Tuesday 11 May 2010

Interview - Liz Tigelaar (PrettyTough & Creator of CW's Life Unexpected)

Liz Tigelaar is extremely accomplished woman having worked her way up the ladder from being an intern at Dawson's Creek in 2000. Since then she's been a staff writer for Brothers & Sisters, American Dreams, Once and Again and developing her own show, Life Unexpected, that debuted on the CW this year.

Liz has also written two YA titles - PrettyTOUGH and Playing with the Boys - about teen athletes, something we don't often see in YA titles. Both of these titles (to be reviewed later this week) offer complex relationships between team mates and sisters, the dedication required to succeed in sports and cute guys :) The dialogue is snappy, the character motivations ring true and there's plenty of action packed sports scenes that even I could follow.

Liz kindly allowed me the opportunity to interview her about her YA writing and her work on Life Unexpected.

You've written a whole host of novels from companion titles for Dawson's Creek and American Dreams to working with PrettyTOUGH with Playing with the Boys and PrettyTough. What are the parameters in writing in conjunction with a product/company?
My background is television, so I am familiar with a lengthy approval process, and when someone else is footing the bill (so to speak), they get the final say with the story you tell. Because I'm used to collaboration and input, parameters are something I'm used to working within. For Dawson's, I knew it was a mystery series -- kind of Dawson's Creek meets Scooby Doo. For American Dreams, I knew to focus on the teenagers -- Meg, Roxanne, Sam, and Luke, with a little Patty thrown in! For Pretty Tough, I knew the goal was to portray woman as both feminine and strong. Once I know what they want, I kind of run with it from there.

The young adult demographic is obviously something you are drawn to with both your television and YA writing - what is the main appeal for you as a writer?
I love writing about firsts. Not just the obvious ones -- first kiss, first time you have sex, etc. I like the not obvious firsts, too -- the first time your best friend betrays you, the first time you see your parents as human, the first time you deeply hurt someone. A lot of those firsts happen in our teen years.

The depiction of realistic sibling relationships is often put on the back burner for romance in YA. I really responded to the shared story and alternating perspectives of the Brown sisters. Was it difficult to give both girls justifiable issues with one another and juggle the story accordingly?
I agree. Non romantic relationships often get put on the back burner, yet often we are so shaped by our platonic relationships -- parents, siblings, best friends, etc. I love exploring that because I feel that it's so under explored. I also love telling stories through multiple points of view -- where you see that it's not all one-sided. One person isn't good, while another is bad. We are all flawed people trying to do the right thing in the world -- but our own fears and insecurities flare up. For me, I love the challenge of seeing situations from all sides (maybe because in real life I tend to just see it from my own perspective!).

Both novels really show the dedication and endurance required in playing a sport to the best of your ability. You acknowledged some girls in the books - how influential were they in depicting high school soccer realistically?
Most of the girls on the soccer time were named after my real life soccer friends. In fact, many of the descriptions are accurate in some way. I lived with 8 soccer players in college -- those girls continue to be some of my best friends today -- so they helped me portray the sport realistically. My high school boyfriend was also a soccer player so he was a huge help as well. When I was writing the book, I joined a soccer team in LA -- inspired by Vanessa Lengies from American Dreams. We'd just finished shooting "Stick It" and she wanted to be on a team sport. It was perfect timing. We lost every game but my high school boyfriend coached us and we had a lot of fun.

I think you have a real knack for depicting the complexities of female relationships whether friends or sisters. What do you believe the secret is?
Probably that I have my own complex relationships to draw on! My sister and I are close in age but completely different. She's a do-gooder who helps people... I'm a TV writer! Ha! I also have had my heart broken far worse by friends than boyfriends.

The YA community (bloggers and authors) are HUGE Life Unexpected fans. You're waiting on news for a season two pick up (fingers crossed) - what might we expect in Lux's further journey?
You can expect so much for Lux. I can't wait to be back telling her stories. We want to explore how Lux feels now that she's been adopted. She has all her own fears and insecurities -- what if Cate, Baze and Ryan find out she's not what she seems? Bug has called her damaged goods, she's admitted that she's more messed up than they think. We'd like to show that. We want to explore more of her past, to see where she comes from and what she's been through. We want to see her become a normal teenager and have fun.

Interesting names seem to be a through line with all your projects (Pickle, Charlie Brown, Lux, Bug). Is there a name you are yearning to use?
I love weird names! Especially ones with the letter X. I don't know why. I just like having memorable ones. As for new characters on the show, I'll probably keep it simple (name-wise) in Season 2.

You're a big fan of FNL. Who's your guy - Saracen, Riggins or Coach?
Oh, absolutely Coach Taylor! He's a modern day Pa Ingalls. But I'd take Saracen and Riggins too. And Smash!

I was totally knocked for six (cricket reference) when Liz agreed to this interview. Currently Liz, her cast and crew and her audience are waiting to discover if the CW has picked Life Unexpected up for a second season. I have my fingers and toes crossed because who doesn't want to know what crazy hijinks will ensue (and if the Cate/Ryan marriage will go the distance....poor Baze).

Fantastic audio interview with MIPtalk - off the cuff discussion about Liz's teen years and her success in the industry.
Liz Tigelaar's LIFE UNEXPECTED Facebook page - full of personal videos, photos and updates from Liz herself.
Liz's Twitter


Chelsea said...

Great interview! I'm only partway through season one of Life Unexpected, but I hope it gets picked up--I know I will need more!

Steph Su said...

You've got me intrigued to read Liz's novels AND watch her TV show--that's what the best kind of interviews do! So thanks!

Donna Gambale said...

Alright, I'm generally not a sports novel girl..... but complex friendships and sibling relationships from the person who brought us Life Unexpected? I'm in!!!

John The Bookworm said...

Killer interview...My library has a copy of Playing With The Boys. I may have to set aside some of these galleys for it, cause it sounds too good! Though I worry that the sports will be a turn off. And a sibling relationship in YA? Bring it on!

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of this tv series before. I'm going to track it down now. Coming to the end of Season 9 of Smallville and need something to watch in my down time.

♫♥✿Chas @ LovLivLife Reviews✿♥♫ said...

I love Life Unexpected!=)

I did notice a familiar Dawson Creek face!!!

Sarah said...

What a fabulous interview! I love Life Unexpected and now I'm going to have to seek out Pretty Tough. LOVE her answers regarding FNL too. :D

kanishk said...

Great interview!
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Anonymous said...

Fantastic interview.
I love Life Unexpected--am thrilled to see it renewed for another season.

Keep up the excellent writing and characterization!


Anonymous said...

Fabulous interview! So glad it was picked up for another season!