Thursday, May 15, 2008

Alexa Young Interview and Contest!!!

Tuesday marked release day for two authors I’ve gotten to know and love recently. Jeri Smith-Ready released WICKED GAME and she will be on the blog on Monday. And Alexa Young released FRENEMIES and she is here today! Best of all, both of them are running contests for their books!!! I haven’t had contests on here yet, so I’m pretty psyched, how ‘bout you?

Alexa Young has quickly become one of my author BFFs. I met her while trying to find someone to collaborate with on a rock ‘n’ roll literary event in Los Angeles. No one was cool and energetic enough to step up until Alexa. She even coined the event name, ROCK AND READ. We are still in the find a venue phase, so no new news on the R&R front, but it’ll happen soon. I’m sure it didn’t happen this week because it didn’t want to steal Alexa’s debut release thunder. This week is all about FRENEMIES.

Now admittedly, I still have to get my copy of FRENEMIES (planning to pick it up at the bookstore this weekend!), but I read the first chapter online and am psyched! (You can read it, too, by going here) When I first approached Alexa about doing events with me, she swore that she and her book were not cool enough for me the punk rock girl with the punk rock book. But I assured her that despite the tough girl façade, I am the least judgmental person ever and I like a wide variety of things and refuse to be ashamed of them. For example, I’ve been watching the soap opera One Life to Live since I was fourteen. FRENEMIES appeals to my inner-soap opera lover as well as my inner teen-melodrama-lovin’ Degrassi fan. (When the N runs a Degrassi marathon, my weekend is usually shot.) Here’s what the book’s about:

Best friends Avalon Greene and Halley Brandon have big plans for eighth grade: Not only are they coauthoring a fashion column for their school’s online newspaper, but their celebration of their forever friendship is sure to be the blowout party of the year. But when the girls begin to disagree about…well, everything, these two besties turn into full-blown worsties. From sharing custody of their puppy, Pucci, to drawing up a list of who gets which friends, Avalon and Halley discover what happens when you battle the person who knows you best—and isn’t afraid to use your secrets to get what she wants.

You can learn even more about the book at

As for Alexa not thinking she’s cool??? Yeah I have to disagree. Check out exactly how cool she is:

ALEXA YOUNG spent the first several years of her professional life working in the music industry—for the legendary Capitol Records and the irreverently funny trade magazine HITS. She subsequently worked as an editor for the now-defunct teen magazine JUMP, as well as for the #1 women’s fitness magazine in the country, SHAPE. As a freelance writer, she’s contributed to a number of national consumer magazines, including Marie Claire, O: The Oprah Magazine and Family Circle. She holds a bachelor's degree in Literature/Writing from the University of California, San Diego, and lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, son and dog. FRENEMIES is her first novel.

You can learn more about Alexa on her website and her blog. But today, she is here to answer my favorite questions to ask authors and also give away a signed copy of FRENEMIES!

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


1) Fashion (David Bowie) The two protagonists—Halley and Avalon—are obsessed with anything and everything having to do with fashion, and Bowie is such a class act who has pulled off just about every style he’s ever attempted (even the god-awful ones!). I mean, new wave, bohemian, futuristic, punk, supermodel sophisticate…he’s kind of done it all, hasn’t he?

2) I Wanna Be Adored (The Stone Roses) It’s a song from my own youth and it totally captures the foggy, hazy, trippy adolescent experience flawlessly. Don’t we all just want to be loved, and yet we’re never totally clear on why that is, or even how we can achieve it…and is any of that so wrong?

3) Friend Is a Four-Letter Word (Cake) This band puts a smile on my face every single time I see them. I’ve been in the WORST MOOD EVER and not wanted to go out, but the moment I get to the show and they take the stage, I’m in a totally different headspace. They’ve just got this skewed but oddly accurate way of looking at the world and especially relationships, and how could a song like this not be appropriate for two besties who become full-blown worsties?

