What was your inspiration that made you decide to write Izzy's Popstar Plan?
I used to be a musician, and, every once in a while, I still write music. One day while I was playing, a song came to me and from that song came the idea for my character, Izzy, a sixteen year-old musician trying to make it in the Hollywood music scene. Of course this new character needed a book, and that’s when Izzy’s Popstar Plan was born.
My two preteen daughters were watching a lot of Disney Channel shows such as Jonas and Hannah Montana at the time. For the most part, I have no problem with those shows. They’re full of music and creative energy, but overall the characters can be pretty shallow. So in Izzy’s Popstar Plan I wanted to create a teen that was creative, deep thinking, and more of a role model for my two daughters. I like the way Izzy turned out, definitely not Hannah Montana.
Did you have any difficulty writing through a young girl's point of view? How were you able to provide a consistent and very believable female voice for Izzy?
That’s a great question. It definitely wasn’t easy writing from this perspective. I have two preteen daughters and hanging out with them helped in a big way. I think what really helped though is that I usually didn’t think of myself as writing from a girl’s point of view. I was writing from a human’s point of view. Whether male or female, we all share a lot of the same hopes, fears, and heartaches, and focusing on those things helped kept the story believable. In fact, I recently got a message from a reader who thought that Izzy was a real girl. I guess that’s a compliment.
One character that stood out to me in your book was one of the International Popstar Challenge judges, Marshall Philips. If he were real, what would you like to say to him?
Marshall Phillips is basically a symbol of intolerance. He’s afraid that Izzy’s faith will offend viewers of the show, so he basically tries to shut her down. Like most conflicts, the problems he causes allow Izzy’s faith to mature and eventually shine even brighter.
The real life Marshall Phillips of this world usually aren’t good listeners, but, if he were listening, I would ask him, “What are you so afraid of?"
Izzy appeared to be close enough to her father that she was confident enough to give him access to her personal blog. How do you as a father maintain your closeness with your children? Did you ever experience feeling left out on your children’s lives?
I absolutely adore my three children, and I would never want there to come a day where we weren’t close. But maintaining that closeness isn’t always easy, especially in the middle of writing a book series. Izzy took a lot of time to write since there were so many pieces to put together. There were books to write, actresses to audition, videos to film, music to record, and I started growing concerned about the amount of time the project was taking me away from my kids. Without time, time to listen and share in their lives, I knew that that closeness would begin to fade.
At that point, I realized I needed to do something, so I decided to start taking each of my kids out to Starbuck’s individually once a week. Those nights with my kids gave me serious one on one time, where we could touch base and stay close.
What do you do when you are experiencing writer’s block?
Rest, listen to music, get inspired again, and always keep writing.
So far, your books seem to be doing well and gained mainly positive reviews. How do you deal with negative reviews?
Criticism is a normal part of the writing process, and it's something I've gotten used to. During the editing process, a book is critiqued and taken apart piece by piece, so, by the time a novel hits bookstores, an author is ready for whatever review may come. If a writer has an open mind, he/she can learn a lot from positive as well as negative reviews.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so negative reviews haven't really bugged me yet, though I'm sure if the majority of my reviews were negative, I would begin to panic. That being said, what bothers me most about some negative reviews is when I can tell a reviewer hasn't read the book. They've maybe scanned a few pages, enough to write something, but never really went past that. Izzy's Popstar Plan is a lot deeper than the cover or title implies, so if they don't go past the first few pages they've missed the whole point.
What do you love most about writing?
I love the beginning of a project, when an idea just pops out of nowhere, and you begin to scribble pieces of sentences and paragraphs. Then there’s the thrill of having your idea signed by a publisher. Knowing that your ideas will be shared with others around the world is an amazing feeling. The best part though, the absolutely best part of all, is when a life is somehow touched by the words you have written. That’s when you realize that all the hard work involved in writing a blog entry, article or book has been worth every minute.
What is your reading guilty pleasure?
Okay, I know this doesn’t sound very deep, but I still love reading comics. They’re fun, fast, colorful, and don’t take a lot of brain power to finish.
Who is one writer that you really look up to?
Definitely C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia series. I love the way his work has captured the hearts of readers from several generations. I also appreciate the way he wove what was most precious to him, his faith in God, into his books without being preachy about it. He let the story tell itself and that made the message rise to the surface naturally…more powerfully.
What advice can you give amateur writers?
Other than simply write, write, and write some more, I would tell a writer starting out to be brave enough to be honest. Heartfelt honesty allows readers to share in your heartaches and triumphs and audiences appreciate that.
Charlotte's Web author, E.B. White, once said, "I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all," and I definitely agree. It takes real courage to write great literature, literature that is honest and vulnerable. Readers appreciate emotion, weakness, and a candid sharing of "I can't figure life out sometimes". They appreciate it because, as fellow humans, that's who they are. So be honest, and others will honestly appreciate your work.
Thank you so much for joining us, Alex!
For more info on Alex Marestaing and his books, you can find him on:
Alex Marestaing's Blog