Q&A with Luisa Plaja

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Along with Bookbabblers Aly and Amber, we put our questions to Luisa Plaja, author of Split by a Kiss and Swapped by a Kiss..

What are your favourite books from your childhood?

I used to read everything I could get my hands on when I was a child! I read my way through the children’s section of the local library several times over. My favourites were always books about friendships and relationships – something which hasn’t changed! My all-time favourite as a child was a book called Masha by Mara Kay, with Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers coming a very close second.

Turning to your own books, which character from the series do you feel you can most relate to?

This is a hard question because all my characters have bits and pieces of me in them (of course!) I love Rachel – I think I want to be Rachel, fighting her school’s social injustice with her intense intensity.  I’m probably more like Jo, though, getting into embarrassing situations and finding life a big joke half the time (in a good way). Oh, and I share Jo’s love of Buffy.

Are any events from the books personal experiences?

Oh yes – lots of them! Well, they’re based on personal experience. I’ve been British in the USA and I’ve felt like a foreigner in Britain (I’m British, but I’m also Italian), so some aspects of the culture shock in both books are definitely mine. Some of the more embarrassing incidents in both books are also based on personal experience, though I’ve embellished them for fictional purposes, and for fun. Oh, and occasionally, I’ve gone the other way and toned them down instead. I think I’ll leave it there…

By the end of Swapped by a Kiss, I got the impression that Josie and Rachel remained at a distance rather than the switch bringing them closer together, did you decide this for a particular reason?

Thank you for this wonderful question! It’s always fascinating to hear what other people take from my books, and this one is particularly thought-provoking. It has made me think about the way that body swap fiction is often focused on the swappers strengthening their bond with each other – for example, the mother-daughter pairing of Freaky Friday, where each party emerges more understanding and tolerant of the other. I suppose Swapped by a Kiss is slightly different because the reason for the swap wasn’t any kind of animosity between the girls. No one said, “Right – I’ll show you how tough it is to be me and then you’ll understand!” Instead, I think the girls escaped into each other’s bodies for a holiday from being themselves. As Jo says: “Rachel’s body could be the perfect place to hide.” So I think Swapped by a Kiss is more about the girls coming to terms with their own lives rather than strengthening their friendship with each other. That said, I do think they develop a certain appreciation of each other that wasn’t there before.

Is there a message or moral that you want us readers to take away after reading the series?

Like all writers of fiction, I’m mostly just telling stories. But if anyone takes away anything positive from my books, I’ll be very happy! I love writing about self-acceptance and identity, and I particularly like looking at the way everyone makes mistakes with their relationships – and it’s inevitable, really – but they can still make things right and be happy. I think, above all, I like showing that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. (Tori Windsor would now ask me whether this answer is from a lame TV movie!)

What are you working on at the moment?

A standalone novel for publication in spring 2011.

And finally, how did Chicklish come about?

It was founded by a group of writers including me and Keris Stainton (author of Della Says: OMG!) as a place to discuss the teen novels we loved. At the time we started the site, in 2006, the kinds of books I love most (the ones known as ‘teen chicklit’) were rarely reviewed anywhere, and you often had to dig hard to find out anything about them. Luckily, this has changed in the past four years, at least online, which makes me very happy! Chicklish now reviews and features all kinds of books for teenagers . You can find out more at http://www.chicklish.co.uk

Thank you very much for interviewing me, Bookbabblers!

And thank you, Luisa!