Interview on Writing the Notebooks Series

Hey guys,

I've been getting such amazing reader mail lately (thank you!)-- some of it has been from people who read my books years ago, and they got in touch to let me know that the stories have stayed with them over time.  This makes me SO happy!

Jihane is one of these wonderful readers (and I just found out that her native language is French, so she has a special connection to The Ruby Notebook!)  She asked me some great interview questions about the Notebooks series as part of a school project.  I thought I'd post some of her questions and my responses here, in case you're curious, too.

1st in the series

Is there a message in your novels that you wanted readers to grasp?

I don’t usually set out to give a particular message in a novel—I basically start writing a story to explore some issues (or people or places or scenarios) that fascinate me.  Once I’m well into a rough draft, I start seeing some themes/ideas pop up in the story.  When I’m revising the story (usually at least 10 revisions), I try to bring these themes into relief and weave them throughout the story.  These are often things that I’ve struggled with in my own life at some point in time, and writing about them is a way to explore and resolve them to some extent.  It makes me happy when readers can relate to these struggles in some way too, and maybe glean some wisdom or useful message in the story. 

With the Notebooks series as a whole, I did hope that the books would inspire readers to travel, to want to learn more about other cultures and languages, to approach the world with an adventurous spirit and curiosity.  I also remember thinking that I wished I’d been introduced to Rumi as a teen, and I thought it was a kind of cool added bonus that I could introduce his poetry to readers via one of the characters, Layla.

The way I see it, in each of the three books, a different main theme/message emerged.  (But of course, every reader is going to have a different interpretation of the messages, and that’s exactly how it should be! I love that readers bring their own perspectives and experiences to my books—essentially, we’re co-creating the story.)

For The Indigo Notebook, it would be something along the lines of:  We don’t always want what we think we want—there may be something better and deeper and more meaningful in store for us!  Or we might learn to appreciate what we do have in a whole new way.

For The Ruby Notebook, I think the theme involves the complexities of love over time, and the idea that the hard moments are just part of the bigger journey.

For The Jade Notebook, something like: Life is beautiful, but messy, and that’s okay—embrace it all!

2nd in the series

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Well, the research part is great!  It mostly involves me wandering around gorgeous settings with my antennae up for cool stories.  The Ecuadorian Andes and southern France and coastal Oaxaca are all bits of paradise, if you ask me.  That said, one challenge in writing the second two books was that we’d just adopted our 9-month-old baby (from Guatemala), which was a dream come true… but I was just plopped right in the middle of motherhood. All of a sudden, I had this very active, demanding, (and thoroughly adorable) little guy crawling (and soon toddling) around while I was wondering how on earth I’d meet my tight deadlines for books 2 and 3 of the series.

 Working on The Jade Notebook in its setting in Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about any aspects of the books? 

You know, I’ve learned more about the marketing aspects of the publishing industry over the years.  I think that since most readers are more familiar with (and enamored with!) France than Ecuador, I might have begun the series in southern France, so that a wider audience would’ve initially picked up the book.  And then, I could’ve set the second book in Ecuador, assuming that the readers would continue with the series once they’d gotten into the characters and their world. But of course, there are still hardcore adventurous readers like you, who for one reason or another, felt drawn to the Ecuadorian setting.  (Thank you!)

3rd and final in the series

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I absolutely loved having books read to me (mostly by my mom) when I was a little kid.  And once I learned to read, I devoured books on my own (but my mom continued reading to me at  bedtime through middle school.)  As a young kid, I found that I loved writing my own little magical stories.  I’d write them on notebook paper and illustrate them and staple them together.  I got such a huge thrill from the act of creating stories and sharing them.  It made me feel so ALIVE!

Cabana where I stayed in Mazunte, where The Jade Notebook is set

How did you develop the notion of Zeeta's wandering life as part of her background? (Living in a different country every year, etc.)

I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) for two years in Oaxaca, Mexico, and did some traveling around Central America and Mexico at that time.  I had the chance to meet lots of fascinating people who had chosen to live a wandering, nomadic lifestyle, moving to a new country every year or so.  I felt very seduced by this idea—there’s something incredibly stimulating about being in a new culture, speaking a new language… everything feels sparkly and exciting.  Part of me wanted to head to South America next and teach ESL there.  But there was part of me that craved a long-term home and community… a garden, a house, furniture, etc. In the Notebooks series, Zeeta represented the homebody part of me, and Layla the part of me with wanderlust. (I let them duke it out!)

