Today, Olivia is chatting with Amy Talkington about her debut novel, LIV, FOREVER!
When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s a pretty sweet deal: her own studio, and Malcolm Astor just might be falling for her. But she’s viciously murdered a few weeks later.
Liv’s only other friend, Gabe, is now her only link to the world of the living—and to Malcolm. Together, they fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.
Olivia with YA-Mag: Amy, welcome to the Young Adult Magazine! Thank you for joining me today to discuss LIV, FOREVER! Which, let me just say, I was totally shocked when I first read that Liv is viciously murdered—I’m already invested in her!
Amy Talkington: I know, it’s very sad that she dies. But, the good news is that Liv lives on as a character. Her voice and spirit remain the same, and, in a way, she becomes more active and more alive after her death.
YA: Let’s talk about Liv. How did you two first meet? What makes Liv the perfect character to tell this story vs. Gabe or Malcolm?
Amy Talkington: Liv is a girl who puts up a tough front but really she’s terrified to be emotionally vulnerable. She doesn’t know how to love a person so she throws all her emotional angst into her art. Honestly, I thought I’d completely invented her, but as I wrote I came to realize I was exploring a part of my high school self. Like Liv, I wore some pretty serious emotional armor. For example, I distinctly remember when I had my first real, heavy duty make out session with a boy, I threw up. I mean not while we were kissing (thank God) but later that night. And then I dumped him the next morning when he was trying to tell me that he liked me. I just couldn’t face the idea of opening myself up emotionally to a guy. So, I poured some of that stuff into Liv’s character.
In my mind, Liv was always the one who needed to tell the story. That’s part of why I wanted to write this as a book rather than as a screenplay (I’m a screenwriter “by day”)—so I could explore her voice. I always wanted to see Liv’s entire journey—including her death and her ghostliness—through her eyes.
YA: What sets Liv’s story apart from other YA ghost stories, like THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold? What will readers find that isn’t anywhere else?
AT: I would hope that Liv would set the book apart—her journey, her voice. Liv is an artist and so she sees the world through art. And I don’t just mean that she references artworks and art materials (which she does) but she also kind of sees herself and her interactions from different angles and perspectives, like a painter.
Also, I tried to give the story some relevance. As I was developing the idea, the Occupy movement was happening and I was really struck by the prevalent feeling that the 1% would do pretty much anything to stay on top. That idea informed the conspiracy that I built at the Wickham Hall. I hope that it resonates.
YA: What non-book influences helped spark this story or your writing career in general.
AT: As I was writing LIV, FOREVER, I really enjoyed revisiting the music that I Iistened to in high school—all the cassette tapes (yep, cassette tapes!) that I packed up when I went off to boarding school. The Velvet Underground, Bauhaus, New Order, The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen (no, I was not a cheery teenager!). All those bands were on constant rotation as I worked on the book. Listening to their songs took me back to my high school self and helped me access some of those feelings I wanted to channel into Liv.
YA: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?
AT: There were so many I loved! There was my Judy Blume phase, followed by my V.C. Andrews phase, followed swiftly by my “I only read poetry and literature!” phase. During that final phase, I fell in love with Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. That book has it all. It’s smart and horrifying and romantic and really about something. And the fact that it had been written by such a young woman—she was eighteen!—nearly made my head explode.
As for now, there are still so many. One of my very favorites is Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Jandy is a poet and her protagonist sees the world in such a beautiful and authentically poetic way. Jandy has a new book coming out this year. I cannot wait!
YA: What is the story behind the title LIV, FOREVER?
AT: Well, I think the play on words and metaphors are pretty obvious. But I have a funny story about the title. One day my editor called to tell me that they’d all decided to title was “too young” for the book. My heart dissolved (I was pretty attached to the title). I almost had a crazy author meltdown! But then he finished his thought: they wanted to add a comma between “Liv” and “Forever.” Weirdly enough, I’d already made that change myself but hadn’t yet told them. Because Malcolm texts Liv a message that says “i’d wait for you, liv, forever” and I wanted to echo that in the title. Crazy psycho author meltdown avoided.
YA: Are they any plans to come back to ghost Liv in the future?
AT: I do have an idea for another Liv book. I think by the end of LIV, FOREVER, the reader has a pretty good idea about where the sequel takes Liv (and it’s really intense!).
YA: Author Lex Hrabe says the story delivers ‘Joss Whedon-esque’ delight, and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ writer Marti Noxon had strong praise as well. In what ways has your screenwriting career benefitted your storytelling? And, in your opinion, what of Liv’s story will really resonate with Buffy fans?
AT: Screenplays are lean, plot driven, and visual. So I think that’s how I ended up with a 280 page book. The story moves pretty swiftly. And, I’d like to think the writing is visual.
As far as the Buffy fans, I think I’ll steer clear of that one. I would not dare put words into a Buffy fan’s mouth. Those are some serious fans. I might get beat up!
YA: You first imagined this story as a movie! Now if you could cast the Dream Film of LIV, FOREVER, who would you cast as Liv, Gabe, Malcolm and the rest?
AT: I don’t ever write with actors in mind but now that we’re beginning to develop the movie version, I’m starting to think about it. As a director, I usually go for the best actors who somehow contain the essence of the character (vs. going for someone who looks exactly as the character is described). I think a pretty mighty triumvirate would be Elle Fanning (Liv), Ansel Elgort (Malcolm), and Ezra Miller (Gabe). That said, I bet by the time we’re casting there will be a bunch of new faces to consider.
YA: What’s up next for you in YA land? Any pet projects?
AT: Hopefully, it’s the next Liv book!
YA: All right, last one! If you could spend one day with Liv, what would you do together? What advice would you give to Liv about her past or future?
AT: I would definitely like to meet her at the art studio and paint, side by side. Maybe I’d paint a portrait of her and she’d paint one of me. And I wouldn’t give her any advice. Teenagers have to learn the lessons themselves, don’t they? And hopefully they live through it. Sadly, Liv doesn’t. Okay, excuse me while I go have a little cry.
YA: Thank you very much, Amy! And again, from YA Mag, congratulations on LIV, FOREVER! We look forward to hearing a lot more from you in years to come!
AT: Thank you!
Readers, be sure to check out Amy Talkington at her website www.AmyTalkington.com. Or follow her on Twitter @AmyTalkington.
LIV, FOREVER, published by Soho Teen, is available starting March 11th at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!
Olivia Hennis is a transplanted New England girl dropped by a tornado into the magical Land of Jersey. For more info, follow her on Twitter.