Louise Rozett , of Hamden, is an actress and a playwright and sings in a band. And now she’s a debut author, too. Her first book, Confessions of an Angry Girl, comes out at the end of August, published by Harlequin Teen.
Louise attended Hamden High and then earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vassar College and a master’s in acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University.
Visit Louiserozett.com for more.
Meanwhile, we’re pleased to welcome Louise to Books New Haven and hear about her writing process, and about her new book.
Tell us about your new book.
Confessions of an Angry Girl is about Rose Zarelli, a high school freshman with rage issues. She’s having a tough year because her father lost his job and took work as a contractor in Iraq, and was killed. On top of that, she likes the “wrong” guy, and his scary girlfriend is now her nemesis; and her best friend is suddenly infinitely cooler than Rose and talking about losing her virginity. Rose isn’t ready for many of the complex issues that arise in high school—especially not now, when she’s learning how to manage grief—and she finds herself without much of a support system at a crucial moment in her life. It really makes her angry.
Where did the germ of the story come from? How did you first know you were going to write this story?
The character of Rose just came into my head one day, when I was writing a book for adults. The book’s chapters alternated between the present and the past (high school), and I realized that I was really drawn to Rose when she was 14, more so than when she was 30 (although I still really like those chapters). So I pulled out the high school chapters and strung them together to see what I had. And that’s when I realized that I had an Angry Girl on my hands.
I’ve always been fascinated by how girls feel and express anger, probably because it took me a long time to understand that I was allowed to be angry. I think girls are somehow subliminally—or maybe not so subliminally—taught that they are supposed to be nice, quiet and accommodating, and while those things have their place in certain situations in civilized society, they shouldn’t automatically overrule the expression of emotion. Girls should be able to feel and express their anger without being told that they aren’t being polite.
Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?
I was puzzled by this book for a while when I first starting writing it, which I’m now realizing was almost 12 years ago. I worked on it on and off for about 6 years before I realized what I wanted to do with it. And then even once I realized that, I let it languish on my hard drive for a while. But at a certain point about 3 or 4 years ago, it really started to call to me after I had become interested in YA literature, so I decided to go for it and see if I could tell Rose’s story.
Do you have a writing process you could share with readers, a way you like to proceed when you’re writing a book? Are you a planner, who maps out everything in advance, or a “pantser,” who writes by the seat of your pants?
I’m often envious of writers who have a clearly defined process, because I assume that it must spare them the agony of wondering how they are going to get what’s in their heads onto the page. I just sit down and start with whatever’s in my head. And I’m definitely a “pantser”—I literally can’t outline in advance. The ideas don’t come to me until the voices start talking, so to speak. I often feel like I’m just channeling characters who are dictating to me what happens in the story. I love it when they’re talking to me—sometimes I can barely keep up with what they’re saying (which, I must add, makes me very grateful that I learned how to type properly at Hamden High—I’m fast, thanks to that class!). For me, the outlining comes after the first draft, during the revision process. That’s when I like to tack things up on the wall or create a master document. When I’ve got a draft to work with, I can start to see the issues with structure and character arc, but I need the draft in order to do it.
How do you get yourself to write when you don’t feel inspired? Is there anything that can bring that mood, or voice, back to you?
There are definitely days when I don’t have the energy to have all those voices in my head. And I let myself off the hook on those days—it doesn’t do me any good to sit down and stare at a blank screen. If I’m feeling uninspired, I turn to books, film, and TV. If I read or watch something that is really well written, even if it couldn’t be more different than what I’m working on at the moment, I usually want to get to my computer and start writing the moment it’s over. Right now, I’m watching the first season of The Walking Dead, written by Frank Darabont, and it’s a pretty profound experience for me. The series asks what human beings are capable of in the face of disaster, and what it means to be human, which are questions that really fascinate me. The writing is often so good that I feel like I learn by leaps and bounds when I watch it. I felt that way about The Wire, too, which I think is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV.
When did you first know you were a writer?
I studied psychology in college and acting in graduate school. It turns out that both courses of study have really helped me as a writer. I’ve been writing on and off for most of my life, but I don’t think I really saw myself as a writer until I was a senior in high school and Julian Schlusberg—who was a spectacular drama teacher at Hamden High and is now at The Foote School—offered to mount a student-directed production of a play I had written. He generously provided me with one of those moments of true validation that change how you see yourself, and thus have the power to change the course of your life.
If you weren’t a writer, what job would you like to do?
I don’t act very much anymore, and I miss it—I’d like to get back to it someday. I did musical theatre when I first moved to New York, and it was pretty magical. I still dream of working with Stephen Sondheim. (Find me a musical theatre performer who doesn’t!)
