Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leila Sales Will Rock Your Socks

Do you remember when I read and fell in love with this totally awesome and hilarious book?  Mostly Good Girls was by far one of my top 10 reads last year.

And it turns out the only thing more awesome than this book is its creator, Leila Sales. We were super lucky to have Leila answer a couple of questions for us.

If you were not a Leila fan already, you will be by the end of this post!

1. I loved the way Mostly Good Girls was told in a vignette style. Was this the way you planned to write it from the start, or something that developed as you plotted/dreamed/brainstormed/wrote?

I always intended for the book to be a series of linked vignettes. I love to write humor columns—400 to 800-word pieces that cut right to the chase and never let you go more than a few lines without laughing. That’s a form that comes more naturally to me than traditional novel writing. So I wanted to do an entire novel that was basically a collection of humor pieces. I started out with chapters like “Genevieve is anorexic,” “Genevieve is not anorexic,” and “Like an amusement park, only with wild animals.” The chapters that actually develop the plot came in later.

2. You have no idea how happy it makes me to know the Genevieve chapters came first! They're some of my favorites. So how long did it take you to write Mostly Good Girls? Plot? Revise? Edit?

Two years, on and off. I started in the summer of 2007 and my agent submitted it to publishers in summer 2009. But my second book, PAST PERFECT, I started in May 2010, and it went into copyediting last week. So apparently I can make it from idea to book in way less than two years, if I have to!

3. Wow! This gives me hope. Were you more of a Violet or a Katie in high school?

I was a bit of both, but more like Violet than like Katie (which is probably why Violet got to be the narrator, even though Katie has her own interesting story). Violet is more of a worrier than Katie is, and I was a huge worrier. Katie’s all like, “Wooo, let’s make out with this guy and see what happens!” whereas Violet will think through every possible thing that could happen as a result of making out with this guy, and then ultimately decide that it’s not worth the risk.

4. If you were to give Violet a theme song, what would it be?

I don’t know! What comes to me off-hand is “I Want the One I Can’t Have,” by the Smiths, but don’t hold me to that. If I could give Violet a theme poem, it would be the A. A. Milne poem that opens the book. (So I guess that means I already did give Violet a theme poem…)

5. Ah, good answer. Well if you had your own theme song playing every time you walked into a room, what song would you choose?

“Yes,” by LMFAO. This song would get me psyched to walk into every room, every time. My editor texted me a couple months ago, after I had introduced her to “Yes,” and she said, quote, “This LMFAO song is maybe the best thing to have happened to me in 2010.” So you can see it’s not just my opinion.

6. This is epic, you guys need to see this video. So Mostly Good Girls had me laughing out loud on practically every page. How did you learn to write so hilariously?

I read a LOT of great humor writing. I own at least a dozen Dave Barry books, and I’ve read them so many times I can rattle them off by heart. I probably know some of his pieces better than he does, which is creepy. I’ve also read a lot of Meg Cabot, a lot of Anne Spencer Lindbergh… If you read something enough times, it eventually becomes a part of how you think and how you talk, even if you’re not consciously trying to emulate it.

And I've practiced a lot. I did some humor writing in high school that was about as well-received as Katie and Violet’s story for their school’s lit mag. I had a humor column in my college’s newspaper. And I was in an improv and sketch comedy troupe, Off-Off Campus, which meant 15 hours of being funny every week. I’m not exaggerating. It was basically a part-time unpaid job.

Once I had a full draft of MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS, I gave it to friends and asked them to highlight every line that made them laugh. If there was a single page without a highlighted line on it, I rewrote it to make it funnier.

