Welcome to another Girlfriends Cyber Circuit author interview! My lovely girlfriend Elise Allen has a new YA novel out, POPULAZZI. Let's hear about it shall we?
Cara Leonard always wished she could be one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and never at a loss for the perfect thing to say. One of the Populazzi.
It always seemed impossible… but now could be her chance.
When Cara moves to a new school just before junior year, her best friend urges her to seize the opportunity and change her life… with the help of The Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms herself into the perfect girlfriend for guys higher and higher on the Popularity Tower, she can reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi, the most popular girl in school.
The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment — a straight climb up — but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.
About the author:
www.eliseallen.com, or on Twitter @EliseLAllen.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
ELISE: I was reading Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton, and it hit me that the very stratified society of turn-of-last-century Manhattan was a lot like the equally stratified world of high school. That’s how the idea started percolating, but before I could make it work, I had to solve a puzzle. In Wharton’s book, the main character of Undine is an incredibly unlikeable social climber. That’s on purpose. It’s a biting satire, and it’s terrific. I loved that, but I didn’t want to do the same. Instead, I wanted to create a character who’d make the choice to social climb, but in a way that kept her likable and relatable. It took a long time to crack the nut, but in the end I feel like I succeeded, and I’m really happy with the result.
Q: The main character of my first book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, is the kind of girl I wanted to be (a rock star!), the MC of my second book has a lot more in common with teenage me. Is your main character someone you wish you could be, someone a lot like you, or your total opposite? How so?
ELISE: Cara Leonard isn’t exactly the teenage me (though I’ve had several friends tell me otherwise), but she’s a lot like her. Cara’s biggest obstacle is her own fear. She wants to be recognized and accepted, but she’s so afraid of rejection and of making the wrong impression that she overthinks everything. She tries too hard to be what she imagines people want her to be, instead of who she is. That’s a clunky sentence to write, and an even clunkier way to live. I was similarly clunky in high school, so I can relate.
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?
ELISE: Lovecats by The Cure – it’s playing when Cara has her first outing with Archer, the guy she adores, and his friends. It’s the first time since Cara changes schools that she feels really secure and at home. While there are a bunch of songs that play in the scene, this one always makes me happy, so it sums up the feeling best.
Disenchanted by My Chemical Romance – it’s a song that brings Cara close to a guy who seems completely out of her league, and when they hear it live in concert things start zooming forward for them.
Paparazzi by Lady Gaga – honestly, the lyrics don’t support my story at all, but obviously the song title sounds like Populazzi, and whenever I hear it I imagine Cara moving in that rarified circle of the popular crowd, feeling the admiring eyes of the whole school on her for the very first time.
The One That Got Away by Katy Perry – I love that it combines lyrics that are really poignant with a tune that’s so fun and bouncy. For me, the combination makes the story even sadder, like the song’s main character is using the light tone to try and deflect her pain. That’s Cara’s M.O. too, and I can imagine her singing this song to herself all the time at a certain point in the story.
My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson. In my mind, Cara’s belting this out at the very end of the book. I’d elaborate, but, you know, it’s the end of the book, so I won’t. J
Q: In addition to writing books, I also write for a website for teens called Rookie, which has a regular feature called "Literally The Best Thing Ever," wherein we write about a thing that we think is super mega awesome (even if it is the type of thing that others might call a guilty pleasure, we believe there is nothing guilty about pleasure!) and explain why we think it is literally the best thing ever. It's generally a kind of unexpected thing, for example I wrote one about the soap opera, One Life To Live. I don't expect you to write a whole essay obviously, but can you briefly tell us what either you or your character (or both!) would say is "Literally The Best Thing Ever" and why?
ELISE: OMG, I was just talking about One Life to Live last night! I used to be a big ABC soaps person, and I was with two friends who still are. They were telling me the Manning family is now on General Hospital, and we had a long talk about how southern-blonde Blair Manning used to be played by an Asian actress, and how brilliantly OLTL handled Blair’s flashbacks to her wildly different self.
But back to your question. GEL NAILS are literally the best thing ever. Have you seen these? They’re painted on in layers, and each layer is hardened by exposure to UV light, so the minute the manicure’s over, your nails aren’t just dry, they’re solid! You can do anything with them and they won’t smudge or peel. Even better, their look is ridiculously cool! My first gel nails were blue with multicolored sparkles in them; my latest are maroony, but with a wavy pattern in them.
What makes gel nails absurd is that UV exposure is a cause of skin cancer, so plopping my hands into that tiny tanning bed every three weeks is the height of idiocy… but they look so great and the super-fast seal is so convenient, I can’t stop!
Q: What are you working on for us next?
ELISE: Up next is the third book in Hilary Duff’s Elixir series, which I co-write. The book is called True, it comes out in spring 2013, and it’s already available for pre-order. Beyond that, I’m working on a bunch of projects that I can’t share quite yet, but hopefully soon!
Thanks for the fun questions, Stephanie! I had a great time hanging with you on your blog!
To thank everyone for their support with the paperback launch, Elise is doing a giveaway on her blog where commenters can win a pack of five books -- Populazzi plus books from the four authors who blurbed it (including the marvelous Girlfriend Eileen Cook!). Here's a link to that: http://eliseallen.com/2012/bookscoop/populazzi-paperback-prize-a-palooza/