http://www.coastlinepilot.com/news/tn-cpt-0415-harrison-20110414,0,5004850.story By Joanna Clay, firstname.lastname@example.org April 14, 2011 | 5:48 p.m.
Hard to write in beautiful Laguna, but write she does
Canadian young adult fiction writer Lisi Harrison has been a beachside local since 2007.
Growing up in Toronto, Lisi Harrison could care less about labels.
Although her classmates made sure that Ralph Lauren graced every tee, she enjoyed a shopping spree at Kmart.
She wasn't a rich bully or hiding a monster beneath her designer duds. No, those are her characters.
The best-selling author of the "Alphas," "The Clique" and "Monster High" series didn't truly consider the competition that surrounded her until she reached her 20s while working at MTV in New York City.
Her newest installment of the "Monster High" series, "The Ghoul Next Door," came out this month.
Working her way up from the bottom, the Laguna Beach resident was head writer and eventually senior director of development for the network.
"MTV did remind me of middle school at the time," she said. "It just reminded me of everybody wanting to be cool, everybody wanting to fit in and wanting to be popular. Everyone was friends but there was this underlying air of competition."
Harrison spent her days developing TV shows, such as "Room Raiders." She even cast "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," but left before the show aired.
After leaving work at 9 p.m., Harrison would stay up until 3 in the morning typing away her first novel, "The Clique."
"I didn't think it would be successful, but I really wanted to try my hardest," Harrison said.
She was told when she signed her contract that she would receive a bonus if she sold more than 100,000 copies. The odds weren't in her favor, the publisher told her.
Her "Clique" series has sold more than 9 million copies.
In 2004, Harrison left her job at MTV to focus full time on writing.
With her other two series — "Alphas" and "Monster High" — Harrison has finished 27 books and has two in the works.
In 2007, Harrison moved to Laguna Beach with her husband, Kevin Harrison, and her son Luke, now 5. A year after moving, she had her daughter, Jesse.
A big change from the Big Apple, Harrison said it isn't always easy to stick to her schedule and feel the angst that fuels her writing.
"It's harder to write here. It's too nice," she said with a laugh. "There's no reason to be pissed off."
"The Clique" tells the story of upper-class girls who are at the top of the food chain at their New York private middle school. "Alphas" is a spin-off of the series, showing readers what would happen if all the "it" girls attended the same super-exclusive boarding school.
"Monster High," inspired by the Mattel dolls of the same name, is about popular high-schoolers who hide a ghoulish side. The stylish monsters try their best to keep their secret from the "normies."
Besides dolls, there is also a "Monster High" website with webisodes, Halloween costumes and games inspired by the characters. A recent development is that readers can send a text to receive weekly updates from their favorite ghouls.
Thinking stereotypically, one might find Orange County to be the perfect audience for her books. There are private schools, designer boutiques and certainly lots of money. However, Harrison wants readers and parents to know that her books aren't about that.
"Even though 'The Clique' is about rich girls with big budgets and designer this or designer that … girls that are reading it aren't reading it to get wardrobe tips or how they can best blow out their father's Visa," she said. "It's actually preaching the opposite. People that rely too heavily on the designer clothes and all that garbage aren't worth idolizing at all. The kids get that."
Harrison will be part of the "Smells Like Teen Spirit: Young Adult Fiction" panel at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival on April 30.
For more information, visit lisiharrison.com.