We are so excited to have the wonderful Paula Stokes on the blog today! She is the author of the upcoming young adult mystery novel Liars, Inc. This novel will be released on March 24, 2015 from HarperTeen. Paula was gracious enough to stop by and answer a few questions for us. Want to know our thoughts? Read Bridget’s 5 star review for Liar’s Inc. here!
Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of THE ART OF LAINEY, INFINITE REPEAT, LIARS INC., and several other forthcoming YA novels. When she’s not writing, she’s kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.
Want to read more from Paula Stokes?
Dark Faerie Tales: To start things off will you tell us a little bit about Liars, Inc. and where you got the inspiration to write it?
Paula: Liars, Inc. is the story of Max, Preston, and Parvati—three kids who sell cover stories and forged permission slips to their classmates. Then Max sets up a cover story for Preston to go meet up with a girl he knows online and Pres never comes home. Preston is a U.S. senator’s kid so the FBI get involved, and when they find Pres’s body, Max is suddenly a murder suspect. Did he do it? If not, who’s framing him and why?
I had the initial hook of “kids sell cover stories and one kid disappears which gets the main character in trouble” all the way back in early 2010. It just took me a year or so to figure out what happened to Preston and then work out all of the characters’ motivations. I’d say it’s inspired by years of reading Christopher Pike and Dean Koontz. [Fun fact: I dedicated the book to Dean Koontz.]
DFT: Max is a very laid back type of guy that tends to go with the flow. He doesn’t put much effort into many things, but he is actually a really smart guy and can be very resourceful when he needs to be. What do you think is his best quality? What do you think is his worst quality?
Paula: I would say Max’s best quality is how loyal he is—both to his friends and family. He might talk some crap about his mom, but underneath you can tell he’s really protective of the handful of people he’s let into his world. He’s also resilient. He gets dealt crappy hand after crappy hand throughout his childhood and the book, and yet he doesn’t ever fall apart and quit functioning.
His worst quality is probably his distrust of the system. Max lies to the FBI repeatedly—a bad call—because the system has failed him in the past and he doesn’t believe the federal agents want to help him. [Note: There is a change to the final book where Max does eventually reach out to Agent McGhee for help when he realizes he’s in over his head.]
DFT: Parvati was probably my favorite character in the book. She is a no nonsense type of person with a very witty personality. I loved that she never took crap from anyone and didn’t care what others thought of her. When creating her character did she ever take you by surprise or did you know exactly what you wanted her to be like from the very beginning?
Paula: Parvati is my favorite too. I’m so glad you like her! It’s funny. She started out like a spy-obsessed version of one of those wild Indian girls in the movie Bend it Like Beckham, but evolved throughout the writing process to become so much more complex. I just let her go in my brain and recorded the things she did as she did them. When she basically licked blood at one point, my editor was like O_O But I kept it because it felt right. The same for her swimming laps in her party dress in Preston’s pool, even though it’s cold. I think that scene is where I realized she had some psychological issues in addition to just being reckless and a bit odd–knowledge that only made me love her more.
DFT: Correct me if I am wrong but to my knowledge all of your previous books were told from a girl’s POV, but Liars, Inc is all told from a male’s POV. What made you decide to do a male POV this time and out of the two which did you find easier to write?
Paula: I wrote a 100-page novella called INFINITE REPEAT from Micah’s (THE ART OF LAINEY) POV. I try to challenge myself in a different way with each book, and for LIARS that challenge was male POV. I really like books with boy POVs and thought this story would appeal to both genders and that the plot worked well with a guy narrator. They’re both equally easy for me to write, but I do always give boy-POV stuff to multiple male beta-readers for feedback.
DFT: I love that Max and Parvati are an interracial couple it gave their relationship a unique diverse twist. Other than to give your book diversity was there a reason you decided to feature an interracial couple? Are they based on a real life couple or just totally made up?
