Interview with Author Liz Larson

Liz Larson

I am thrilled to have interviewed author Liz Larson, who shared with us details of her writing life, her book ‘Fireflies and Zeroes‘, which was released on 19th July 2023, and answered a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.

Liz Larson

Liz Larson has spent half of her life in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the other half in State College, Pennsylvania. She loves both of her hometowns, faults and all. Despite her “real” job as a physics graduate student, her inner emo kid is still going strong. You can usually find her writing, playing bass, or out exploring the countryside–in all cases, surrounded by her animals and far, far too many Green Day albums.

interview picture 2023


1) Where did the inspiration for your book come from?

The inspiration for Fireflies and Zeroes came from two separate moments that initially seemed unrelated. The idea of the inciting incident—an attack on a famous musician at a party—came to me in a dream. I woke up inspired, and set about writing the opening scene even though I had nothing else to go on at the time.

Years later, I was in the process of a move halfway across the country when news of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville broke. I had just spent the past four years in Charlottesville as a college student but had never felt like I truly connected with the town, and I was surprised by how the news struck me; I remember being gripped by an overwhelming sensation of I need to go home. It was the first time home had meant Charlottesville, and I was outraged on the town’s behalf that this was its introduction to the rest of the world, and the only impression strangers would have of what I had come to know as a beautiful, troubled, and complicated place.

Long story short, I moved both myself and my story home to Charlottesville, and ultimately found a deeper message for Fireflies and Zeroes about love, home, and everything that makes them both so difficult.

2) How did you plan out the plot?

A better question would be: did I plan out the plot? I’m mostly kidding, but aside from a few key landmarks of events I knew had to happen, I let my characters take control.

The mystery itself was planned almost exclusively in my head, with occasional outbursts in notebooks when my editor challenged me to resolve an especially thorny plot point, but so much of the story occurs in the journey, in the interactions and memories that connect my characters, that I started writing and just let it all happen.

3) When did you choose the title for your book?

I didn’t have a title for Fireflies and Zeroes until after my first draft was complete, but I more or less knew where it would come from. This book has a long and eclectic list of influences, including John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, William Faulkner’s Mississippi, and Green Day’s Revolution Radio, and I felt like there had to be a title in there somewhere—and indeed there was, in the song “Bouncing Off the Wall.”

One of my favorite scenes is a memory of catching the first fireflies of summer in a secluded hayfield, and finally, on about my hundredth listen through Revolution Radio, the line about “fireflies and zeroes” just clicked, and I knew I had my title. (A note for other authors looking to use song lyrics as titles: the licensing process is pretty straightforward, but you do have to pay a licensing fee—in my case, I felt it was entirely worth it!)

4) How did you come up with the names for your characters?

First, I made a point of deciding which characters I wanted to be named at all. The story centers on a band, the Generation, and I wanted to focus on the fact that the story is theirs and Charlottesville’s. Naturally, in a mystery, there are a number of other characters who come in, and I made the (perhaps contentious) choice not to give names to the police or the villains whom my characters meet along the way. This decision came out of reflection on the August 2017 rally and its aftermath and coverage, and how I imagined my fictional story fitting into the very real and continuing narrative about Charlottesville.

As for my named characters, my core cohort consists of bassist and front man Max, guitarist Jason, drummer Tara, and Max’s younger brother Alex. Tara’s name is the only one with deliberate meaning—she’s the only main character not from Charlottesville, and I wanted her to reflect my northern upbringing and the distance I initially felt from the town, so she is named for the street I grew up on in Pennsylvania. For Max and Alex, whose lookalike tendencies play a central role in the story, I wanted their names to have an element of similarity, and also speak subtly to their Slavic heritage. Jason, ever the rebellious protagonist, told me what he wanted to be called, and I went with it!

5) Can you give us a hint to any sections that you removed?

None, really, though in my very earliest drafts I had some additional characters in and around the band who didn’t make the final cut.

6) What made you choose this genre?

Music. In my mind, this story happened to be a mystery, but my true genre is pop-punk. Maybe it’s not recognized as a literary genre, but it’s the unifying theme of my inspiration and writing.

7) How long did it take you to complete your book?

From the first spark of an idea to a published book, ten years. But in terms of time spent actively working on the book, about three years.

8) Can you describe your book in three words?

Hometown, friendship, pop-punk.

9) What’s the hardest part of being a writer?

Selling yourself and your writing—both to agents/publishers, and to readers. I’m much more confident working with my fictional people than with real ones!

10) Why should our readers pick your book up?

For the characters. When their lives are upended, their fame and status become irrelevant, and at their core, they’re a group of twentysomething kids back at home, trying to solve a mystery and save their friend. Though the plot is framed as a mystery, it’s a heartfelt coming-of-age story, about Jason desperately doing whatever it takes to reunite with his best friend, and learning a lot about himself in the process.

Fireflies and Zeroes by Liz Larson

Fireflies and Zeroes

Author – Liz Larson
Publisher – Brandylane Publishers
Pages – 210
Release Date – 19th July 2023
ISBN 13 – 978-1958754290
Format – ebook, paperback


February 2018, Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Generation is back–finally. Over the course of a yearlong hiatus, the pop-punk trio has seen their beloved hometown rocked by racist violence and endured months of radio silence from their brilliant yet volatile front man, Max. But guitarist Jason is ready to put all of that behind him when a late-night call from Max reconnects the lifelong friends and reunites the band.

At a party on the eve of the band’s reunion tour, Jason watches in horror as Max is thrown to his death off a balcony. Or so he thinks. In the chaotic hours that follow, two things become clear: the victim on the balcony was an imposter, and–as usual–there are no simple answers when it comes to the real Max. He’s just . . . gone.

Troubled by the emotional storms that drove Max away even before his disappearance, but desperate to bring him home, Jason resolves to find Max himself. In the long winter shadow of Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Jason sets out on a race against time to save his friend. In doing so, he unravels a series of surprising personal truths about the people and places he cares about most.

Purchase Online:


Fun Questions

Talking Owl Interview Pic 2023

1) Do you have a writing buddy (i.e. a pet)?

Yes! I do a lot of my best story planning (that is, silently arguing with my characters) while out exploring the Virginia countryside with my horse.

liz larson horse

2) Do you have any writing quirks?

I occasionally get an idea in my head that won’t let go until I get it all out on the page, and have been known to go multiple days without sleeping while frantically writing. The remarkable part is that I do all of this without caffeine!

3) Where do you write?

A lot of my planning takes place away from my desk, either out with my horse or while I’m driving, and as for actually writing, anywhere quiet that I can plug in my laptop is fair game! I’m not-so-secretly curating a list of locations with outdoor outlets to make the most of the (often) lovely Virginia weather.

4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?

I would love to play the band’s manager, Izzy. She doesn’t enter into the story too often, but makes her presence felt in a big way, as a feisty, pink-haired punk, and the closest thing to a parent figure for a group of twentysomethings who sometimes need to be kept in line!

5) A talking owl has just finished reading your book, what’s the first thing he says to you?

I assume that an owl will always ask “Who?” I can only hope he’ll ask, “Who is this amazing author and when does her next book come out?”

Author links


A big thank you to Liz Larson for sharing her writing life with us and for a wonderful interview.

The above links are affiliate links. I receive a very small percentage from each item you purchase via these link, which is at no extra cost to you. If you are thinking about purchasing the book, please think about using one of the links above. Thank you.

You may also like...