Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: A New Holiday Focus

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Let's start things off with the prize I have to announce... the winner of Jessica Brody's LOVE UNDER COVER is MARIAN from Blogger! Marian you didn't leave your email address, so hopefully you are reading this and can send your address to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com so you can get your prize!

So it's Thanksgiving which marks the beginning of the holiday season. I've gotta say, I'm not a fan. Other than the part where we say what we're thankful for (and I'm thankful for all of you, my darling blog readers), to me it is such a gluttonous time and I'm not just talking about all the eating (I do like eating, though as a vegan, I'm not really into the stuff people usually eat). Black Friday and all the crazed consumerism is what really grosses me out.

So I also am trying to change the focus of the holidays to giving back to your community or giving to those in need rather than buying a ton of unnecessary crap.

This means that throughout the holiday season I am going to change up the focus of Women Who Rock Wednesday. I plan to interview and spotlight charities and positive community or earth-friendly efforts that women I know are involved in. Of course, if there are some charities or do-gooder women out there you think I should spotlight, please do let me know as I could use at least one more woman & her organization to spotlight. Contact info/personal references really helps and you can email those to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.

Today I'm going to talk about the organization I was involved with as a teen. Sarah's Inn is a Domestic Violence agency in Oak Park, Illinois. I started volunteering there when I was sixteen, after getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship myself. I wasn't openly talking about or dealing with what I'd gone through at the time, but volunteering helped me work through my own issues a little bit. I spent my Saturday mornings there working with a bilingual children's support group. These were kids whose fathers were abusive and their mothers were getting out of the relationship. They were amazing kids, so resilient and smart and inspiring.

I also worked a bit on the agency newsletter and did any volunteer office work they needed. Christmas time always makes me think of sitting in a big storage area assembling gift baskets for the women and children Sarah's Inn served, many of whom were in shelters or temporary housing after leaving their abusers.

There are a lot of things I did during my teenage years that I am not particularly proud of, but my work at Sarah's Inn is something I can always look back at with pride, knowing that I helped others and I helped myself heal. Kimberley, the volunteer coordinator, is a woman who I will always be thankful that I had in my life. She was in her early twenties and a writer as well, a journalism student who fell into this job at a non-profit and truly loved it. She's actually the one who inspired me to go to school for sociology because I saw how I could incorporate writing with non-profit work and truly help people... of course I ended up getting sucked in by creative writing instead, but I do write my books in hopes of helping people--not in some holier than thou let me teach you a lesson way of course, but by creating dialogue about important issues. And if this book writing thing doesn't work out, I may go back to school so I can be like Kimberley, that woman who I admired so much at sixteen.

Now I did this volunteering thing completely on my own, but I know a lot of schools encourage it or require some sort of community service now. Have you done any? What kind of impact did it have on your life?

And once again feel free to comment about an organization or woman you think I should highlight over the next few weeks.

New Contest!
I'm changing up the contest now too. Through the end of December, I will run one big WWRW contest that begins now. At the end of our focus on community service, I'll choose one winner from the commentors on all the blog entries (including this one!) and that person will get signed copies of Ballads of Suburbia and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, but more importantly, I will donate as much as I can afford (minimum 25$, but hopefully the bar will be busy tonight and I'll have some extra cash) to whichever charity they choose from a list I will compile of my favorite charities and of the organizations you tell me about in the comments of this blog entry.

So get in the *real* holiday spirit and start telling me about those great organizations you love and why you love them!

Oh and as usual, you'll get an extra entry for tweeting, linking to, or blogging about this blog entry. Please note those extra entries along with your email address in your comments.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Music For The Muse

I promised you a more interesting/special blog post today and here it is. Ronna (aka RR Smythe, who writes YA Fantasy and then other books under other names) came up with this cool idea for a bunch of different authors to write about how music is their muse all on the same day. Obviously, I was psyched about the idea. So read on to find out about how music is my muse and then I'll be linking you to six other authors' blogs so you can find out how music inspires them.

I think music is up there with the essentials for me: food, water, shelter. I can't live without those or music either. Music has inspired my writing since I started writing angsty poetry in junior high. It all started with Nirvana. Something about seeing this scrawny, dirty-blond guy screaming his lungs out and people listened. He was a freak/weirdo/outcast/misfit like me, but people listened. And his screams felt like I felt inside. He inspired me to unleash those feelings on the page. Well he did and so did his wife, Courtney Love. If you read any of my teenage poetry (which, um, you won't unless you search super hard and find the couple of poems I submitted to what would become poetry.com as a teen), you'll see that it basically sounds like a bad version of Hole or Babes In Toyland or Sleater-Kinney lyrics.

Eventually, I realized I could never lyrically live up to the punk rock ladies who inspired me and I definitely didn't have their musical talents, so I started to explore fiction and eventually I wrote my little rock n roll fantasy--of women like Courtney and Kat and Corin totally ruling the rock world--and it became my first book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE.

My second book, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, was inspired by the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. After a discussion in a grad school class about ballads, true ones like the one Johnny sung about life and love and our tendency to fuck up, I came up with the structure of the book--a notebook where my characters write their ballad or confession of the moment their life changed.

The two books I'm working on now are both musically-driven in some way. I can't help it. Music changed my life, so I usually find myself writing about characters who are changed by music in someway.

But lets talk about how music fits into my writing process and feeds my muse (and I'll include links to YouTube so if you are not familiar with a song or artist, you can check them out). I don't write to music, not usually, not unless I am so deep into the zone that I don't even have to think. During the first draft of BALLADS, I got to that point. I was on a ten-day writing retreat and since there were other writers in the house making some sounds, I blocked it out with my headphones. The bands I listened to then were Screaming Trees, PJ Harvey and Johnny Cash. I think the atmosphere of that music definitely makes its way into BALLADS. Both Johnny and Mark Lanegan, the singer of the Screaming Trees have these deep, throaty baritones that makes the music feel dark and moody and PJ Harvey is just... wow I don't even have words, but it fits.

Usually though I build a playlist as I'm writing and I get stuck on a few songs and always find myself listening to them to get into the mode of the book. I listen to them either while I am brainstorming or right before I write. With IWBYJR, it was all about the song "Don't Take Me For Granted" by Social Distortion. I felt like the story of Emily and her best friend Regan in a small town forming a punk band was the female version of Mike Ness's song about forming Social D with his best friend. Of course, the song the book is named after, "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Sleater-Kinney was also one I'd listen to. I remember playing it every night before I delved into my revisions on that book.

With BALLADS, each character had their own ballad or theme, but an overarching theme song for the book was "Bastards of Young" by the Replacements. However, I also had music for the mindsets of my characters. The book deals with heroin addiction, which was hard to write so I went to the music, listening to "Mr. Brownstone" by Guns N Roses and "Heroin" by The Velvet Underground, but also the entire Dirt album by Alice in Chains.

While I'm refining a book, I'm also refining a playlist for it. It's part procrastination tool, but it's also really part necessity. The finished playlists are posted as "soundtracks" on my website. You can find IWBYJR's here and BALLADS' here.

