Interview with Trish Doller

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trish Doller is a YA author, whose first novel My Way or the Highway (which sounsds awesome - more about it below) is represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary. Trish has a pretty purple blog and you can also find her on Twitter.

1. When and how did you start writing?

I think I started writing not long after I learned how, but it wasn't until 2006 that I actually thought about writing as something I did for anything other than my own pleasure.

2. Could you tell me a bit about your novel My Way or the Highway?

My Way or the Highway is the story of Jacey Lowell, an overpriviledged girl who gets caught cheating on her U.S. History final at the end of her junior year. Instead of letting her go to Europe with her friends, her parents decide to send her on a cross-country teen tour bus so she might learn a little bit about the United States. When those plans go awry in New York City, Jacey's real adventure begins.

When I was very young, my mom and I took a cross-country trip from Ohio to California, crossing west on Interstate 80. We went down through California and headed back east through the Grand Canyon and the Mohave Desert. We saw a lot of American landmarks, had some adventures, and even saw the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota! I started thinking about how people dream of one day going to Europe when we have so many amazing, wacky, and weird things right in our own backyards.

3. What inspires your writing? Are there any authors who particularly influence your work?

Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes was the inspiration for My Way or the Highway. I read it and afterward said, "This is the kind of book I want to write." I loved that it was funny and smart and sweet. And it was then I realized that maybe I'd been a young adult writer all along and didn't know it. My adult fiction was truly, truly awful. Seriously.

I wouldn't say I've tried to emulate Maureen's style of writing--I've tried to establish my own distinct voice--but I do admire her work quite a lot, as well as E. Lockhart, Kieran Scott, Elizabeth Scott, and Sarah Dessen. I'd say they're my favorites. Oh, and I've recently been completely knocked off my feet by Melina Marchetta.

4. Were there any parts of the writing process that you really struggled with?

I am a perfectionist, so I have a really difficult time just sitting down and banging out the rough draft. I want to use the right word or the write phrase now, instead of finding it in the next draft or in revisions. It makes for some slow writing sometimes.

5. Was the search for an agent difficult or easy for you? Did you have a dream agent in mind that you targeted, or did you query every agent you thought would suit your novel?

When I started the querying process, I had no idea which agent would suit my novel. None at all. I studied the Guide to Literary Agents and made a list of agents who represented YA. After I'd sent out a handful of queries, I discovered the forums at Not only did I learn that a great place to find agents is often in the acknowledgements of your favorite books, but I made some friends who suggested agents who weren't even listed in the GLA. It wasn't until I looked for Maureen Johnson's agent in the back of 13 Little Blue Envelopes that the notion of a "dream agent" even entered my mind. But by my way of thinking, if Kate Schafer Testerman represented that book, she just might be interested in mine. So I queried her, and it turns out I was right. She made an offer of representation about six weeks after I started the search. It's kind of funny... I got "The Call" while I was at my son's soccer game, so I accepted the offer under the bleachers!

6. Complete this sentence: My teenage years were...

About as ordinary as they get!

7. Complete this sentence: Outside of writing, my life is...

Pretty chill. My kids are teenagers (one in college, one in high school) and mostly self-sufficient. I think part of the reason why I didn't get serious about my writing until recently is because I'd never have been able to manage raising children and writing at the same time. I am in awe of the writers who can.

8. What are you working on now?

My current project is an upper YA novel called The New Normal, about a very young soldier who returns from Iraq and has to adjust to life as a civilian. The seed for this book was planted in 2003, when I interviewed a 19-year-old Marine who'd just come home after a tour in Iraq having experienced things most of us can only imagine. I couldn't shake the idea that having to kill someone--in war or otherwise--can't leave you unaffected and must ripple out and touch the relationship you have with your family and friends. The New Normal kind of explores that, as well as the friendships soldiers form with each other and the interactions they have with the people of Iraq. It's definitely edgier than My Way or the Highway, and it has a male protagonist, which is new for me.
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