New Voice & Giveaway: L.B. Schulman on League of Strays

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

L.B. Schulman is the first-time author of

League of Strays (Abrams/Amulet, 2012)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

This suspenseful debut follows a group of teenage misfits in their delicious quest for revenge on those who have wronged them at their high school.

When a mysterious note appears in Charlotte’s mailbox inviting her to join the League of Strays, she’s hopeful it will lead to making friends. What she discovers is a motley crew of loners and an alluring, manipulative ringleader named Kade. 

Kade convinces the group that they need one another both for friendship and to get back at the classmates and teachers who have betrayed them. 

But Kade has a bigger agenda. In addition to vandalizing their school and causing fights between other students, Kade’s real intention is a dangerous plot that will threaten lives and force Charlotte to choose between her loyalty to the League and her own conscience. 

In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach “edgy” behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?

When I wrote League of Strays, I never thought of it as “edgy,” but as it turned out, it’s definitely being perceived that way. I know there are some readers who’ve been scared off by the subject matter of revenge and bullying.

I didn’t think of it as edgy as I was writing it because I wrote the story through Charlotte’s point of view, who starts out rather naïve and innocent for her age. I viewed what was happening through her eyes, even justifying the other characters behaviors as she would.

In the end, I think this was the right way to write the book. It’s powerful, and it’s scary at times, but I think it’s a better book for the undiluted strength of its message.

As someone who’s the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

It’s a very hard balance to strike, and I am still learning how to do it. With a fall release date, summer was the prime planning time, and also happened to be the time when the kids are around the most. Not so easy.

In fact, as my book got closer to publication, I have had to apply some rules for myself. Having the laptop so accessible was a real problem as I found myself constantly checking email.

So I made a rule that I couldn’t look at my laptop after 6 p.m., except for 15 minutes at 9 p.m. This has made my family much happier and has lowered my stress level, too.

Another rule is that every day, I must write an hour minimum, no matter what else calls to me, from promotion to laundry. Usually, that hour stretches longer.

I also email a writing friend every day, letting her know whether or not I’ve reached my hour goal. She does the same. This holds us accountable.

“What writers do when we should be writing.” –L.B.S.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a bookplate-signed copy of League of Strays by L.B. Schulman (Abrams/Amulet, 2012). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: international.

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