The book I'm working on right now was actually born from listening to a song. I was heading to the gym to work out and had my iPod on of course. "Radio" by Alkaline Trio was on as I walked up the stairs, passed the glass enclosed fire alarm. I thought about how I'd always been tempted to pull the fire alarm. Then a character came to me who would pull the fire alarm. I saw two girls, one of whom would pull it despite the other girl's pleas not to and I knew that these girls would really relate to the song I was listening to, particularly the lines "While you're taking your time with apologies, I'm planning out my revenge. Red eyes on orange horizons, if Columbus was wrong I'll go straight off the edge."

Image plus song equaled book idea... well not so much an idea but a feeling, a feeling that these girls were hurting, a feeling that pulling a fire alarm would be involved, and a feeling that the book was about revenge.

Another song would add to the book idea later. I'd already written a draft of the first fifty pages of it, but something was wrong with it. Then I was in the car on a rainy day and the song "Gone Away" by The Offspring came on. I was still raw with grief for a friend that died almost a year before and the song hurt in such a way that I needed to pull over and just let it hurt. Purging pain through a sad song is very similar to how I purge pain through writing. And I knew then that I needed to write through my grief. I knew then that the sister/best friend of the fire alarm girls was dead. This was going to be my grief book, I was going to mourn with my characters. So now I listen to "Gone Away" and also "The 59 Sound" by The Gaslight Anthem before I write because it brings up those feelings of mourning for me. They aren't good feelings, but the process is healing.

So yeah now this is my revenge/grief book, but there is one last song that is really influencing it right now and I believe a line from it is the true theme of the book. The line is "How we survive is what makes us who we are" by the band Rise Against from the song "Survive."

That's how music serves as a muse for me. It inspires my characters, my themes, the mood or atmosphere of my books. Without it, I wouldn't be writing.

Now, you should go check out these 6 blogs and see how music inspires some of my fellow writers. Also please comment away and tell me how music feeds your muse!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some Random Odds & Ends

*Warning: today's blog is in no way cohesive!*

I've been having trouble keeping up with random things... I've been having trouble keeping up with everything in general. Honestly, I'm in a place where I just want to write and ignore the world, but unfortunately I can't. I'm probably the only person not thrilled about the holiday this week because it's cutting into my writing time, but anyway....

First of all, thank you so much for all the honeymoon suggestions last week. Our budget was really insanely limited, so Miami was definitely the way to go, but the other suggestions have been noted for the future... hopefully one day we will have money for travel. We couldn't even afford to get all the way to Key West (it's a four hour drive from Miami, so would necessitate flying back from Key West instead of spending so much of our time driving, and flights from Key West cost 100$ more than flights from Miami), but we are going to stay two nights in Key Largo as we found an insanely good deal on a four-star resort so that is our one splurge. Suggestions for beaches, bars, restaurants (with vegan options please), or other must-sees in the Miami and Key Largo area are definitely appreciated. Hubby is trying to convince me to go snorkeling, but I've had this fear of swimming with fish since I was 19 or 20 and drunkenly swam halfway across a lake in Wisconsin in the middle of the night only to become paralyzed with fear about very large fish lurking around my legs, perhaps ready to pull me under. (I think I blame Kevin for this. I'm guessing while we were swimming he mentioned the large fish in that lake. It just seems like a Kevin thing to do...) But I suppose if I can see the fish, I can swim away from them... Anyway, we leave on our honeymoon on January 10 and are in Miami on Sunday (very late), Monday, and Tuesday. Then drive to Key Largo on Wednesday, stay there Thursday and return home in the evening on Friday. So yeah, suggest away.

On to the other randomness. I did some cool interviews recently, so please check them out if you have time. I did an interview with Oak Park 365/the Oak Leaves about Ballads and my relationship with Oak Park, the town where I grew up and the novel is set. It has some cool pics of me in Scoville Park, so you can check it out here.

I also did an interview with Diana of Stop, Drop, and Read where I talk about the piercings I've always wanted to get among other things. That is here.

And last but certainly not least, yaReads.com is featuring me as their author of the month! This means two lucky people will win signed copies of Ballads and you can enter that contest here. You can also read their amazing review of Ballads here. It's a review I am super proud of. And they did an in depth interview with me about Ballads (but be warned there are some major spoiler questions, so do yourself a favor and skip those if you haven't read the book), which you can check out here. In it I also choose the ballad that best suits my life. I'll be posting a guest review later this week over there about a book that is coming out next year that I am so crazy excited for, Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly. If you are a fan of my work, you will definitely adore this book. I'll post a link when I get it, so you can learn more.

Oh and I do want to pimp the reading I'm doing on Friday. I really, really hope that if you are in the area, you can make it out. Hometown events are always kind of nerve wracking for me. And I'm extra anxious now because this past Friday I had my first author event where *absolutely no one* showed up. I felt like such a jackass because I'd arranged the event and invited four super cool YA writers (Jessica Hopper, James Kennedy, Daniel Kraus, and Adam Selzer), but I guess no one realized that it was on New Moon release weekend. Apparently there is no completing with Twilight. *sigh* I was majorly bummed.

So anyway, now I'm nervous as hell that I'll be 0 for 2. So please come see me read at Barbara's in Oak Park this Friday if you can. Here is the facebook invite and the sweet flyer they made for me is posted below. Feel free to share them.

Okay, off to get some writing done. Tomorrow's blog will be more cohesive and interesting. Though I'm not making big promises for the rest of the week. I'm starting to get cranky about my lack of time to write.

Friday, November 20, 2009

GCC Presents: Laurie Faria Stolarz

I'm a part of a fun blog touring group called the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. When my fellow girlfriends have new books out, I bring them by to tell you about their new releases. Today I've got Laurie Faria Stolarz here to talk about her two new books, BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS and DEADLY LITTLE LIES. First, let's hear about the books (which sound incredible!), then Laurie will answer some interview questions!

ABOUT BLACK IS FOR BEGINNNINGS:

The BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series that put a spell on more than half a million readers continues – in graphic novel format! Prophetic nightmares. Near-brushes with death. Killers pursuing her and her friends. Stacey Brown knows that being a hereditary witch isn’t all it's cracked up to be.

All she really wants to do is work things out with Jacob and figure out what to do with the rest of her life. But before Stacey and Jacob can have a future, they must face their pasts. BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS reveals the never-before-seen backstory - and what lies ahead - for the young, spellcasting lovers.

BLACK continues the harrowing adventures of Stacey and Jacob in the wake of Jacob's brush with death. Ever since he lost his memory, Jacob hasn't been able to remember Stacey - his own soul mate. He leaves Massachusetts, returning to his childhood home in Colorado, hoping to jog his memory. What he remembers is Kira, his ex-girlfriend. As Jacob works to piece together his past, will there be room for Stacey in his future?

REVIEWS:

"The half-million readers of Laurie Faria Stolarz’s paranormal mystery series will be happy with this shift to graphic style, offering as it does the pleasure of putting faces on characters, its visualized eeriness and vibrant displays of emotion...The graphic style allows Stolarz to distill the story while simultaneously dropping hints about Stacey and Jacob’s supernatural talents, luring new readers to the series." - Kirkus Reviews

"Taking Stolarz’s Blue Is for Nightmares series into the graphic-novel realm is a bold idea, and it pays off in this morbidly entertaining and surprisingly romantic page-turner." - Booklist

“This scary and romantic story, with its larger-than-life emotions and darkly twisting plot, lends itself well to the graphic novel format. The teenage characters, their dialogue, and their interactions are well imagined and ably captured. And when you are not enjoying the great dialogue or fantastic artwork, it is fun to pore over the little details…BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS serves both to draw new teen readers to the series and to supply existing fans with interesting additional background and never-before-seen details. A winning formula!” – TeenReads

ABOUT DEADLY LITTLE LIES

Last fall, sixteen-year-old Camelia fell for Ben, a new boy at school who had a very mysterious gift – psychometry, the ability to sense the future through touch. But just as Camelia and Ben's romance began to heat up, he abruptly left town. Brokenhearted, Camelia has spent the last few months studying everything she can about psychometry and experiencing strange brushes with premonition. Camelia wonders if Ben's abilities have somehow been transferred to her.