What’s your favorite, and least favorite, part of the writing process? One writer describes the “sticky phase,” when everything you see and hear seems destined to slip into your novel somehow. Does that happen to you? Do you love the first draft, or prefer the last revision?
My least favorite part of writing is the first draft, which might have something to do with my being a “pantser”! The revision process, however, I find delicious. That’s not to say it’s easy for me, because it’s absolutely not. But there’s something about the editing and tweaking and cutting and pasting and problem solving that really appeals to me. Revising is often a much clearer process for me than writing the first draft. (I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself—I’m doing revisions on Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend, the sequel to Angry Girl, right now!)
What’s your process of revision? Do you have readers who give you advice? At what point do you enlist their aid?
I do have a writer’s group, and I have a few trusted people who read early drafts and give me feedback. But I have to be very careful about when I enlist their aid. If I do it too early, I can start to feel insecure. I have to do it when I’m clear enough about the story I’m trying to tell that I can filter the feedback properly and say to myself, Yes! That’s a great point! or No, that’s not right for me—I can let that one go by. But the people who read my stuff are so good, it’s usually the former!
Readers tend to think that everything authors write is autobiographical. How do you handle those sorts of questions—people assuming that everything in your book really happened to you?
I’ve been wondering lately if my high school friends will see themselves in the characters in Confessions of an Angry Girl, particularly because I borrowed a few first names—they helped me to get back into the high school mindset. But the truth is that the characters I write about really are amalgams of lots of different people and ideas and concepts that have affected me in various ways over the years, and I don’t think I could separate all those influential strands if I tried. I do think there is some of me in Rose, but my high school experience was a lot easier and a lot more fun that hers is.
Have you ever written a character who’s close to someone you know, and have you worried that that person will be furious with you?
I haven’t, but there is someone in my life who I really want to write about who I think would ultimately be hurt by my portrayal of her. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) for me, she’s such a character and so recognizable that I don’t think I can do it! Although now that I think about it, she sees herself very differently than the world sees her, so maybe she would be recognizable to others but not to herself. I’m not sure I’m courageous enough to find out!
Do you procrastinate? What’s your favorite mode of procrastination when you’re supposed to be writing?
I do procrastinate—I procrastinate like crazy. And that generally takes the form of emailing people, making social plans, networking, eating chocolate, going to the gym…the list could go on forever. But I’ve realized that most of the time, when I think I’m procrastinating, my brain is actually solving a problem or generating an idea. I’ve learned to give myself that time (within reason!), because it usually pays off.
What about being a writer has made you truly happy?
Writing is very different for me than singing and acting—I’m not tortured by writing in the same way I am by singing and acting. I used to think this meant that I’m not a real writer—and in fact, I’ve had people tell me that—but now I think it means that I have a connection to writing that is simpler, cleaner, less messy than my connection to acting and singing. For example, my relationship to singing is so complicated and dark and twisted sometimes that I can hardly bear to listen to music because all I can hear is what I can’t do, what I’ll never be. But I can be happily inspired by great writers without feeling despair over the fact that I will never be William Faulkner. I’m not sure why I feel that way, but I love it—I love that I can enjoy and be inspired by the work of others while still appreciating my own work.
What do you tell people who want to be writers, too?
I have two pieces of advice for people who want to write. The first one is very common, which is, just sit down and do it. Make a schedule for yourself that works, whether it’s an hour a day, or two hours three times a week, or only on the weekends—figure out what works for you, write it down in your calendar like you would an appointment and commit to it. If you’re struggling with what to say, then write about your frustration. But get some words on the page.
The second piece of advice is, be nice to yourself while you’re writing. I think this is really important. A lot of people start writing and they stop after a few tries because they go back and read what they wrote, and they decide it’s terrible. But they’re being completely unfair to themselves—they’re judging something that isn’t ready to be judged. Writing is a process of creation and revision, and more creation and more revision—it takes time. You have to be critical eventually, but if you do it while your ideas are still young and taking shape, you’ll give up before you’ve even started.
Want to hear Louise read from her book? Here are scheduled appearances:
8/30, 7pm YA night with Meagan Brothers, Patricia Dunn, and Louise Rozett
126 Franklin St.
Brooklyn, New York
WORD is delighted to be hosting three YA authors for a joint reading and Q&A: Meagan
Brothers (Supergirl Mixtapes), Patricia Dunn (Rebels by Accident), and Louise Rozett
(Confessions of an Angry Girl).
Brooklyn Book Festival