I think it would be a continuation of Mirror, Mirror. After all, I did leave her evil mirror twin Liz in a place where she could escape and begin wrecking Elizabeth’s life all over again…
Question: Where did you get the idea for Mirror, Mirror?
Answer: We were living in a two-story cabin on Big Chapman Lake near Warsaw, Indiana, and one morning, our nine-year-old daughter Britney came out of her bedroom upstairs and stood at the top of the stairs looking down at her mom Sheila and me. She had about half an hour before she had to go to school. She was dressed in blue, from head to foot. She was always a bit dramatic and she put her hand on her hip with regal haughtiness and announced: “I’m in a blue mood today.” Sheila and I just laughed our butts off! She promenaded downstairs and Sheila whispered that she ought to have her change, but didn’t want to stifle her creativity so she’d let her go to school that way. Britney paraded down the stairs like she was the Queen of England and waltzed up to a full-length mirror on our downstairs bedroom door, turning and twisting every which way to admire herself in her blue top, blue skirt, blue socks… and green shoes.... A miniature Katherine Hepburn… That’s when I had one of those Aha! moments and knew not only that I wanted to write a story for her but what my story was going to be about. And so, Mirror People came to life. The more I thought about it, the more I could see the possibilities. As soon as she left for school (still dressed in all blue) I sat down at my typewriter (yes, this was before computers) and began to create Mirror World. I named my protagonist Elizabeth for two reasons. One, it was Britney’s middle name, and two, it lent itself to using two forms of the name for the two characters.
Question: In the story, why did Liz try to ruin Elizabeth's life?
Answer: Well, as a writer, I know that stories are always about one thing. Trouble. What could be more trouble than discovering you have a twin inside the mirror who looks like she’d be a fun companion, only to discover she’s tricked you into trading places and then proceeded to ruin your life while you looked on helplessly, trapped in a mirror prison? I don’t start out to write any book with a theme in mind—that always comes later upon the rewrite when I figure out the theme and then take out everything that doesn’t fit it—but it was soon evident that the theme was envy. Elizabeth had these mud-brown eyes (like Britney) and had always wished for what she perceived as the more glamorous color of blue. It’s what gets her in trouble. Liz has those glorious blue eyes she’s always wanted and it’s that envy that gets her into trouble.
Liz tries to ruin Elizabeth’s life because she has no substance and no conscience. She’s not real and because she’s not real, she’s never had the benefit of loving parents who provide direction, discipline and guidance to her life. She’s suddenly free and without much of a prior structure or moral guidance in her life, simply goes amok. All of us have two sides—our “light” side and our “dark” side, and Liz is simply Elizabeth’s dark side unleashed. She has no parameters. It wasn’t that Liz’s aim was to ruin Elizabeth’s life—her aim was to have her version of “fun” and to live in the hedonistic moment. Only problem was, her idea of fun had disastrous results for the real Elizabeth.
Question: When you were writing this book, did you always know what would happen next?
Answer: Great question! The answer is—not at all! I simply kept asking “what if” questions. What if people had mirror twins? What if they could trade places? What if the mirror person wouldn’t let them trade back? What if this girl--who had the perfect parents, the not-so-perfect-but-still-loveable little brother, the almost-perfect boyfriend, the perfect grades, the perfect friends—what if such a girl was suddenly trapped inside a mirror and replaced by her evil twin who everybody thought was her? That’s how I write all of my books. I play “what if?” games. I try to get them into bad places where I don’t know how they’re going to escape. I do this in all of my books. I get them in a corner and don’t have a clue how they’ll get out. My every thought until I come up with a solution is on their situation. In fact, I keep pen and paper by my bedside and more often than not, the answer will come to me when I’m asleep. I’ll wake up and jot it down quickly before I forget. It’s a process I’ve followed for many years and many times I think I’ve done it now—I’ve got a character in a place that’s impossible to extricate her from—but the answer always comes. I’ve learned to trust the process. It’s fun, especially when you come up with turns that get your character into worse and worse trouble. It’s almost like reading the novel for the first time yourself since you don’t know what’s going to happen.
And, I’ve come to believe that Mirror World is out there. I think it’s simply a tool the folks in a parallel universe have discovered that allows them to visit our world and even enter it. Eventually, people in our universe—like Elizabeth—will discover that there’s another world inside that piece of glass they stare into… My advice is to never stare into a mirror for more than ten seconds at a time. Look away, even if for a second… Another piece of advice I’d pass on is to be happy with what you’ve got if what you want isn’t possible… like a different color of eyes. Unless, of course, you want to invest in colored contact lenses…
Thanks, Jaime, for some truly great questions—this was a lot of fun and you made me think hard about my writing and that’s always valuable.
Well, folks, that’s our interview! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Britney and me when she was little.