Interview: Mary Elizabeth Summer, YA Author

mesummerMary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, and her evil overlor–er, cat.

TRUST ME, I’M LYING, a YA mystery, will be released by Delacorte in Fall 2014. It’s a story about a teenage con artist named Julep Dupree who has to rescue her missing dad while running petty scams for her classmates to keep the lights on. It’s equal parts law-breaking, clever disguises, family secrets, and snark, with a little bit of romance on the side.

Follow Mary Elizabeth on her website.

Let’s see how Mary Elizabeth answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
Happiness is more a verb than a noun, I think. You have to make happy happen–and not just by setting and achieving goals, but by actually choosing to feel happy. That being said, I’ve often thought that happiness is overrated. Sorrow can be just as beautiful. Desperation and desire can lead to growth, to inspiration, to breathtaking art. For me, happiness is experiencing the entire depth and breadth of the human experience. Which, I guess, means I’m happy all the time. Ha.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
I am no exception to the general rule that authors love their playlists. Before I even begin a project, I generate ideas for the story from the songs that really draw me at the time that I’m brainstorming. So to pick one favorite song doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I can pick a favorite for a specific mood or from a particular band or for a particular project. But one song for all moments in time? Any answer would ultimately ring false to me.

So I’m bending the rules to tell you my favorite song from my TRUST ME, I’M LYING playlist: Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant. It encapsulates Julep perfectly and provided me a lot of insight into her character. I heard it first on the radio while driving to work. I immediately Shazamed it, and voila.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could do aerial acrobatics. It’s the closest we humans can come to flight without mechanical assistance, and besides it’s freaking gorgeous.

On what occasion do you lie?
I actually suck at lying. Big time. Just ask my mom. But I can occasionally get away with it for presents/surprises. If I don’t look the person in the eye while I’m talking. Maybe I should change my answer to which talent I’d like to have…

What is your present state of mind?
Discombobulated. I’m trying to juggle too many balls at once, as per usual.

What is your motto?
Know thyself.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
Easygoing. Life is so stressful already, I need people I can relax with.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
A bit. I do a seek/destroy for all ‘a bits’ in my manuscript. There’s always a bit too many.

Your favorite painting?
The painting my mom did of my sweet husky who passed away last year. I cried when she gave it to me.

What is your favorite journey?
From bathtub to bed. I might possibly be unduly biased by the fact that it is past my bedtime right now.

What is your favorite time of day?
My morning cup of joe. I’m usually at home, playing with my daughter, relaxing and enjoying life.

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
Chester from BUNNICULA. He’s a zombie-fighting, mystery-solving cat. How cool is that?

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
Go to Disneyland. Obvs.

Who or what is your first love?
Unicorns. No joke. I had unicorns all over my room when I was a baby, and I’ve been a horn-head ever since. I still have all my original My Little Ponies. The first book I fell in love with, which led to my lifelong passion for reading, which led to my writing obsession, was about, you guessed it, unicorns. I blame my parents.

What’s the last dream you remember?
I have crazy dreams. I often dream entire plot lines, which is seriously helpful, actually. Last night was weird, though, because I’m sick. I dreamed Benedict Cumberbatch was a loathsome, wretched, evil man. I can’t remember exactly what he did, but it was very, very bad. Which should have woken me up, in retrospect, because obviously Benedict Cumberbatch being evil could only ever happen in a dream. And once I realize it’s a dream, I wake up.

What’s your madeleine?
The smell of Irish Spring soap. Instantly snaps me back to family road trips and fantasy books and The Bangles.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?
Expression.

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