Street performers in Aix-en-Provence, France, who inspired characters in The Ruby Notebook

6. How much of the books you wrote came from your own experiences?

Quite a bit was inspired by real experiences that happened to me or stories people told me.  I love meeting interesting people on my travels and letting them spark new character ideas.  For example, during my research in Aix-en-Provence for The Ruby Notebook, there was an old man who loved pigeons and hung out with them by the fountain, an old woman who watched the activities in the main square from her second floor window, and a dazzling troupe of young musicians and dancers who performed in the streets.

To flesh out the settings, also I make good use of the little detailed observations that I record in my own notebooks as I travel. For example, while in Ecuador, my friend’s mom warned me that their shower would give me an electric shock if I didn’t use a washcloth to turn off the faucet—I stuck detail that into The Indigo Notebook.  There are hundreds of  examples of bits of real-life inspiration for my books—too many to list here! I like to combine real life with a touch of magic and my imagination to create something new.

 The Andes mountains of Ecuador, the setting for The Indigo Notebook

These books are filled with in-depth descriptions of Zeeta's surroundings such as the cafes in the streets of Paris and the beach of Punta Cometa, and really seems to give the reader in insight into the world she is currently experiencing. Were the descriptions based off what you were actually seeing when you visited these places? How did they affect the imagery and vibe you wanted to give off?

Yes! I take lots of photos to get the visuals right, but I also bring my spiral notebooks with me everywhere I travel, and I spend time recording the smells, tastes, sounds, and sensations I’m experiencing.  I really love weaving all the senses into descriptions, and playing with poetic imagery, too. I want to transport my readers to these incredible places, both as a form of blissful escape, and to inspire them to travel.

Would you say Zeeta's personality mirror yours at all?

I do have a lot in common with her, personality-wise.  Obviously, we both carry notebooks around everywhere!  We’re also both fascinated by the people we meet on our travels, and try to glean wisdom from their experiences.  We both find elderly people to be valuable sources of wisdom and stories, and tend to create meaningful bonds with them on our travels.

Aix-en-Provence, France, the setting of The Ruby Notebook

How long did it take you to write each book?

Probably on average, two years… but there was overlap. So, for example, I might have been revising Indigo while doing a rough draft of Ruby while brainstorming ideas for Jade.  (It’s all a blur to me now!)

Out of the three books, The Indigo Notebook, The Ruby Notebook, and the Jade Notebook...which is your favorite. Why?

That’s hard to say.  I think the main characters’ emotional dynamics and relationships were my favorite in Indigo.  I was getting ready to adopt my son as I wrote that book, so a lot of the psychological research I was doing on adoption issues for the book was also relevant to my personal life.  My favorite one in terms of magical elements was probably Ruby, since I was always enchanted by the fountains and springs and ancient history of Aix, even back when I was a college student there.  And as far as the setting where I’d most like to be right now (in the middle of winter), Jade wins on that count!  The Oaxacan coast is paradise to me.

Speaking of travel, I have some wildly exciting travel coming up soon... and I promise I'll tell you all about when I get back.  Hope you're having a happy winter so far...


Release Party Recap (plus an upcoming event and good news)!


Hey guys!

I'm happy to report that 1)  we're mostly settled into our house now, 2)  I happily dove back into writing my next book, and 3) my allergies are worlds better. 

Thank you so much to everyone who came to the book release party (for THE JADE NOTEBOOK) -- aka The Lauras Party, since I joined forces with my friend Laura Pritchett who was celebrating her GREAT BEAR STORIES release.  We had a blast!

Here's Laura Pritchett, signing away...

Below is Teagan selling books at the party,  from Old Firehouse Books, the awesome local indie bookstore that always keeps my books well-stocked, which I'm very grateful for.  (In fact, if you don't live near me, but you want to buy autographed books of mine, you can email them at and see if a signed copy of the book you want is available to buy online.  It probably is, since I just went in and signed a giant pile of books!)

 I always intend to take a bunch of great pics at these events, but then I get sidetracked with blabbing away to friends and I completely forget about my camera... until the end, when most people have gone home and there are just a few wonderfully devoted stragglers left... like swordfighters. (I brought dress-ups and toys for Lil Dude and friends, which were enjoyed by some grown-ups as well...)

We had a really nice turnout-- a friendly, happy crowd.  Here is Amanda Rose Adams, whose memoir called Heart Warriors just came out! (It sounds really wonderful and moving and I'm excited to read it.)

So great to see old writer buddies.  Laura Katers (yes, another Laura writer friend-- there are many) came to town, and I hadn't seen her for ages...

Here are me and Ian (hubby), who'd just come back from a business trip in Portland and was completely beat, but stuck it out (except for when he decided to go home to sleep, and walked the six blocks home, only to realize he'd forgotten the key, and then walked six blocks back to the party, poor guy)...

