Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Kody Keplinger

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Before we meet today's guest, I have a book to give away. The winner of Arlaina Tibensky's And Then Things Fall Apart is jpetroroy from blogger! Congrats! I will email you for your address!

Today I'm stoked to feature a YA author that I admire and had a blast signing beside at BEA 2010 right before her first book THE DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) came out. I'm talking of course about the fabulous Kody Keplinger, pictured here with her lovely new curls:

Kody has a new book called SHUT OUT that will be out next week (but is already shipping from B&N), so I thought I'd invite her over to be the rock star that she is and tell us about it on Women Who Rock Wednesday. Let's meet her, shall we?

Q: Please tell us about SHUT OUT and what inspired you to write it?

Kody: SHUT OUT is a modern re-imagining of Lysistrata by Aristophanes, a Greek play I read and loved in college. Which is to say, I read it and then turned to my roommate and said, "Hey, this would be AWESOME in a high school setting!" So that's how SHUT OUT came to be. It's about Lissa, a teenage girl whose boyfriend is constantly being distracted by a stupid sports rivalry, so she and the girlfriends of other jocks band together and go on a sex strike, telling they boys they're getting zero action until the pranks and hazing end. Chaos and hilarity ensues!

Q: If there was a soundtrack for SHUT OUT, what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate to the story or characters?

Kody: Oh, there IS a soundtrack! (Well, in my head). I'll be putting a full list up on my website soon, but five songs that, to me, were influential to the book are:

1. "One Girl Revolution" by Saving Jane (which totally sums up the entire novel, actually)
2. "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga (the entire inspiration behind Lissa's frustrated love life)
3. "Can't Hold Us Down" by Christina Aguilera and Lil' Kim (all about the double standards Lissa and her friends begin to see between boys and girls when it comes to sex)
4. "Doll Parts" by Hole (was constantly playing on iPod when I was writing about Lissa and it just seemed to filter through into her character.)
5. "Come On Closer" by Jem (a song all about sexual tension! What could be more appropriate?)

Q: You totally amaze me because you are a published YA author who is still in college (right? or did you recently graduate and I totally didn't know?). Writing was my dream since I was a kid, but it took me awhile to get it all together. I bet there are a bunch of teen writers who you are an inspiration for and would love to know how you reached your dream so quickly. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publishing? How old were you when your first book came out? What were some of your key inspirations to start writing and what were some key steps you took to ensure that you met your goals and got published?

Kody: Well, firstly, I'm not in college anymore. I didn't graduate, but I"m taking some time off to figure things out and to get some writing done! But I did start writing early. Like you, I have ALWAYS wanted to write, ever since I was a little girl. But when I was in high school I finally decided to research how it was that one go published - what steps needed to be taken. That's how I learned that I needed an agent. I didn't get one on my first book, but when I reached out to agents for my second I had a little more luck. I was only seventeen, but that didn't bother her at all, which was good! I was still 17 when my first book, THE DUFF, sold, and I was 19 when it was released last year. I've been so inspired by other writers, like JK Rowling, Judy Blume, Sarah Dessen, and others. My biggest piece of advice to teen writers is to just keep writing. There will be a lot of "no"s in the road to publication, but if you keep writing, you might reach that "yes" one day, and that's what makes it worth it.

Q: I also love that you write contemporary, realistic YA fiction, which isn't a genre that gets as much attention as paranormal or dystopian, but the stories are just as important. Can you talk about what inspires you to write the kind of edgy, realistic stories that you write?

Kody: To be perfectly honest, I write the stories I want to read. I LOVE fantasy and dystopian, but I loved contemporary, too, and I could never seem to find enough of them in high school, so I wrote one. Then another. I think there can be just as much excitement in a realistic setting as there can be in a fantasy! There's angst, romance, drama. So, yeah. I write what I wanted to read - stories about real people dealing with real, not-sugar-coated issues. With a little fun mixed in, of course!

Q: I know SHUT OUT is brand new, but you have rabid fans including me, so please tell us what's next?

Kody: Aww, thank you! Well, after SHUT OUT I have a third book out next Summer (just under a year from now) called A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE. Now, before you get all excited, its not related to Shakespeare. I'm done with retellings for a bit. But it's about a girl dealing with what she thinks is the worst summer ever, only to discover that through all the bad, she might find something very important she's been missing for a while. I'm REALLY excited about it and hope my readers love the characters as much as I do when it comes out.

