6 Dec 2015

The Yearbook by Carol Masciola

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
The Yearbook is the story of 16-year-old misfit Lola Lundy, who finds a very old yearbook (from 1923) in her school library and becomes fascinated with it. She dozes off in the library and wakes up to find herself in that long-ago time. She decides to abandon her old, messed-up life for a fresh future in the past. But Lola’s family has a history of major mental illness. She might just be losing her mind. You have to read it to find out what’s really going on with her.

What inspired you to write it?
The inspiration was my grandmother’s 1923 Charleston (W. Va.) High School yearbook. I inherited it when she died and liked to look through it from time to time because there was an entire, lively world in it, of vintage photographs that at the same time felt so fresh, events, humor columns, quotes from the students about their favorite things and people. Looking at it one day, I thought, what if I could just drop myself into that book somehow and walk around? All old yearbooks stir up feelings like that, I think. As an artifact, the school yearbook carries a lot of importance for people. It’s like a souvenir of that key moment where they embark on their lives as adults and start making their own decisions, for better or worse. It’s the permanent “before” picture.

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?

Christina Riddle, a freelance graphic designer, found the vintage 1920s photo of a flapper that works so beautifully on the cover, and combined it with the image of old library shelves. I love the way the girl in the picture is reaching out, as if it’s Lola moving back and forth between eras. Frank Rivera, a designer with Merit Press, worked with the concept and the type and it all came together. I’m so thrilled with it and have had many compliments.

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
I’m not sure. But I’d love to see them come to life on the screen.

Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?
The Yearbook is a stand-alone, with a very definitive conclusion.

Where is the novel set and why did you choose to set it there?

The town of Ashfield is modeled loosely on Lorain, Ohio, a rustbelt town in Ohio near where I grew up. I wanted to use a town that had left behind its glory days, and have the main character travel back and rediscover the place as it was.

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?
I love worlds where the rules bend and anything can happen. In this story the laws of physics are suspended. The characters get chances that we never get in real life.

What made you want to become an author?
I just enjoy stories - reading them and telling them. I like the complete control I have over my story-world. It’s my own little universe and I make all the decisions. Godlike power, I guess. There’s also the challenge of seeing if I can do it. It’s rewarding to create something.

How do you come up with character names?

I took a lot of the first names and nicknames for the 1920s characters straight out of my grandmother’s yearbook — Luther, Horace, Henrietta, Virgil. People just aren’t named names like that anymore. I actually used one person’s entire name: Ruby Gadd. I thought it was a cool name, and it suited Ruby, who’s a gadabout. Lola Lundy, the name for the main character, just popped into my head the first day I sat down to work on the story. I named her social worker, Mrs. Hershey, after a school principal in my hometown.

Do you struggle to come up with book titles? Do they come before, during or after you've written your book?
I almost always know the title first. Somehow it helps me shape the idea, the whole concept of the thing.

Name one of your all-time favourite books?

This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith. It’s about a man who’s obsessed with an ex-girlfriend who has married somebody else. He buys and furnishes a beautiful house and goes there on the weekends and pretends he lives there with her. He’s utterly bonkers.

Who, or what, inspires you?

I like to read author biographies to see how people have managed to fit writing into their lives. I like to hear about their challenges, and how they went about getting things done. Hearing about how somebody else has done it makes it seem doable — quantifies it somehow to make it seem like a thing a human being could actually do.

Where is your favourite place to write?
I write anywhere, everywhere. I have no special place. I like quiet, but rarely experience it. I have two boys. My formative experiences as a writer were in newspaper newsrooms, which tend to be very chaotic and noisy, so I think that’s helped me not to require some kind of ideal environment to work.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
I very much liked the original Great Gatsby, the one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

Name two of your favourite authors.

Lately I’m really into John Banville, the Irish novelist, and Dorothy Hughes, the 1940s noir fiction writer. (among others)

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
In the past 16 years I’ve lived in eight different countries, on four different continents.

Who would play you in the movie about your life? 
That question is causing me a lot of confusion. Let’s just say I’d like to look like Elizabeth Taylor, but I don’t.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I live in Geneva, Switzerland. Forty percent of the residents here come from somewhere else, making it the most international city in the world.

What are your (writing) plans for the future? 
I have another novel cooking, this one about a scandal involving group of college freshman who are music students at an elite conservatory. But I’m also doing a rewrite at the moment of a teen fantasy screenplay. I have done six screenplays in various genres and really feel comfortable in the form.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
I’d like to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the window of a fancy hotel along the parade route, drinking champagne, or excellent coffee.

Favourite myth / fairytale? 
I love the story of The Boy and the North Wind. The boy gets three magic gifts, a donkey that gives gold coins, a tablecloth that makes a fantastic meal just by putting it on the table, and a stick that protects the boy from his enemies, especially thieves who try to steal the donkey and the tablecloth.

Who/What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a movie star. I think for a while I also wanted to be Miss America. Ha ha!

Carol Masciola worked as a newspaper reporter in Southern California for 12 years. Her longest stint was seven years at the Orange County Register, where as a general assignment reporter she covered the mundane and the bizarre. In 1999 she won the PEN/West Literary Award in Journalism for the serial “Mr. Maxwell’s Baby”, about a 77-year-old man’s struggle to take care of a baby by himself. After that, she turned to fiction and is the author of six feature screenplays. BAGHDAD BUREAU, her black comedy about foreign correspondents in Iraq, was named a semifinalist in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Nicholl Fellowship screenwriting contest. The Yearbook is her first novel.
Carol is represented by Jacqueline Flynn at the Delbourgo Literary Agency. She lives in Geneva, Switzerland, with her husband, Ibon Villelabeitia, and her sons Endika and Leonardo.
CAROL MASCIOLA is the author of THE YEARBOOK, Merit Press (Dec.). 

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