Q&A With Author Laurie Faria Stolarz ’94
Merrimack alumna Laurie Faria Stolarz is the author of several popular young adult novels including the Touch series (the latest release of which is Deadly Little Lessons), Project 17, and Bleed (all published by Disney/Hyperion Books for Children), as well as the bestselling Blue is for Nightmares series. With more than a million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been included on numerous award lists, including the Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list, and the Top Ten Teen Pick list, both through the American Library Association.
A: It’s essential to have a relatable main character—no matter how extraordinary he or she is—who will sustain the reader’s interest throughout the course of each novel in the series. It’s important to put that character in a compelling situation—one that hooks the readers’ attention from the very first page and keeps them turning pages until the very end of each book.
Each book in the series needs to show the main character’s growth (or arc) as he or she is presented with a unique set of challenges and learns a new lesson each time. In my books, my main character often has a secret, as well as a group of flawed and intriguing friends. I also incorporate humor to help lighten those darker moments. Last, incorporating elements of suspense (including cliffhangers) is definitely key, no matter the genre, because it leaves readers begging for more.
Q: Did you have aspirations of becoming an author while attending Merrimack?
A: Yes, but I never thought it was something that I would actually be able to do. I majored in business because I wanted to be able to support myself. Getting a business degree was both practical and “safe.”
Growing up, money was tight, and the idea of becoming a writer seemed far more of a pipe dream than something I could one day accomplish, let alone support myself doing. Both of my older brothers majored in business in college— one of whom is also a Merrimack alum —and became successful. I’d planned on following in their footsteps.
Q: Did your professors help influence your career direction?
A: Even though I never thought that becoming a writer was a realistic goal, during my freshman year, Professor MaryKay Mahoney stopped me after class one day to ask me if I’d ever thought about pursuing writing in a more serious way. She told me how talented she thought I was and that I owed it to myself to pursue that talent. I’m forever grateful for her encouragement, because those words put the possibility inside my head.
Though I didn’t have the confidence at the time to make the leap from business, it was nice to be recognized for something I’d always wanted to pursue. In the end, I’m grateful for my business degree, because as a writer I run my own business. Though I have editors, agents, and publicists, I do a lot of my own marketing as an author and having this background helps immensely.
Q: When is the last time you visited Merrimack?
A: I was on campus this past fall when I was guest speaker in one of Dr. Mahoney’s creative writing classes.
Q: What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done in the name of research?
A: In my field, research is essential. Not only do I try to keep current on teen culture, I often have to research the book’s subject matter. Once, I had to figure out how to break into an abandoned mental institution, the former Danvers State Hospital, which was rumored to be haunted, in the middle of the night. I did this for my research on Project 17, which deals with the supernatural. I connected with a group of urban explorers and became so spooked by my research that I wasn’t able to sleep at night.
Q: What stimulates you intellectually?
A: My work and my obsessive need to get things right. I’m also fascinated by holistic health and nutrition.
I absolutely love what I do and I’m grateful for that every day. I think the best part of my job is when someone writes to me saying that my books have gotten him or her to enjoy reading.
Though I loved telling stories as a young person, I wasn’t an avid reader. As an adult who writes for teens, I knew I wanted to target young people who were like me—individuals who don’t naturally gravitate toward reading for pleasure. It’s a thrill to hear from those teens—to hear that my books helped change their attitudes about reading.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: My Blue is for Nightmares series was recently optioned for a TV series by Persistent Entertainment and Blondie Girl Productions (Ashley Tisdale’s production company). It was sold to ABC Family and went to the pilot stage, but it did not get picked up. That said, it was an amazing experience and I learned a lot through the process, starting with initial vision meetings all the way to the pilot script.
I’m currently working on my 14th book for young adults. It’s called Welcome to the Dark House, the first book in my new Dark House horror series with Disney/Hyperion Books for Children. It will be out next winter.
It was the way he talked about her. The way his eyes filled up, like they could drown you in just one blink. The way his dimpled chin trembled when he spoke. How his voice was all splintery, slivered into a million pieces—all about her, about how much he loved her and couldn’t accept that this had happened, that he had done it.
The trial had lasted a little over two weeks. But I watched it a lot longer than that. Thanks to Court TV and an old VCR, I watched every night before I went to bed and sometimes until the sky turned blue again. Some nights I just couldn’t say good bye, couldn’t bring myself to look into those watery eyes or hear that broken voice and shut the power off. That would be like abandoning him in some way—leaving him alone there in that cold, impersonal courtroom, trapped in the TV.
I’d play and replay the tape, noticing new things each time. Like that his hair was really dark, dark brown, rather than black like all the papers said. And that he had a Madonna-like mole on his bottom lip that moved with his mouth when he talked.
The tape became fuzzy in parts. Parts where it was his turn to talk about Melanie. When he said how nothing else meant anything, including prison, or death, or anything else they might do to him, if he couldn’t see her everyday, if she couldn’t read him one of her poems.
I just never knew someone could love that much.