Ben returns to school, but he remains aloof, and Camelia can't get close enough to share her secret with him. Camelia makes the painful decision to let him go and move on. Adam, the hot new guy at Knead, seems good for her in ways Ben wasn't. But when Camelia and Adam start dating, a surprising love triangle results. A chilling sequence of events uncovers secrets from Ben’s past – and Adam's. Someone is lying, and it's up to Camelia to figure out who – before it's too late.

View the Book Trailer for Deadly Little Secret here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laurie Faria Stolarz is the author of several popular young adult novels, including Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Project 17, Bleed, and the bestselling BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series, which has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide. Stolarz's titles have been part of the Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list, the Top Ten Teen Pick list, and YALSA's Popular Paperback list, all through the American Library Association. Born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Stolarz attended Merrimack College and received an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston. For more information, visit Laurie's website at www.lauriestolarz.com

INTERVIEW:

Q: Please tell us what your new series is about and what inspired you to write it.

Laurie: I wanted to write a story where the main character has to struggle with the idea of falling in love with someone who could potentially be dangerous. I tinkered with this concept in the first three books of my Blue is for Nightmares Series [(Blue is for Nightmares (Llewellyn 2003), White is for Magic (Llewellyn 2004), and Silver is for Secrets (Llewellyn 2005), as well as in Bleed (Hyperion 2006)]. In Bleed, in particular, there’s a young male character who was convicted for the murder of his girlfriend. His next relationship consists of pen pal letters he exchanges with a young girl while he’s in prison. Without giving too much away, the relationship is briefly pursued once he is released, but I wanted to bring this concept to another level.

Additionally, I wanted to continue experimenting with the supernatural (which I also use in my Blue is for Nightmares Series as well as in Project 17), showing how we all have our own inner senses and intuition, and how with work we can tap into those senses and make them stronger.

I started researching different types of supernatural powers and discovered the power of psychometry (the ability to sense things through touch). The concept fascinated me, and so I wanted to bring it out in a character, showing how sometimes even the most extraordinary powers can also be a curse.

Lastly, I wanted to apply these concepts to be part of a series. I love the idea of growing a main character over the course of several books.

Q: If there was a soundtrack for your book what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate the story? (and if you have a playlist, feel free to share a link!)

Laurie: I actually have a contest going on that involves this very question. In celebration of the release of DEADLY LITTLE LIES, the second book in the TOUCH SERIES, I’m launching a very exciting contest, the winner of which will have a minor character in DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES, named after him or her. Please see the official rules here. I had a similar contest for the release of BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS. See the winning entry here.

Q: Who were some of your inspirations to become a writer or the inspirations that keep you writing? Feel free to include other authors, teachers, parents, or people in other creative fields, whoever is an inspiration to you!

Laurie: I was inspired by one of my college professors. I was a business major as an undergrad, so I didn’t have a lot of room for English courses. But I filled one of my open electives with a creative writing course, taught by MaryKay Mahoney at Merrimack College (MA). Even though I loved to write, I never imagined that I could actually become an author as a profession. She really believed in my work, and told me that I owed it to myself to pursue my passion for writing. Nobody had ever said that to me before, and I honestly feel it made all the difference. I’m also continuously inspired by other authors, filmmakers, and screenwriters.

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?

Laurie: I use music to help when I need to get into a particular mood to write a scene, but otherwise I find it too distracting. Once the scene is done, I need to shut the music off.

Q: What is next for you? What are you working on now?

Laurie: I’m currently working on DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH series.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Jessica Brody!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Today we're going to get to know the fabulous author and rockin' lady Jessica Brody, who has a new novel out called Love Under Cover. Let's meet her, shall we?



Q: Your new book is called Love Under Cover and it's the sequel to the Fidelity Files. For those who haven't read the Fidelity Files can you tell us a bit what that is about and then tell us what Love Under Cover is about?

Jessica: Although Love Under Cover is technically a “sequel” I wrote it to stand on its own. You don’t have to have read The Fidelity Files to read Love Under Cover. In The Fidelity Files, my main character, Jennifer Hunter, works as an undercover “Fidelity Inspector,” hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. Then in the second book, Love Under Cover, she branches out to open her own agency and employs five full-time fidelity inspectors (and one of them is a man!) Meanwhile, at home, she’s trying to a balance a committed relationship of her own…which proves more difficult than she ever would have imagined.

Here's the book trailer:



Q: The concept behind the books is so fun and unique, can you talk about how you thought of it or what the inspiration behind it was?

Jessica: Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely.

Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fianc├ęs really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it.

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.

Q: If there was a soundtrack for Love Under Cover what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate the story?

Jessica: Suspense by Carla Holden. It’s the song that’s playing in the background of my book trailer and I think I chose it for the trailer because it really represents my main character’s struggle with love and relationships. The chorus says, “Can you save me from the lack of belief and the suspense that I may never find anyone?”

Battlefield by Jordin Sparks because for Jennifer Hunter, love (and life) always feels like a battlefield.

Poker Face by Lady Gaga. As a fidelity inspector, my main character has a GREAT poker face!

Circus by Britney Spears. Jennifer Hunter is always juggling a million things at once.

Apologize by One Republic. You’ll have to read the book to find out how this one fits!

Q: I've heard Fidelity Files is in development for a TV show, can you tell us a bit about that?

Jessica: Of course! The Fidelity Files was optioned by Marina Grasic of Curious Pictures. She was an executive producer on the Academy Award winning film, CRASH! She optioned the book for 6 months and then just recently re-optioned for another six months which is an excellent sign! It means they still have faith in the project and aren’t giving up. The production company has attached an awesome TV writer who has really brought the concept to the next level and now they’re trying to get a television network to take on the show. We’ve all got our fingers very tightly crossed that it works out!

Q: Who were some of your inspirations to become a writer or the inspirations that keep you writing? Since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday, we love learning about the women especially, but feel free to tell us about the men too.

Jessica: Hands down, Helen Fielding is the reason I’m writing today. When I read Bridget Jones’ Diary back in college, my life changed. It was the first book I’d read for “pleasure” (rather than for a school assignment) in a long time and I’d forgotten how entertaining and fun books could be. I knew right then and there that I wanted to write to entertain people. Just as Helen Fielding had entertained me.

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!

Jessica: Oh Gosh…are you sure you don’t judge!? Well, I don’t remember the first album I bought, but I definitely remember the first CD. I got a CD player for my 10th birthday and a gift certificate to Sam Goody. (Remember those?) Anyway, I went out that very night and bought Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl and I was definitely forever her girl…well, for about two years anyway.

And the first concert I ever attended was also Paula Abdul! What can I say, I was a HUGE fan! I had all her videos on tape!

Go ahead, judge away…I would if I were you. :)

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!

