Tuesday, June 28, 2016

FFBC: Welcome to the club, Change Places with Me by Lois Metzger

Change Places with Me
by Lois Metzger
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: June 14th 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
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Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.

Favorite Book?

William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The book is told from four different points of view, and my favorite part is the third section, narrated by Jason Compson, who might be the angriest, snarkiest, most bitter person in literature. He starts off on a rant and it only builds from there. You really get inside his head and even though you can’t stand him (he is NOT likeable), it’s actually a lot of fun.

Favorite TV show?

Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Everything about it is simply perfect—the acting (the main characters, of course, but also the minor ones), the writing (especially scripts by Steven Moffat and/or Mark Gatiss), the “look” of it, the imagination behind it. Actually, when I first heard about the show, I thought I’d hate it. A modern re-telling of Sherlock Holmes, with Sherlock texting and Watson blogging? It sounded just plain wrong. Then I saw it, and fell in love.

Favorite movie?

It’s an old romantic comedy from 1941 called The Lady Eve, written and directed by Preston Sturges and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. Barbara Stanwyck is a con artist out to take wealthy Henry Fonda for everything he’s got, until she falls for him and wants to marry him instead. But he finds out who she really is, dumps her, and she takes her revenge… though in this case revenge is not so sweet. The script is witty and playful and hilariously funny, though there’s some genuine heartache at its center, and it’s ultimately very moving, because it touches on something deep—how we view the people we love, what we want to see, what we don’t.

Favorite song?

My favorite song is called “Isn’t It Romantic?” and the music is by Richard Rodgers and the lyrics by Lorenz Hart. The song made its first appearance in a 1932 movie called Love Me Tonight, and beautifully demonstrates what will happen in the film. First, a poor tailor sings the beginning of the song in his shop; his customer likes the tune and exits the shop, singing it—“Isn’t it romantic—a very catchy strain! Isn’t it romantic, oh, I forgot my cane!” A taxi driver overhears him singing, and sings it to his next passenger—“Isn’t it romantic, to drive around the town?” to which his passenger, a composer, replies, “Isn’t it romantic, I think I’ll take that down.” The composer then gets on a train with soldiers, who overhear him writing lyrics to the melody. When the soldiers exit the train, they sing it while marching in the countryside—it sounds like a cry to battle but it’s all about love, not war. A violinist overhears the soldiers, and plays the melody for his family of gypsies. In the distance, there’s a castle, and the music drifts and reaches a princess in that castle; she sings the final lines that include “Isn’t it romantic, music in the night, a dream that can be heard.” Eventually, the tailor and the princess fall in love, linked by the song before they even meet. On YouTube you can see the movie clip, and it’s lovely.

Favorite Food?

Coffee ice cream. Honorable mention: Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food Frozen Yogurt.

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.

I would move to any other planet with a nice space station, preferably Mars, Venus or Saturn.

Who is your perfect fictional boyfriend?

I always had a crush on Ralph in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I know that’s kind of weird (or very weird). I admired Ralph for keeping his humanity while all the other boys were losing theirs. (Maybe it didn’t hurt that Ralph in the 1963 movie version was very cute.)

Favorite Quote?

This comes from another romantic comedy by Preston Sturges, called Unfaithfully Yours. A man strongly suspects his wife is having an affair; when he finds out she isn’t, and that she has never wavered in her love for him, he gazes soulfully into her eyes and says, “A thousand poets dreamed a thousand years, and you were born, my love.” 

What do you find yourself “Fangirling” over?

Sherlock. I’ve introduced the show to several friends and I just love seeing their reactions to it. When I really like something, I tend to go back to it over and over, reading the same books, watching the same movies and TV shows (I must’ve seen the Doctor Who episode “Blink” a dozen times). I don’t really understand the “one and done” types.

If you could meet one author, dead or alive, who would it be?

Henry James, who wrote the short novel Washington Square. I’d like to talk to him about how he created three amazing, multi-layered characters (a wealthy, overbearing doctor, his shy, awkward daughter, and the daughter’s fortune-hunter boyfriend), when in fact none of them is very admirable and, in the case of the father and the boyfriend, not sympathetic in the least. I live near Washington Square in New York City and often pass by the real house where in a fictional universe it all took place. 

Something to say to our Book Addicts?

As Book Addicts, you know full well—there’s nothing better than stories, and by reading lots of books and talking about books, you help spread stories around. Thank you for that.

Could you tell our Book Addicts a little bit about Change Places with Me?

I set out to write a fun book about things that aren’t fun—grief, loneliness, heartache, loss—a fast, twisty read that keeps you a little unsettled until you finally know what’s really going on.

What can you tell us about Rose?

Rose is happy, bursting with happiness, so happy she doesn’t want to think about it or wonder why this happiness seemed to come upon her suddenly. Questioning it, understanding it, is the last thing on her mind. She just wants to cling to it.

How did you come up with the story? Did you find inspiration in any other story/movie/show and how has this affected your writing?

I find inspiration nearly everywhere, from books, movies, TV shows, articles, nonfiction—and dreams. I had a nightmare about a burning building; that was one spark that lit the fire of this book. There’s a Philip K. Dick novel called Time Out of Joint that starts in the middle and works its way back to the beginning, and I admired that structure. I read an article about memory manipulation in New Scientist, a magazine, about researchers experimenting with erasing or softening traumatic memories. The book Rebecca and also its movie version have a nameless narrator—that stuck with me and found its way into Change Places with Me.

Tell us your favorite quote from Change Places with Me.

A teacher tells Rose that she’s full of herself, and Rose tells him, “Not true! I’m modest!” and he tells her, “Don’t sound so proud of it.” I just think it’s funny, that she’s bragging about how modest she is—kind of defeats the purpose.

Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?

I like the scene that takes place in a vet’s office, where Rose has an after-school job. A woman comes in with her cocker spaniel, Candy, and demands to be seen right away: “Candy hates to wait.” The woman is kind of nosy about things that are not her business, and she tells a pretty awful story about two dogs that hated each other. Rose has to think fast on her feet and figure out how to handle this woman politely while the woman is being so irritating.

If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for Change Places with Me – Which one would you pick? 

David Bowie’s 1971 classic, “Changes.” In the beginning of the book, Rose wants to make sweeping changes in her life. As she sits in a salon having her hair cut and dyed, she hears the catchy, hypnotic song for the first time—“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes… Strange fascination, fascinating me… pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.” She downloads the song right away and can’t get enough of it.

Imagine that we get to see your book on the big screen (how awesome would that be?). Who would you pick to play your characters?

I need a time machine for this one, since a younger Carey Mulligan would be fantastic as Rose—she has a wide-open face with a lot of expression. Her eyes, especially, can have that faraway look even in close-up, and she can look sad even when smiling hugely. There’s a lot of complicated stuff going on in Rose and Carey Mulligan has the range for it.


Are there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read Change Places with Me (specific music, snacks…)? 

To set the scene, so to speak, I might listen to music that’s a little eerie, that gives you the feeling that something is off. The trailer for Change Places with Me has a soundtrack, Kevin MacLeod’s “Myst on the Moor,” and it really captures the mood of the book.

What’s next for you? 

I’m working on a novel about a girl who lives with her mother and, to help pay the rent, a man moves into the spare room in their apartment. The man begins to have way too much influence over the people in the girl’s life, and she starts to lose everything she loves. It’s called The Spare Room. At least, that’s the title for now.

Thank you so much for everything, Lois!

Thank you. Great questions!

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Lois Metzger was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of five novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Huffington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

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