An interview with author Libby Heily.
Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?
Absolutely I can! I wrote really bad poems as a kid but mostly I spent my time reading. In college, I studied acting but it never felt quite right. During my sophomore year I started tinkering with an idea I had for a play. I completed my first play by the end of that year and that’s where my writing career began. I wrote a lot of plays and then screenplays and I finally turned to fiction in my late twenties.
What got you into writing?
I grew up in a chaotic house full of people. Reading and watching TV were my two escapes. It didn’t take long for me to start building my own worlds instead of just living in other people’s creations.
What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?
My husband thought I was depressed after he read my first book, Tough Girl. I wanted to write something happy and uplifting and I immediately came up with the name “Grape Merriweather”. Everything else spiraled from there.
Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?
Oh, you are not shy about asking the tough questions! I really like them all but one character who only crops up in one scene is Betty, the local community theater actress. She takes her amateur career very seriously, committing fully to each and every role. Her day job is waiting tables at Bill Buck’s Steakhouse and she spends twenty minutes every night getting into character. I just love her. She comes back in the second book. ;)
What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?
There are so many I like. One that I particularly enjoy is a scene between Grape and Graeson, a boy at school who has a crush on her and goes about wooing her the exact wrong way. His first attempt is to serenade her outside her house late at night. He thinks it’s romantic but it comes across as creepy. Grape is not one to mess around, so she threatens him with a lawn chair. The scene is pretty funny and goofy and I just love it.
What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?
Having finished. The process can be fun but painful and I am a multi-drafter and hard to satisfy. Once the project is complete and ready to go, that’s the best feeling in the world.
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?
Between one and two years. I do a lot of pre-writing in a notebook. I go over ideas, plots, scenes, character work, etc. I then create a plot outline and go for it, but I leave a lot of room for creativity.
What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?
I like writing for younger audiences and in the spec fic realm because it unleashes the imagination. I enjoy contemporary fiction as well but there is something freeing about embracing genres.
Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?
Short Answer: Virginia Woolfe, August Strindberg, Brocke Clarke, Terry Pratchett, Muriel Spark, Harold Pinter and Eugene O’Neill.
Long Answer: Virginia Woolfe’s experimentation and exceptional grasp of language constantly floors me. I first encountered August Strindberg in college when I read his “A Dream Play.” I was immediately hooked. I delved for a bit into other expressionist playwrights but Strindberg was always my favorite. Brock Clarke is just fantastic. I haven’t read a book of his yet that I haven’t loved. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are fun and sly. I love how he mixes humor and satire while constantly world building. Muriel Spark is devilishly dark in her work but also stark and honest. The Driver’s Seat is the closest a book has ever come to changing my life. Harold Pinter was another college encounter. My entire vision of theater changed when I watched “The Dumb Waiter” my freshman year. Above all, perhaps, I respect Eugene O’Neill. I love fearless writers who constantly experiment and I think O’Neill embraced that fearlessness better than most. His plays run the gamut from natural to exppressionistic. Did he fail? Sometimes, yes. But when he succeeded...damn.
Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?
Absolutely. That’s one of the best parts about writing. In this book, I didn’t plan for several characters, they kind of just happened. One is named Milly. I think you’ll find her intriguing.
Thanks for stopping by!
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This is where Grape first meets the Models:
“What are you wearing?” a snotty voice asked Grape.
Grape’s entire body stiffened as she looked up from her phone. Five of the most beautiful people to ever walk the earth stood scattered around two Porsches. Did I walk into a photo shoot?
“I mean, gross.”
The words came from an impossibly beautiful girl. Loose, raven-black locks fell over her shoulders, the tips lingering above her full bosom. Grape could almost hear the sizzle and static of her electric blue eyes. The sun had kissed the girl’s skin lightly, leaving a glow that made the air around her shimmer. Her pouty, pink, full lips begged to be kissed, though the guy standing behind her, his arm draped over her shoulder protectively, warned off all who would be so bold.
The boy behind her, if anything, was even more handsome than she was beautiful. Muscle stacked upon muscle until his clothes had no choice but to hug every inch of his body. His dark eyebrows and strong jaw lent him a tough look, one that was backed up by the playful anger in his eyes.
The raven-haired goddess turned and embraced her beau, her face tucked away into the heat of his chest. He sat propped up on the hood of a yellow Porsche, the sleek lines of the car offset by the disdain on his face. They were so incredibly, delightfully gorgeous that even though he looked as if he had seen a cockroach instead of a human being, Grape’s heart still melted at the sight of them.
“I think she’s in love.”
Grape snapped her gaze away from the Adonis with the nasty temperament and turned toward the twin boys standing in front of a black Porsche. Her eyes bounced between the two, taking in every perfect feature. Flawless, rich, dark brown skin. Sparkling hazel eyes. Muscles so tight that you could bounce a quarter off their abs, or arms, or anywhere on their bodies, really. They looked as perfectly engineered as the cars they stood by. But it was their lusciously long eyelashes that sent Grape swooning. Men were not meant to be this pretty.
“Leave her alone, guys.”
Grape’s head spun. Each person she saw was more beautiful than the last, and the redheaded girl standing off to the side was no exception. The baggy jeans and generic T-shirt she wore did not detract from her creamy skin and full lips. Her large brown eyes fascinated Grape—red flakes glimmered from inside each caramel-colored orb.
The air felt charged with a million volts. Her thinking grew cloudy. Were these angels? Was she daydreaming? How did anyone get to be this beautiful? She could sense their hostility, but something inside her felt warm and gooey. Snap to, Grape, she told herself. They want to hurt you.
“Awww, look. It likes us,” the twin with the goatee said. The clean-shaven twin’s face softened. Was that pity she saw in his hazel eyes?
