Friday, February 27, 2009

Jennifer Banash Winner and Zombie Party!!!

What a lovely way to start a Friday: I have a winner to announce! The winner of Jennifer Banash's IN TOO DEEP is Diana Dang from blogger. Diana, please email me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com with your mailing address!

Now, in case you hadn't heard, Amanda Ashby's new book ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH is coming out very, very soon. And she is hosting an amazing zombie-themed cyber party on her blog. You can find out who all is coming by watching this:

Today, I posted a guest blog there, along with my lovely critique partner, Vanessa Barneveld (remember that name. She doesn't have a book contract yet, but I am convinced she will very soon and you all will love her as much as I do.) So go read my zombie blog and leave a comment to be entered to win a signed copy of IWBYJR. And while you are there read Vanessa's (who is giving out some delicious sounding chocolate cookies) and everyone else's!

Enjoy your weekend and be on the look out for zombies!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Win Lunch with me from Time Out Chicago and looking for lyrics!

Time Out Chicago is running a contest this week to win lunch with me at a South Loop restaurant.  They are doing this because I will be part of the Columbia College Chicago Story Week Festival of Writers March 15th through 20th.

If you can't read the contest details above (which you probably can't because I had a nightmare of a time getting the PDF to a jpg), just go to for all of the details. 

All you have to do to enter is visit the Story Week Festival of Writer's website and find out when and where my event is. Then plug in that answer at You have to enter between now and 8 pm CST on March 4th. Now, note they aren't flying me some place to have lunch (I wish!), so you should only enter if you are in the Chicago area or can easily get here to have lunch with me in the South Loop.

Okay, now I have a strange request. In BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, different character write their "ballad," basically the story of the most important moment in their life. For my character Stacey, it's about realizing that both of her parents are pretty much incapable of raising her and that she has to take care of herself. So she starts dating a ton of boys and winds up getting pregnant (Don't worry I'm not ruining anything for you by telling you this. You know Stacey had a teenage pregnancy from pretty much page 1 of the book). Everyone opens their "ballad" with a song lyric. Right now Stacey's is a Jane's Addiction lyric:
"It's up to me now
My daddy has gone away"

I'm not sure this is perfect. Mostly because the song "Had a Dad" that this is from is actually about there not being a god. It's not a literal, my dad let me down song. Maybe I'll end up using it anyway, but maybe, just maybe there is a better lyric out there. There are some qualifications though:

1. It cannot be more than two lines long. This is because of fair-use laws. 
2. It has to be a song that came out before April of 1995. Stacey is not psychic. She cannot use lyrics from songs that were written after she wrote her "ballad."
3. It has to suit Stacey. Stacey is not a punk like most of my characters. She would listen to mainstream alternative rock from the late 80s/early 90s (ie. Jane's Addiction, Faith No More, Nirvana), heavier classic rock because of her mom (ie. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, also stuff like Fleetwood Mac), she also had a hair metal phase (Poison, GNR, Bon Jovi, etc) and a hippie phase (though, god help me, I will not quote the Grateful Dead in my book. I considered it, but I just dislike them way too much. So I don't know, Beatles or Doors instead of the Dead please)
4. It has to describe the situation I describe above. ie thinking your parents are failures, can't take care of you, so you date lots of boys looking for one to take care of you and get knocked up and forced to grow up too soon. It doesn't have to cover all these things. That would be one hell of a song, but perhaps it covers one of these aspects or a general feeling of it.

And I would need ideas by Sunday at the latest. The copyedits go back on Monday and if you guys or my critique partners or me don't come up with something, I'm sticking with the Jane's Addiction I guess.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The "Inspired By" Contest Entries!!!!

Well, the "Inspired By" contest definitely didn't garner as many entries as I'd hoped (I love seeing people's creative sides and hearing playlists/mix cds so I guess I was being a little greedy and hoped to see a ton), but it got some absolutely amazing entries. I'm so glad that I put in the rules that the winner would be determined by votes on my blog because I could not choose between these kick-ass entries!

So here is how this is gonna work. I'm posting all the entries in both categories: Fan Art and Soundtracks. Voting will be open for two weeks. I will announce the winner on March 10th. You vote by simply leaving a blog comment. Choose one entry from the Fan Art category and one entry from the Soundtrack category. If you entered, of course you can vote for your own. If you are passionate about seeing a particular entry win (like maybe your own), feel free to send your friends over to vote as well. Even though I didn't get a ton of entries, I hope there will be a ton of voting because these people's hard work deserves to be seen by many! If you are one of those people who needs to see the rules/prizes for the contest before determining winners, you can find them here.

Okay, I am posting this in the order I received them, not the order I prefer them. I seriously couldn't choose. That's why I'm leaving the hardwork up to you, dear blog readers.

Fan Art Category:

Ritsuka's entry:

Close up on the letters (click here for an even closer look):
This is Ritsuka's Artist's Statement, explaining her photographs: There are four pieces of paper in the photo, and all of them say something different. One has Emily's song on it. Louder. Harder. Faster. Another has the lyrics to Sleater-Kinney's I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone scrawled on it.
And the last two . . . The last two are letters written by Emily and Louisa. 

I took the picture in my own musical haven, I wanted to give the impression that it was where Emily had be sitting so of course I chose that spot.

Jonathon's Entry:

Jonathon's Artist's Statement for his t-shirt logo design:  I was inspired by the significance of Emily's mother's records in the novel as well as the Sleater-Kinney song, hence the 45 adapters.

Paul's Entry:

Paul's is an alternate book cover for IWBYJR.

Liviania's entry:

Liviania's artist statement about her t-shirt logo design: As I read the book, I paid attention to the character of the band and the first thing that really hit me was how much Emily and Regan wanted to own their sexuality. They didn't always since that's how the world rolls, but they were fierce and wanted it. I was also thinking about functionality - a logo needs to be printed cheaply. Therefore, I started doodling feminine silhouettes as I read. But none of them really took control for me. They were just the same thing you could see as a window cling on some loser's car. As my silhouettes became more stylized I found a shape I liked: a dressmaker's form.

It reduces the female body completely to an object. But it's an object that's been used by women for women. Plus, some of the curves reminded me of the curves of a guitar. Then came the problem of lettering. I knew I wanted block letters but had trouble finding an orientation I liked. What I chose has the letters running out of the form - the personality of "She Laughs" is too big to stay within the lines.

I wanted bright colors and to limit myself to 4 since that's a standard printing number. I had a triangular highlighter perfect for the job. I imagine the design being as is on a black background or with the form filled in black on a white background. The final product is a bit more flat than I wanted (I may try again), but overall I think I got it pretty close to my concept.

Now onto the next category...

Soundtrack Category:

Kay's Soundtrack: Click on the link to see a YouTube video of the song if you are not familiar with it.

Civet - All I Want  This song reminds me of Emily and Regan's friendship.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts - Bad Reputation  Another Emily and Regan song; if there's ever an IWBYJR movie, they should TOTALLY do a montage of Emily and Regan strolling around Carlisle, with this song as a background.

The Runaways - Hollywood Dream  Yet again, Emily and Regan. Maybe not Hollywood dreams as much as rockstar dreams, but the lyrics kind of relate to that: "Daddy says I'm much too good for the neighbourhood."

New Found Glory - Truth of My Youth Kind of how I think Emily, Regan and Tom (and maybe every kid that ever went to River's Edge) felt about Carlisle.

HorrorPops - Freaks in Uniform  "A zombified closed community, a brainwashed breed of hypocrisy!" - another tribute to the town stuck in the past, lol.

Rancid - Unwritten Rules  To me, this song sums up the passion and NEED to play music, for She Laughs.

HorrorPops - Trapped  Kind of what I imagine Emily was thinking when she first met Johnny.

Rancid - Injury  And an Emily/Johnny break up song.

HorrorPops - Undefeated  "My band, my friends, my life, my pride, what keeps me undefeated" - Emily's rehab song after the travelling year.

Civet - You Don't Know Me  Emily and She Laughs vs. Johnny and My Gorgeous Letdown.

