Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Alexa Young!

I'm beyond thrilled to bring back Women Who Rock Wednesday with an interview with one of my author BFFs, Alexa Young. I met Alexa this summer when we organized Rock 'n' Read Hollywood. She's a very cool gal, a total sweetheart and a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with. She also writes a book series that I adore, Frenemies. If you love soapy teen/tween drama (which I do, hence my total addictions to Degrassi and 90210, both the old and new versions), you love Frenemies. Plus Alexa worked in the music biz for awhile so I figured she'd have some fun stories to tell us. So check out this great interview and be sure to leave a comment because Alexa has generously agreed to do two giveaways! One lucky winner will receive FRENEMIES and another will receive FAKETASTIC!

Q: Thanks for coming to Women Who Rock Wednesday, Alexa! The second book in your Frenemies series, FAKETASTIC, came out at the beginning of this month. Can you tell us a little bit about the series and FAKETASTIC specificially?

Alexa: Why yes, I can! FRENEMIES is about two fashion -obsessed BFFs (Halley Brandon and Avalon Greene) who have always agreed on everything. But after spending a summer apart, they’ve changed—physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually. The series follows them through their eighth grade year, exploring the many ways they struggle to remain friends while pursuing new interests, hanging out with new people (including new crushes), and just traveling down different paths. In FAKETASTIC, Halley and Avalon are reunited, but merging their new lives proves a serious challenge. Soon, they’re weaving a tangled web of deception (with the best of intentions, of course)—trying to preserve friendships old and new alike. Ultimately, they learn some serious lessons about betrayal, and just how badly faking your way through life can backfire.

Q: So are you Team Halley or Team Avalon? Meaning which girl do you relate to more or were you more like as teen?

Alexa: Oh, Stephanie, you know I can’t pick sides—which is just one testament to the fact that I’m bipolar (at least). Given that, I guess it’s no surprise that I can relate to both girls in different ways, and I was like both of them as a teen. For instance, Avalon is a total type-A control freak which I often tend to be. She is also a cheerleader and, shockingly enough to most people who know me now, I was too. She’s also the daughter of two lawyers…and my mom was a lawyer. But I’m also like Halley in the sense that I have a creative streak, I’m really into music, and I too spent at least the first half of my life obsessing over cute guys in bands.

Q: I think it's extremely important to have good girl friends, but in middle school and high school frenemies situations like Avalon and Halley's are so common. As much as I love reading this series for the drama and snarkiness, I like the way it makes you think about friendship, too. I've had amazing girl friends since high school who have taught me a lot and I learned a lot from not-so-good experiences with frenemies as well. Can you share one of your tweenage/teenage friendship stories (good or bad) that taught you something important?

Alexa: Wow. Great question. Back in middle school, I was sort of in the “popular” crowd (whatever that meant)—but I never quite felt like I fit in with most of them. More often than not, I found myself being the friend who got ditched whenever my friends found someone or something better—like when they started dating or decided to hang out with the people who were higher up in the clique or got invited to a party or sleepover that I didn’t. By the time I got to high school, I had learned the importance of being friends with people not because of their social status but because of things we genuinely had in common. I stopped trying to fit in with the “in” crowd and I just hung out with people from my honors classes, from mock trial, from the drama club. Mostly, I learned the importance of balance in relationships—of making sure that there’s a give and take there, and that I’m getting as much from the friendship as I’m putting into it. I also want to make it clear that there was nothing specifically wrong with the popular friends I had—but the relationships I had with them simply weren’t as deep or meaningful to me as they could and should have been. If a relationship isn’t working, it’s rarely because one person is wrong and one person is right—it’s because it’s a bad fit and because the two people are wrong for each other.

Q: It's no secret that we met doing Rock 'n' Read and I know that at heart and by background, your a rockin' chick. Can you talk a little about your history in the music biz and the other writing you do besides for YA/tween fiction?

