Cora is a very creative girl. Do you consider yourself creative? In what ways besides writing do you express your creativity?
I do consider myself creative—art and music have always been interests of mine. I played several instruments when I was in school. Now, living in an apartment in New York City, it’s hard to practice without disturbing all my neighbors. I have studied flamenco dance, drawing, and sculpting in the last few years. Sculpting is definitely a passion of mine.
Did the inspiration to write A Map of the Known World come from something that actually happened to you or someone you know?
My grandmother, Bessie Sandell, passed away about half a year before I decided to write this book. Losing her affected me very deeply, and while the loss of a grandmother isn’t the same as losing a sibling, and my family didn’t undergo the same sort of grieving process as Cora’s, I did want to find a productive and creative way of dealing with and trying to understand my own remorse and grief. Writing and art have always been an outlet for me. So I decided to use my writing to explore my own feelings and in doing so, create a character who uses art to deal with her own emotions.
Cora dreamed of traveling all over the world. Where have you traveled? Where else do you plan to or want to travel to in the future?
I love to travel. I’ve been super lucky and had the opportunity to see lots of amazing places. Some of the countries I’ve spent time in: Spain, France, Portugal, England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, China, Mongolia, Russia, and this winter, my husband and I are planning a trip to India and Bhutan. I can’t wait! Next, I’d love to visit Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia someday. Plus, I’d love to go back to some of these countries and spend more time…oh, there are so many places to go!
A Map of the Known World was set in a small town. Did you grow up or live in a small town? If so, did it have the same effect on you that it did on Cora?
I grew up in a smallish or medium-sized town in a very small state. And while I don’t think I felt quite as suffocated as Cora does, I certainly longed to get out and to see and explore more of the world. Now that I’ve been out and about and seen some of the rest of the world, I love my hometown very much.
Cora fell for the "bad boy" Damian. Do you have a soft spot for guys of this nature? Why do you think so many girls are attracted to this type of person?
I definitely have a soft spot for bad boys, especially in movies! I think their appeal is threefold. First, there’s the challenge of breaking through the tough exterior and getting them to reveal their mushy side, and second, there’s the idea of being able to help them reform. Who doesn’t love a good challenge, and who doesn’t love the idea of getting a boy to love you so much, he wants to be a better man, right? And finally, there’s the excitement of the danger the bad boy poses. Oooh…danger is always a draw!
The character Helena became friends with Cora after her so-called best friend ditched her. Have you ever had a similar experience? Why did you feel the need to include someone like Helena in Cora's life?
I didn’t have a similar experience, and my best friend from high school is still one of my best and dearest friends in the world, even though we live on opposite sides of the country now. But, Cora made such a huge transition in her life after losing her brother, and sometimes people grow out of their friends. It can happen at any stage of life, and it seemed natural for Cora to undergo this kind of change, given the monumental change that has happened in her life. Helena seems to me almost like a guide for Cora as she begins to navigate her passions and her new life as a young adult, figuring out what is important to her, who she wants to be, what she wants to do. Helena embodies the strength that Cora needs to find within herself to be the person she is meant to be.
Where did you get the ideas for Cora, Damian, and Nate's artwork?
While I don’t use found objects in my own sculptures (I sculpt in clay and cast in a bronze resin), when found object sculpture is done well, I think it is just about the coolest, most interesting art form. The notion of taking a totally ordinary object that one sees every day and turning its function completely on its head is almost rebellious, and I thought this is something that Damian and Nate, being rebels, would find thoroughly compelling. I also love maps, and I knew I wanted Cora to use maps to express herself and her desire to see the world, so combining the two forms seemed like such an intriguing—and challenging—idea, I couldn’t resist.
Name 3 songs you listened to while writing A Map of the Known World.
I listen to a lot of music while I write, but here are three:
“Busby Berkeley Dreams” by The Magnetic Fields
“River” by Joni Mitchell
“Chinese Translation” by M. Ward
What is your favorite kind of pie? (Yes, I know this is random.)
Key lime. Tart and sweet. Perfection.
What YA book are you most looking forward to reading?
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I LOVED Hunger Games.
What is the best movie you've seen lately?
Up. It’s fabulous.
Anything you'd like to say to the YA blogging community?
I would like to say THANK YOU, to the YA blogging community. You guys are doing something so amazing, and I just feel lucky to be a part of it and to be so supported by it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thanks for the interview, Lisa!