Interview with YA Speculative Fiction/Feminist Fiction Author Lisa A. Kramer

Lisa A. Kramer has spent her life learning, creating, and exploring the world through theatre, writing, traveling and collaborating as an educator. She has lived in nine states and two countries (including Japan). She holds a PhD in Theatre for Youth, an MFA in Theatre Directing, and a BA in English Language & Literature and Theatre. She has published non-fiction articles in journals specializing on Theatre for Young Audiences, as well articles aimed at young people for Listen Magazine. In addition to young adult novels, she has ventured into the world of short stories, and has stories for adults in several of the Theme-Thology series published by and available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. When not writing, Lisa shares her love of the arts and the power of story as co-founder of heArtful Theatre Company and as adjunct faculty at various colleges and universities. She also spends time enjoying New England with her husband, daughter, and two dogs from her home base in central Massachusetts.
Her latest book is the YA speculative feminist fiction, P.O.W.ER.

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Can you tell us what your book is about?

P.O.W.ER is about a world where women and girls live restricted lives. They are not allowed to learn to read or write, and if they do not marry by the time they are 18 they are forced into training programs to learn how to become proper women. Andra BetScrivener feels trapped by the system especially when she turns seventeen and faces the pressure of the law. On that birthday, however, Andra discovers that she has special abilities—she has always been able to read even without instruction, but now she learns that she also has the ability to write some things into reality. As she tries to understand her power, she learns that there are other women and girls who have special abilities that the government wishes to destroy or control. Andra must learn to control her own power while helping other women and the men who support them come together to create a better world.

Why did you write your book?

I wrote this book because we are living in a world which does not value the contributions and abilities of every member, especially women and girls. Throughout the world women’s rights are being threatened—and too often women are only valued for their ability to make babies, or treated like property. I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world that doesn’t respect her for everything she has to offer.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

I started working on this book as a part of a course I was taking with Long Ridge Writer’s Group, and one of the assignments was to map out the book as much as possible. So for this one I had a pretty clear direction of where it was heading. However, I find that my work really changes as I write. My characters take me on the journey, and I follow where they lead. For P.O.W.ER I knew basically what had to happen, but how we got there was a discovery.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Andra is having a meal with the leaders of the rebel group, the Freedom Readers, while they wait for the arrival of Professor Albert. His arrival will prove that Andra can make things happen through the written word. When he arrives, he comes with a surprise guest as well.

Can you tell us about your family?

I have a husband (Nathan), a daughter (Sarah) and two dogs (Lizzy and Jasper). We are a creative and somewhat unique family who live in central Massachusetts. Nathan, is a technical director/designer for theatre who works mostly in a university setting. He also builds puppets and designs stained-glass ornaments on the side. During the summers he packs up and heads to Iowa where he works at a summer theatre. We join him there once Sarah is done with school and dance recitals. She is on the competition team, plays saxophone, and is on the student council.  She’s had a fun life for an eleven-year-old including: living in four states, being in professional productions at the summer theatre, and helping build and paint sets since she was about five years old. In addition to writing, I am adjunct faculty in theatre and co-founder of the heArtful Theatre Company . . . so we lead very busy lives. Of course, we always have to make time to come home to our dogs who are fabulous and furry annoyances that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

We live in a world where it is simultaneously more difficult to get published and less difficult. By this I mean, getting your foot into the door of a traditional publishing house takes a will of steal and unimaginable patience. Doors slam everywhere you look. It can be very easy to feel you soul being crushed and to doubt you have any talent whatsoever. At the same time, there are numerous other options that are gaining respect, but bring with them other issues like publicity and reaching readers and everything else that goes with it. Add to that the fact that many people say they don’t read fiction, and it can leave you wondering “why bother?”

The answer to that question, for me, is simple. We bother because we have stories that needs to be told. Stories are what connect us with one another. Stories share ideas, create inspiration, and give people hope. But, if you really want to write, then you have to write a story that inspires you and not try to fit in the mold that will sell. The stories that matter the most are the stories that you can’t resist telling. I believe those are the stories that will live on. If you look back at the novels that have made a mark in history, those authors weren’t writing to the market, they were creating the market. They were telling the stories they needed to tell, using the language and style they needed to say it. They didn’t limit themselves to a genre—they became the examples that defined genre. If you, as a writer, limit yourself because someone says “we can’t sell a book that crosses genre” or “we don’t know where to put that on the shelves” then you aren’t writing to your full potential. Sure, this may mean that you never become rich and famous, but I ask you this—are you writing to become rich and famous, or to fulfill something undefined that can only be expressed through story?

For me, much of the joy of writing and reading is the sense of discovering and learning about lives that I do not know. It’s about taking journeys into a time, a place, or a character that is different from me yet still connects to my understanding of the world because it expresses ideas that join us all as humans. When I compromise that journey, and either write (or read) toward someone else’s expectations, I simply don’t enjoy it as much. So my biggest advice to anyone who wants to write fiction is enjoy the journey and write the story you need to tell. If you write it, people will read it.