Jessica: Okay, rock star moment. Here it is. When my first book, The Fidelity Files, came out in France last year, my French publisher actually flew me out to Paris to promote it! It was a dream come true! I speak French almost fluently so I was able to conduct all my interviews in French, which was both nerve wrecking and exciting at the same time. Paris has always held a special place in my heart. I was a French major in college and I lived in Paris my junior abroad. Plus, I spent a month in Paris in 2005 finishing the novel so it was all very magical and kismet to be back there to see it in French book stores!

WOW!!! Talk about a rock star moment. And Jessica, I'm not judging you. I had that Paula Abdul album too, but on tape! And, Readers, if you are judging Jessica, you'll want to stop because she has a contest for you...

Today's Contest:

Jessica's putting a signed copy of Love Under Cover up for grabs for one lucky winner! As usual, all you have to do to enter is leave a comment and there are additional entries to be accrued:

+1 for blogging/tweeting/linking to this interview
+1 for blogging/tweeting about Jessica and Love Under Cover
+1 for blogging/tweeting/linking to the Love Under Cover trailer

Note your additional entries in your comment as well as your email address and I will draw the winner next Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last (desperate!) call for honeymoon suggestions

The dream honeymoon just isn't happening. Not now. Not unless by some miracle, flights from Chicago to Hawaii in January drop to 500$ or less this week.

As I've blogged before, Hawaii has always been my dream honeymoon locale since I was 11 and my aunt Amy went. I'm not a big tropics person. I had a phase when I was 10 where I'd go swimming every day and lay out in the sun during those annoying adult swim breaks and read my book and I got really tan by default, but since then I've been pale. I like being pale. I have my moments. During my brief stint in L.A., I indulged in reading by the pool. But honestly Hawaii is not just about fun & sun, there is something about the place that just fascinates me. The culture, the volcanoes, the natural beauty of the place. I can't really explain it. I'm just drawn to it.

My husband was not particularly; he just wanted to go some place warm. That was his only requirement. Winter in Chicago sucks (yes, it does, husband and this is why we should move to the Pacific Northwest as soon as it is financially feasible though obviously that is far from the case since we can't even afford vacation.), so his philosophy was lets go lay out in the sun and drink and be lazy and in love. And I need that. I so need that. And I will especially need that in January when Chicago winter will have me in the most miserable of all moods.

After we saw that Hawaii was out of our range, he started looking at all-inclusive resorts in warm places-- Jamaica, the Bahamas, Mexico. He found some cool ones and I was almost sold, but then I started to waiver. I never had any interest in visiting these places. Well, I mean, maybe if I had lots of money to spend on travel I would--Jamaica in particular, but there are so many more places that are higher on the list. Hawaii, obviously. And Europe, particularly Scotland and Ireland. And hell, even an Alaskan cruise (which I pondered suggesting, but the idea of going somewhere *colder* than Chicago in winter is just...no.). Did I really want to blow two grand of our savings to go to an all inclusive resort in a place that's not high on the list when our savings are so meager and our sources of income are so shaky? How long would it take to save up the two grand again in order to go to Hawaii (though clearly Hawaii is going to require more like 2500$ or three grand) or to Europe for that matter?

I got all panicky and upset about it as I am prone to do. I worried and stressed and pointed out that we had to decide soon soon soon because we don't have passports and they're expensive enough to get without having to expedite them. And as usual hubby remained calm and unfazed. This is why he is so good for me.

He said, "Well what do you want to do on this trip? I mean is this about sight-seeing or relaxing?Because I just wanted to relax."

Uhhhh.... This was where I got stuck because I always travel to sight-see and experience (not to mention I totally suck at relaxing. I need pills for that.). I don't just lay around on beaches or poolside. There are so many places I want to see in the world and such limiting funding to see them. But obviously this trip should be about relaxing. It should be about just hanging out with him and laying next to a pool or on a beach or whatever. I am definitely all for just relaxing with him.... But I absolutely cannot justify spending the money that I want to save for actual sightseeing travels that I want to take with him (because I do want to go to Hawaii and do a combination of sightseeing and relaxing and I do want to be able to get to Europe, I dunno, sometime in the next five years? Not to mention, he hasn't been to New Orleans and we must do that.) If our income vastly increases or at least becomes reliable in the next few years, I'll be happy to go laze around at an all-inclusive resort at some point, but honestly, I just don't think it's worth it right now. (Plus as a vegan, will I even be able to eat???)

So we need a new plan because we definitely need to get away from Chicago in January. Preferably to somewhere warmish (though most places are warmer than Chicago in January). I don't know if there is anywhere in the US (because getting passports is not affordable anymore as they'd have to be expedited) where we can comfortably lay poolside in January, but maybe?

Right now the plan is Miami. Not a place I've particularly wanted to check out because the only place I've liked in Florida so far is Naples and I was not fond of Tampa or Orlando, but I have a friend who has very generously offered use of their condo so it's a free place to stay, plus they have told us good stories about Miami, so I imagine we'll have a good time there. And it should be decently warm, right?

But before we go about booking our flights, I thought I'd put a last call for suggestions out there in case someone has stayed somewhere totally relaxing and yet cheap that would be good to go in January. Preferably someplace that Southwest flies because we have 120$ credit with them.

I don't know, feel free to tell me that you think I'm crazy and I should spend money on one of those all-inclusive tropical dealies, but I think I'm going to be pretty hard to convince on that front. However, if there is a good deal at a nice hotel with a spa or a good pool or something and at least a little bit of sightseeing around (and veggie food options), I could probably be talked into spending a little money, just not a couple grand. Scott and I need to save for other adventures. But please, suggest away!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Glamour Shots

The photos below are outtakes from a photo session I did for this article in DEMO Magazine. It was my first real photo shoot (probably my only ever photo shoot. I can't imagine photo shoots are a common thing for authors.) and I felt like I was on America's Next Top Model, mainly because it was freezing out (despite being early June) and I was incredibly sick and I still had to try to look fierce or pretty or something.

But the photographer, Chad McGavock was super cool and incredibly talented. He had excellent "visions" as my friend Eryn would call them, for how and where to pose me. And we did the shoot at night at the real Scoville Park. I think it captured the kind of doomed, dark feeling of Ballads of Suburbia, and the same look as the cover of the book even though the cover is not a picture of the real park. So I asked Chad to send me the outtakes so I could share them.

So here they are and I'm posting them because I really admire his photography. I feel really weird posting more pictures of me actually. I feel like I've been doing that a lot lately and it actually triggered an interesting blog entry that I wrote over on the MTV Books blog about self-esteem--mine through the years and the self-esteem of my characters. So yeah, go read that if you get a chance. I think it remains an important topic to talk about because all teens and probably *everyone* struggles with it.

But here are Chad's amazing photos, please click on them so you can see them larger and get the full effect:







Friday, November 13, 2009

New Haircut & Upcoming Events

I know I made you guys wait all week and I'm sorry, it was just kinda busy, but I did get the haircut I was talking about on Monday's blog.



Well this is my version of it. The top wasn't long enough yet for my stylist to define it quite like the picture, but it should be by next time. I do love the asymmetrical thing.


Here's a close-up on the red, which I really like. I might do it all by itself next time. I'm also trying to decide it I want to add more color, like further back along my part of in the pieces that frame my face.