Another event is coming up! If you're in the Boulder area, read on.

My friends Amy Kathleen Ryan and Todd Mitchell and I are having an event on Sat, May 5 at 2 pm at the Boulder Bookstore in Boulder, CO. Here's the official blurb:

Join acclaimed authors Amy Kathleen Ryan (GLOW), Todd Mitchell (THE SECRET TO LYING), and Laura Resau (THE JADE NOTEBOOK) for a fun, informal discussion of their young adult books, writing processes, and journeys to publication. Free and open to everyone! Tell your friends!

Oh, and some good news that recently came in:  THE QUEEN OF WATER is now a Colorado Book Award finalist... hooray! The winner will be announced in Aspen this June.  QUEEN was also selected as a Bank Street Best Book of *Outstanding Merit*... double hooray! It's so exciting to have this good QUEEN news rolling in...
Okay, thanks for reading!


Take me away...

It is officially here.... my uncontrollable mid-winter longing for sparkling blue water and sultry tropical air and all manner of jungle creatures-- I wouldn't even mind the skeeters at this point.  But there's none of this for me this year, as we're at the tail end of a house renovation (we've been in rental homes for 8 months now!)...which means we have a distinct lack of time, money, and energy with which to plan a Mexico beach trip.  And just to rub it in,  two of my  closest friends (you know who you are) just went to a beautiful tiny coastal town in Mexico only accessible by boat.  Argh!  (Okay, I'm *mostly* happy for them...)

Playa Mazunte

Whenever I feel jealousy creeping in, I try to transform it to inspiration.  So,  this is inspiration for me to make sure that *next year* we take a delicious beach trip. In the meantime, I've been looking longingly at these pics from my last trip to Mazunte, where I did research for The Jade Notebook (which comes out on Valentine's Day!!)

Here are bits of reviews that have been coming in... this first one's from Kirkus:

"In this third in a series of novels focusing on Zeeta and her wanderlust-stricken mother, readers are immersed in the details of a lovingly described coastal town in Mexico and an action-filled mystery surrounding the poaching of ancient sea turtles that make their home there...  a graceful conclusion to Zeeta’s story."

This part of the review made me smile.:
"... Resau’s skill in evoking an almost visceral experience of setting firmly anchors the story...."

I really love writing setting details... this is something I practice, scribbling observations in my spiral-bound notebooks.  I try to use all or most of my senses in every scene. And this setting of beach-meeting-jungled hills is such an intense sensory experience in real life-- the thick, humid air, the constant hum of insects and bird calls, the rush of ocean, pounding of water against rocks, taste of salt everywhere- on your skin and hair and damp clothes... it was fun to try to capture that on paper.
On the porch of my cabana.  Perfect writing spot.

The first official blogger review  came in this past week, too... Marjolein, a YA book reviewer, calls it "an amazing conclusion" to the series in her 5 star review. (Thanks Marjolein!!)

And a lovely librarian review from TATAL Online:
"This book transcends travel or mystery to instead be a book about growing up, learning to trust and let go, and finding belonging within a family and a community. A fitting end to this unique trilogy."

I love the  landscape of Mazunte....  little beach coves you can hike to, where you feel completely alone.


Some of the action in the book takes place here, on Punta Cometa (Comet Point.) See how it's shaped like a comet, the tail trailing into the ocean?

Here's what "downtown" Mazunte looks like... I think this is the only paved road.

And here's the dirt road leading to the cabanas where I stay:

Some of the most exciting scenes in the book take place on the rocky crags around Punta Cometa... It's such a dramatic setting-- seawater churning and beating against the cliffs... just begging for a story climax to happen here (hint hint...)

From these pics you can't really tell, but this chaos of water is several stories below--it's dizzying and scary to be near the edge...

The water is crashing, booming here...

A giant cactus on Punta Cometa, referred to in the story...

Sunsets viewed from Punta Cometa are stunning... I spent an evening perched there with my notebook, recording my sensations minute by minute as the sun sunk.

If you look closely, you can see the silhouette of a sweet couple watching the sunset together.

Okay, enough beach-longing...time for me to get to work on some other things-- like preparing the presentations I'll be doing at the CCIRA conference next week. But before I leave you, I'll mention some good news with The Queen of Water... it was selected as a title on the 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, announced a few days ago by the ALA (American Library Association).  I also found out it was selected as a Recommended Title by the ALA-affiliated Amelia Bloomer Project, which focuses on feminist literature for young people. Maria Virginia and I are happy and grateful for these honors!

Thanks for reading!