Garbage - Cherry Lips  A song for Michael and Louisa: "This life can turn a good girl bad - she was the sweetest thing you ever had."

Alkaline Trio - Maybe I'll Catch Fire  This song makes me think of some of the things Louisa thought in her years of solitude: "And maybe I'll catch fire, something warm to hold me - something pure to burn away the darkness that hides inside my mind; all that evil shit's not hard to find."

Blondie - The Dream's Lost on Me  A survivor song for Emily.

Lucile's Soundtrack:

Get a playlist!
Standalone player
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Justine's Soundtrack:

Get a playlist!
Standalone player
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So there you have it. The nice thing is that due to the low number of entries, everyone who entered will get some sort of prize, but your votes will determine who gets what. 

Please comment and pick one in each category.

Fan Art: Ritsuka, Jonathon, Paul, or Liviania

Soundtrack: Kay, Lucile, or Justine

Friday, February 20, 2009

GCC Presents: Jennifer Banash

I'm excited to do another interview and giveaway this week (remember to comment on WWRW to win a signed Civet CD) because Jennifer Banash is here on her Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour!

Before we get to that I want to remind you of one important thing. Today is technically the last day to enter the "Inspired By" contest. Since I'm a procrastinator and my beloved fiance is an even worse procrastinator, I'm gonna give you procrastinators one last chance and say get your entry in by Sunday night because Monday is when I'll be posting the entries on my blog for voting! Details can be found here, my darlings!

Now let's meet Jennifer Banash and talk about IN TOO DEEP, the next book in her fabulous ELITE series! Here's what the book is all about

If you don’t belong here— you just don’t belong…

The Bramford building’s newest resident and small-town transplant Casey McCloy is adapting to life in the Big Apple and loving it. She’s got the look, the attitude, and a delish new boyfriend, Drew Van Allen. But she’s starting to have second thoughts as to whether the “New York” Casey is the real Casey. And she’s not so sure she likes herself much anymore. She’s not the only one.

Madison Macallister has always had her Manolo Blahniks firmly planted on the top rung of the social ladder—until that corn-fed cow Casey stole Drew away from her and made her look the fool. So what if Madison wasn’t exactly dating Drew at the time? She wanted him. And everyone knows that Madison gets what she wants, like Drew—and a little revenge.

Praise For THE ELITE series, and IN TOO DEEP:

“The Elite is Pretty in Pink for the millennium generation.”
—Romance Reviews Today

What's a Normal, Illinois girl to do when she enters the world of New York City's rich and bitchy? Hold tight, because this is one drama-filled ride."
--Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway.

"In Too Deep is a seductive read."
—Innovative: A Word for the WriTeen Blog

“Fans of the drama, romance, gossip, and privileged lifestyle depicted in Gossip Girl and Blue Bloods will be drawn to In Too Deep... In Too Deep continues to showcase the glitzy and glamorous lifestyle of New York City’s privileged teens...Banash’s Elite series continues to rock above the rest.”
—The Compulsive Reader Blog

“As you know, life in the posh and drama-filled Upper East Side is never easy! Hold onto your Hermes scarves and Coach handbags, the Bram Clan is back for more action and drama!”
—The Book Vault Blog

“Banash is fabulous at creating relatable characters in over-the-top situations.”
—In Bed With Books Blog

Now let's meet Jennifer!

Jennifer Banash attended high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and currently lives in Southern California with her Beagle, Sigmund, and her vast designer shoe collection. She is the author of THE ELITE series, published by Berkley Jam. Watch for the third installment of THE ELITE, SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE, coming in July 09! Visit her website at

Jennifer has been awesome enough to answer my usual questions for the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit:

Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to your book and explain how they relate to your story or characters.

Jennifer: M-83's Kim and Jesse would be the soundtrack to not only the book itself, but would be the song featured in the movie trailer if ITD was ever a film. Their CD, Saturdays=Youth is like a 21st century soundtrack to Pretty in Pink. It's fantastic.

New Order's Age of Consent. Come on--it's New Order! This song was so intrinsic to MY youth, and really brings back what it felt like to be a teen for me so vividly whenever I play it.

It's Never Over by Kate Walsh. This is very much Casey's song to Drew. It's the track that she listens to over in over in bed at night when she can't sleep.

Sour Cherry by The Kills is really representative of Madison to me--even though she wouldn't have the slightest idea who they are!

Crushed by the Cocteau Twins. This is THE song of heartbreak, as far as I'm concerned. I don't CARE that I don't know WHAT the singer is actually saying! it perfectly captures the feeling of having a crush on someone unattainable, and getting your heart stomped on--the beauty and sadness of it all. Sigh.

Name some of your main character's favorite musicians or bands.

Jennifer: Drew really likes the band M-83. He's actually borderline obsessed with them. Madison doesn't really like music at all per se, and thinks that pop music is especially stupid. Phoebe likes obscure French bands like The Plastecines, and her favorite song ever is Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot's Bonnie and Clyde. Her favorite CD is Charlotte Gainsbourg's 5:55. Sophie's musical tastes are pretty mainstream--she likes Beyonce, Britney, Rihanna, Madonna--al the usual suspects. Casey is really eclectic, but especially LOVES 80's music. Her favorite films are John Hughes teen comedies from that time period, so it's only natural that she also love the music from those films especially!

Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?

Jennifer: Here's the playlist I listened to obsessively when writing IN TOO DEEP--it should give you a pretty good idea of my musical tastes:

That’s Not My Name: The Ting Ting’s
Kim and Jesse: M-83
The Song That We Sing: Charlotte Gainsbourg
What Will Give: The Radio Department
Starlet Johannson: The Teenagers
Sour Cherry: The Kills
My Sister: Juliana Hatfield
Run: Air
Incredible: Madonna
One Time Too Many: Phoenix
A&E: Goldfrapp
2 Hookers and a Mexican: Mickey Avalon
Age of Consent: New Order
Thirteen: Elliot Smith
Nolita Fairytale: Vanessa Carlton
Don’t Bother Me: The Blakes
Phantom: Justice
Jealous Girls: The Gossip
Face To Face: Daft Punk
Chocolate, Raspberry, Lemon & Lime: Muscles
Crushed: Cocteau Twins
Sleep: Azure Ray

Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?

Jennifer: I have to listen to music when I write--but only with headphones. I sort of have to create my own little universe with its own soundtrack when I write :) I often listen to the exact same song over and over again when I'm writing a scene--and often the song itself will make it's way into the pages of the book--literally!

While music is my muse, I know other writers find their muse in theater, sports, art, the great outdoors, etc. What is your main muse?

Jennifer: Films and television. I'm obsessed with media culture in all its forms but especially film and TV.

Thanks Jennifer. And most of all, thanks for volunteering to give away a copy of IN TOO DEEP to one of my lucky blog readers! We'll do this the same way we do Women Who Rock Weds. You have until next Friday to comment, and you can comment on anything you like, Jennifer's interview, how much you are dying to read this book, whatever you like! Personally I'm gonna comment that I think Jennifer has awesome musical taste and my favorite song on her playlist is My Sister by Juliana Hatfield. I loooooove that song!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Liza and Suzi of Civet!!!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! As usual, I have a prize from last week to give out, a signed copy of MISS MATCH by Wendy Toliver. That lucky winner is.... sweetmelissa818 from blogger. Please send your address to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com to claim your prize!

Today I have an extremely special interview to share and as usual there will be a kick-ass prize, a signed CD by my current favorite band on the planet, CIVET!

I know you have been listening to me talk these ladies up for almost a year now, but it's for good reason. I haven't gotten this excited about a band since I was like thirteen and first discovering bands like Nirvana, Hole, and Rancid in the early 90s. I've been listening to their album HELL HATH NO FURY pretty much non-stop since it came out in September. I ran a little WWRW feature on them back then, but wasn't able to do an interview because the ladies were quite busy. But in addition to being the most kick-ass women in rock, the ladies of CIVET, Liza and Suzi in particular, are total sweethearts. They invited me to their gig in Chicago in December and sat down afterward to do an exclusive Women Who Rock Wednesday interview.

