Lisa Yee was one of the first and nicest people I met when I started connecting with other writers for kids and young adults back in the day. She is smart and funny, sure, but more importantly we have almost the exact same taste in movies and she’s seen everything. Oh yeah, she’s also the author of six (six!) books for young readers. We recently had a chat about her newest, Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally).
SZ: So I hear you have a new book out. Tell me a little bit about it.
LY: BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) chronicles the life of Bobby Ellis-Chan, a non-athletic fourth grader and a son of an ex-NFL player turned stay-at-home dad. Bobby’s best friend is Holly, but they can’t let anyone know they’re friends or else they’ll be teased since it’s practically illegal for boys and girls to be friends. After many misunderstandings, Bobby finds himself in the middle of a war between boys and girls.
SZ: Sounds great. As a long-time friend to boys, I’m excited to read it. Funny…I was flipping through my latest Horn Book and saw the review and couldn’t help but notice…gosh, this is kind of awkward…the mean girl in the book. Her name.
LY: Oh yeah. Her name. It’s um . . . Jillian Zarr.
SZ: I just wonder, you know, why you’d choose such a name for, like, a villain.
LY: Well, you know how with some people, you always say their first and last name? I wanted Bobby to have an enemy who’s name was like that. I’ve always thought that Jillian was a great name, but then I needed a last name for her. I had either just been emailing a friend of mine, who’s name happened to be, um, Sara Zarr, or maybe I was reading her blog. So I put Zarr as a placeholder last name . . . Jillian Zarr. But as I wrote, I fell in love with the name and it stuck. Now, I think it’s important to note that I did ask you if I could use your name beforehand. And I think your response was something like, “as long as she’s not a total dork,” or something along those lines.
SZ: If you say so. When you were Bobby and Jillian’s age, did you intermingle with boys or were you strictly No Boys Allowed?
LY: Hmmm . . . now that i think about it, I don’t think my friends and I co-mingled with boys. Although my best friend today is a guy. What about you?
SZ: Oh, I co-mingled all right. I’ve always run with the boys—I practically was a boy. My older sister once called me the “little brother [she] always wanted.” It wasn’t really until adulthood I started making close women friends. Do does this Jillian Zarr person become repentant and fantastic by the end of the story? Or would that be giving something away?
LY: Now that I think about it, in high school I was one of the guys. As for the evil Jillian Zarr . . . she is not redeemed by the end of the book. BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) is the first of a series, so I need to keep Jillian Zarr around and angry. Thanks so much for letting me borrow your last name. You, Sara Zarr, are a good sport!!!
SZ: I really am. You’re naming a mean girl after me, and I’m naming a doctor after you in my next book. Take that!