"Q&A With Katy Loutzenhiser"
Book: If You're Out There
Author: Katy Loutzenhiser
"Katy Loutzenhiser grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dabbling in many art forms and watching age-inappropriate movies. After graduating from Bowdoin College, she found an unlikely home in the Chicago comedy scene and regularly sang improvised musicals in public. These days she writes YA books in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband. She is probably eating a burrito right now." (Source:katyloutzenhiser.com)
1. This was an amazing book for a debut novel, what was your writing process like?
Thank you! The writing process was actually pretty fun. I think I knew early on that this idea had real potential, and that gave me the confidence I needed to work from a sort of joyful place. I did struggle with defining the book (it was somewhere between a comedy, a thriller, a romance and a friendship story, which I worried might be a tough sell as I was looking for an agent) but I told myself to trust my instincts.
There were revisions when I signed with my agent, and even more revisions when the book sold to my editor, and that was a lot of fun too. The story went deeper, and the plot became more airtight, but I kept my voice throughout.
2. Where did the inspiration come from telling this story? Did anything like this happen to you personally?
The inspiration for IF YOU’RE OUT THERE came in part from my own experience of being ghosted, but I took this kernel of truth in a new direction. Losing a friend in this way was incredibly strange and sad, and it took me a long time to process.
But in the end, I had to accept it as one of my life’s little mysteries. Still, a thought kept bugging me: What if this had happened to a friendship I’d been more secure in? A soul mate friend? A rock? I got a little obsessed with this question. It’s what made me want to write the book.
3. Friendship is an important theme in this book, who has been an important friend in your life that has helped you along the way?
I’ve been lucky in that I couldn’t name just one. I’ve had close friends throughout my life, and even as our lives have changed with new cities, work, and relationships, those bonds have lasted. At some of my recent book events, I've celebrated with friends from childhood, middle school, high school, college, and adulthood.
It was sort of amazing to have that moment to reflect. My husband has always been good about maintaining friendships too, and a lot of his close friends have become mine as well. In a way, we’ve both extended our families – much like Zan and Priya.
4. Which character in the book do you think you relate to the most and why?
Sometimes I think I fawn over my main character less than the ensemble around her because as much as I tried to make Zan completely distinct from me, she kept feeling like me anyway. Zan is sensitive and stubborn, and uses humor to cope with hard things. On the outside, Zan probably has a harder shell than I do, but we’re similar in that the people in our lives mean the world to us.
5. A lot of aspiring authors would love to know how in-depth character development should be for a fiction publication at your level...
I think every character should be a fully formed person in your mind when you write, even if the reader only sees them for a short time on the page. I swear it translates when the author feels that connection, but that could just be me.
6. Although the topic of the book is more serious, you do a great job of keeping it humorous. How much do you believe your background with comedy helped to keep the story lighthearted?
My comedy background absolutely influenced this book. As an improviser, my strongest suit was creating emotional characters that were easy to relate to. I think human quirks and authentic dialogue can often be just as funny as something wacky or off the walls—because we can all go, “Hey, I know that feeling!” or, “Oh, I totally have that person in my life.” Doing shows, that “laugh of recognition” was something I always sought out, and I did the same while writing this book.
7. Was it your goal to shed a light on the present issues with social networks and “Catfishing” through fiction?
I don’t think this was ever a stated goal, but looking back, it’s clear I was hashing out some of my own discomfort with social media while writing this. We are all so close but so far. We know too much about each other, even people we haven’t seen or meaningfully interacted with in years.
Everyone is living their #bestlife all the time, to the point where being authentic, average or unhappy feels wrong. The weirdest part is, most of us are aware of the reality, and yet we keep scrolling and making ourselves miserable anyway.
8. What’s the best book you have read in 2019 thus far?
There have been so many great titles already, but a recent favorite was The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe. It’s so funny and heartfelt.
9. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
This is so tough, but I will say: whatever is coming out, don’t question it. Just start getting words on a page and then reflect on what you have after the fact. There may be a reason for whatever scenes you manage to squeak out, and they can lead you to the next thing.
Also, set manageable word count goals for yourself each day. Tell yourself that you don’t have to write anything amazing, but you do have to write. (Trust me, this is advice I’ve had to follow myself lately. Writer’s block is the worst!)
10. What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
Try to make someone else happy today—in big ways or small. Nothing against self-care (we all need to give ourselves permission to treat ourselves well and get whatever help or comfort we may need).
But acts of giving and helping just innately make you feel good. And they’re infectious. A “my treat” from a friend or a courteous gesture from a stranger on the subway can linger in my mood for hours.
11. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Absolutely! I have another on the way and while I can’t say too much just yet, there will be funny girls and cute boys. These are themes for me, I guess.
Places To Find More From This Author:
Facebook: Katy Loutzenhiser