So why did it take me so f*&^ing long to share it with you since I know you were dying to have it. Well, two reasons. One because I was just swamped and it took me forever to transcribe it, but mainly because I wanted to post it now, to psych you up for CIVET's tour with the DROPKICK MURPHYS which kicks off on Friday! You should visit CIVET's myspace now to find out if they are hitting a city near you because this is a tour not to be missed. CIVET is amazing live. For me, that is the true test of a band. I can't honestly declare them one of my all-time favorites if they don't blow me away in concert. I was in an all-girl mosh pit at CIVET's last Chicago show. That hasn't happened since.... um, probably never, but maybe some riot grrrl show I went to back in the early 90s at the Fireside Bowl. But seriously it was one of the best shows I've been to in a long long long time. The pictures that you'll see throughout this interview are from the Chicago show. But now I'll shut up and let Liza and Suzi do the talking. Don't forget to leave a comment after you read the interview. That's how you'll be entered to win a signed HELL HATH NO FURY cd.

(L to R: Suzi, me, Liza)

Can you tell me how Civet formed? And you guys are sisters, how did that play into it?

Liza: Yeah, we’re sisters. We started the band like 6 or 7 years ago. Suzi wasn’t initially in the band, but it was always my dream to bring her in to the band. I was always like, ‘Oh, I want to play music with my sister.’ It just took a little while for her to not be so young and be ready to come and jam.

Suzi: Pretty much when I turned 15. She was like, “Yeah, it’s time for you to pick up the guitar and be my back up.” And I thought, “Hmm sounds better than going to school. Now I have an excuse to get home schooled and play rock shows.

Liza: It was pretty funny because for about a year, she’d come and play like one or two songs at a show just to break her in and get the feel of things.

Suzi: It was scary. It was horrible.

Liza: The pictures are so cute. You look so young.

Suzi: I really was very young.

So who were some of your early influences? I’ve heard you say that part of the reason you did this was because there weren’t necessarily women out there doing what you wanted to do.

Liza: I didn’t really feel like there were any girl bands out there that I could really look up to.

Were there any women at all who influenced you?

Liza: Well, I really loved the Runaways. It just felt like, yeah there were girl bands, but they weren’t all tough, you know what I mean? I really wanted a tough girl band.

Suzi: Yeah pretty much you got to choose from like the Runaways who were around so long ago that it wasn’t even like we could go see them. And then like Courtney Love was really cool, but she was a little intense. We like wanted to find the medium. That was like comfortable, but still really tough.

What about guy bands, who were some of your influences?

Liza: When I first started I was listening to a lot of classic rock, like The Stones, The Beatles.

Suzi: That’s the kind of stuff we grew up on.

Liza: I think I listen to a lot more punk rock now that I did when I was starting the band. Even though if you listen to the music it probably sounds like it’s the opposite, like more punk rock in the beginning. But we love like Motorhead, the Misfits, stuff like that.

Suzi: We like dark, intense kind of stuff. Where when you are listening to the record you can feel the sweat they put into it. You’ve gotta get emotion out of it. That’s what we go for.

Do you guys have any crazy stories from the early days?

Liza: I don’t think anything was ever embarrassing, but I think a lot of the reason that a lot of girl bands don’t make it is because when they start they almost invite criticism because they are really shy and don’t present themselves as tough so they kind of invite the catcalls and the bad reviews. I think it’s a matter of being comfortable with yourself. I don’t think you can blame that on society. A lot of girl bands when they start, including myself, like I didn’t feel very comfortable with what I was doing in the first year and that invites negative shit.

So do you have a way to deal with it now?

Liza: No I just really don’t care now.

Suzi: We’re just over it!

Liza: We’re so far beyond being comfortable with who we are and what we do. We just feel like really powerful women. We feel like these bad-ass females who people look up to and we fuel our own fire and I can’t even imagine anyone saying anything.

Suzi: It’s a joke. They end up being the ones who look stupid. And everyone around them knows that. We’ve gotten to the point where that kind of stuff doesn’t matter, we’re so far past it.

When did you pick up guitar?

Liza: I actually started playing guitar when I started the band. So the first couple of years were like learning years. I was like 15 or 16.

And you’re self-taught?

Liza: Yeah, for sure. I never took lessons or anything like that and then I tried to teach Suzi…

Suzi: When I was 14, she was like, “Play this!” I was like, “Okay, it doesn’t really sound that good, but it feels good.

Liza: It comes together. I think if you have a passion for something, you don’t need lessons, you can teach yourself. You know what sounds right and what doesn’t sound right. No need to go to school.

What are some of your favorite songs on the new record, either to play live or songs that are really close to your heart?

Suzi: I would say one of my very favorites to play is 1989.

Liza: Yeah that’s one of my favorites, too.

Suzi: That’s totally up there in the top three. Probably number two. I don’t know what number one is, but I’m sure there is one… 1989 is a really great song that Liza wrote about our family and our dad and things that happened.

Liza: It’s weird because when we play the song we really kind of all get (S and L in unison) the chills. It’s one of those songs where you play it and you’re like, man, this song really feels good right now. And then Alibis is a great song.

Suzi: Yeah, there’s a lot of aggression in that one. It’s a good one to play at shows.

Liza: And then I also I love to listen to All I Want.

Suzi: That is such a fun song.

Liza: We don’t play that live right now. We’re going to start for our next tour. But it was a co-write, so it wasn’t initially ours, so it’s kind of hard.

Suzi: We’re like, we don’t really know you!

Liza: We played in the studio and it sounded fabulous, but after that we just didn’t add it into live rotation fast enough and we need a refresher course.

That’s a great song. It’s a co-write with Tim Armstrong, can you talk about how that came about?

Liza: Yeah. I think Tim felt kind of weird about just giving us the song to do on the record because there’s so much speculation about the Distillers albums not being written by the Distillers. So Tim was like, I have this song it was written for…

Suzi: Fefe Dobson, some Candian pop singer, which she recorded it…

Liza: She recorded it, but it didn’t make her album.

Suzi: Yeah and Tim was like, “I really love this song, can you guys maybe tweak it, make more your own. I think it would be a really good collaboration.”

Liza: So we took it into the studio—or to our practice space, I should say—and we changed the chords. And Tim and I worked on the lyrics together. So it was like we were able to make it our own, working with him on it.

Suzi: But you can still definitely hear his influence in it.

Liza: Yeah, you totally can. Like the guitar riffs, even though we played everything, the guitar stuff is signature Tim Armstrong.

(Stephanie enthusiastically interjects how much she loves the lyrics and they remind her of her friendship with her best friend.)

Liza: I think originally the lyrics were very like “All I want is my man to stand by my side”

Suzi: And we’re all, “Oh hell no!”

Liza: Yeah, it totally didn’t fit with us. And Tim was like, “Well, you know if you guys want to write it about being best girl friends. We can rewrite it.” And I said, “Okay, let’s rewrite it.” So it worked out a lot better.

Suzi: I’m really happy with that song. It’s like a little present, like here’s my gift to you, thanks for being on the label.

Liza: Tim was very cool about it.

You guys are very tattooed, I’m tattooed, I love tattoo stories, you got a favorite tattoo story that you want to tell me about?

Liza and Suzi ponder for a minute.

Suzi: Well, we just got tour tattoos.

Liza: We just got tour tattoos.

Suzi: We all got matching diamonds. (Suzi shows hers off on the back of her arm.) Mine’s still healing. My skin is slow. We all got diamonds tattooed on us for this tour, kind of like…

Liza: Maybe we’ll make some money this year.

Suzi: We’re heading that direction so we thought we’d symbolize it.

That’s awesome, where’d you guys get them done?

Suzi: It’s called HandMade Tattoos in Virginia. He’s a good friend of Danni, our drummer. His name is Will and they just took us in on our day off.

Liza: And all the band wanted tattoos and they were like let’s just do it.

Suzi: It was a nice little present and we had a nice day off, hanging out, getting tattooed.

Do you have any advice to women who want to get into rock or how to survive high school or your teen years as a punk girl?

Suzi: Did you say survive high school?