Of course, my other take on it was adding a spiky back to it, which you get kind of a sense of from these side view shots. I think I might go shorter and spikier in the back next time:

And I definitely need more cute barrettes. This haircut just screams for cute barrettes. But I'm totally digging this. I think I'll be keeping it for awhile.

Want to come and see my haircut live and in person? Well, I have readings the next two Fridays so you in are in luck. Next Friday, November 20th, is going to be one of the coolest readings I've been a part of.
I've teamed up with fellow Chicago YA authors Jessica Hopper (A Girl’s Guide to Rocking), James Kennedy (Order of the Odd Fish), Daniel Kraus (The Monster Variations), and Adam Selzer (Andrew North Blows Up The World, I Put a Spell On You, and How to Get Suspended and Influence People) as The Sisters Rock 'n' Roll & The Brothers Delacorte. We are doing our first of hopefully a few events at Bookmarket in Glenview, IL (at Hangar One in The Glen, 2561 Navy Blvd).
It's gonna be crazy fun, a lively reading, panel & Q&A session. Plus we'll do a raffle, signing, and there will be free pizza! So if you are anywhere near Glenview you should totally come! The festivities begin at 7:30. Here is the rad flyer they made for us:

And if Glenview is a little far North for you, I'm doing another hometown event on Black Friday, November 27 at 7:30 pm at Barbara's Bookstore at 1100 Lake St in Oak Park. It'll just be lil ol' me, but it should still be fun. So I hope you can come to one or both.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: The Local Edition

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday. Last week's winner of Pam Bachorz's amazing book CANDOR is...PepsiVanilla from Blogger. I will email you for your address shortly.

Today I have a very special, different version of Women Who Rock Wednesday to share with you. As some of you may know, I also write a column for my local newspaper, the Forest Park Review, which comes out roughly every three weeks. It comes out on a Wednesday and I'd thought it would be cool to do a local version of Women Who Rock Wednesday at some point. Finally, I met an extremely talented pianist and vocalist, Ellen Bartolozzi who lives and runs her business Bella Angel Music just down the block from the Beacon Pub, where I bartend. So Women Who Rock Wednesday: The Forest Park Review Edition was born and the column ran today. (Though sadly they didn't use my title. I get edited a bit in my columns.)

I thought it would be cool to share it with you and to share some extended footage since I only get 600 words in my column, so I didn't get to share some of Ellen's quotes and stories.

So here was the intro to my column that they cut:

I do a weekly feature on my blog called Women Who Rock Wednesday where I interview women in the arts that I admire. When I met Forest Parker Ellen Bartolozzi , I realized I could do a special edition for the Forest Park Review.

Now you can read the column here and the come back for the extras below.

Extras:
I was able to squeeze in one of Ellen's answers to my standard WWRW questions. I asked her about her biggest rock star moment and shared that letter with me about receiving a Studs Terkel Humanities award, but I didn't get to share her first album and concert experience. Here is what she said.

Ellen: When I was ten years old, my aunt took me to see Robert Goulet at a community center. He was washed up and he was drunk. He was saying all these risque things and my aunt was totally embarrassed. But really what I consider to be my first concert was WHAM! I had a blast. It was the best concert I've been to. (She then laughed and told me that she had a friend who told her not to tell people that, but clearly Ellen has no eighties guilt and it was another reason I liked her even more!)

She also added that her first musical purchase was three 45s, the theme to Star Wars, "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone and "It's So Easy" by Linda Ronstadt.

Ellen really was a cool person to talk to and I admire her greatly. She and I share a lot of the same aspirations including to ultimately just work for ourselves doing the creative work we love. If you are in the Chicago area, as I mentioned in my column, you can choose to be a winner of this weeks' Women Who Rock Wednesday by visiting bellaangelmusic.com for information on your free first piano or voice lesson, or consultation for music at your special event.

Are there women in your community that you admire? Feel free to leave a comment about them or about the talented Ellen Bartolozzi.

Next week, we'll be back to the usual Women Who Rock Wednesday style interview (though I thought this was a fun change of pace and hope you did too!) with Jessica Brody, bestselling author of The Fidelity Files, and she'll be talking about and giving away her new book, Love Under Cover.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

(Reinventing) How I Write

While I'm waiting to hear if my Zoe book will be picked up, I've started work on another book idea I've been kicking around for awhile. Zoe is not entirely written yet (only 50 pgs in, in fact), so it feels kinda weird to start a new project, but I used to write more than one thing at once and if I ever want to make some semblance of a living at this whole writing thing, I need to do more than one thing at a time so.... here I am trying to figure out how to write this new book.

The only constant truth about the way I write is that it is going to change with every project. This is equal parts frustrating and exciting. It's frustrating because I feel like if I had one tried and true method, the whole process would go a lot faster. It's exciting because I discover something new every time.

This is how my writing process has gone for the books I've written/worked on so far.

With I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, I wrote it in pieces, out of order, completely non-linear until about 2/3rds of the way through when I realized I needed an outline and a sense of direction to finish the first draft. I was in grad school at the time. I wrote what took my attention whenever I was in workshop. I spent a semester honing 2 or 3 chapters. It took three years to write the full first draft. Then there were several revisions that probably add up to a year.

With Ballads of Suburbia, I wrote a crappy first draft in a summer. In less than a summer actually. I wrote linearly. It turned out to be thinly veiled autobiography and after some half-assed revising I knew it was not the book I wanted to write. It had some of the themes and some of the characters, but it was not right. So began four years of pondering. Putting it in the back of my head and letting ideas for it come out in fits and spurts. I wrote the epilogue (which is the first chapter of the book) in my last class of grad school. Conveniently this chapter gave me both the beginning and the end. I knew what I was striving for. There were fictional bits in my crappy earlier version I could pull. It allowed me to write linearly. I didn't make an outline, but I had notes upon notes and knew what was happening. I took my time with the first half of the book. Then after 10 months of dilly-dallying, I took a writing retreat and wrote the second half in a few days. Then I did another draft because it wasn't quite right. I sent it to my agent though things were still bugging me about it. Even though she didn't have a ton of notes, I would still do a major revision again before I let her send to my editor and honestly I still wasn't happy then. There were things about the flow of the plot in that book that honestly bugged me up until a few days before I handed in the revisions to my editor two years after finishing the version I came up with at that writing retreat.

With my Zoe book, it's an idea I've been mulling since 2007 when I had a tiny window of time in between handing in Ballads to my agent and getting IWBYJR revisions from my editor. I've been toying with three different ideas since that time period. This one came together first and it came together during workshop sessions with my writing group from grad school. But unlike while I was in grad school, I wrote those scenes at least kind of linearly in that they all take place in the first fifty pages or so of the book. I got attached to an initial idea about the book that just wasn't working. It took a lot of back and forth with my agent about that and a lot of attempts at outlining to straighten that out.

The one thing these three projects have had in common is I wrote quite a bit before I mapped out any sort of outline. I certainly had a roadmap in my head, but I just plunged in. And with all the books, I ended up stuck at one point or another.

This current project, I've decided to take a different approach. Well, sort of. It is loosely based on something I submitted 50 pages of to my agent back in February, so I have written a bit about the characters. But my agent felt there was an element missing. I agreed, but I wasn't ready to go there yet. Things needed to stew more. So I worked on Zoe. Zoe was a comfort zone, realistic YA fiction. The element that my agent and I agreed was missing for this other project was a fantastical one. I needed to build a world. I have no fucking idea how to approach this.