4) I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor…or the Cake version!) Best breakup song ever. Whether you’re dealing with the demise of a friendship or any other relationship, you NEED this song. It’s all about empowerment…moving on…getting stronger…being better than you’ve ever been. Both of my girls draw strength from songs like this. Who wouldn’t?

5) Unwritten (Natasha Bedingfield) I realize this song is such a clichéd reality TV anthem right now, but I just can’t resist it. It captures all the energy and passion and optimism of youth—the notion that anything is possible, that you can change the course of your life by continuing to move forward. THE FUTURE IS IN YOUR HANDS…SO WHATCHA GONNA DO?! When you’re dealing with the drama and trauma of a relationship gone wrong, that’s exactly the attitude you need: Take responsibility for your own life, dammit!

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

Alexa: Avalon is kind of the Top 40 pop princess with a beachy, California girl twist. She’s into “classic” Kelly Clarkson or any of the American Idols du jour. She also likes Broadway soundtracks and show tunes—like songs by Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand, as well as the Wicked ST (“Popular” being one of her absolute faves!).

Halley is more of an edgy, artsy, pop-punk princess with an interest in the past (specifically eighties and nineties bands, like those her mom worked with as an ex-music biz executive) as well as the future (she totally wants to discover the next big thing—like the Dead Romeos—the band her crush is in—perhaps?). Anyway…she likes some of the stuff Avalon likes—if she’s being forced—but is mostly into bands like Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, etc.

Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?

Alexa: Where do I start? You’re talking to somebody who worked for the college record store and campus radio station, who graduated with a degree in lit/writing but moved to Hollywood to work for Capitol Records as an UNPAID intern…until they kicked me upstairs for a paying gig because I was violating labor laws by working for free! I used to be a total music snob, but at this point I pretty much embrace anything and everything. I have total respect for almost all forms of music on one level or another. If I have to name a few artists though, I’d have to say U2 is at the top of the list. I’m a huge fan of a lot of other Irish artists as well, like Sinead O’Connor, the Pogues, the Devlins, the Stunning, the Frames, Luka Bloom. I also love Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Beastie Boys, and classic artists like Cat Stevens (“Oh Very Young!”), James Taylor, the Beatles, Badfinger. Honestly, I could go on for days answering this question. You can see on my MySpace and Facebook pages just how ridiculously long the list is!

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?

Alexa: I need complete silence and an absence of any and all distractions when I write. However, I find that listening to a particular song when I’m stuck can definitely pump me up and put me in the right headspace—so while I don’t want it on in the background, I tend to take periodic music breaks. Anything from an old Chicago or Styx song to a new Avril Lavigne or even—gasp!—Justin Timberlake track can totally get me back in the mode I need to be in. My two protagonists are a cheerleader and a gymnast…so I need to hear the things they’re hearing and get super-pumped-up to feed their energy.

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?

Alexa: Citibank…and my mortgage lender. Knowing I’ve got to pay my bills every month has this incredible way of inspiring me to take my writing to the next level (or at least meet my deadlines). Was that a horrible thing to say? Okay, it’s really all about the chirping birds and cute little squirrels frolicking in the wilderness just outside my suburban Los Angeles window. That, and a big cup of coffee, and I’m SO. TOTALLY. MUSED.

Now I’m sure you think Alexa is as cool as I do (love the honesty about paying her bills!) and you probably wanna win her book, so here is how you can win. Leave a comment in which you tell us about a song that reminds you of either your best friend or one of your frenemies. Be sure to tell WHY the song reminds you because Alexa will choose the best song story and that person will win a signed copy of FRENEMIES! You have until Monday May 19th at 8 am CST to enter, so start commenting!

Even though I am not eligible, I figured I will share my songs. Actually I have an entire album for my best friend Katie. She’s just that cool and I’m just that music-obsessed. It’s …And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid, which reminds me of junior year (Katie’s sophomore year) when we were always planning to run away. It also reminds me of our loyalty to each other and in fact this summer we are incorporating a lyric, “To the end, to the end, I’ll journey to the end” into a tattoo we’ll both be getting.