Liza: We both bailed. We got our diplomas but not good times. I think it’s all a matter of becoming comfortable with yourself and finding something to believe in.

Suzi: Yeah, finding something to believe in that makes you feel really good and really secure in who you are and that reflects who you are and makes you happy and just running with it. Putting your all into it. 100 percent.

Liza: If you’ve got something you believe in and you’re working hard for, you’re not going to give a fuck what anybody thinks about you.

Suzi: You kind of make your own rules about life because you are doing something you love. Your telling the universe this is who I am, this is what I want, and good things are going to happen because of it. And it’s not about going to school or doing things a certain way, it’s about following your heart, making yourself happy first.

Liza: Totally.

These are my questions that I always ask. What was your first album and your first concert?

Liza: My first concert was actually Joan Jett. I can remember seeing her at a fair and I was just sitting on the fence. We didn’t actually have tickets so I was peeking over the fence watching her. It was very inspiring. I must have been six or seven. I was really young. And then my first album that I can remember, I had a New Kids tape. (Liza laughs.) I’d totally go see them on their reunion. It’s good stuff, you listen to different stuff when you’re a kid. I can also remember my parents playing a lot of Tom Petty when I was younger. That sticks out a lot.

Suzi: I’m 19 so I grew up when the Spice Girls were huge and they—I will not fucking lie about this—they are a huge influence on me. They were the coolest girl group of all time. They just rocked. They took over the whole entire world and it doesn’t matter if they looked really fucked up…

Liza: But it was all about girl power.

Suzi: It was! And being like 11 that was cool to me. I was like, “Yeah, girl power!” I really believed it and I was all about the Spice Girls, okay? And Liza took me to go see Hanson.

Liza: I did. That was one of her first concerts.

Suzi: And she wouldn’t let me pee until they played Mmm Bop, which was of course the last song because that was their big song. So I’m practically crying and having a horrible time. And then they played Mmm Bop.

Liza: It was good. And we also saw the Spice Girls when they did their reunion tour.

Suzi: And I cried during that, too.

Liza: It was great. There’s something to be said about a band like that that moves that many people. I mean, yeah there’s marketing involved but people want to believe in something.

Suzi: And that’s what inspires you. It’s up there and you can’t look away. Cheesy as all hell, but whatever. Anyway, the Spice Girls, that’s when I grew up. It’s not to say that I don’t love rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, Social Distortion and The Ramones and The Clash and The Beatles and all that, huge influence on me, but when I was a little girl, that’s what was big. I’m proud to say.

What’s been your biggest rock star moment so far?

Suzi: We have to pick one? (Both Liza and Suzi laugh.) All of them.

Liza: How ‘bout when we chased down Tommy Lee. Oh wait..

Suzi: That was horrible. That wasn’t a rock star moment. That was us chasing after a rock star.

(We all laugh.)

Liza: I think when we were on the Dropkick Murphys tour recently and we had the amount… their catering.. and we played these big stadiums, like baseball stadiums on the East Coast and we showed up for the first show and no one told us we were playing stadiums. We were like, “Okay.. There’s like 10,000 people out there!”

Suzi: And people loaded our stuff onstage for us.

Liza: Yeah, it was pretty overwhelming. And we got everything we asked for on our rider. It was great. It was a good time. They really took care of us. We were getting paid like way too much. (She laughs.) It’s really hard to come down from a tour of that size and do the real stuff.

Suzi: And be grounded when you come home.

Do you guys like touring?

Liza: Oh yeah. Suzi and I love it.

Suzi: We don’t like coming home.

Liza: This is just too much fun.

Suzi: I could just stay out here.

What’s your favorite thing about it?

Suzi: The not being home part.

Liza: It’s almost like you’re on vacation. You just roll in every day, you load your stuff and you play. You do what you love. There’s no pressure. You’re around the people you wanna be around. You get a set schedule. I don’t have one of those when I’m at home, so it feels really good to me.

Suzi: You get a set amount of money to do whatever you want with everyday.

Liza: Sometimes they feed you, sometimes they don’t.

Suzi: Sometimes you get lost.

Liza: It’s great. It’s a good time.

A big thank you once again to Liza and Suzi for doing the interview! Go buy your Civet/Dropkicks tour tickets, get ready to see them on Warped Tour this summer and leave a comment to be entered to win a signed HELL HATH NO FURY cd. As usual, I will chose the winner via random number generator and announce them next week when I have Lynn Turkington of Angel Potions here, telling us about her skincare/beauty line and of course another oppurtunity to win great, free stuff!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Catching Up and Contest Deadline 2/20

So I disappeared on the blogging front last week because I went to the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference in downtown Chicago. Oh writerly goodness... It's always wonderful to be surrounded by thousands of others who love literature and the craft of writing in particular for a few days. I learned a lot, got to spend time with people I don't see often enough, but of course I fell behind on everything else. Yesterday Scott and I actually had a full day to spend together so I procrastinated more. I needed it. Honestly, I've been down in the dumps lately.

Okay, warning, this is going to contain a lot of venting...

Some of it is personal, weird Stephanie emotional crap. I poured a lot of pain into that blog entry I wrote a couple weeks ago about the abuse I dealt with as a teen and I still haven't fully recovered from that or all the emotion I put into revising my second book. Also there are some very painful things that I keep all tucked away inside and sometimes they just come out. Like my friend Marcel's death. It's been on my mind a lot lately. I'm just missing him. I got too drunk one night at AWP and like every time I drink too much since he's died, I ultimately end up sobbing (this time in the shower) over him. I've come to the conclusion that I really just shouldn't get drunk. Not until I've processed that more and with death who knows how long it will take to process that. I only recently realized that Marcel didn't just die, he was killed. I never termed it that way because someone who is murdered is killed, soldiers who die in Iraq are killed, but the thing is Marcel was killed too. My friend Frank, he died. A medical condition caused his death. That's dying. Marcel was killed by a negligent driver. It may have been an "accident," but he was still killed as a result of her actions. Anyway, I don't know what it is, but I have had a hard time coping with that over the past two weeks or so.

But, personal, emotional stuff aside, I think I'm in a funk mainly for the same reason a lot of people are lately: economic crunch. I feel like every time I go to work, I'm sending out desperate messages on twitter for people to come visit me because it's dead. No one comes. Mainly because my friends all live in the city and they are broke too. But it's getting seriously bad. I have a certain amount of money I need to make each month. This was the first month where I didn't make it. And meanwhile some of my bills went up. And I feel stupid complaining about it, mostly because I think a lot of people have this misperception that since my book is published, I'm making a decent living off of that. Here's the ugly truth about that: the amount I made off my book is less than a third of what I made in a year at the office job I quit. And nearly every penny of what I made goes back into promotion (buying my own book for giveaways, getting presents for my lovely web designer, putting myself on a book tour, getting bookmarks made, etc). What's left will maybe if I'm lucky pay part of my property taxes. Bartending is how I earn my living, pay my mortgage, buy food, etc. 

So yeah, I'm stressed because the last two nights that I worked, I made half of what I normally make. Partially because less customers are coming in, partially because people are being cheap with their tips since they have less money, which is so freakin' evil. I really believe everyone should have to work a service industry job so they learn how to tip. Oh and then there are the crazies who don't tip at all. I will pause in my venting about stress to share some crazy bar stories because I know everyone loves those.

The past two Saturdays I have had nutjobs who, when I cut them off or reprimanded them in some way, threatened to call the police on me. Um, WTF??? Example A: Crazy Dude comes in with his lady friend. He is already sloshed, but not really drinking more. She is sober, but then has like two drinks and suddenly is staggering around the bar with a dollar bill extended going "Music?" because she cannot find the jukebox which is RIGHT BEHIND HER. "Those people are definitely cut off," I tell my regulars. Then Crazy Dude shakes his beer glass at me. Which is rude. Totally rude. Putting your glass at the end of the bar or politely raising your hand are the polite ways to get bartender attention. When I walk over to Crazy Dude he shakes his glass at me again instead of using his words. I tell him (because I prefer to avoid conflict in the cutting people off situation whenever possible) that it is 2:30 and I am going to close so I'm not serving anyone anymore. Which is true. My regulars at the end of the bar are finishing up their beers and leaving. The only other customers are Creepy Al and his creepy, crazy, cracked out girlfriend, who I don't like serving anyway and tend to cut off often. This is when Crazy Dude flips and tells me that he knows the cops and will call them and I better have everyone out of the bar in ten minutes or they are going to be here and arrest me because if he is cut off, everyone should be cut off.

