Liz Tigelaar, author of PRETTY TOUGH and PLAYING WITH THE BOYS, movie producer, and television writer, was kind enough to take a break from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about writing, Hollywood, and sisters.
1. What was your inspiration to write Pretty Tough and Playing with the Boys?
The concept! I was impressed with the company “Pretty Tough” (prettytough.com) and their mission to support girls in their quest to be both strong and tough athletes without losing their sense of girlie-ness and femininity. I loved the idea of writing books about teenagers for teenagers that sends a positive message.
2. Do you have a sister? If so, are you more like Charlie or Krista? Or are you closer to Lucy?
I do have a sister and our relationship actually inspired the first book. Although neither of us are like Charlie or Krista, we’re very, very different and when we were younger, didn’t always see eye to eye. So the themes and feelings are drawn from my own life, but not the characters. I probably am the most like Lucy, in that I moved across the country for high school and it was hard to fit in right away. But I’d like to think there’s a little of me in each of them – at times, I’ve been a rebel like Charlie, I’ve enjoyed fleeting popularity like Krista, and I’ve struggled to find my place and prove myself like Lucy, even when the odds weren’t in my favor.
3. Are you or were you an athlete?
I’m definitely more of an athlete now then I was as a teenager. I liked theater and singing, and with the exception of tennis, didn’t do much else. I did play soccer when I was a little kid, but got in trouble for doing cartwheels and picking dandelions in the backfield. In college, I did crew which taught me about being on a team and I’ve played soccer (badly) as an adult. Now, I love being athletic – with biking, spinning, hiking, kayaking, yoga, pilates, even trampolining – but I still don’t have a lot of team experience.
4. What is it like writing for television? How is it different from novel writing?
Writing for television is completely different. It doesn’t take nearly as long (60 pages vs. 250 pages) and the pay is better! Writing a scene is a lot easier than writing a chapter. But the biggest difference is the ability to be inside a character’s head. You can do that writing novels – you can go off on tangents, explain backstory easily… in television, that’s not possible. I can’t say which I like better since they are both so different. In television, I love sticking with the same characters and getting to watch them grow… but I think with a book series that would be similar. But often books are more like movies – you create these characters, tell their story and move on.
5. I read that you co-produced the movie,”Stick It”, which I loved. What was that experience like?
Stick It! was incredible because I’m a huge gymnastics fan. I worked on that project from the beginning with writer/director, Jessica Bendinger and I started as a researcher (when I was teaching her yoga). Eventually, I moved up as a writer and was able to help her break (which actually means put together) the story and then when she was ready to shoot, I was able to help with rewrites and changes during production. Mostly, it was incredible because, as a huge gymnastics fan, I was able to meet so many famous gymnasts so I was in heaven. Also, my good friend, Vanessa Lengies was cast as “Joanne” (we’d worked together for years on “American Dreams”) so we had a blast working with each other again (later, I cast her in a pilot I shot for the CW).
6. What is your day like? When do you write? Do you have a certain routine with your writing?
When I’m on a show, I pretty much go into the office like a 9-5pm job (or in my case 10-6pm). I work with the other writers in the writers’ room and we come up with story ideas together. But other times, I’m off writing my episode or on set producing it. And I’m always doing projects on the side (like the Pretty Tough books or just recently I wrote two movie adaptations of “The Clique” novels which will come out on DVD soon) and my favorite time to write is in the early mornings. I have an office in my loft at home and it’s a beautiful place to work and write. When I’m really busy, I have to multi-task – for instance, right now, I’m shooting my Brothers & Sisters episode while finishing a rewrite on the second Clique movie.
7. What writing assignments are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m a writer/producer on Brothers & Sisters, I’m working on a pitch for a movie called “Daddy’s Girls,” I’m finishing a rewrite on the “The Clique” and I’m doing notes on a pilot called “Light Years” that I wrote for CW, but I’m not sure that they will shoot it. Then I’m gearing up for next development season and am trying to come up with a new TV show idea – hopefully a good one!
8. How did you end up working in Hollywood and writing? Is this something you always dreamed of doing?
I haven’t always dreamed of writing. I used to love acting… but actually, I suck. I started to think about writing in college because I always have loved to tell stories. Actually, my goal was to write for Days of Our Lives. I moved out here after college and scored an internship on “Dawson’s Creek.” I kept writing and working as an assistant and eventually worked my way up. My big break came on “American Dreams” where I became a fulltime writer, then I wrote for “Kyle XY”, “Split Decision” (my pilot), “What About Brian,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and now finally “Brothers & Sisters.” My job is definitely a dream come true. I’ve worked hard and struggled but it’s also taken a little luck.
9. Do you have an interesting story you’d like to share about meeting or working with an actor or actress?
Hmmm. Most stories I’d get in trouble for telling. I’ll just say that the cast of “American Dreams” was the best, most inspiring, kind cast I’ve ever worked with. They are a class above the rest.
10. What advice do you have for aspiring writers or producers?
If you want to write, write. Write all the time. Take any job. And give your writing to people who know more than you do and be sure to take their notes. People often write and get attached, if someone doesn’t get what they’re doing, they get sensitive, they try to defend their work – if you ask someone for notes, be ready to take their notes. That’s the only way you’re going to learn. And if you really want to do it, go for it!
PLAYING WITH THE BOYS hits stores on April 10th. Thanks, Liz!