Alexa: Well, when I studied writing in college, my secret dream was to become a journalist and write for Rolling Stone. I worked at the college record store and also did some album reviews and band interviews for the student newspaper—but I didn’t feel my skills as a rock reporter were exactly RS caliber when I graduated. Still, I desperately wanted to work with music in some way. So, I moved to Hollywood and got an internship at Capitol Records. (Best. Job. Ever!) Within a few weeks, I was working as an assistant to the executive vice president of the company—taking calls from record producers, scheduling meetings with bands, going to free concerts (I saw Radiohead in a tiny club!) and scoring more free CDs than I could possibly fit into my little apartment (everything from the Beatles to the Beastie Boys, Sinatra to Supergrass).
After a few years at Capitol, I heard that one of the owners of HITS magazine was looking for an assistant. HITS is (okay, WAS) the most hilarious music industry trade magazine ever. I got the job and, in less than a year, I was promoted to an assistant editor—no longer making coffee and ordering lunch, but actually living my dream as a quasi rock journalist. I got to review two albums every week and interviewed all kinds of artists, including Chris Isaak, Everclear, k.d. lang…the list goes on. After a few years there (can you tell I get bored every three years?!), I was (gasp) a little burned out on the music biz. So I looked for other mag jobs and scored a gig as senior editor for JUMP—a teen magazine “for girls who dare to be real.” It was sort of like SASSY (for those who knew that magazine back in the day). Sadly, the magazine wasn’t all that profitable so it folded about a year after I joined the staff. That’s when I moved down the hall to work for SHAPE (the #1 women’s fitness magazine in the country). I’ve never learned so much about how to get flatter abs, a perky butt, and diet yourself to a bikini body—the RIGHT way! Seriously, it was a great job and women’s health and fitness became sort of a specialty of mine when I went freelance in 2004. In the years since then, I’ve written for Family Circle, Women’s Health, Weight Watchers magazine and Woman’s Day, among many others. I’ve also coauthored a fitness book AND a nonfiction book about, um, sex! All of that stuff is written under my maiden name, though…so people don’t get confused (or read racy things that aren’t age-appropriate). See? I told you there were at least two of me! ;-)

Q: What is next for Alexa Young?

Alexa: Who? Just kidding. Um…I’m finishing up book three in the FRENEMIES series (GLAMNESIA), and then it’s on to the as-yet-untitled fourth and final book. From there, I’d really like to write something a bit darker—but still for YA. I have a few ideas brewing. I’d also like to get out of the country for a while with my family (possibly a week in Tuscany or a cruise around the Greek Isles). Oh, and I’ve recently become super passionate about exercising and “eating clean”—so I’m hoping by this time next year I will be able to compete in bodybuilding competitions. Okay, not really. I just want to feel my most energetic and fit by the time I hit age 40 (which, OMG, is right around the corner!).

Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Alexa: Oh, I love talking about this (so, once again, I’m going to be really long-winded)! The first album I ever bought was the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever (Bee Gees, anyone?). I was in fourth grade, and I’d been telling all the fifth and sixth graders that I owned the album—even though I didn’t. I thought it would impress them. Then, I convinced my parents to take me to Licorice Pizza (this was an actual name of a chain of record stores back in the day), and they bought the album for me. My first concert was Depeche Mode, Black Celebration. My friend’s dad worked for the band’s insurance company or something, and got us really great seats. I was sixteen, and the only one with a driver’s license—so I drove (in my mom’s Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, complete with the fake wood paneling). The show was at Irvine Meadows. I still remember what I wore (and it was SO NOT Depeche Mode worthy): A red and blue striped Ralph Lauren rugby shirt with a white collar, and my pleated-front Guess jeans. Yikes. I think I bought and listened to every Depeche Mode album ever recorded for the next year or two. That was all I listened to…until I discovered U2!

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Alexa: Um…okay, I’m going to talk about a Wayne’s World moment with a twist. So, back in my music biz days, a guy I knew was house-mates with the Goo Goo Dolls’ drummer. One night, I was out with this guy and some of our other friends in Hollywood when all the Goo Goo Dolls showed up…and Johnny Rzeznik flirted with me. He and I even wound up playing the piano together for a bit—and apparently, when I left for a minute to go to the bathroom, he asked my friends where I’d gone. I felt SO awesome—like the guy was seriously in love with me. (In my mind, he was totally obsessed with me, he couldn’t take his eyes off of me, he had to have me!) Alas, the guys in the band soon decided they were going to leave, and on his way out, Johnny walked directly into the glass door—not realizing it was there. I guess he must have been pretty drunk (or something). I jokingly said something like, “Nice beer goggles, Johnny”…but I still felt special. Johnny Goo had flirted with me! Tragic, but true.