WTF. Go ahead. Call them. Last time I checked I have the right (and responsibility) to refuse service as I see fit.

Then this Saturday, it was like an episode of VH1's Sober House at the Beacon minus the D-list celebrities. This dude comes in who only ever orders a glass of water. He told me that he does this because he used to have a drinking problem so now he doesn't drink. But this time he comes in and orders a beer and a shot. Ohhhh-kay... I guess someone fell off the wagon. But then things get weirder still when a woman comes in and though she is tanked, the dude doesn't want her to know he is drinking. Yet he wants me to secretly pour him another shot. But he's not tipping me, so really why should I go to this trouble. Anyway, so the woman is totally nuts. She starts talking to one of my regulars who I overhear telling her, "Just get a cab, go back to the halfway house and admit you fucked up." 

Oh my god. Really? Is this my life or a TV show? 

But my regular is definitely giving good advice. Of course the woman is not listening. She also tells my regular that she became a crackhead because her ex-husband maxed out her credit cards and she can't pay her bills. "What the hell kind of reason is that to become a crackhead?" my regular demands. "Just file for bankruptcy! Don't make excuses. You're a crackhead because you want to smoke crack." She continues to harrass my regular until he is saying that he doesn't want to talk to her anymore. I step in at this point and tell her to leave my other customers alone. The only reason I don't throw her out is because she had me talk to some one to give them directions to pick her, so her ride should be her soon enough. At this point she freaks out on me and says, "My friend who is picking me up is a Maywood cop. I know cops. I can do what I want. You'll be the one in trouble."

Again. WTF. I almost told her, forget the Maywood cops, you are about to meet the Forest Park cops. Ugh.

So there are your crazy bar stories. This comes with the territory. I deal with it. But usually at least I am making decent money while dealing with it. Not so much lately. So I'm stressed. I know I'm lucky to have a job at all, but I worry sometimes. No I worry constantly. I worry that my little bar won't survive this economic crisis and then I won't have a job. I worry that even if the bar survives, I won't be making enough money and I'll be forced to go back to a horrible soul-sucking office job. I can't stomach that thought. I'd rather deal with these crazies than work in a cube under florescent lights for people who have no appreciation of creativity again. 

But even when I'm down in the dumps, I need to focus on the positive. The single most exciting thing I've heard in the past week or maybe even month is that Alyson Noel's book Evermore made the New York Times bestsellers list. I'm so beaming and proud because I met Alyson this summer and she is so sweet and deserving and I love her and her books. Also it gives me hope. Evermore is Alyson's eighth book. She persevered and eventually reached major success. It reminds that maybe, just maybe, if I work really hard, I can achieve my writing dreams too. I just want to be able to write full time (and bartend occasionally only for fun rather than my major income source). Maybe it can happen. So with that in mind, I'm going to spend the rest of this week really pouring myself into my proposal for my next book.

There is one tiny thing you can do to keep the smile on my face that I get when I think about Alyson and Evermore.... enter the "Inspired By" Contest! Please! The deadline is Friday and only one person has entered since I extended it a month ago :( So if you have an entry, pretty please get it in soon. Your entries always make me so happy! 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Wendy Toliver!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! I've got a couple cool announcements to make before we meet today's guest. First off, for those of you in the Chicago area, I just wanted to remind you that I'm reading tonight as part of the Orange Alert Reading Series special AWP event (AWP is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and they have a big conference in Chicago this week so if I'm blogging much that's why). There are 9 other amazing writers and we are all reading at the Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave  in Chicago at 7:30 PM tonight, so come if you can.

Secondly, former WWRW guest, Cecil Castellucci asked me to submit my list of essential punk songs to her as a part of her celebration of BEIGE's paperback release. Since BEIGE is one of my all-time favorite books ever, I was totally honored. Here's my list if you are curious to check it out! The BEIGE paperback comes out on March 10 and even though I have the hardcover I might have to buy the paperback just for the cover.

Last but not least, the contest for Alyson Noel's EVERMORE, might just have been my most entered contest yet!!! And the lucky winner is... Heather from blogger!!! Heather, email me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com to claim your prize.For those of you who didn't win, don't despair, you have an opportunity to win another great book today: MISS MATCH by Wendy Toliver. Read on and comment to enter!

Now let's meet today's Woman Who Rocks: Wendy Toliver! Wendy is a rockin' author who has a brand new romantic comedy, the perfect book for Valentine's Day. Here's what MISS MATCH is all about: 

Sasha Finnegan has always had a knack for setting people up, and at sixteen, she's turned her talent into an online business, molding high school crushes into true love. But Sasha finds her toughest match yet when hottie Derek Urban asks her to set him up with Sasha's gorgeous sister, Maddie. It's not that Derek isn't a good catch. In fact, after spending so much time with him, Sasha can't help but think he's perfect -- for her, that is.

Can Sasha push her feelings aside for the sake of her business? Or has this miss finally found her match?

Now let's get in depth with Wendy about her book and her musical taste!

Q: Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to your book and explain how they relate to your story or characters.

Wendy: 1. Anything by KASKADE—it’s the music that’s playing at a senior party where Sasha puts her matchmaking skills to the test
2. “Glamorous” by Fergie – Yasmin, Sasha’s best friend, is sooo glam and will probably end up in a fashion profession of some sort
3. “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode – Sasha’s big sis Maddie secretly loves this band
4. “Let Me Be Your Valentine” by Scooter – double-whammy here. The book comes out right in time for V-day, plus Sasha gets a scooter (technically a Vespa) for her 16th birthday
5. “Kiss” by Prince – When Sasha is giving Derek the inside scoop about Maddie, they listen to this song in his truck

Q: Name some of your main character's favorite musicians or bands.

Wendy:Nickelback, Simone Sez (a fictional band), and Brownnosers (another fictional band)

Q: Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?

Wendy: Like Sasha, I like Nickelback. Also Evanescence, Violent Femmes, Gwen Stefani, Fall Out Boy, Killers, Katy Perry (my 6 year-old is infatuated with her), Aerosmith …

Q: Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?

Wendy: With three little boys at home with me while I write, I actually opt for a little peace and quiet when I write. I’ve tried to write with music but I end up singing along or chair-dancing instead.

Q: While music is my muse, I know other writers find their muse in theater, sports, art, the great outdoors, etc. What is your main muse?

Wendy: I guess it depends on the project. With Miss Match, which takes place in Salt Lake City, I just look out my windows at the breathtaking mountains and get a gust of inspiration.

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!

Wendy: Let's see. I think my first album was the soundtrack from "Grease." My neighbor sold it to me in her garage sale. Recalling my first concert is difficult because with my dad's job we always had free tickets to people like the Righteous Brothers and the Beach Boys. I remember my first concert w/o parental supervision was LL Cool J. An older girl in my youth group offered to take my sister, our friend, and me so my parents said okay. I didn't really like that concert much. I much prefered Wham!, which was the next concert I went to.

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!

Wendy: My husband's cousin was the director of the LA Film Festival and one summer my brother, his buddy, and I went down for it. We got into some pretty cool events and clubs, even walked on the "red carpet." My favorite moment was saying hi to Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. I remember a specific instance where people on the sidelines were snapping photos of us (just my bro, his friend and me--not when we were hobnobbing with celebs). I'm not sure why--maybe it's because we are all so tall or something? Anyway, it was a really fun "rock star" moment of my life.

I was definitely jealous that Wendy got to say hi to Gwen and she told me that Gwen is just as beautiful in person. 

Anyway, like I said MISS MATCH sounds like the perfect V Day story. And speaking of V Day, I want to remind you who don't know that Love Fest is going on over at Linda Gerber's blog and there are lots of fun interviews to check out. 