Laura       P.S.  If you want to see more of my Mazunte pics, visit this older blog post.

Whew... the trilogy is complete!

Hey guys,

Last week, I discovered this in a little padded envelope at my doorstep: an advanced review copy of The Jade Notebook!

And then the brand new paperback version of The Ruby Notebook arrived! It made me happy to arrange the trilogy in a row, sit back, and say whew... because man oh man, is a trilogy a lot of work. 

There were fun moments, of course... like research trips to Ecuador, France, and coastal Mexico.  But the hard part for me (next to the tight deadlines) was putting another story on hold while I finished the Notebooks series.  I signed the contract for the series in 2007 (or maybe 2008?)  Anyway, it was 4 or 5 years ago.  And after writing Indigo (while revising Queen and Star and drafting Ruby and Jade and becoming a new mom), I started developing a story idea that I LOVED...

... but I didn't have time to write it!  So I stole moments here and there to scribble a bit about the story in my notebooks, and I couldn't wait to really dive into it... Then finally, this year, I've been able to fly with it... I'm going to be mysterious (sorry!) because my creative process works best if I spend my energy *writing* the story rather than blabbing about it... but suffice to say, I'm really, really excited!

On a different note... Lil Dude and I just did a holiday craft project together.  The key to engaging him in an art project is to 1) make it last no longer than three minutes and 2) involve violence of some sort.  So, I decided to skewer oranges with him (which, predictably, transformed into a sword-fighting scenario).  We then stuck cloves into the gouged-out holes, and ta-dah, we have fragrant little orange orbs trying to forget their traumatic past.

Love and happy winter wishes to you and yours!


The Jade Notebook page proofs...

Page proofs for JADE-- all 374 pages (with The Little Mermaid for scale...)

Hey all,

Thought I'd do a quick post to tell you that the review copies of The Jade Notebook will be out in a few weeks-- can't wait!  In the meantime, I'm going over page proofs.  This stage is so much fun-- the book finally feels like a real thing, with the final layout and font and inside design and everything. 

As I've been going over it, I'm realizing how happy I am it has a mid-February release date.  That's precisely the time of year when I get really, really, really sick of winter... and I start craving beaches and tropical waters with every freezing-cold cell of my body.  I think it'll be the perfect time-- the miserable almost-end of winter-- to be transported to a little Mexican coastal town.

Here's the epithet (is that what it's called and how you spell it? i think so...)  It has to do with one of the themes of the book-- learning to embrace the delicious mess of life.  That's something I've often struggled with. Right now, especially, I'm in the midst of lots of chaos-- living in a rental house while our house is being majorly renovated... my stuff mostly in boxes in storage, not knowing where anything just waiting for that dancing star to be born...

You'll have to tilt your head to see the first page of the first chapter (click the image to make it bigger.)  Or, you could go to The Jade Notebook page that I recently added to my website for an excerpt.  (And it's available for pre-order now for e-reader and hardcover: indiebound or amazon or Barnes and Noble.)

So, I just got back from an author panel with Amy Kathleen Ryan (author of Glow).  Fascinating to hear about her journey, process, routines... and it came out that we both have backgrounds in anthropology. Here we are at the Northern Colorado Writers studio...

Okay, must drink tea and go to bed now...


Announcing... The Jade Notebook cover!!!

Here it is...

Note the sea turtles!  I learned a lot about sea turtles while researching this book... they're amazing!  I'll probably do a post on that some time later...

This is the third and final book in the Notebooks series (Indigo and Ruby were the first two).  Here's a little summary:

Down-to-earth Zeeta and her flighty mom, Layla, have spent years traveling the globe and soaking up everything each new culture has to offer. Now they've settled in the beachside town of Mazunte, Mexico, where Zeeta's true love, Wendell, has an internship photographing rare sea turtles. At first glance, Zeeta feels sure that Mazunte is paradise—she envisions dips in jade waters, sunsets over sea cliffs, moonlit walks in the surf. And she is determined to make Mazunte her home . . . for good. But as she and Wendell dig deeper to unearth her elusive father's past, Zeeta finds that paradise has its dark side. 

I just sent the revised manuscript into my editor-- the next step is copy-editing, then page-proofing, then the review copy...  and then, on *Valentine's Day* 2012, it will be out in the world!  I'm starting to think about the release party... For Indigo, there was Ecuadorian dance, for Ruby, an accordionist.... any ideas for Jade? (And no, I can't fly everyone to a tropical paradise to swim with sea turtles... darn!)

If you want to see pics of the setting of Jade, check out the blog post I did about my research trip there...

Thanks for reading!