The Debut Authors Bash is an event that YaReads started in 2013. This is an event to promote debut authors through reviews, guest posts, interviews, promo posts, etc. The Book Beacon is proud to participate in this incredible event again this year! Today, we are please to introduce Lisa Freeman, author of Honey Girl.
The year is 1972. Fifteen-year-old Haunani “Nani” Grace Nuuhiwa is transplanted from her home in Hawaii to Santa Monica, California after her father’s fatal heart attack. Now the proverbial fish-out-of-water, Nani struggles to adjust to her new life with her alcoholic white (haole) mother and the lineup of mean girls who rule State Beach.
Following “The Rules”—an unspoken list of dos and don’ts—Nani makes contact with Rox, the leader of the lineup. Through a harrowing series of initiations, Nani not only gets accepted into the lineup, she gains the attention of surf god, Nigel McBride. But maintaining stardom is harder than achieving it. Nani is keeping several secrets that, if revealed, could ruin everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. Secret #1: She’s stolen her dad’s ashes and hidden them from her mom. Secret #2: In order to get in with Rox and her crew, she spied on them and now knows far more than they could ever let her get away with. And most deadly of all, Secret #3: She likes girls, and may very well be in love with Rox.
Can you tell those who don’t know a little about your book?
Honey Girl is about the coolest of cool girls with secrets and feelings that they never talk about. It’s about the mythology of the beach in the 1970s— a simpler time in some ways, yet more complicated because of the Vietnam War, the push and pull of the women’s rights movement, and the gay liberation. Nixon was in office, and Watergate was about to demean the integrity of the presidency for the first time.
The story is told by 15-year-old Haunani Grace Nuuhiwa who moves with her haole mother to Santa Monica after her father dies suddenly. Nani is thrown into a new world with a very established social order. The guys might have owned the waves on this beach, but it was the girls who stopped the intruders and gave passes to only the most beautiful.
Nani has to go through a series of initiations before she can join this lineup of girls. It’s either that or she’ll be forced to live in surf purgatory with her secrets. And Nani has more secrets than she knows what to do with.
Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?
No, I certainly haven’t always known. I started in film and TV as an actor and worked on projects like Back to the Future I and II, Friday the 13th, etc. I also did improvisation at The Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip, which was a dangerous place for someone young, but if you were fast on your feet you could earn a space, which I did. I was lucky to have the opportunity to watch the late greats like Richard Pryor, John Belushi, and Robin Williams to name a few.
There were only one or two women in the stand-up room at that time, so I stayed in the improv room. Later I went on to do the Rick D’s Morning Show and several spoken word albums. From there I kind of evolved into a writer. I learned by studying acting. After high school I went into conservatories. I never did a traditional academic program until I was an adult. That’s when I studied writing.
What inspired your debut?
Growing up on the beaches of Santa Monica and Hawaii inspired Honey Girl. My father worked in Hawaii, so I visited often. People assumed I was local because I was so dark. It made me more popular when I came back to Santa Monica and found my way onto incredible breaks at beaches like Will Rogers State Beach, which we refer to as State.
I went to Pali High and looked at the ocean all day instead of listening to the teacher. I would often ditch school and go to the beach, smoke cigarettes, and watch guys surf. But I myself never surfed. The option was never presented because back then, most girls didn’t surf. There were a few girls who did, and they are my heroes, as are the women who surf.
State Beach was a dangerous terrain that I will never get out of my head, and it seduced me into writing this story.
Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
First and foremost come my children who I get off to school. Then I go to write until they come home. I carry a notebook with me, so if I’m on the road, I don’t have to be tethered to electronics in order to be creative. I have a studio under a 100 year-old pepper tree and work in a small, dark room. I love writing longhand and then going to type for rewrites and final drafts.
Why do you write?
To get out my inner mean girl.
Which novelists do you admire?
In the YA genre I admire Tahereh Mafi, Ransom Riggs, Stephen Chbosky, and Tess Sharpe. For middle grade, I love Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle. My greatest inspirations are Maira Kalman, Rita Mae Brown, and Charlotte Salomon, who was a Jewish painter and storyteller killed by the Nazis.
Describe the route to your first novel being published.
The literary magazine Writer’s Digest hosted an agent Pitch Slam, where Thao Le from the Sandra Dijkstra agency allowed me to present a three-minute pitch for Honey Girl. From there, she asked to read the first 10 pages. She came back and asked to read the rest of the book and when she finished, she offered representation. Once the Sandra Dijkstra agency got ahold of Honey Girl, I knew it would sell and eventually be made into a film. And I’m happy to say that I’m halfway through the sequel that will be released Spring 2017.
What didn’t you expect to discover on your journey to publication?
I didn’t expect to be at Disneyland asking the fairy godmother how I was going to get my novel published. She gave me some of the best advice anyone could give me. With the wave of her wand, she told me, “Believe.”
What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Don’t talk to your friends about your story while you are writing it. If they don’t like it, you could stop writing, and that would be a tragedy.
What kind of life lessons—if any—has writing and publishing taught you?
I’ve learned to challenge my creativity by talking about the forbidden. I think it makes for good fiction. So I write about the most terrifying things I can think of or the last conversation I’d want to have with a person.
I don’t surf, but I get to surf every day with my characters. I can only dream about riding big waves, but my character gets to do it whenever I pick up my pen. It makes it fun to go to work every day.
Also, I think it’s worth noting that there is no way a writer can do it alone. So many people at Sky Pony are involved in the success of the Honey Girl books. I’m very grateful to my family, assistants, friends, and all the people in between the words that helped bring Honey Girl to life.
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1 of 3 copies of Honey Girl by Lisa Freeman!