Wow, flirting with rock stars and her first concert was Depeche Mode. That is pretty awesome! I told you Alexa would have some great stories to tell. I especially loved what she had to say in response to my friendship question though.

Okay now all you have to do to win a copy of one of Alexa's books is leave a comment, perhaps in reply to something Alexa had to say or perhaps you want to answer my question about friendship since I think that would be pretty interesting to get responses from multiple people to that one. Also if you happen to already have Frenemies and just want to be entered in the Faketastic drawing or vice versa, go ahead and mention that in your comment.

As usual, you have a week to leave comments and I will draw my winner next Wednesday when I interview the fabulous author (and another rockin' lady who read with Alexa and me at Rock 'n' Read Hollywood), Alyson Noel!


Liviania said...

Alexa Young is wildly cool and I didn't fully realize it until this interview.

And just how do you get abs and a butt the right way? I'm currently relying on genetics and crunches.

As for a friendship story . . . I didn't really have any frenemies. However, I really went behind my mom's back for the first time to keep a friend. My mom thought she was a bad influence, but I knew she needed every friend she could get so I stayed her friend. We shared books, movies, and music. (Without her, I wouldn't have discovered Lacuna Coil or many others.) I drove her home quite a bit when the weather was bad. I gave her half of my lunch everyday so that she'd have something to eat later. (She got the free lunch at school, but that didn't guarantee there'd be anything at home.) She was always a great friend to me and I'm glad I kept her in my life because it's my decision who I choose to surround myself with.

(Note: I already own Frenemies.)

Keri Mikulski said...

Love this interview!

I have both amazing books, but I just wanted to stop by and say hi! :)

Angela said...

Wow, this is one wickedly awesome author. I had only heard the name mentioned once or twice before, hadn't really taken the time to look up the books. But now I really want to read them! I love the idea of portraying friendships the way some REALLY are: love-hate relationships.

As for having frenemies... well, I do have a few, but not in the average way.They're more of people that I don't like in particular but that I keep as acquaintances because I don't want to be on their bad side. I just don't like having "enemies".

But anyway... I'm thinking about going to the bookstore some time next week and looking for your books. They sound great!

Thanks for providing this awesome interview! :)

Bookworm said...

Alexa rocks! I have both books and love 'em!

TruBlu93 said...

A friendship story?
I'm one of those people who try and get along with everyone. I try to have a close clique of friends but it gets difficult cause they have their cliques too and its confusing. Like Alexa, I'm usually the one getting ditched, when I hang out with my "popular" friends. I always feel like the third wheel and I don't like it, so you seldomly find me with them. But what I have learned is that you just need to be open and friendly and you'll always have a friend. Just talk to the kid sitting next to you. If they don't talk back, it's their loss.


I'd like to be entered to win Faketastic since I already own a copy of Frenemies.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks to everyone who shared their stories. Liviania, wow, you really are a true true friend!

Lalaland said...

The interview was amazing. It's so cool to write in a magazine. I want to be a journalist, but I don't want to be stuck with a job that's not me.

I've never had any frenemies. I try to be nice to everyone because there isn't a reason not to. But I do have people who hate me for who I am though. I just avoid them until they graduate. It's not like they would ever be in my class. Since I'm in 'gifted' (It's not like what other people say. We're not smart, we just think in a different way.), we usually have our own big group. There are like two cliques, but we're all in some way friends with each other. I would describe one of the cliques as popular, and the other as you better be yourself or else you would be awkward all the time and you better not care about all of the bad things people tell you. There are some people who are in between, but they usually belong to the popular one. There are some people in 'gifted' who aren't friends in the cliques, but they have friends, just not in 'gifted'. We're like one big family in some ways if you really think about it. =)

I'd like to win Frenemies. I haven't read it, and I tried finding it in my library, but they don't have it. >.<