Today I am VERY happy to ask Robin Wasserman a few little questions about the experience of seeing Girls On Fire published – As most people know I was a HUGE fan of this one and relentlessly pushed it onto everyone I knew (still do in fact) and it was in my Top Ten of 2016. The paperback is available now.
So actually it is nearly a year since I read Girls on Fire and I always knew it was going to be somewhere in my top ten – and it is a book that has had a lot of accolades rightly so. What has the publication experience been like for you?
First off, thank you so much for putting me on this list in the first place. Every time I step into a bookstore, I’m amazed all over again at the odds of anyone even picking up my book over the hundreds of others with equally exciting covers and description. The odds of anyone sticking it in a top ten, given how many incredible books were published this year…well, let’s just say my mind is blown.
I’m writing this on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, which feels like the right moment to be thinking back on the publication process, which was, from start to finish, lovely.
2016 has been such a painful and tumultuous year for the world, to say the least, that it feels almost unseemly to think too much on the happy moments. But maybe it would be unseemly not to? Girls on Fire wasn’t my first book, by a long shot—I’ve been publishing YA novels for years. But it was my first novel for adults, which felt like a HUGE first; this book feels like something I’ve been working toward for most of my life. The paradoxical combination of those things—being a super-experienced debut novelist—meant that I was able to escape a lot of the stress, angst, and anti-climactic disappointment that often comes with publishing your first book. I knew just enough to know what to expect, what not to expect, and how important it was to savour every small triumph, which I tried very hard to do.
Most of all, publishing this book has left me with a deep well of gratitude for all the people who enabled its existence—my amazing and ever-encouraging agent, the superhumanly talented teams at HarperCollins US and Little Brown UK, my family, my friends. Basically all the people I’d thank in my Oscars speech. My favourite part of Girls on Fire is the acknowledgments, and if I had my way they’d be several pages longer. All the friends who helped me believe I could write this; all the friends who showed up to cheer me on at the launch after I finally did. (I’m even grateful to the ex I wrote this book partly to spite!) Writing a book is, in some ways, a very solitary experience—but it’s also clarified, like nothing else, how lucky I am to be living such an un-solitary life.
I’ve actually read it again recently, it still had the same power that it did upon first reading – more so if anything, because I knew what was coming and was powerless to stop it. Now there is some distance between you and the writing of it, how do you look back on the journey of creation – is there anything you would change?
Only everything! Never ask a writer if she wishes she could keep revising.
I’m joking, but I’m also not. I started Girls on Fire almost five years ago—I was a different writer then, in many ways a different person. So it’s not the book I would write if I started all over again today—and thank goodness for that, I guess, since who would want to read my next book if it were basically the same thing all over again?
That said, there is one very specific typo—a math error on my part—that I find hilariously humiliating, and I would definitely go back and change that if I could. I’ll let you discover it on your own…
For all the readers who loved Girls on Fire and are now desperate to see what you might do next, can you offer us any hints on your next novel?
I’ve been deflecting this question all year, but for the very first time I’m finally ready to offer an (admittedly vague and mostly content-free) answer. I’ve started working on a new novel, and it’s too soon to say what it’s about, but maybe you can glean something from my stack of research books: Time Travel by James Gleick, The Art of Memory by Frances Yates, Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich, The Female Malady by Elaine Showalter. (Also all excellent choices if you’re looking for some winter reading.) I’m at the phase of writing a book where I’ve completely forgotten how to write a book, which is terrifying and exhilarating at once. Wish me luck.
I can’t WAIT to read whatever comes next! Thanks so much.
About the Book:
Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town’s bad girl, Lacey, the two bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.
But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything..
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