So for the past couple weeks, I've been thinking instead of writing, plotting instead of plunging and it feels weird as hell. For most of last week was it satisfying. I figured out my world, my myth, my rules. Awesome, surely this meant I was almost there! But then I realized plot, I need to figure out plot. As usual I know the beginning and the end (actually, that was the anomaly with the Zoe book, I still don't have a solid sense of the end), I have some ideas for plot points, but I can't really figure it out. I want to see the big picture and string things together. I have this really cool worksheet that a fellow author gave me for outlining and plotting and world building, which has been super helpful, but... still stuck on outlining that middle. Oh and I have a few different structure and POV ideas and am not sure which to settle on. I'm honestly beginning to think that the only way to figure things out is go back to the faithful plunging. We'll see I have a lot of time to brainstorm while my hair is being done, but tonight I have writer's group so I'm sure I'll end up writing something. Hopefully it will trigger some direction, but if not there is a phone call with the agent tomorrow to try talking it through.

It'll come together eventually, I'm sure of it. I'm incredibly excited about this idea, possibly more excited than I have been about any idea I've had, so I think I'm just in a rush to figure the whole thing out.

So writer friends, are you plotters, plungers, or a mixture of both? Any particular advice for being stuck mid-outline in the plotting phase? Teach me, I'm still learning!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Memories of Hairstyles Past, Planning for Hairstyles Future

I'm constantly changing my hair. Ever since I was 15 and put this blond streak in my hair:


The purpose of it was be able to change the color of it whenever I wanted, which I did sometimes (including one time I used markers to color it like a rainbow), but mostly I left it blond. Then I got bored and cut my hair short and bleached it all blond. Usually I let my roots show:


Less than a year later I decided I wanted bangs and a black bob like Uma Thurman had in Pulp Fiction:


I had my hair black for the longest time mostly because it was convenient (and I was goth). I was away at college for a year and then living in Madison, partying for a couple of years. Black dye was cheap to buy (only 6 bucks!) and instead of going to a hairstylist, I just let my hair grow really long. Because the black dye was so toxic, it grew in straight for once and I could do tons of fun little goth styles with my ton of black hair, like curling it, putting it up, leaving it down, or crimping it out 80s style like this:


Still I got bored sometimes, so I bought the purple wig (excuse the grainy webcam pic from 1999!):


And eventually the purple wig inspired me. I wanted my bob back, but I wanted to keep a little length in the front. And I still wanted to keep my black, but add a little color to it. So we got:


Actually, I think this was just before I went blond again though (see the orange spots where it was hard to remove the dye?):


Then I needed to change up my cut. And this probably still my favorite all time haircut:

A view of the spiky back (excuse the bad role model, drinking pic, my friend Anna is clearly saying no photo!):

Eventually, I was getting a real job so I decided to go a little more natural and try out a reddish hue since I'd never done that before. This pic is probably pretty familiar to many of you:


I got sick of the red pretty quick though and decided to go darker. I also decided to grow it out some. My husband loves the pigtails, so I kept my hair at this length for quite a while so I can do the pigtails on a regular basis:


But pretty soon, I was bored of being entirely natural. When I dyed my bangs magenta to celebrate the release of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, my best friend said, "You know this means you're quitting your office job. You won't be able to go back to normal hair again."

And she was right. For the past year and a half, I've had the same hair style but with different bang colors. Purple:

And I also did blue, but can't find a good picture. Then I couldn't decided between colors, so I went multi-colored:

And now my bangs are pink and blue and this is how it looks when it's not in pigtails:
However my hair has been this way for too damn long. It only stayed this way this long because I started whining back in spring and my stylist urged me to just leave it alone until the wedding. So I grumbled and did so. But tomorrow I have an appointment and I'm thinking of going short again. (Though I always stupidly go short right before winter.) This is the style I'm thinking of doing. My friend Tai found it. I'll probably ask for a spiky back like I used to have and love. And no, I won't be going blond again. I do love my dark hair and so does hubby and since this means goodbye to pigtails, I need to do something for him.

So here it is:
What do you guys think? Cute? Or have you seen something better? Or should I suck it up and grow it out? (sometimes I fantasize about my long black hair but I'm too impatient. So that is why I gave it to my character Emily Black instead.) And what should I do about the color of my bangs? I saw a girl with purple on the train and I was thinking about at least adding it back into the mix or going all purple in the bang. Hubby suggested red, but I felt it was too normal, though maybe a bright apple red? Or maybe blonde bangs? I just don't know.... And boy was it weird to see all these styles on me through the years.

What about you do you have to change your hair constantly? Or do you stick with the same style, knowing it is totally you?

Friday, November 6, 2009

My basement band boys grow up to become your must-see band

I guess this is becoming a largely music-themed week on the blog. What can I say? Sometimes I feel like music is up there with food, water, and air. It's essential. I need it to live. I waste away without it. I don't have devoted listening time like I used to when I commuted to work everyday. I've almost been neglecting my music habit, so I binged. I bought a bunch of CDs in the past couple weeks and I got out to see some live music. Last night's show with Social Studies and Love Raid was particularly inspiring and I'll tell you why, along with why you must go see Social Studies if you are in Detroit, Ohio, Boston, Danbury, NYC, or Philly where they are touring over the next couple weeks.

Last week when I visited my high school (and for details about the visit and how it got me reflecting on high school English curriculum, check out my blog entry at Teen Fiction Cafe from yesterday), all the kids had questions about what my real life as a teenager in Oak Park was like. Was it similar to the book? Did I hate Oak Park? Why? What happened?

Yes, I hated Oak Park growing up. Why? It's pretty simple. From day one at school, kids were cruel to me because I didn't adhere to their standards. The diversity claim seemed like bullshit. Sure it was more diverse than other suburbs, but kids who weren't white and privileged were treated like crap. I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere until high school when I started hanging out at Scoville Park. Was my experience at Scoville Park like Kara's? Not entirely. It was a path I could have gone down. I knew some pretty messed-up kids and I *was* a really, really messed up kid myself. I was a depressed girl who escaped in whatever ways she could find. Sometimes these ways were negative (ie. cutting, substances, bad relationships, etc), sometimes they were positive, through music and through a group of friends that had a much brighter impact on my life (unfortunately I pushed them away at times; if I'd been able to work through my issues and spend more time with them, I might have been a happier person).

One aspect of my Oak Park experience that I didn't really bring into Ballads of Suburbia (it was a lot more present in earlier drafts, but since the book *is not* about my life, it faded out as it didn't fit the story) was how huge music was in our lives. It wasn't just about going to shows at the Fireside or other places in the city, or even about driving around listening to music, which was pretty much all we did, it was about all my friends in bands. Almost everyone I hung out with was in a band. I tried to play guitar and form a band at one point because I was just so surrounded by it (but I suck at music, the writing thing is what I do best). I spent so much time after school in people's basement watching someone's band. Almost every guy I dated in high school was a musician (two drummers and a singer/guitarist). There was a show at someone's house or a community center or somewhere almost every weekend.