My frenemy song is “Bruise Violet” by Babes in Toyland. Though the girl that Katie and I used to scream a certain very angry line (umm, you can read the lyrics here and guess…) at was much more an enemy than she ever was a friend. It’s the ultimate punk rock girl frenemy song though because Kat Bjelland of Babes wrote it about her frenemy Courtney Love.

Okay, share your stories and win!!!!


Keri Mikulski said...

Great interview, Stephanie and Alexa! Love your mortgage muse. I feel lucky today. My favorite friend song? My BF and I always listened to music, so there were so many.. Some songs bring back such great memories. But, I'd have to say, The Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" sticks out in my mind today. And of course, the all time chick song - "I Will Survive". Another favorite - "Walking in the Rain" - I can't remember the artist, but it was out in the early 90's. Frenemie song - "Rumors" By: Bobby Brown. This is fun.. I could keep going. :) Now off to check out the "Bruise Violet" song (Thanks for the background on the lyrics) and some of the Irish bands, since U2 is also my all-time fave. Have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

The summer I turned 18 I spent about the week of July 4th living in this little room in my friend Stefan's apartment overlooking Tompkins Square Park while waiting for my summer sublet to be ready. I was literally in the building that Life Cafe is in, directly above it but several floors up. I would go downstairs and drink soy milk cappuccinos.

My best friend Lila would come over and we'd play Stefan's David Bowie CDs. Stingy Lulu's around the corner started carding so we'd just hang out and smoke cigarettes and listen to Bowie.

Every Bowie song on that album reminds me of that week, but the one that stops me in my tracks and absolutely blows me away every time is "Rebel, Rebel." I can smell Lila when I hear it.

Lila's not my best friend any more. We never had a falling out, just fell out of touch. I found out recently that she got married last month. I miss her so much.

Anonymous said...

Er, there is an erroneous "about" in my first sentence. I should not try to put words together before I am really awake. Sorry!

Dominique said...

lol! Love the last question & answer!! :D cool interview :)

I think I’m deviating a bit from more modern genres that are favorites among most kids my age:
I have a very good friend who happens to play piano. We connected one jazz day at school (we go and play in the picnic area during the lunch period some of the jazz charts we’ve worked on—sort of an end-of-the-year celebration) through Bach’s piano concerto in d minor. Almost sounds random, but he happens to be an excellent piano player, and when I mentioned that it was one of my favorite piano concertos, his eyes sort of lit up, and he told me that he had actually played that very piece in the concerto competition and won! Both of us, having grown up in musical households are rather opinionated in music; we discussed everything from pop, rock, and funk to jazz, rap, and classical. Since we both played in the school jazz band either played the piano or had piano-playing family members, our conversations during rehearsals often included debates on who we believed interpreted a certain song or composer better. We rarely ever agreed on a performer! That is, until we found out that we both happened to like Bach’s piano concerto; for the first time ever, we agreed that Glen Gould was the best interpreter of Bach and that his rendition of the concerto was most moving!
So for the two of us, we have a little extra connection between us with that song. It’s nice to find someone among all my pop and rock-loving friends that not only appreciates those genres of music, but some classical as well!

As for more modern/recent songs, I’d have to say “Keep Holding On” by Avril Lavigne describes the friendship between my closest friend and I—we’ve always been there for each other (as corny as that may sound!) and we’ve seen the best and worst of each other. I don’t think I’ve ever had a closer friend that I trust as much as I trust her. It’s just amazing to have a friend like that—she always has the time to listen to me, help me out, and for us to just have fun together. We’re not afraid to tell each other anything and we often confide in each other. We had a bit of a tough year and I think I may have been a little worse for wear if she hadn’t been there for me!