Author Lucy Silag was kind enough to answer a few questions in promotion of her January release Beautiful Americans which is available now.
1. Do you remember how the idea for Beautiful Americans first came to you? Was it an idea, a character, or something else?
It was the summer of 2006; I was hanging out at my aunt Jeanne’s house in Rhode Island and reminiscing about studying abroad in Germany and Hungary and how much fun it had been. I got the idea to write a book about a study-abroad program in Paris when I woke up the next morning, and spent the rest of the day hammering out the main characters as my cousin and I drove back to New York City in the rain. Paris seemed like the obvious setting for a young adult novel abroad, glamorous but still familiar in many ways. That night, I wrote the first two chapters. Alex and PJ were definitely the characters that came to me first, then Zack, then Olivia.
2. I really love the title of the book. Why did you decide on this? Did you have any other ideas that were in the running and do you care to share any?
I am terrible at coming up with titles! For the year I was writing this book, I’m embarrassed to admit that the working title was A YEAR IN PARIS. How boring, right? Then my agent and I were talking about my manuscript on the phone one day, and she said something about a scene being so “perfectly Paris,” and we decided that should be the name of the book. During the editing process, however, I was inspired to change the story so that this novel had a more mysterious quality, and I needed a less perky title. BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS seemed to have the right mix of international flavor and sexiness to connote what kind of book this is. I can’t take credit for it, though; my brilliant editor Lexa Hillyer was the one who suggested it to me.
(Because I still love the alliteration of PERFECTLY PARIS, I decided to use it for my blog: www.lucysilag.blogspot.com.)
3. How will you celebrate the release of your novel? Or how did you celebrate when it was picked up by a publishing company?
I can’t wait for BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS to be released on January 8th! My mom and I are having a party with old friends and family in Carmel Valley, CA, and I’m going to be doing some bookstore events in Iowa, New York, and Providence for my friends and family in those places during the last part of the month.
It was a wonderful coincidence that Razorbill signed up BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS two days before my friend Brian and I threw ourselves a huge karaoke birthday party in Brooklyn to celebrate our 25th birthdays. A bunch of friends came in from out of town, so I got to celebrate with a big group of my favorite people. It was amazing timing!
4. Are you currently working on any other story ideas? Anything you can let us know about now?
Well, I’m very busy writing the sequel to BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS, tentatively titled WANDERLUST. And after that, there will be a third novel to round out the BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS trilogy. I’m also working on an adult novel with a good amount of YA-crossover appeal that takes place in Germany, but that one is in very early stages. Right now it is all BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS, all the times!
5. As a freelance writer, how did you get involved in that type of writing? What publications and/or sites have you worked for in the past? Any advice for people wishing to go into freelancing?
I took a great travel writing class from the Gotham Writer’s Workshop in New York, which really helped me learn how to organize and pitch story ideas to magazines. I was also lucky my first year in New York to meet some good magazine contacts for whom I wrote my first freelance travel stories: one about Sarajevo for New York magazine, another about a trip to Guatemala for Real Simple Travel, and some other small pieces for the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook and the New York magazine website. I’ve written personal essays for Salon, Allure, and The Independent Sunday Magazine in the UK, and rather than travel stories, I’m working on more of those lately. My dream would be to one day write something for the New Yorker or the New York Times . . .
Freelancing is a tough business! I’ve been turned down or simply ignored so many times, but that’s the way it goes. My advice would just be to try to network as much as possible, because connections are priceless when it comes to getting professional feedback about your writing. I’ve learned a lot from rejections I’ve received–if someone has met you, they are a lot more likely to let you know why your piece isn’t going to work for them, and that can only improve your pitch next time.