Of course you are probably dying to enter to win MISS MATCH and all you need to do to be entered is leave a comment, share what you thought about the interview or the book or tell us about your V Day plans or maybe a time that you tried to play matchmaker!

As usual I will announce the winner chosen at random next Wednesday when I bring you an exclusive interview that I did with Liza and Suzi of Civet! I met them in person on their last tour and they were kind enough to sit down and talk to me. I finally transcribed the thing and am bringing it to you just in time for their next tour with the Dropkick Murphys to kick off. You'll definitely want to get your tix for that one!!! I'll have a Civet CD signed by the whole band to give away so you'll definitely want to check it out!!!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Contemplating a Book Trailer for Ballads....

So, let's talk book trailers... What do you guys think about them? I personally never gave them too much thought until I saw this super catchy one that Simone Elkeles for her new book PERFECT CHEMISTRY:

And then there is the absolutely gorgeous one for Carrie Ryan's THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, which you can see on Amazon here. That one is like a movie trailer, it's so incredible.

But still, I put the idea of a book trailer out of my mind because I'm getting married this year, hiring a publicist for BALLADS, am hoping to make it to the East Coast or at least New York for a book event after BALLADS comes out, and I'm barely making ends meet with the money I make at the bar right now. In other words, I am already tearing through my the money in my savings account. (Which is where the advance money I get for my books goes and sorry to burst the bubble about the glamourous life of the average author, but it's not a ton of money. Enough to pay my property taxes and then it all goes back in to promoting the book in the hopes that maybe one day I will be able to write full-time.) So I don't have several hundred or more like a thousand dollars to spend on a book trailer.

However,  a woman who makes trailers approached me on MySpace (land of all my networking, including where I met my future hubby). She's interested in my book and in building her portfolio of trailers so she offered me a Really Good Deal on a live action trailer. Or we could do the more traditional still photography kind too. I started to ponder. Then I thought, but I'd want real music and I'm sure that costs a fortune. However, there is one particular song on my BALLADS OF SUBURBIA playlist that I always imagined playing during the credits if ever there was a movie made of the book. It's "Suburban Perfume" by Office, a local Chicago band that friends of mine used to be in. I wondered if they'd let me use it for free, so again with the MySpace messaging and sure enough Office is a damn cool band who believes in letting other artists use their tunes for free. So yeah, now I really do sort of want to make a trailer because I have this song and it is such a good song... Here is the whole BALLADS OF SUBURBIA playlist, scroll down to the very last song to hear it:

Get a playlist!
Standalone player
Get Ringtones

So yeah, I'm pretty sold, though still mildly concerned about sinking my money into it because I could pay my bills with that money. I figured as I do with many of my valuable decisions, I would turn to my dear readers to help me decide. Would you like to see a book trailer for BALLADS? Would it get you more excited about the book and spread the word about the trailer and the book to your friends?

And what do you think about live action versus still photography trailers? Here are links to the live action trailers that the woman who contacted me has done for Heavenly and for Season of Eden. I love the idea of having actors play my characters, but I've seen some beautiful still photography trailers lately too (note: these are done by different companies or by the author) like check out Alyson Noel's trailer for Evermore and Susanne Dunlop's for The Musician's Daughter. What do you think, darling blog readers? I need your input!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Reminder: "Inspired By" Contest Deadline Approaches!

Just a reminder that the deadline for my "Inspired By" contest is a little under 2 weeks away. I've got some great entries, but would really really love to see some more. And don't you want a chance to win an ARC of Ballads of Suburbia along with other great prizes? So what are you waiting for! All the details about the contest are here. Get your contest entries into stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com ASAP!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Alyson Noel!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday, the day when I shine the spotlight on amazing female artists, authors, designers, musicians, etc. Today we have an author who I have watched rock an audience's world when she read at Rock 'n' Read last summer, Alyson Noel! But before we get to my interview with Alyson, I've got a couple of fantastic books by my Rock 'n' Read partner in crime Alexa Young to give away. Drum Roll, please....

The copy of Alexa Young's Frenemies goes to: LaLaLand from blogger. The copy of Alexa Young's Faketastic goes to: truBlu93 from blogger. If both of you would email your addresses to me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com, I will pass them along to Alexa so you can get your books.

Now, let's meet Alyson Noel, who is here to talk about her amazing new book, EVERMORE, which is part of a new series called the IMMORTALS. As I mentioned I had the privilege of meeting Alyson last summer and she is incredible. You guys are gonna love this interview and of course, if you leave a comment at the end you will be eligible to win EVERMORE!

Q: Hi Alyson and thanks for doing a Women Who Rock Wednesday interview! Your latest book EVERMORE came out yesterday. It's the first book in five-book IMMORTALS series. Can you tell us about EVERMORE and give us an overall idea of what the series will be like and when the books will be coming out?

Alyson: EVERMORE is my first foray into the paranormal—a genre I’ve been fascinated by ever since I first watched CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST as a kid—so I’m not exactly sure why it took me so long to write one of my own!

The series revolves around a sixteen-year old girl, Ever, who undergoes a near death experience only to awaken with tremendous psychic powers that make her feel like a freak. And just when she’s beginning to adjust, the gorgeous, exotic, and wealthy Damen Auguste comes to town and turns her entire world upside down . . .

The second book in the series, BLUE MOON, will be out on 08.04.09, and in it, Ever is faced with a huge, life altering, decision will affect not only her future, but her past as well. And the next three books in the series, so far untitled, will be out in 2010.

Q: EVERMORE seems a little bit different than your other YA books, can you tell us a little bit how where you got the idea for it?

Alyson: A few years ago I lost three people I loved in five horrible months, and just when the dust began to settle my husband was diagnosed with leukemia and it felt like my entire world was crashing down. A year later, when he was in full remission, I wrote SAVING ZOE and CRUEL SUMMER, both of which explore the subject of grief and unavoidable change. But when it came time to write my next book, I realized I wasn’t finished exploring those themes though I wanted to do so in a much different way, by giving the story a paranormal twist and pushing the boundaries between life and death, and EVERMORE just came pouring out of me.

And while it may seem different on the surface, at heart, it’s still the story of a sixteen-year old girl, trying to find her way in the world. Her journey’s just made a little more difficult by the psychic visions and mystical choices she’s faced with!

Q: How did you get your start writing? Were you bit by the writing bug as a kid or later in life? Were there specific people (parents, teachers, friends) who encouraged your talents? And who are some of your influences and inspirations? (Since this is WWRW we are particularly interested in hearing about the women so we can discover more women who rock, but feel free to name guys, too!)

Alyson: I was always an avid reader, thanks to my mom who introduced me to the magic of books at a very young age. But it wasn’t until I read Judy Blume’s ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, that I knew I wanted to be a writer too. But other than a few really bad poems penned in seventh grade and some short stories written in high school, I mostly just talked about writing, rather than actually writing. You know the person you meet at the cocktail party who tells you that “someday” they’re going to write a book? That was me. Then, when 9/11 happened, I was working as a flight attendant in NYC and figured a career change was in order. So I enrolled in some online writing classes where I worked on revising a short story I’d written many years before. It was through that class that I met the very talented author, Susanne Dunlap, who led me to my then agent. And after revising the book for him, he sold FAKING 19 several months later in a two-book deal to St. Martin’s Press.

So, in short, Judy Blume, Susanne Dunlap, and my mother—all women who inspired me, helped me, and encouraged me—all women who rock!

Q: A lot of my Women Who Rock are Jills of all trade. I've had musicians who are also makeup artists, writers who always wanted to be artists. Do you have another passion besides writing (one that you are talented at or just wish you were, like I wish I could play guitar) and do you find it influencing your writing at all?

Alyson: I used to draw and paint as a kid—and I dreamed of being a great artist someday! But now I’m more an appreciator, and I’ve great admiration for those who create. I always find a way to slip mentions of art and/or artists into my books.

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!

Alyson: First album—Aerosmith ROCKS in 6th grade—still a great album that is probably packed away somewhere in my garage!

