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I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigh Brescia and getting a sneak peek at her novel ONE WISH, which debuts today. (So after you read this interview, you can snatch up your own copy.) ONE WISH tells the story of Wrenn, a girl who becomes obsessed with losing weight in the pursuit of popularity. And without further ado, here’s Leigh.

 

Hello, Leigh! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m an adjunct instructor of English, currently teaching online courses for a few different schools. These classes vary, but are mostly Freshman Comp 1 and 2 classes. I also teach an online Writing Novels for Young Adults course for UC Irvine (which is a blast). I’m also a writer, and a work from home/stay at home mom. The teaching pays the bills, the writing feeds my dreams and aspirations, and the preschooler keeps me grounded.

How do you balance being a teacher, a mom, and a writer? What advice do you have for other busy novelists?

Honestly? I have no idea. Thankfully I only teach online classes, so I can work from home. I do have my little girl at home with me, though, so flexibility is a must. After I wake up and get ready for the day, I get baby girl situated and comfortable (I let her play/watch movies in the living room, where I work). As soon as I log on to the internet I check my email and favorite blogs, then I hit the online classrooms, where I grade papers and answer emails most of the day. Some days are crazier than others (like Mondays!) but I make an effort to have everything finished by 4:30 or 5:00. Needless to say, I save my writing for the evenings and weekends.

My advice to busy novelists is to use your time wisely. Take advantage of the time you have and try not to waste it with things like Facebook quizzes and Sudokus (cough, cough). Above all: be flexible . . . because things rarely go as planned.

What has been the best part of writing?

Knowing that my book will be out there for people to read, and that I could possibly make a difference in someone’s life.

And what has been the worst part?

Knowing that my book will be out there for people to read. Ha, kidding. That’s just the nerves talking. Really, I would have to say the rejections and the uncertainty. I’m still at the stage in the process where I’m trying to figure everything out and make a name for myself. The idea of “not knowing” is probably the worst.

What prompted you to write about the weight and self-image issues Wrenn faces in ONE WISH? What do you hope readers will take away from the novel?

Those aspects of ONE WISH sort of evolved in the editing stages. I knew I wanted to write about a girl who wanted to be popular, but the ideas about weight and self-image really took shape during the revisions I went through with my editor. Really, I just want girls to recognize that being popular isn’t everything, and that what’s important is being an individual loving yourself for who you are. There are toxic people out there, and they will make us feel miserable about ourselves if we let them.

I have to ask: did you want to be popular in school?

Oh My Gosh, Yes. And the irony is I went to a small, private school. I think 12 of the 25 people I graduated with actually started at the same school with me in Kindergarten. When I look back, I don’t really remember popular people. There were cliques, yes, but at the same time our classes were so small that we all knew each other and were friendly. I’m not saying that there wasn’t an occasional drama, but when I look back I hate that I wasted so much time trying to attain a status that didn’t really exist. At least it gave me some good writing material.

While reading ONE WISH, Wrenn reminded me a little of my diaries from when I was fifteen. What was it like writing through her voice?

That’s exactly how she felt to me, too. Some of the things she said I could’ve pulled verbatim from my own diaries. On the page, I was concerned that she might be a little too annoying/neurotic/obsessed, but Wrenn is clearly not a “go with the flow” kind of person and, true to adolescence, everything is a potential tragedy. I think Wrenn and I would’ve done a lot of freaking out together had we been friends, but at the end of the day I enjoyed telling her story and I’m glad she eventually learned to relax a bit.

Are any of the characters based on real people? I’m especially curious about Wrenn’s idol, Bree, the most popular girl in school.

Sneaky! No name dropping! Actually, Bree is a fairly stereotypical popular person, and I didn’t base her on anyone I knew personally. In fact, though there were people out there who I thought were way cooler than me, I don’t recall knowing anyone as heartless as she was. She’s a true Mean Girl. All the characters were products of my imagination.

You say Sarah Dressen is your favorite writer. How has she influenced your work?

Honestly, I’m not sure if I would even be writing if it weren’t for Sarah Dessen. I love all of her stories, and her stories make me want to tell my stories. I’m always so inspired after I read one of her novels. I’m heavier on dialogue than she is, but her exposition is so poetic and her novels are so thought-provoking and deep. . . . She has definitely raised the bar, and I’m desperately trying to reach it.