My favorite local band was these guys, The Slackjaws:


That's Mike on drums in the background, Tom on guitar to the right, and Matt on bass to the left. They were pretty much my favorite pop punk band of the mid-nineties. Seriously. And not just because they were my friends. They were crazy talented and just as good as the bands we listened to back then like Screeching Weasel and The Queers. And they were teenagers. I first saw Tom play a show when he was thirteen with his band the Skexies in my (psycho) ex-boyfriend's basement. He blew the high school kids out of the water. And Mike is the best drummer I've known (and not one of the ones I dated, he's like a little brother). It was always so much fun to watch him play.

This is Mike's current band Social Studies (he's on the right):

I hadn't gotten to see Mike play in over ten years. I'd heard his band Social Studies, downloaded their songs from iTunes, but since they were based out of San Francisco and I'm in Chicago, no such luck. But last night Social Studies embarked on a two week tour of the Midwest and East Coast and they started right here in Chicago. I was quite excited to hear that Tom is playing with them on the tour, since it's also been like ten years since Mike and Tom shared a stage. Also, a Chicago band, Love Raid was opening for them.

I advise my Chicago friends to check out Love Raid whenever they get a chance. I went to high school with the guys in the band, but did not know really them back then. They put on a really great show and I can't wait til they get an album out.

It was an almost surreal experience seeing Social Studies (and I had this same kind of experience seeing Tom's old band Office). I knew how talented these guys were back in high school, watching them play shows in basements, garages and in battle of the bands at community centers. But to see my friends living their dreams in the way I always hoped they would, well I simply can't describe the way it makes me surge with pride. And it was like they were transformed up there. They weren't just my friends, they were an entirely new discovery. Natalia, the woman who sings and plays keyboards for Social Studies has a killer voice and you can't help but dance to their songs which they describe best on their website as "Social Studies tempers the Fiery Furnaces with a love of unadulterated pop songwriting and arms the Decemberists with Casiotones instead of accordions, dropping pop gems that aren’t afraid to be raw and gentle all at the same time."

Seriously, they are ridiculously good, rocking indie pop fun. And if they are coming to your town over the next week or so (tour dates here), do yourself a favor and spend the minimal amount of money to go see them because I have a feeling they are going to be huge and then you can say you knew about them first. I don't publicly go nuts over a ton of bands (Civet would be pretty much the only one I think I've been obsessively telling you guys you must listen to) and I am not doing this because it's my friend's band. Social Studies are much more than that, they are my favorite band of the moment. If you can't see them live, go download some of their songs. They have two for free available on their website here and after that you will want to get their album from iTunes.

Have a good, music-filled weekend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Pam Bachorz

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Today my guest is an agency mate whose book is at the top of my TBR pile because it sounds freakin' awesome. Let's meet Pam Bachorz author of Candor!



Q: Tell us about Candor. What is the story about and what inspired you to write it? CANDOR is the story of 17-year-old Oscar Banks. Oscar lives in a small Florida community that his father built. The secret? Everyone in Candor, Florida is brainwashed--except Oscar. He's secretly found a way around the Messages, and even set up a side business to get new kids out of town before they're brainwashed. But then sweet-tart Nia moves to Candor and he's forced to choose between love and safety.

Pam: I was inspired to write CANDOR when we were living in a planned community in central Florida. I took the dog for a walk one late night. The mosquito truck drove by and we were coated in the white spray that the town swore was harmless. What if, I wondered, it had Prozac in it? That would explain why everyone in the town was so happy and friendly. From there I developed my idea of a town where everyone pays a premium to be brainwashed (but neglects to clue their kids into the plan).

Q: You've got a bunch of interactive promo stuff like podcasts and video testimonials on your website that are linked to Candor. Can you talk a bit about them? What inspired you to do them? Who do you collaborate with to do them? I think they add a lot to the book experience. Have you gotten a good response from readers to them and do you think they are building buzz for the book?

Pam: The video testimonials and "hoax" www.candorfl.com website came first. I built the website and did the graphics (my day job involves photo buying so that was a lot of fun for me), and my husband wrote a lot of the marketing copy for the site. I put together the book trailer for the site too, for less than $200! (And here's how.)


As for the testimonial videos (found here), my husband is a marketing guy and he'd shot dozens of video testimonials for a large university in Boston. He knew the format cold. I wrote the character "backgrounds" and we recruited family, neighbors and local kids to participate. They all kindly donated their time. My husband shot the videos with a little digital video camera on a tripod and then he edited them in iMovie. In fact we're posting one last testimonial this week--my mother-in-law was the actress for this one!

As for the podcasts (found here), that was something that my agent (Elana Roth) and I had been kicking around for a long time, one of those "wouldn't it be cool if...". When my publisher (Egmont USA) said they'd help make it happen, we were psyched. I wrote the scripts (something I had never done before!) and then CC Chapman read them. Matthew Ebel provided all the music, and Dan Patterson pulled it all together.

I've gotten some really nice feedback from people about the hoax site and its videos, the trailer, the podcasts... I think they are all good marketing tools but also they are a nice "treat" for fans of the book. It's fun to expand the world of CANDOR for my readers. Although some people have asked for things I won't do: they want me to post testimonial videos of the characters in the book (like Oscar, Sherman, Mandi, Nia...). I totally get why they want that and I totally appreciate the request, but I don't want to put a picture in people's minds of what the characters are like, beyond what's in the book. I like to leave room in the mind of the reader. If there's ever a movie made of it, that's a different story.... and the portrayal of the characters won't be up to me, anyway. It will be another person's artistic vision!

Q: In one of the podcasts, the creator of town of Candor, Campbell Banks, talks about disguising messages in music. Music is a huge inspiration to me and I think it does subliminally influence my creativity (though hopefully not in a scary mind control way!). Does it influence you? Do you listen to music while you write or to get inspired? What are 5 songs that would be on the soundtrack for Candor and how do they relate to the book (ie. did they help you set the mood for a certain scene or do they remind you of a particular character)?

Pam: I totally get inspired by music. There's almost always music playing while I write. Sometimes I listen to "new age"-type music, things that are supposed to align your chakras and such, and other times I listen to music that I've picked to remind me of the emotion I want in a particular scene (lots of Brandi Carlile for this).

I actually posted a CANDOR play list on my website here. My top song for CANDOR is "Yellow" by Coldplay. I love the emotion in it, and also some of the lyrics directly make me think of the story. For example, the line "look at the stars, look at how they shine for you..." makes me think of how the main character Oscar used to lie on his bed, as a child, and look at glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling with his Mom. And then, as the song progresses, "I jumped across for you...oh what a thing to do...I drew a line for you...oh what a thing to do...for you I'd bleed myself dry..." makes me think of how Oscar takes some HUGE risks for Nia, the girl he loves. Other inspiring songs: "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds, "Keep Myself Awake" by Black Lab, "27 Jennifers" by Mike Doughty, and "Stand Still Look Pretty" by The Wreckers.

Q: What or who inspired you to become a writer? Did you aspire to be a writer since childhood or did the urge come later? And who are some of your influences (since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday we like to hear about the women, but feel free to mention guys too)?

Pam: Being a writer was my earliest ambition and also the ambition I resisted the most. I didn't think it was possible or practical. So I went and got 4 college degrees and worked in various corporate jobs (which I still do... gotta pay the bills!) and didn't really write until a friend got in a really bad car accident. I realized that if I had the one in that wreck, my only regret would be that I didn't give writing a real chance. So, I started again and five years later my agent sold CANDOR. Some of my biggest influences are L.M. Montgomery (ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, among many others) and Lois Duncan, whose creepy books I read and re-read as a teen. Also, a lot of the feminist theory that I read in my undergrad days at Boston University has given me the necessary backbone and drive for writing! As for support these days, of course I don't want to exclude the very important men in my life (my husband, my son, my father, friends...) but I have to say one of my biggest inspirations to keep going is the wide community of kidlit writers--women are definitely the majority of that group!