First concert- Foreigner in 9th grade. My best friend at the time bought the tickets for my b-day. She got really great seats, and we had a total blast! I felt very grown up that night!

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!

Alyson: As a New York City based flight attendant, I served A LOT of celebrities, rock stars, fashion folk, politicians, artists—you name it. But other than a mild curiosity of what they looked like up close and in person, I wasn’t all that star struck until one morning when Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame boarded my flight. I was working the shuttle from NYC to Boston, and he was flying there for his daughter Liv’s graduation. When he walked on board—all big hair, flamboyant clothes, painted nails, and those lips—with his arms open wide saying, “Hey girls—what’s going on?!” I truly thought I might keel over and die!

Luckily, I pulled it together and made sure I was the one who served him—and, I’m happy to report that he was everything I’d hoped he’d be, nice, funny, generous, and sexy as hell! I think I fell even more in love with him than I already was!

Thanks for doing this, Alyson! I'm really excited to read EVERMORE! And how cool is it that Alyson's rock star moment and her first album are connected??? I think that's pretty sweet.

Anyway, now is the time to leave a comment, go ahead and riff on anything Alyson said or just talk about how psyched you are for this new Immortals series and you will be entered to win a signed copy of EVERMORE. I'll chose a winner next week when author Wendy Toliver is here to visit with us!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thank You/Turning Poison into Medicine

Thank you to everyone who responded to my last blog. I'm trying to reply personally to all comments and msgs, etc, but I'm a little slow. I never expected such an outpouring. I don't know what I expected. I tossed and turned all night after posting it, thinking I probably shouldn't have laid so much bare. I had bizarre dreams. Like one where I went into a building across the street to "adopt," but really it was buy a baby. They handed me the baby in a car seat with a blanket over her. I got outside and took the blanket off and found the baby was naked, they hadn't even put her in a diaper. And she wasn't cute or pretty. She had bumps all over her face like bad acne. And I was totally unprepared to take care of her and I had no idea why I'd taken her and I kind of wanted to return her but instead I took her home. I can't help but think this was some sort of metaphor like the baby was my feelings about my past and the indecision about returning her was my indecision about posting that blog. Sorry, I'm weird about dreams. I've been reading way too much into them since junior high.

Anyway, I woke up, kinda freaked, worried what had happened with blog over night. But of course what I found was very kind comments and messages about how I'd helped people. So I'm glad I wrote it. I'll leave it up and hope it continues to help.

I want everyone to know that I'm fine. I've noticed that these things tend to hit me around significant dates. There is a particular day in April when I seem to have a freakout nearly every year and I would always check my journal and realize that it was the day that the first incident of sexual abuse occurred. End of January/early February 1995 was when He and I started dating so it's not shocking that feelings would come up around now either. I don't know the exact date because in my last freakout, I threw away my journal from that time period. I sort of regret that but it was what I needed to do at the time.

Anyway, I'm okay. Last night, I wrote that, I cried, and my wonderful, amazing, sweet fiance comforted me. He's so good. He's my karma that's for sure. this morning I awoke and was amazed that my words helped so many people. I'd turned poison into medicine and I'm going to continue to do that by getting offline for a little while now so I can focus on writing book three, which deals with a sexual abuse survivor. Not a relationship like mine. I'm not sure I could ever really channel that for fiction, though I don't rule out writing personal essays about it. But anyway, I can still very closely connect with my survivor character and need to turn my attention to her now.

Just one last thing, in the heat of the moment while writing that last night, the old teenage insecurities reared their ugly heads again and I didn't straight up call my relationship what it was. In the light of day, when I'm feeling strong, I know what I lived through was an emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abusive relationship. It's important for me to call it what it was and for anyone who is going through something similar to know what it is. Also if you have gone through something similar, I advise you to talk to someone professional. It took me a few years but I found a trusted therapist who helped me immensely (and oddly enough, it was a guy). Also many of you are probably aware of this website, but if not, it is an incredible resource for abuse survivors: .

Lastly, I leave you with some of the music that got me through. I left my hometown as soon as I graduated high school and managed to go about five years without seeing my abusive ex, but then I was back home, going to Columbia, and suddenly there he was waiting at MY train stop. I was seriously freaked because there was another train stop closer to his parents house (I presumed he still lived there), why was he driving to my stop. He also got off at the same stop as me, it felt like I was being stalked though he never followed me and we completely ignored each other. It went on for over a month though. I refused to stop taking MY train because he was there. I got through it by listening to this Distillers song on my iPod which reminded me I was a tough, strong survivor. If you're angry or you need to get bile out of your system, this is a good one:

Again, thank you all for your kind words. Now I am off to write and turn poison into medicine.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The hardest blog I've ever written

I'm having those weird feelings. They stop me from doing what I am supposed to be doing which is preparing my proposal for my third book or writing those guest blogs I promised or putting together that scavenger hunt thing or well just about a million things that I should be doing. Instead I'm having flashbacks to when I was fifteen and having that tug of war about whether or not I should blog about this. I want to, but I don't. I feel like it could help some people, but I feel like it's opening a can of worms or more like a can of stinking, rotting, toxic shit that I'd sealed and buried and should I really open it again? It bobs to the surface though. And I allude to it from time to time, so I should probably just let it out. I think I have to from time to time. You can't bury toxic shit. It poisons you. Even after you've mostly healed. Sometimes you have to let yourself have those moments, those weird feelings. Okay, I'll stop babbling, I'll just do this. Write this down. The blog I don't want to write but know I need to.

What's funny is what triggered this. More legitimate things have triggered almost writing this blog in the past. Like I read Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr last spring and that made me want to speak out in a good strong way. Also last June when I got the first part of my IWBYJR tattoo and was reflecting on why I got the female signs tattooed on that arm in the first place, I started to blog about it. You can read it here, I say that next I'm going to blog about the intensely personal reason why I got the tattoo. I even started to write something. Saved it somewhere. But the next day Marcel died. And the world fell apart for a long, long time. Bits of it are still in pieces. By the time I got back to blogging about the tattoo, I couldn't deal with the emotions of the broken teenage girl because I was still reeling with emotions of the broken twenty-nine year-old whose friend had died. Anyway, I'm babbling. This is just a long way of saying that I feel stupid admitting that what brought this one was an episode of Degrassi. Yeah. My little TV show escape. 

I was addicted to the original Degrassi as a kid because it seemed so real, not glossed over. The new Degrassi appealed to me too even though maybe I'm too old for it or whatever. But I watch it when I catch it on the N and I've been slowly buying and working my way through the boxsets. I just got season 4. I was psyched, I cooked dinner, figured I'd watch an episode while I ate. Then I'd get some work done before Scott gets home from school. 

So it was the episode where Paige goes to court to confront her rapist, try to put him in jail. I'd watched the episode where she got date raped alone once and was like, whoa, I shouldn't have watched that, especially not alone. So I really should have known right away to turn this off. Maybe see if Rock of Love or Sober House or something was on instead. But I didn't. Tears were in my eyes for the entire episode, but I started straight up bawling when Paige told her boyfriend after he said he "wanted the old Paige back" that "That Paige went upstairs that night and she never came back..." I couldn't hold back then because it's so simple and so true. When something that awful happens to you, it is like you walk into the situation and someone walks out of it, someone who is sort of you and sort of not, but part of you never leaves that room or that place or whatever.

I can't even pinpoint an exact moment when I lost myself. Was it when he destroyed the stuffed duck that belonged to my now-best friend Katie who was just-becoming-a-good-friend back then. He destroyed the duck and made me give it to her as a sign of his control over me. You will give her this duck and you will not be her friend anymore because you are with me now. Did I lose myself then. Or was it in my at-the-time-best-friend's bedroom when he basically gave me that do it or I'll leave you ultimatum so I did it and I cried and he didn't even notice. Or was it another one of those do it or I'll leave you ultimatums when his little sister was upstairs and I didn't want to, but I did and I went home and burned my skin in the hot shower singing "He Hit Me (and it felt like a kiss)" that messed-up song that Hole covered on MTV Unplugged thinking about how I'd said I liked Courtney's dress on Unplugged and he said of course I did because it was slutty.  Or did I lose myself months later when I was trying to recover from all that he did and I was spiraling out of control and losing friends because I was too intense and some people thought I should just get over it. I guess I lost myself in a lot of places. It didn't solve itself neatly in 42 minutes like it did on Degrassi where Paige drives her boyfriend's car into her rapist's car and really enjoys it but then takes responsibility for her actions. It took a lot of therapy and a lot of years and still there is a Stephanie that picked up a phone when she was fifteen and talked to a boy who asked her out and she said yes and they dated for about half a year and the Stephanie who came out of that relationship was never the same. 