Any other influential authors?

YA novels are my drug of choice, so Meg Cabot, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Sara Zarr, etc. are all on my list, but I’m also enjoying reading ARCs from the new batch of 2009 debut authors. There are so many talented YA writers out there. It’s like the genre has exploded. I can’t get enough!

Did you want to be a writer when you grew up, or did you have other aspirations? If you weren’t a writer now, what do you think you would be doing?

My mom thought I was going to be an actress. Though I tried to take a “normal” path, deep down I always knew I wasn’t going to have a typical 9-5 job/career. Acting (theater!) was definitely a possibility. I also would’ve liked to be a dancer or artist of some kind. I will say, though, that during my pre-teen/teen years I enjoyed daydreaming about historical fiction stories I wanted to write. I never got past the main plot or naming characters (or practicing my autograph) though. I wrote a short story when I was 13, and I tried to write my first book at 15 (I was about 50-75 pages in when my floppy disk corrupted and I lost it all!). I wrote a few short stories my senior year that I sent off to magazines, so yes, I guess I did have some suppressed aspirations to become a writer. I honestly didn’t think it was something I could do for a living, though.

I know of several writers, myself included, who can sometimes be nervous about writing a new book after selling their debut. How has this process gone for you?

Once I started writing, I was addicted. I wrote two or three more manuscripts before I landed an agent, and then I wrote a few more before I got a book deal. Right now I have a backlog of manuscripts (some are pathetic, though, and will never see the light of day). I’ve noticed that I’m taking more time on the ms I’m writing now (I’ve been working on it since August). Before, I was in a hurry to finish so I could get some feedback from my agent. Now that things have slowed down a bit (I’m stuck in publishing limbo!) I’m concentrating more on the story I’m trying to tell than I ever have before.

What advice do you have for the debut authors here among the Tenners?

I’m sure you’re figuring this out . . . but publishing is like . . . this insane roller coaster. There are good days and bad days and ups and downs and what’s great one day sucks the next and what’s no good for one house is perfect for another . . . it’s crazy. No joke. My advice is to hang in there. Try not to take anything personally and don’t try to figure the industry out: just keep writing the best stories you know how.

Random info about Leigh:

I spend an obscene amount of time on the computer bouncing back and forth from my profession (adjunct professor teaching online English Comp courses) and love (writing). The good news is I can show up for work (my club chair) in my yoga pants (but I don’t . . . usually). I’ve learned to embrace the voices in my head and the fact that sometimes I carry on complete conversations with myself. I live in North Carolina with my husband and three-year-old baby girl. I love Japanese food (Hibachi chicken and shrimp), cheese fries with ranch dressing, and the smell of Sharpie markers (weird, I know).

One Wish synopsis:

Overweight Wrenn Scott desperately wants to be popular and snag a hot boyfriend. Living with her single mom and younger sister, Karly, she lands a lead role in the high school musical, her voice for once overshadowing her weight. Pushing to get thinner by opening night, Wrenn's waistline shrinks as she learns all the wrong ways to lose weight from a new "it-girl" friend in the show. Meanwhile, her mom is falling for Phil, "a balding Channel 8 News-nerd"; her sister is wrapped up in her own share of middle school drama, and Wrenn's best friend has fallen for a guy she met online—but hasn't even seen yet! Topping it off, geeky stage manager Steven has a crush on her. But Wrenn doesn't want to be seen with him—she's holding out for a trophy boyfriend whom everyone will envy. By opening night, the old Wrenn has almost disappeared. After a crisis reveals her weight-loss tricks, Wrenn realizes there are much more important things than being thin, popular, or even dating a hunk.
 

For the latest news on ONE WISH and Leigh, visit her blog and publisher.

 

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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
x_think_twice
Apr. 23rd, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
Can't wait to read this!

I'm so behind. I seriously need to get to the bookstore and pick up all the Debs' books.
jberkj
Apr. 23rd, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this interview! And the book sounds great!
leighbrescia
Apr. 24th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Karen!! :)
alexamartin
Apr. 26th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
This is a great and very "real" interview! I can't wait to read this book. And I am trying to cut back on the Facebook quizzes but it is very hard!
seaheidi
Apr. 29th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
ONE WISH sounds awesome. Can't wait to read it. Great interview!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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