Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Lindsay Ribar, whose debut novel THE ART OF WISHING hits the shelves this week.
The Art of Wishing is about Margo McKenna, who has a plan for just about everything–from landing the lead in the school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie’s ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn’t know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else’s hands?
But Oliver is more than just a genie–he’s also a sophomore in Margo’s high school, and he’s on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him.
A whole lot more.
What was the piece of this story that first inspired you? Was it an image, a character, or an idea?
The starting point for The Art of Wishing was an idea that very quickly led to a character. I’d wanted, for a long time, to write a paranormal boy/girl romance where the girl was the alpha of the relationship – and when the genie idea occurred to me, I knew I’d found the right vehicle for that kind of story. Genies are interesting because, unlike many supernatural beings, they often play a submissive role to their human masters, whether by choice or by necessity. Usually, though, submitting to a master pisses them off. They want more power than they have, so they screw around with their masters, usually by deliberately misinterpreting wishes. But that kind of genie has become so common and expected (seriously: look up “Literal Genie” and “Jackass Genie” on TVTropes.org), that I found myself wanting to explore something a little different.
That was how Oliver began: the genie who actually enjoys what he does. The guy who gets his kicks by being bound to a master, and by giving other people what they want. Sort of the classic beta male. He was the idea/character that kickstarted The Art of Wishing. But if Oliver was the core of the premise, Margo was the core of the plot – because it takes a unique sort of girl to fall for that particular sort of guy.
Your book is set in the very relatable world of high school–but with genies! What was it like adding a magical element to an otherwise realistic setting?
Surprisingly easy! I read a lot of paranormal YA, and I love shows like Buffy and The Vampire Diaries, all of which use similar conceits. But besides being constantly immersed in paranormal high school stories, I was one of those people who never quite felt comfortable in school when I was a teenager. I had things that made me happy, sure – like performing in the plays, singing in the choir, and learning French – but overall, it was a weird experience. I constantly felt, as I’m sure most of my peers did, like I was the odd one out. Like I was experiencing the world in a different way than everyone else around me. From there, it’s not actually a huge leap to get to “Magic is real, and I’m the only one who knows about it.”
You’ve created a genie mythology all your own in this book. What kinds of research did you do to write about them? How did you decide which “classic” genie qualities to keep, and which to change or create on your own?
One of my favorite things about writing this book was that I got to rewatch Disney’s Aladdin (don’t ask me how many times) and call it “research.” My research was all over the map, actually: Aladdin, old episodes of I Dream of Jeannie, bits of the Quran, stories from The Thousand and One Nights, hours of poking around on TVTropes… you name it. And the most important thing I found out was this: Genie mythology is the least consistent thing in the entire world.
In some ways that was frustrating, but in other ways it was liberating, because that basically meant that I got to do whatever I wanted. There were certain classic elements that I wanted to keep – namely, the idea of a genie being bound to an inanimate object (in Oliver’s case, a silver ring), and the three-wishes thing ** – because they provided a structure within which I could feel comfortable working. And a structure that readers will find familiar, too.
But aside from those two things, anything was fair game. I pulled some things from other systems of magic; I made other things up completely. Nothing like writing a paranormal romance to make you feel like a tiny god.
** This isn’t as classic as you’d think, actually. Although the three-wishes trope itself goes back to Ye Olden Dayes of Yore, “three wishes” and “genies” didn’t intersect until less than a hundred years ago, as far as I can tell.
This book is about music as much as it’s about magic. What music did you listen to while writing it? Like Margo, did you do musical theater in high school?
Oh, not just high school. I was actually a musical theater performance major in college. (“Thank goodness that phase is over,” says everyone who’s ever known me.) So I definitely pulled from that cache of experiences in order to write the rehearsal scenes.
Weirdly, though, my novel soundtrack (yes, I have one; don’t judge me) doesn’t include any musical theater at all. When I write, I tend to find that I can listen to specific artists, albums, and songs as a means of getting into my characters’ heads. If I want to access Oliver’s thought processes and mannerisms and such, I listen to Carbon Leaf or Great Big Sea or Matt Nathanson. For Margo, it’s Neko Case or Brandi Carlile. For Xavier, it’s Suzanne Vega or the Indigo Girls.
The upside of those associations is that I know I can always come back to those artists if I need inspiration. The downside is that I’ll probably always associate some of my favorite songs and artists with Margo’s insecurity, Oliver’s evasiveness, and Xavier’s, um, homicidal tendencies.
Yours is one of my very favorite titles: THE ART OF WISHING. How did you come up with it? Did you always have it in mind, or did the title evolve as you wrote the book?
Well, hey, I’m glad you like it! I definitely didn’t always know this book would be called The Art of Wishing. When my agent sold the book, its title was The Fourth Wish, which is plenty evocative, but doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Before that, working titles included Wish and That Genie Thing and, occasionally, Arrrrgh. The current title is the result of much brainstorming that happened in a long email chain between my editor and me.
Let’s pretend that you found Oliver’s ring instead of Margo. What would your three wishes be?
Well, I know my first would be a health-and-fitness sort of thing: to always be in the best possible shape, physically and mentally, for my age and body type. And if I had enough power, I’d make that apply not just to me, but to as many of my friends and family as possible.
The second one: probably some kind of financial stability.
And the third? Hmmm. I’ll have to get back to you on that….
Since this is a trilogy, what can we look forward to in future books (and when can we read them)?
Well, without giving too much away, I’ll say that The Art of Wishing ends with Margo’s life changing in a pretty drastic way. She spends a lot of the second book dealing with the fallout from that change – and trust me, there is plenty of fallout. Margo also delves deeper into Oliver’s past, finds out more about the nature of his relationship with Xavier, and comes across some information that might have the power to change both their futures… all while still in rehearsals for Sweeney Todd.
There is also some serious gender-bendiness, a lot of secret-identity shenanigans, and (shockingly) kissing. Like, way more kissing than in the first book. And possibly a little bit more than kissing, too….
Hooray! And as this community is “All for One and OneFour KidLit,” we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid:
First of all, that is the best motto ever.
Second of all, I’ve been narrowing this down steadily over the years, and I think the three books/series that stick out the most for me are:
The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
Redwall by Brian Jacques
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Thanks for stopping by, Lindsay, and congrats on your debut!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lindsay Ribar grew up in New Jersey, where the only logical thing to do after high school was to move to New York. She majored in drama and English literature at NYU, and now works in book publishing, where she reads other people’s novels by day and writes her own by night. She owns approximately twelve bazillion CD’s, attends far too many concerts, and mainlines nerdy television shows like it’s going out of style. She is fond of wine, Ireland, musicals, long walks around Manhattan, and the color blue.
This interview was conducted by OneFour member Rebecca Behrens, and is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.
|Rebecca Behrens lives in New York, where she works as a production editor. Her favorite things are em-dashes, Central Park, running, and doughnuts. Her MG debut, WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE (Sourcebooks, Winter ’14), tells what happens when a lonely first daughter finds Alice Roosevelt’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of a White House closet.|