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!

Kody: Oh, Gawwwwd, this is embarrassing, but okay. My first album was "Oops, I Did It Again" by Britney Spears, and I still know all the lyrics to half those songs because it was on constant repeat. And my first concert, which i saw when I was 16, was Hank Williams Jr, which my dad took me to for my birthday, even though its HIS favorite musician, not mine. Still a fun show, though.

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.

Kody: Oh my gosh, okay - so last year I got to attend a YA Lit conference in Chicago. My publisher sent me, and I go to stay at this super nice hotel. Now, I've stayed in nice hotels before, but not like this one. I kid you not - there was a TV inside the bathroom mirror. Like, there was a remote and you could see the TV on the mirror and watch it while you got read int he morning. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen, and at that moment, I felt like a rockstar - because I was in a hotel with such fancy bathroom furniture! haha.

Dude, that is super cool. Yanno, I'm near Chicago, so next time invite me over, okay?

Thanks very much to Kody for swinging by for an interview. I bet everyone is pumped for SHUT OUT now, so what are you waiting for.... go order it from your favorite bookstore!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Muses for the New YA Project

As I mentioned on my YA Outside the Lines blog entry earlier this week, I'm having a really hard time getting started on my new YA project. I explain my issues there in depth (and ask for advice on how to kickstart a new project so if you have tips, please go and share them!), but to summarize lot of them have to do with self-doubt, especially after struggles with The Bartender Book and general uncertainty about my career. And I don't know, maybe I always struggle with the beginning of a book, but because it takes me so long to finish a book, I forget how hard it is by the time I have to start a new one.

This time around I also had a really hard time deciding between three ideas, but I'm pretty sure I've settled on my oldest idea. It's something I've been toying with since early 2008, around the same time I started toying with what became The Bartender Book. I've written a few partial drafts and synopses of this idea. It's had two different titles. It's been a contemporary realistic YA story with a metaphor that didn't really work and then it was a paranormal YA story that almost worked, but something just wasn't right. I also took input from too many people without trusting my own instincts and it became this Thing That Was No Longer Mine. But the idea at the very core is one I've been obsessed with such I was a teenager, actually maybe even younger, so I felt determined to reclaim it.

Through working closely with a couple of trusted writing buddies (I love you Kaz and Vanessa! Also Jenny and Jeri!), I think I've hashed out a plot that will actually work this time. I've been inspired by books that blend realistic fiction with fantastical elements like IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma. (Such an amazing book!!! Seriously, click that link and get it now. You will thank me!) It seemed like that sort of touch is exactly what this book idea needed. I want to straddle the line of reality and fairytale so that readers feel like maybe I'm telling a story that could actually happen or maybe I'm creating my own modern fairytale. Because fairytales, myths and classic stories from my childhood are where the center of this thing is. I've always been fascinated by girls who get lost, wander off the path, are taken or that someone tries to break and what becomes of them depending on the choices they make.

So, I've been plotting and brainstorming for the past month and a half (and how I hate that it has taken that long, gah!!! One of these days a book will just pour out of me. Hopefully the next book because I am due.) It has often been very frustrating, but I think I have a general idea and usually a general idea is all I need. But as I mentioned in that YAOTL Blog, I'm having a really tough time diving in. I'm leaving to Seattle on Saturday and hoping that my six-day trip to my favorite place on earth will give me clarity and peace of mind so I can come back ready to dive in.

Because I figure I may need it, I thought I'd put together the things that stirred up this idea for me in some way so I have them in one place to feed my muse. This will also give you hints about what I'm working on, as many hints as I'm willing to drop at this point at least. Like last time I am still not comfortable sharing real titles though I do have one, but I think in order to officially make this a Work In Progress rather than a brainstorm it needs a project name like The Bartender Book. For now I will call this The Modern Myth YA and here are her inspirations:

I will start with music because music always comes first for me. This is one song that has stayed on my playlist (which has changed names and dropped and added songs every time I change titles). It contains the quote I have at the front of the manuscript right now, which is pretty much my driving idea for the story:

"How we survive is what makes us who we are." - Rise Against, "Survive":

