Today's Muse: Lara Zielin
Author of: Donut Days (review here)
Bookworm: Welcome, Laura! So, tell us...what was your inspiration for your debut novel, Donut Days?
Lara: So, I read a review of Donut Days recently where the reviewer was really skeptical that donut camps actually existed. I think they found the plot hard to believe because, really, could people seriously love donuts that much?
But the answer is yes! Donut camps really, truly do exist (though I can't speak for the Easter bunny, tooth fairy, or were-chickens, unfortunately). After college, when I lived in Minnesota, the first Krispy Kreme opened in the state, and you'd think Brangelina had arrived and were handing out crisp $100 bills. Seriously, people were lined up for ages to get in. Many had camped out for days--in RVs, tents, or just out in the open. There was music, grilling, and it was a total party, especially when the media descended.
And that, truly, was the inspiration for Donut Days. Though much of the book's plot and characters have changed over time (and with re-writes), the central idea of the donut camp is the one things that's stayed consistent.
Bookworm: Were Emma's experiences in the evangelical church based off of your personal experiences?
Lara: Around the same time the donut camp popped up, I started attending what some people call a megachurch. If you don't know what a megachurch is, picture the church or synagogue or temple you grew up attending, add a thousand square feet, a hundred lights, a full band, some loudspeakers, some purple carpet, and about 2,000 people, and that's pretty much a megachurch.
Up until that point, I'd had some really good experiences in the church. The normal-sized church I'd gone to in my Wisconsin hometown had been seriously good to me. I'd really loved the pastor, his wife was fabulous, and I always felt that people really cared about me.
But in the megachurch, all the changed. Instead of focusing on helping others, we were encouraged to amass wealth. Instead of looking to change the world, we were told to conquer the world. But the worst of it was, you couldn't really question what came down from the pulpit. The pastor was infallible. His word was God's word, and you couldn't touch it. So instead of being introspective and engaging in conversations about what was coming to us from the pulpit, we were essentially told to believe it and not question it.
Ultimately, I realized I couldn't attend a church like that, and I left. But my experiences in that church became the basis for some of the congregants and events at Living Word Redeemer in Donut Days.
Overall, I think many teens--and I'd argue, people in general--who go to church have doubts about what they're seeing, about what they're being asked to believe. The process through which they figure it all out should be embraced, should be acknowledged. Instead, it's all too often labeled as doubt, and the person becomes a pariah. My great hope is that Donut Days encourages people to thoughtfully question what they believe, and why, and to remember that even if people suck, God doesn't have to.
Bookworm: What was your favorite character in the book to write about?
Lara: I love Emma, of course, but Bear and the Harley gang came to me the most easily. I can't always picture the characters in my head at first, when I begin to write them, but I could always picture Bear. I knew what he wore, what his struggles were, how he talked. It was pretty organic. And fun, because he's so quirky and unusual.
Bookworm: The title of your book is Donut Days. So...what's your favorite kind of donut?
Lara: That's like asking what my favorite kind of kitteh is. The answer is ALL OF THEM. But, okay, if I had to pick, I'd say powdered sugar. I mean, it's kind of boring, but I've never met one I didn't love.
Bookworm: Yum. What's next, writing-wise?
Lara: I just sold my second novel, Promgate, to Putnam, the same folks who published Donut Days. The book centers around the fallout when a pregnant teen is elected prom queen in a small Midwestern town. It's loosely based on events that happened in my Wisconsin high school when I was a sophomore, and it's due out in summer 2011.
Bookworm: Favorite thing to do on a weekend morning?
Lara: Have coffee with my husband in our home's "reading room" and catch up with him for a while. Inevitably, our dog, Amos, will invade the space and show us his tummy, and we'll probably stop talking for a little bit to scratch it.
Bookworm: Name a fabulous book that you've read lately.
Lara: I just finished American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld for my book club. It's not YA, but it was fabulous. It's fiction loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, and I was totally pulled into the story. The writing was outstanding. I also recently read The Season by Sarah MacLean, a YA romance, and about fell out of my chair it was so good. The setting, the dialogue, the characters--I SO didn't want it to end! More, Sarah, more!!!
Bookworm: What's your favorite '80s band (to tie into the '80s-band-shirt obsession of Emma's)?
Lara: Once again, see above: kittehs, favorites.
But, okay, I think I can narrow it down to two. I am obsessed with Big Country who wrote...Big Country. It might just be my fave song of all time--and possibly a one-hit wonder though I can't remember right now. And also I love, love, love Peter Gabriel. He was so awesome in the 1980s, but I love that he's been able to continue his career to the present day. Just last year he was nominated for an Oscar for the theme song to Wall-E. Go, Pete!
And Go, Lara! Lara's debut novel, Donut Days, came out earlier this month and is in bookstores now!
Check out Lara's website here