Q: After the readers gobble up Candor they will be dying to know, what are we going to get next from Pam Bachorz?

Pam: My next YA is tentatively set to pub with Egmont USA in Fall 2010. It's another secluded community with dark secrets--darker, though, if you can imagine, and with a main character facing life-and-death decisions.

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!

Pam: My first album was a single: "Nobody Gonna Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder. I played it OBSESSIVELY. I bet my mother still can sing the lyrics. First concert? Oh yeah, Belinda Carlisle's first solo tour. ("Ooooooo baby we're in heaven on eaaaaaarth....").

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!

Pam: Meeting people from my writing and reading life are my biggest rock-star moments. Like strolling up to Mo Willems at a BEA event and introducing myself (poor guy, he just wanted to get a drink!). Or going to my publisher's office for the first time...they cared about making a good impression on ME! As a debut writer, I wanted to kiss their feet just for publishing me, but instead THEY took ME out for drinks! It was probably a small thing to them. But it meant so much to me. I felt so very Authorial.

I agree, those are my biggest rock star moments too. And I hope to meet Pam someday cause man she is full of great ideas and sounds so cool! Another cool thing about Pam...

Today's Contest:

She's putting a signed copy of Candor up for grabs for one lucky winner! As usual, you enter by leaving a comment and there are additional entries to be accrued:

+1 for blogging/tweeting/linking to this interview
+1 for blogging/tweeting about Pam and Candor
+1 for blogging/tweeting/linking to the Candor podcasts, testimonials and/or trailer

Note your additional entries in your comment as well as your email address and I will draw the winner next Wednesday when our guest will be author Jessica Brody!

Monday, November 2, 2009

November New Music Tuesday

So today marks the one month anniversary of my wedding. *grins widely* This also means I better buy some thank you card and get them out... Crap, anyone know where I can get cute but reasonably priced thank you cards in bulk?

Anyway I've decided to mark this wonderful day with a new monthly blog feature. From now on (unless I space out), I'll take the first Tuesday of each month to talk about the music I'm excited about and collect music recommendations from my blog readers because everyone likes discovering new music, right?

I've chosen Tuesday since that is the day records tend to drop (it seems to be when books usually drop too. hmm. I think there is a shipping reason behind it that was explained to me once.) and yes, I am totally one of those people who goes to pick up the albums she is eagerly awaiting on the very first day of release.

One of the very first days of release I remember most clearly is when Hole's album Live Through This came out on April 12, 1994. I was so excited about that album. I'd gotten a hold of Pretty on the Inside a couple years before that and it spoke to me in ways few albums have. Of course there was a dark cloud over the release of Live Through This. Kurt Cobain was found dead four days before it came out. I was still incredibly depressed about it and walked to the record store three blocks from my house in a somber mood, hoping they would have the album because I knew listening to it would provide some kind of release from the sadness over Kurt. Fortunately they had it and I listened to it nonstop (with some Nirvana thrown in, but that was about it) for over a month. Some of the lyrics were so eerie given the circumstances, like the line from "Asking For It" that the albums title comes from: "If you live through this with me, I swear that I will die for you." (In one of Courtney's first interviews on MTV after Kurt died she'd say, "I'm not psychic but my lyrics are.") But eerie or not, that album just spoke to me. Even more so than Pretty on the Inside. It was like Courtney Love just knew my damaged teenage girl heart. It was the album that most represented my teen years and remains my second favorite album of all time. The biggest favorite being Nirvana's In Utero, which I also purchased on release day.

Today I'm headed to the record store to purchase the newly released, remastered version of Bleach, the album that turned me onto Nirvana back when I was 12 and exposed me to the world of punk. Even though it's not my favorite Nirvana album (though it's probably my second fave), it holds a very sacred place in my heart. It was The Album That Changed Everything. So when I heard (very belatedly because I am just not up on my music news as much anymore, another reason I am doing this blog in hopes that you guys will share music news and discoveries with me) that Bleach was being remastered and paired with a live album, I immediately emailed my local indie record store, The Old School Records and asked them to order me both the CD and vinyl. Cause I'm a nerd like that. But that's why I shop at Old School because they understand what it's like to be a music nerd. And they know that I prefer to get my stuff on vinyl with an MP3 download or CD to put it on my iPod (this is marketing genius, record companies. Vinyl + MP3 download is perfect for geeks like me who still want the physical package, still want to listen to vinyl at home, but want to bring the music around with them too.) And they let me put in orders by email and then go over and pick them up. As convenient as amazon and almost as convenient as iTunes, but with a human element. This is why I shop indie and you should too!

Okay, getting off the indie soapbox. And getting away from the Hole & Nirvana kick which was inspired by both the Halloween costumes but also these new Nirvana releases.

On New Music Tuesday it is my plan to share the album (or albums) I can't stop listening to as of late and my most recent musical discovery.

The album I can't stop listening to is another grunge band. I did not expect to buy this album or like it. It's the new Alice In Chains album, Black Gives Way To Blue. I was like Alice in Chains without Layne Staley is just wrong. If they want to continue on with a new singer it should be like how Joy Division became New Order. But then again, New Order sounds a lot different than Joy Division. This new Alice in Chains still sounds like Alice in Chains musically and that is because even though Layne was the voice of Alice in Chains, Jerry Cantrell really was the musical force. I miss Layne. I ache to hear his voice on this record. Sometimes it sorta sounds like him and creeps me out. But I'm glad I gave it a chance because it's damn good. I gave in because my friend Jenny who is a huge AIC fan told me it was and I trusted her. It's that perfect mixture of metal and grunge and a little bit of acoustic stuff. The ultimate Alice in Chains blend. And the lyrics are still dark and beautiful. I love the title track best as well as "Check My Brain," "Lesson Learned" and "A Looking In View." But man just the title alone conjures such imagery. The black of a bruise fading the blue, the healing. The black of darkest night fading to the blue of coming morning. As someone who is still working their way through some personal grief this album is a good outlet and a comfort.

The band I just discovered is The Loved Ones. Last week, I went to see the Gaslight Anthem (another band who I absolutely cannot stop listening to) and Murder By Death (who I also adore, they are self described whiskey and apocalypse music and really how can you go wrong with that) and it was one of those rare shows were all the bands including the openers are good. Usually you are stuck sitting through at least a thirty minute set of a band that bores you. The very first band, The Measure, had me bopping my head, but when The Loved Ones came on, I stood up. Like immediately. The music, the voice, it was perfect. Actually reminded me of a lot of what I love about The Gaslight Anthem, but with more of a hardcore edge or that folk punk older Against Me edge. I don't know. It's hard to explain, but you can listen to them on MySpace and I'll be picking up one of their albums along with my Nirvana stuff today.

Now it is your turn to share the wealth. What band have you recently discovered that you just love (and it can be an old band, my 12 year old "niece" just discovered the Beatles and I am enjoying rediscovering them with her) and what's the album that you just can't stop listening to lately?