Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Laura Toffler-Corrie

Posted on: January 2, 2011

As an avid reader, I participate in various online book groups. GoodReads is one group to which I belong. As a member, I regularly participate in their giveaway competition to win Advanced Reader Copies of new books. In August, I received The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz by Laura Toffler-Corrie. It is about two middle-school girls who stay in touch through email, a former librarian senior citizen, a conservative Jewish boy, a nerdish jock, and several normal characters with normal abilities, normal faults, and normal lives. I loved it, naming it one of my favorite finds of the year.

Laura T-C 190In December, author Laura Corrie-Toffler graciously agreed to both allow me to interview her and to write a guest blog. What follows is our interview. Please come back next week for her guest blog on the how-to’s of writing humor.

Allison: You grew up in New York City, which is also Amy’s hometown. What are your best and worst experiences as a New Yorker?

Laura: Actually, I grew up on Long Island, but visited the city often and lived in Greenwich Village during college. It’s a great question, though. I’ve had many of both!

Worst experience: One day on the subway, I didn‘t realize that the guy sitting next to me was kind of drunk and half asleep. When the subway screeched to a stop, however, he keeled over and his head landed, plop, right in my lap! Everyone cracked up, but I was astonished and mortified. Fortunately, the fall woke him. He sat up muttering ‘sorry,‘ but, needless to say, I quickly changed seats.

Best experience: So many, but I’ll tell you another subway story. I was on the train with these scary, rowdy boys. At each stop, people ran off, so I decided to get off too; I figured that I’d swing around into another car. But as I rushed out, one of the boys yelled, “Hey you!” I thought he was gonna mug/kill me, but he just smiled and said, “You forgot your purse.” Then he handed it to me and jumped back onto the train. It was such a nice New York moment! Unfortunately, I was so ashamed for assuming the worst of these guys, I walked the rest of the way home!

Allison: Why did you chose for Callie to move to Kansas? What knowledge or experiences of the Midwest did you draw upon?

Laura: The truth is, I have absolutely no knowledge or experiences of the Midwest, which is why I think Amy’s assumptions about Kansas are funny. She draws on images from Laura Ingalls Wilder books and her own ethnocentric feelings about being a New Yorker. I chose Kansas because it seems very far away, and I imagine it to be very different from New York city. I’m sure it’s a great place though, and I recently discovered that I have relatives there. So maybe I’ll visit one day.

Allison: Your main characters are Jewish. Why did you decide to integrate religion into your novel? Did your references to religion effect your abilities to find a publisher?

Laura: Although I’m not that religious, being Jewish is part of my identity, and Amy is a character close to my heart and personality. So she just came out that way, as did many of the other characters, who are based on some friends and relatives. The process of integrating religion developed when I discovered an intriguing, little known story about American Jewish history, and I decided to build the book’s mystery around it. Of course, once I added the character of very religious Beryl, it was fun to play with the relationship between him and Amy and their views about religion. Ironically, I never thought the Jewish element would help or hinder my chances for publication. I just hoped people would like it and feel it had universal appeal. Turns out I was right in that, even though my agent is Jewish, my editor (who liked the book enough to buy it) is not. So, go figure!

Allison: Why did you decide to write a book for the middle-school age group? What current middle school books do you like the most?

Laura: I wasn’t consciously aiming for the middle grade market at the time. Amy’s voice and the story just flowed that way, and I knew I liked the genre. There are classic MG’s I like from authors such as Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Madeline L’engle, E.L. Konisberg, Sydney Taylor. As for current books, I especially like ‘The Penderwick Chronicles,’ ‘Emma Lazarus Fell From a Tree,’ ‘Shakespeare’s Secret,’ ‘Stargirl,’ ‘Crispin, the Cross of Lead,’ and ‘Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man Mcginty Told Me,’ to name a few.

Allison: In your blog, ’Get to the Point,’ you referred to being told to ‘go back and revise’ and receiving offers to re-submit once you cut about 40,000 words. What wonderful scenes have we missed because of those cuts? How do you feel about the revision process?

Laura: I’m pretty certain that what was cut probably deserved to go; mostly parts about the mystery that dragged the story. There was, however, a cute play about Emus that got cut. Their names were Shmuey and Moishe. They sounded like old guys, lived on the plains and spent the day complaining and pontificating about religion. Maybe I’ll find a place for that scene one day! Regarding revision, I think that every writer fantasizes hearing ‘your work is perfect as is!‘ but I actually like the revision process. My editor is awesome. I believe that her keen eye and supportive suggestions absolutely make my work stronger.

Allison: What are you working on next?

Laura: My next book is a YA, tentatively titled, THE ACCIDENTAL SAINTHOOD OF JENNA BLOOM, and is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2011, also by Roaring Brook Press, MacMillan. It has a supernatural element but is humorous, in that it spoofs the genre.

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8 Responses to "Interview with Laura Toffler-Corrie"

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mary Beth Bass. Mary Beth Bass said: RT @LauraTofflerCor: I'm interviewed on Allison's Book Bag … […]

Great interview! I would love to see more author interviews on this site.

Thanks everyone for the compliments! This interview was fun to do. I will be interviewing more authors. Stay tuned. 🙂

Awesome interview!!!

Exquisite interview. Both interviwer and interviwee are objective and clear.
I love that although the midwest was chosen for the character to reside at a certain moment, the fact that Laura TC had no knowledge whatsoever about that culture helped her to develop the story rather than keeping its plausibility apart.


b bolt g

Nice interview, both of you!

Very nice interview, Laura and Allison. I like the question about the best and worst experiences in NYC. Funny what assumptions we live with. Great job!

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