Last week. I did a book review on Laurie Plissner’s new heart breaking but inspiring book, Screwed. The book followed the journey 17- year-old Grace Warren ventured on as she, discarding the idea of abortion, decides to have her unplanned baby.
Please welcome, Ms. Laurie Plissner as she spills the details on the hard work that went into creating Screwed and other interesting facts about herself.
Q: Is Screwed’s plot from personal experience or completely fictional?
The story is completely made up. I’m a big fan of the 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom series on MTV, and I was fascinated by all the relationships that get stirred up when there is an unplanned pregnancy.
Q: What made you want to write a story on a pregnant teenager?
While the context is teen pregnancy, it is really a story about family and the unconditional love that everyone assumes exists between parents and their children. Grace’s parents loved her as long as she was lovable, as long as she was easy to raise, but the moment she disappointed them, their love vanished and they told her that they hated her. I wanted to explore that relationship, the one where the angel loses her wings and how she deals with it when the love that she’d always depended on and assumed would always exist suddenly disappears.
Q: Grace chooses not to have an abortion, can readers assume that you are also pro-life?
Luckily I have never been faced with the decision Grace had to make. In the abstract, I would say I am pro-choice. It is such a personal decision. In real life, who knows what I would do? It is an impossible situation to imagine, and until you live it, I doubt you can have any idea how you would truly feel about it and what you would do.
Q: Why did you choose to send Grace off to survival camp instead of college?
Returning immediately to her old life as if nothing had happened wouldn’t give Grace the opportunity to get to know the new person she has become. During her pregnancy, Grace faces all kinds of challenges and surmounts them, sometimes just barely. Interacting with young girls who have faced different although equally difficult challenges and exploring the limits of her own body and spirit give Grace the confidence she needs to reenter the stream of life as this new person–giving her the guts to tell Charlie the truth as well as standing up to her parents, which is something the old Grace could never have done.
Q: What’s the next big step for Grace?
Grace has been changed forever by this experience. Trying to make amends for her mistake, Grace tests her mettle and learns that she is much stronger and more independent than she ever believed. When she goes off to college, she will use that newly discovered fortitude to make the most of her time there. Forced to grow up so fast, Grace can now slow down and enjoy her life, knowing that she did not compromise her principles and that she never has to.
Q: Were there any parts of the book that were particularly hard to write on?
It was a little tricky to write about Grace’s relationship with Charlie. Being attracted to a pregnant girl seems kind of pervy on the surface, but I was trying to convey Charlie’s maturity and depth of character. He wasn’t bogged down in Grace’s temporary physical situation; he could see who she was underneath. I tend to make the good guys in my novels really good, because as long as I’m writing fiction, I might as well create the boy I wish I’d met when I was in high school. That’s the beauty of fiction. I get to make all the rules, and it doesn’t have to be perfectly realistic.
Q: What advice would you give to teenagers who are in Grace’s position?
I hope that any teenagers who find themselves in Grace’s position have a strong support network. Being a teenager is hard enough without the added burden of being thrust into a very adult situation. Making the choice to terminate the pregnancy or carry the child to term is so fraught, and if one decides to go through with the pregnancy, there is the question of adoption. In that situation, I think it is essential to put the baby’s well-being above the teen parents’. It is understandable to want to keep the baby, but is that the right thing to do if a teen parent lacks the financial and emotional means to cope? Children don’t ask to be born, and teen parents must be as selfless as they possibly can in order to do right by that baby that they accidentally conceived.
Q: Are there any trends that you’re noticing in novels these days?
Books about depressing dystopian futures seem to be here to stay. I’ve never been much of a sci-fi fan, so I don’t personally love them, but I’m always a bit out of step with popular tastes. (I still wear penny loafers.)
Q: Is there somewhere in particular that you like to write?
I write on my laptop, usually in the living room or the kitchen.
Q: Are you a cat person or dog person?
I like dogs better than cats, but if I were an animal, I would be a cat, because I like my quiet time and I don’t require a lot of attention.
Q: What phrase in Screwed are you most proud of?
“Disaster had given her clarity . . .”
Q: Do you believe that the actions the characters took in the book were justified?
I don’t believe any of Betsy and Brad’s actions were justified. Although Grace made a mistake, she was still their daughter, and their cruelty, although it seemed extreme, was real. I know of relationships in which parents behaved this way (for different reasons).
Q: If you were in Grace’s parents’ shoes, what would your approach have been?
I have two children of my own, and I love them without reservation. There is nothing they could do that would change those feelings. Like I said in the book, a love between a parent and a child is fundamental, like gravity or breathing. In my mind, it exists on a molecular level. There is no transgression that justifies total abandonment. It is all right to reject your child’s behavior, but it is never all right to reject your child.
Q: If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you feel the title should be?
Late Bloomer. I never feel quite in sync. For example, maybe in a few years I’ll understand the point of Twitter.
Q: Are there any questions in your past interviews that made you feel like if you were being questioned by a sociopath?
Not that I can remember. The fact that people are interested enough to ask me any questions at all is pretty cool, so I’m definitely not going to judge.
Q: What did you think about this interview?
Really great. I enjoyed the thoughtful questions about the subject matter and the process. Thank you for taking the time to read my book, and I appreciate your generous review.
Laurie Plissner is the author of debut novel Louder Than Words (Merit Press), which was named one of “8 books to read after Twilight” (in the company of Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins), by Girl’s Life Magazine. Her follow-up novel Screwed comes out in May. Laurie is a Princeton- and UCLA-educated litigator. She gave up the courtroom for life as a full-time mom, although she could not overrule her love of literature. She lives with her husband and two teenagers in CT.