Paula: They’re totally made up. I made Parvati Indian because when I first got the idea for the story, the characters that appeared in my brain were this kind of plain boy who quickly got in over his head and his awesome girlfriend who used her legal/military knowledge to help him. I knew his girlfriend had that knowledge because she wanted to be in the CIA someday, and one thing that irks me about CIA books/movies is overreliance on Caucasian characters. The real CIA recruits people of color heavily because they blend in better when stationed in certain overseas locations. Also, I really like the name Parvati
DFT: If you can without spoiling anything can you tell us what your favorite scene to write in Liars, Inc. was and why?
Paula: As someone who generally despises flashbacks, it’s bizarre to say my fave scene is the flashback when Max meets Parvati for the first time in Preston’s pool. I just love that moment. There’s no Instalove or anything, but both characters affect each other on an subconscious level. Max is attracted to Parvati’s looks, sure, but there’s something about her that encourages him to be bold. It’s like she makes him feel strong. And although this is far from apparent in the book, she’s in the pool basically engaging in self-harm, trying to replace emotional pain with physical pain under the guise of “survival training.” And yet when she says “Sometimes I think I’m the worst sheep of all” she gives Max a tiny flash of who she really is that she’d normally never show anyone. It’s like he makes her feel safe. I don’t know. It’s fascinating to think about how our random interactions with people imprint on our subconscious.
DFT: Liars, Inc. was darker and sexier than your previous young adult books. Did you originally plan for it to be darker or did it just turn out that way as you wrote it?
Paula: I knew from the beginning it was going to be darker and sexier. Believe it or not, my next book, VICARIOUS, is even darker. But then I follow that up with a romantic comedy so that my LAINEY readers won’t feel too betrayed
DFT: I really enjoyed the mystery you weaved in Liars, Inc. and loved that I was kept guessing till the very end. Did the plot ever surprise you or did you know exactly what was going to happen when you started writing the book?
Paula: I’m a huge proponent of outlining, especially when it comes to mystery books. Sure, I adapt my outline as I go, but every substantial revision means resetting all of the clues and red herrings so it’s best to have a plan. Because of this, the plot was almost entirely set before I start writing. I pulled out one twist during drafting and a half twist at the last minute in edits, but otherwise I knew how it was all going to play out. I did change the ending sequence several times, but not the identity of the killer or the motivation for the crime, etc.
DFT: As of right now Liars, Inc. is a standalone novel but I can’t wait to see what you come out with next. Can you tell us anything about what you are currently working on or what we can see from you in the future?
Paula: I want to write a Parvati-POV novel so badly it pains my insides, and I have a twenty-page outline and eighty pages of text written for that, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you see something called KILLERS, INC. or SPIES, INC. someday. However, for anyone dismayed by the ideal of a companion book, it doesn’t mean LIARS would cease to be a standalone. All of my Paula Stokes books will be standalones in the sense they will be complete stories with satisfying resolutions. That’s just how I roll
I’ve got a slew of things in the works, but VICARIOUS (TorTeen) is tentative for March 2016 and BAD LUCK CHARM (HarperTeen) for Summer 2016.
VICARIOUS is a high-tech mystery featuring two Korean stunt girls who record their sensory neural impulses while doing adrenaline-fueled activities and sell them like virtual reality simulations. The older sister vanishes and the younger sister has to track her down using clues from the neural recordings and the real world. I’d recommend it for fans of ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and the movie INCEPTION.
BAD LUCK CHARM is the story of a girl who is the only unscathed survivor of a string of accidents and decides she must be cursed—that people who get too close to her wind up injured or dead. She keeps to herself until her mom forces her to join a school activity, and that’s where she meets Jordy, a “golden boy” junior tennis pro who doesn’t believe in bad luck. The two of them team up to test her curse, with predictable and unpredictable results. Good for fans of THE ART OF LAINEY and SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE.
Available March 24, 2015 from HarperTeen
About this Book:
For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV’s How to Get Away with Murder.
Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?
When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.
Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called “Captivating to the very end,” Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.
Click HERE to read an excerpt