Okay so I'm still babbling in a non-cohesive, stream-of-consciousness manner. Sorry that's how it comes out at first. I will organize my thoughts now so they make sense and can I hope in some way help other people as opposed to just being me opening the toxic can of shit. 

As I’ve mentioned rather vaguely on this blog and slightly more specifically in this "Slut" blog I wrote for Reviewer X, high school was rough for me and a Very Bad Thing happened at the end of sophomore year. I’ve been vague about this because after it first happened and I began to process and cope with it, I spoke out about it and while many people around me were supportive, particularly my now-best friend (who totally forgave me for the duck incident) and my friends in the riot grrrl scene, others were not so supportive, it made them uncomfortable when I spoke about it and I lost a lot of friends and became pretty jaded with the punk scene because of it. So I'm skittish to talk about it again. I wrote a few zines about it when I was younger though and they helped people and I probably shouldn't cling to what people (okay, one person specifically, who was an arrogant jerk anyway) said about me speaking out. So I'm going to tell it now because it's all stirred up so I need to and maybe hearing it will make some other girl feel slightly less insane and will give her courage to get through whatever she may be going through. Because before I even start telling this, I want you to remember that the moral of the story is I survived. I survived and I followed my dreams and started writing books and I met the boy of my dreams and I'm marrying him, so I got my happily ever after. Its just that I still have nightmares sometimes.

I have to start with some background...  

I had very low self-esteem as I entered my teenage years. Pretty, popular girls chased me home from theater camp on roller blades and I insulated myself by listening to the Sex Pistols as I tried to out-skate them. Boys teased me in gym class, called me ugly, called me flat, said I looked like the lead singer of the Black Crowes (as a result I cannot stand the Black Crowes). I had serious insomnia and cried a lot. I cut myself for the first time in eighth grade. I’d accidentally scratched my arm on a nail while working on stage crew and realized it felt good. I’d graduate to scissors and razor blades and broken glass and cigarettes and I have a lot of scars because I was unable to stop doing this until I was about twenty. I know self-mutilation is glamorized a lot now, but believe me it was not a fashion statement, it was a sickness. My best friend moved away when I was thirteen and I wouldn’t find a friend I felt I could really trust until I was fifteen. The first two guys I really liked had drug problems. Then the third….

I loved the third as much as you are capable of loving someone when you’re a fifteen year old who doesn’t even love herself. I lost my virginity to him. We talked about running away together. We talked about getting married and having kids someday. I thought of him as my Punk Rock Dream Come True and when you look at the Bratmobile song by that name, which I didn’t hear until after the relationship, it’s kinda scary. He was the kind of guy who preys on girls with no self-esteem. Sometimes I give him the benefit of the doubt and think that he was troubled and didn’t even know he was doing it, but seeing as I saw him do the same thing to more than one girl after me, I don’t really think that was the case.

What he did to me is hard to explain. Sometimes I call it emotional abuse, sometimes I call it psychological abuse. Once I dared to call it sexual abuse, but got chastised pretty bad by people close to me that I couldn’t claim it was that. It was definitely text book emotional/psychological abuse though. First he isolated me from all of my friends and our mutual friends, claiming that they’d said bad things about me or about him and that everyone was against. He actually forced me to give this mutilated stuffed animal (her stuffed duck) to my now-best friend to basically prove that I was loyal to him and not her anymore. Then he began to dictate what I could and could not wear, saying that my dresses and makeup were slutty and I could only wear that stuff when we were alone. I was terrified to upset him because he’d make me feel like total shit. Everything was my fault and never his. Then there was the sex thing. As I said, I lost my virginity to him. Apparently he was of the mindset of once you say yes once, you are forever obligated to say yes. One day I said no because he wanted me to sneak into my at-time-best-friend's (the one friend I was still allowed to have) garage and do it there. He gave me the silent treatment for hours. Finally my friend talked him into talk to me, but since she had an inkling of what was going on, she told me “don’t sleep with him.” Not like “be strong, don’t sleep with him,” more like “that’s gross if you do that in my house and I’ll think you’re a whore.” In fact “whore” is what she whispered to me when I slunk out of the room a half an hour later and it was clear by the look on his face that I’d given in. She wasn’t a very good friend nor very good for my self esteem which is probably why he let her stick around, though he made me get rid of her after awhile, too. I went in to the bathroom and cried because little did she know, I felt like a whore. In the room, he’d made it clear that if I didn’t have sex with him then and there that I didn’t love him and he would break up with me. So I did it. Tears fell during but he ignored them. My necklace was in between us, bruising the hell out of me, but I was too scared to even ask him to move it. And I was so screwed up that I went home and wrote a journal entry about how grateful I was that he’d forgiven me.

There were a few more “afraid to say no” incidents before he and I finally broke up at the end of my sophomore year. He told me that he wanted to see other people but still sleep with me. I managed to put my foot down.

It took my six months before I fully realized that what had happened was not right. I’d begun doing volunteer training at a domestic violence center and realized during my volunteer education that a lot of the stuff they were talking about had happened to me. Deeper depression followed along with anger and self-hatred. I didn’t find a good therapist until I was nineteen and didn’t start regular seeing him until I was twenty-one. In between sixteen and twenty-one there was a lot of self-destructive behavior. Alcohol, drugs, cutting, bad relationships, nights where I went so crazy that I sat in a playground tunnel talking to a firefly until my now-best friend coaxed me out. There was a period where I even pushed her away and only hung out with people who would party with me.

The main thing that kept me strong through the end of high school was feminism, a group of likeminded Riot Grrrls that I met mostly online and some locally in Chicago. I told the full story of what happened with Him at a Riot Grrrl Convention and had never felt so empowered and supported. 

But I slipped and fell a lot until I went back to school for writing. The main things that ultimately helped me heal were listening to music and writing. I drowned my anger and sadness in music. I told stories to escape my own bad stories. I lived through it. And now those of you who have read IWBYJR you know why I say I relate to Louisa a little bit. If I hadn't gotten my shit together, I would have been another version of Louisa. In a way I wrote her to remind me and anyone else who has lived through Very Bad Things that you have to face your demons, not run from them.

So yeah. That's what I went through when I was 15. I still don't really know what to call it. But that's why things like that Degrassi episode make me cry and bring up weird old feelings of rage. Because I never took Him to court or anything. There are so many gray situations like mine where there is no legal justice. And that screwed me up for a really long time. It still screws me up sometimes. I know, because this seems to be the era where everyone knows what happened to everyone they went to school with, that he has a band and girlfriend and probably a totally normal life because he never felt he did anything wrong. I did confront him. More than once. His denials aren't worth rehashing again. I did that years ago in a zine called Hospital Gown. But he hurt me, he hurt other girls, and he gets to live a completely normal regret-free life. That totally sucks. But I believe in karma... And, though it's cliche, I also believe that living well is the best revenge. And I have been living well. I have the best boy on the planet. I've published a book and hope to publish many more. And the best thing about publishing those books is it gives me a voice and the ability to reach an audience. When I was 15, 16, 17, I would have used that voice to shout his name and try to ruin him, but honestly that doesn't matter. Karma will take care of that. I want to use this voice to help others. Every book I write, every really personal blog entry I write that's why I write it. Because as much as it upset me to watch that Degrassi episode it also helped to go, oh my god, some writer out there who created this knew how I felt. So I do hope this helps someone. Sorry it's all stream of consciousness and weird. But I hope it helps.