“Stop being mean,” the redhead said, sounding more bored than angry.
“I’m not being mean. Where’d you buy that shirt?” Goatee asked. His quiet tone was laced with thorny edges.
Grape swallowed hard. The fuzz inside her head abated. Focus, she told herself, feeling like an idiot. “I don’t know. Kohl’s maybe.” She glanced down at her blouse. The shirt was a birthday present from her mother, and she wasn’t sure where it came from, but since her mother did most of her own shopping at Kohl’s, it seemed like a pretty safe guess.
Goatee turned toward his brother and smiled. “Pay up.”
Clean-Shaven shook his head at her as if she’d named the wrong store on purpose. He pulled a thick wad of cash from his pocket, peeled off a twenty, and handed it to Goatee. “I was sure it came from Kmart.”
“Why does it matter where I bought my shirt?”
The raven-haired girl glanced out from her hiding place in her boyfriend’s embrace. “It just looked familiar. I wore the same shirt. Three years ago.” She smiled, but there was no kindness when she bared her teeth. “Before it was a knockoff.” The girl hid her face against her boyfriend’s pecs. Their chests rose and fell at the same time, breathing as one.
“Okay. Well, I don’t really buy designer clothes.” Grape wanted to have a witty comeback, but she still wasn’t sure where the insult lay. Did they or did they not like the shirt?
What the hell is wrong with me? Of course they’re making fun of me. Why aren’t I angrier?
“She means she modeled the design,” the redheaded girl said, cutting her eyes to the couple.
“You’re a model?”
The brothers snickered. “Pretending she doesn’t know who we are, that’s so cute. Is that the new fad amongst the Normals?” Clean-Shaven asked.
“I don’t understand anything you just said.” Grape felt completely out of her depth. This was the school parking lot, but she might as well have been on Jupiter.
The redhead took a step toward Grape, shooting a nasty glance to the others crowded around the cars. “Don’t worry about it. They’re just teasing.”
“I thought about modeling.” Grape hadn’t meant to say that, but no one else spoke, and she felt like she had to say something. Her skin grew hot. She knew she was blushing beyond red and into crimson mode. She’d practiced runway shows off and on in her bedroom since she was twelve, but she had never told anyone she wanted to be a model. Ever.
“Ow,” Grape cried, only then noticing that she had twisted her ring so hard it was actually cutting into her finger. A tiny drop of blood oozed out and fell to the pavement below.
“Aren’t you a little fat to be a model?” the boyfriend asked. His voice sounded like pure honey even when he spoke acid.
“You think I’m fat?” Grape stared down at her flat tummy. No one had ever called her fat before. There was still a bit of room in the waistband of her size four skirt.
“I’m just saying you could stand to lose a few pounds, unless you want the runway to collapse.”
“Ouch, Adam.” Clean-Shaven punched the boyfriend playfully on the arm.
Goatee winked at Adam. “My boy calls it like he sees it, and he sees a chunky monkey.”
“I’m well within my weight range.” She could feel her voice growing high-pitched. Damn nerves. These people were jerks.
“Of course you are, you look great,” the redhead told her. “These guys just don’t how to joke around without being completely mean.”
“We aren’t joking,” Adam said, giving his girlfriend a quick kiss on the top of her head.
Goatee pulled out his car keys. He turned his back on Grape, tired of their new toy.
“Whatever. Class is about to start. Are we skipping or staying?”
“Skipping,” the raven-haired girl peeked out to say.
Adam looked Grape over and made a face as if he’d smelled something terrible. “Yeah, I think I’m done for the day, too. I feel the need to hit the gym.”
She rubbed her hands over her stomach but it still felt flat like normal. What were they seeing that she wasn’t?
“The shirt looks nice on you,” Clean-Shaven said before climbing into the driver’s seat of the black Porsche.
“Like a muumuu on a water buffalo,” Goatee added and hopped into the driver’s seat of the yellow Porsche. The couple got into the back of his car and huddled close together.
“Mandy, you coming?” Goatee asked.
“No, I have a test,” Mandy, the redhead, said. “I’ll see you later.”
Grape waved stupidly at the drivers as the engines revved. You look like a goober, she told herself, but she could not stop waving.
“Move.” Mandy grabbed Grape by the arm and pulled her toward the sidewalk.
Grape tried to shake her arm free, but Mandy’s grip was surprisingly strong. “Let go of me.”
Mandy stared at her with an I-told-you-so look as the Porsches sped off, right through where Grape had been standing.
“Oh my God, were they going to run me over?”
“Not on purpose. I’m sure they just forgot you were there once they started their cars.”
Mandy shook her head. She stared after the Porsches as they pulled into traffic and sped away. Finally, she turned back to Grape and offered her an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that.”
“All of it, I guess.”
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather has just moved to Sortilege Falls and already she knows something isn't right. A small pack of teenage models, too beautiful for words, holds the town in their sway. The models have no plans on making Grape's life easy. But no matter how cruel they are to Grape and the other “Normals”, no one can stay angry with them for long.
Grape's life changes for the better, or so she thinks, when Mandy, the only “nice” model, befriends her. But that’s when the trouble truly begins. Mandy's friendship places Grape smack in the middle of a medical mystery that has the entire town on edge. One by one, the models fall ill from an incurable disease. Grape quickly realizes that the models' parents are hiding a secret, even as they watch their children die. To save her only friend, Grape will have to find the truth–and that means putting her life in danger.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Libby Heily began writing after spending years as an obsessive reader. She's written plays, screenplays, flash fiction, short stories, and novels. Libby studied Acting and Playwriting at Longwood College and Film Production at the Seattle Film Institute. When not spending time in made up places with invisible friends, she enjoys reading, running, hiking and performing improv in Raleigh, NC.
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