2013 Debut Author Interview: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

Welcome to Debut Author Elizabeth LaBan

ELIZABETH LABAN worked at NBC News, taught at a community college, and has written for several magazines and newspapers. The Tragedy Paper is her first young adult novel. She lives in Philadelphia with her family


If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?
I would invite my husband, Craig LaBan, my kids Alice and Arthur, Justin Bieber, and Barack Obama.

What is one book everyone should read?
Wonder by R.J Palacio.

If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
I would choose the power to be able to see one day into the future. I say one day because I wouldn’t want to know too much, that could too greatly affect how I lived each day. But I do tend to spend a lot of time worrying about how things will go, and then when they go well I wish I had enjoyed them more. This superpower would help me do that.

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Chocolate (with peanut butter cups mixed in)

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
My husband’s cappuccino, a perfect cheese plate, and a fresh baguette

One food you would never eat?

Pet Peeves?
When people blow their nose in their napkin, and when a lot is spelled as one word.

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
It is a great story – full of love, possibility, loss, and tragedy – that will hook you from the first page, and stay with you long after you finish the last.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
Yes – I am working on another young adult book. This one has a female protagonist, and, like The Tragedy Paper, has a school assignment that factors prominently into the plot. I have also written a few children’s picture books as well as women’s fiction novels that I hope will be published one day.

What inspired you to want to become a writer?
When I was in my early teens I read S.E. Hinton’s That Was Then, This Is Now. I loved it more than I had ever loved a book before, and it made me want to be able to create a world the way she did. I had thoughts of being a writer even before that moment, but it solidified it for me.

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
To keep writing and never give up.

What is your favorite Quote?
I recently wrote part of this Anna Quindlen quote on the chalkboard in our kitchen because it seems so important. I have two kids who are 11 and 13, and I try to keep this in mind all the time when we’re rushing from one thing to the next. In the quote she’s talking about raising her kids. “The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three on them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in a hurry to get on to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”

When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
A writer.

Who are your favorite authors of all time?
S.E, Hinton, John Irving, Curtis Sittenfeld, Scott Spencer, Jennifer Weiner, David Payne, John Green, Liane Moriarty…I could go on and on.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Before I started journalism school, I went to an orientation weekend during which a graduate won a big award. In her acceptance speech she recited the three most important things she learned in journalism school. I ended up meeting my husband that year, and he had been to the same event. Those words of advice stuck with both of us and we talk about them often. They are: show don’t tell, good quotes up top, and go to the bathroom when you can! Great lessons for newspaper reporting, and just everyday life when you’re a writer!

Favorite Candy?
Sour Patch Kids

What’s your favorite season/weather?

What is your guilty pleasure?
Coca Cola

Favorite smell

Favorite quote from a movie?
I have two favorites: “Yo, Adrian!” from Rockyand  “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – from The Deathly Hallows Part 2.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I am married to a restaurant critic.

Pets? – childhood or adult
We had the best cat in the world for 16 years – she died last year. She was a stray in New Orleans so we named her A Streetcat Named Desire, and called her Desire. We miss her and still talk about her all the time.

Something your readers would never guess about you
I am very claustrophobic.

Are you for or against books being made into movies?
Definitely for!

Where is your favorite spot to write?
My dining room table.

Night owl, or early bird? 
Night owl

Regular or Diet? 

City or Country? 

Cats or Dog? 

The Tragedy Paper

Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history

The Tragedy Paper was released on January 8, 2013.

Book Trailer