7. Oooh that's interesting. What's your biggest tip for humor writing?

HAVE INTENSE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS TO STUFF. Seriously. That’s it. The more intense your reaction is to the more mundane of a thing, the funnier it is. My first humor column was about how I absolutely loathe the Olsen twins. People still mention this article to me, even though I wrote it years ago, because, like, what? Who would care that much about the Olsen twins? I also sometimes go off on how I intensely love Degrassi: The Next Generation. Recently I’ve been ranting against this goddamn soup shop in my neighborhood that has a sign outside advertising “HOMEMADE SOUPS.” I am enraged. Either the soups are made in someone’s home and then carefully transported over to the store for sale, or there is someone living in this soup store, like laying a yoga mat on the floor every night and sleeping on it. Whichever it is, I can’t imagine it is FDA-approved. Or, alternatively, they are LYING to me and their soups are, in fact, NOT HOMEMADE. Do not LIE to me, soup store.
      Anyway, yeah. Intense emotions. This is why cool people are usually not funny. They are too busy being chill and apathetic and unimpressed, and that is the opposite of humor.

8. HA! What can you tell us about your next writing project? Because I am SERIOUSLY excited for it!

Thanks! It’s called PAST PERFECT, and it’s coming out this fall (I think October?). It’s about a girl who is a Colonial reenactor, and she falls in love with a guy who is a Civil War reenactor, only they can’t be together, because they “come from different times.” Except actually they come from the same time, i.e. now. Also she’s trying to get over her ex-boyfriend, who broke her heart, so it’s an exploration of memory and the stories we tell about the past. But, you know, it’s a funny exploration.

9. My need to read PAST PERECT now is overwhelming. You had me at "come from different times." Were any events from Mostly Good Girls taken straight out of your life? (We won't tell anyone which ones) ;)

A lot of events in the book were inspired by my real life, but usually they take different turns in the book than they did in life. For example, my friends and I totally explored the boiler room and back staircases in our school. But it didn’t occur to us to try to make money off that. An all-male a cappella group really did once visit our school, and it really was insanely exciting. Mostly what I drew from my real life is the banter between Violet and Katie, which is the sort of conversation that my best friend and I have.

10. And now for the most important question of all. If we met in real life, at like, say a book signing, would you take me on a Harry Potter Tour? Please?

I will take you on a Harry Potter tour of ANYWHERE. If we met in real life, at like, say, the book signing I’m doing at WORD bookstore in Brooklyn on January 28th (to choose an example at random), I would absolutely give you a Harry Potter tour of that bookstore. I would say things like, “You can’t disapparate in the Self Help section,” and, “This bookshelf is where a horcrux is hidden.” I would say this even if the bookstore in question didn’t have a Self Help section.

Oh I cannot wait to take this tour with you, Leila! We'll so be a this book signing! Thank you so much for stopping by today. You Rock! 

And we hope you all enjoyed this interview. If you think of another question for Leila, post below and we'll ask it at her signing, if we're not too busy taking a Harry Potter Tour;)


  1. Girl sure gives a great interview!

    I want in on the Harry Potter tour ;)

  2. Okay, now I totally love Leila Sales for turning me onto LMFAO. Wow, that was great.

  3. @Lenore, she is SO fab! And we're going to have the Best Time Ever on her Harry Potter tour!

    @Kat, Yay! And OMG, I can't stop saying "We eat em up, we swallow em down, we spit em out, no homo."

  4. If the only thing I accomplish with MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is introducing more people to the song "Yes," then I have done my job as an author. By the way, if you don't have ten minutes to devote to this WTF video, here is the compact version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXPT8sw_FjU. "Wakin' up next to a beautiful girl, I step outside and say hello to my beautiful world. Grandma's cookin' breakfast, she makes pancakes the best, I check my myspace and I got a lot of friend requests - yes!"

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  6. Ack! Linked the wrong link! Ok, comment attempt 2:

    Leila, I not only watched the LMFAO video (awesome!), but I read the Olsen twins column. And I totally giggled, but my favorite thus far (oh yes, I kept reading) was about your evil refrigerator, which made me officially laugh out loud.


    Can't wait to meet you next week at the signing!

  7. Man, not only have I not read this, but I've never even SEEN this book! Frankie, you make it sound so great and so funny, I'm seriously gonna have to add it to my ever-growing TBR list. If I can find a copy...

    And I checked out Leila's column on the Olsen Twins. Even though it's from 2004, it's still hilarious!

  8. Ya Leila rocks! So glad people are reading her column!


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