Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tough Girl

Today I want to welcome Libby Heily who is here to tell us about her book, TOUGH GIRL and answer a few questions. But first, Libby's bio:  I'm a bookworm and a writer, a nerd that's seen every episode of Farscape and can't wait for the next Dr. Who Season to begin.  I enjoy running and playing sports and am always hopeful the Baltimore Ravens will win a superbowl.  I love movies but don't care about the Oscars. I eat apples regularly but find apple juice bitter and don't like it. I'm a foodie and a beer snob.  I eat babies.  Okay, just baby carrots.  I studied acting, video production and creative writing.  I've had very few jobs that reflect any of those years of study.  I am Libby Heily, and it's nice to meet you.

Thank you for coming, Libby, and now, for the questions...

First, where did the idea for TOUGH GIRL come from and how long did it take from start to publication?

The idea for Tough Girl came to me rather slowly.  I knew I wanted to write a story where a child slips away into a dream world.  Alice In Wonderland and my own habit of daydreaming were huge influences on the novel.  A second project I had in mind was a film script about four siblings that were part of a crime family and had to fend for themselves when their father died.  I thought about the two separately a good bit, usually while running, and slowly they merged over time.  All the little nuances, characters, and world building (2 worlds) came over the two years it took me to write the novel. 
Who did you model Reggie after? A single person? An amalgamation?

Reggie's kind of her own person.  Physically, I based her on a girl I knew when I was in elementary school.  She lived up the street from me and she was incredibly thin and always looked worn down.  Reggie's personality isn't based on anyone I know.  Reggie and I grew acquainted through a long writing process and through rounds of character journals.  She was very elusive at first.  She has a bit of my practicality but she's also part wishful thinking on my part—I would have loved to have had her common sense and courage as a kid.

What made you decide to self-publish?
I took a lot of risks with Tough Girl, both in plot and in style.  I melded two worlds together but did not simplify their link to each other.  I wrote in a gritty, sparse style that is unusual for the type of story I was telling.  I used a lot of pronouns and wrote in 3rd person singular instead of 3rd person closed or first person.  My goal was to create distance from the story in a subtle way through these choices in order to emphasize how Reggie was both interpreting her world and distancing herself from it with her fantasy life.  

The advice I received to get Tough Girl published was to make it more like other books.  I was told to age Reggie up for a broader audience, to slow the pace down more, to make the connections between TG's world and Reggie's more obvious, and to use 3rd person closed to let the audience into Reggie's head more.  There would have been nothing wrong with this approach, but it was not the story I wanted to tell nor was it the way I wanted to tell it. 

Self-publishing allowed me a great deal of artistic freedom.  Tough Girl is my first novel and I had no desire to compromise even if it meant earning more money or gaining the respect of those who think poorly of self publishing.

What has been the hardest part of the process?

Every step of it, actually.  :)  I don't want to sound like a whiner, but writing is not easy for me.  The process has fun moments and of course I enjoy it, but it can easily turn into grueling work.  I struggled through three drafts just to nail down the plot and then a fourth draft and multiple rounds of editing to get the book how I wanted it.  My favorite story about writing Tough Girl is that after the second draft I decided to never write again and cried myself to sleep.  Then I woke up, and started a new draft.  But please understand, I love writing.  It's just killing me slowly is all.  :)

Now for the easy part…

What’s your favorite thing about the state you live in?

I'm a recent transplant to North Carolina but I have to say my favorite thing about living here is the people.  It's a very friendly, relaxed place and I feel lucky to live here.

If you could live anywhere for a year where would it be and why?

In the ocean, with the ability to breathe under water and eat raw fish without dying.  I've always wanted to live in the ocean.  If reincarnation is real, I'd like to come back as a fish or an octopus.

Did you ever play an instrument and if so what? If not, what instrument do you wish you could play?

Ugh, I wish I had musical talent.  Not a scrap in me at all.  However, if I could play an instrument it would be a toss up between an accordion and the drums.

Favorite Hostess dessert you’ll miss the most?

Not a Hostess fan.  I love desserts though, just never really got into Hostess.  I will miss my sister eating twinkies, she loves them.

Last three books you read?

Sacre Blue by Christopher Moore.  Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert.

And this is Libby's book, which you can buy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads.

A big thanks to Libby for coming by and if you get a chance, hop over to her blog (just click on her smiling piccie) and say hi :)


  1. You told the story the way you wanted to tell it - good for you!
    Not a Hostess fan either. And yes, people are very friendly here in the south.

  2. Whoo hoo! Thanks for having me over! And thanks for visiting Alex! You must wake up very early!

  3. Thanks for sharing why you chose self-publishing Libby. Good luck with your book.

  4. congrats to Libby on her book!

  5. Kudos to you Libby for sticking to your guns and writing the book you wanted to write.

  6. I've cried and given up writing so many times only to wake up and start again too. It's madness!! Well, a lovely sort of madness most days. :))

    1. Thank goodness I'm not the only one!

  7. I love reading the story behind the story. Great interview, you two! :)

  8. Very interesting! And I love Libby's photo.

  9. I call that my "trapped me" photo.

  10. Congratulations on your book and I think it's awesome that you brought it into the world exactly how you wanted it to be instead of letting someone change your vision of it!

  11. Thank you every one who has come by today to say hi to Libby and wish her well with her book. And thank you Libby for stopping over. I love learning about everyone's process and how their books form and grow.

  12. Marcy - I am with you on Dr Who.

    Libby - good luck with the self publishing experience!

  13. This book sounds terrific, and I totally respect Libby's decision to self-publish rather than compromise or undermine her vision. I've already bought this book, and am looking forward to reading it. And hey, Libby! This could be the year for the Ravens. As for my Falcons, guess we'll have to keep on saying the same thing we've been saying for far too long: maybe next year. As a former Baltimore gal, guess I'll have to root for the Ravens, too, rather than for those dirty dogs who whupped the Falcons.

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