But when I was trying to reclaim this story and figure out how to change it so that I could actually write a full book on it, I tried to listen to my old playlist and I wasn't feeling inspired by it. I was actually ready to give up because if I don't have the music for a story idea, the idea just isn't going to work for me. Then I landed on this song. I listened to it 10 times in a row as I started to sketch out new ideas. It's all here. "I Am A Revenant" by The Distillers is my main character. It showed me how she feels, how she acts, what she does, what she looks like. It gives me a glimpse into her heart:

At that point, I realized that The Distillers are my band for this project. I have no idea why it wasn't obvious before. I dumped almost half of their catalog onto my playlist. Two songs that particularly stuck out to be were these. It's strange because in my own life, "Hall of Mirrors" and "The Hunger" were break-up songs, forever they have reminded me of the end of a painful 8 year romance. My story isn't centered on a romance, but I still hear my character in this song.

This one has lines that speak of her journey: "There's a highway to the edge/Once a night you will find yourself there/At the end of the road you will find the answer/At the end of the road you will drink the fear":

And The Hunger which is may be my all-time favorite Distillers song has that pure raw scream of anguish, that "Don't Go!" even though you know you have to let go and "Hold on to the memory, it's all you got":

Then at one point I was listening to "Live Through This" by Hole and realized that most of that album should be on my playlist, especially "Violet" because that whole "I'm the one with no soul, one above and one below" line is perfect as is the whole "Might last a day, Mine is forever" part of the chorus:

Oh and this next song. This has been on the playlist all along, but I didn't realize exactly what it would mean to the project until very recently. This song and fireflies in general are really symbolic for me in surviving my own depression and dark times when I was in high school, something which I talk a bit about in this vlog I made a couple of years ago. Yeah, this song, major part of The Modern Myth YA's theme:

Corin Tucker is the singer of Heavens To Betsy and also of Sleater-Kinney whose song I got the title I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE for. It seems she is always a huge inspiration for me because songs from her album 1,000 years with her latest band, The Corin Tucker Band are finding their way on to my playlist as well. In fact I might name a character after this song, although my Riley would be telling my main character, "What you've been through is rough. Just keep going, don't let it get you down for too long." And I love this video too:

In addition to music I am also drawing a lot of inspiration from this:

Yes, wild girls. Definitely.

But books and music are common inspirations for me. What's surprising is I've always been drawn to a lot of imagery as well for this one. These are probably what will give you the most insight into what I'm writing about.... Maybe.

Here's one I just saw yesterday. Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love is about to turn 19 (today I think! Happy Birthday, Frances Bean!) and there have been some really beautiful images of her that were taken recently. I've got to say that as the daughter of the two people I idolized most as a teenager, she intrigues me, but beyond that she is just really pretty and photographs quite well in that you can see a story in the images of her. Is it her story? I have no idea, I wouldn't be so presumptuous to assume that. What I see in this photo is my story though actually. It's something about those branches that appear both behind her and on her chest and the way she is partially shadowed and lit up. Though my main character looks a lot different than Frances does here, I see her in this image. Also one of the tiny little hints I will give about my story. My main character is the daughter of celebrities and the book is set in LA. Modern myth, there you have it.

Then this is an image from a graphic novel that has stuck with me since high school. There are certainly elements of The Crow in what I'm working on.

And finally we have these paintings:

That's "Demeter" and "Persephone" painted by Jeanie Tomanek. Yes, elements in my myth for sure. I'm going to remain mum on how and the only reason I even posted these is because I saw them during my research (thanks again, Kaz!) and haven't been able to stop looking at them or the rest of this woman's artwork, which you can check out here. Especially this one, which speaks to me in sort of the same way as the Frances Bean photograph (but sadly comes out much too big for me to post directly here.) I've admitted before that I am usually totally dumb when it comes to art. I have no idea what I like, but now I have found it. I love love love this. It's exactly the mood I hope to capture in my book. And if I actually manage to write it and it sells, I may reward myself with one of Ms. Tomanek's brilliant paintings.

So yeah, those are my muses. If you've seen/heard/read things that you think may inspire me, by all means post away. And I hope these various elements intrigue you about what is to come from me. Most of all I hope that after my vacation, I can get my ass in gear and create it!

Also last minute thought.... I probably don't need another online distraction, but as I compiled this, I thought maybe it would be easier to just get a tumblr to compile all of these things as I come across them. Any tumblr fans out there? What do you think?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Arlaina Tibensky!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Before we meet today's guest, I have a book to give away. The winner of Melissa Walker's Small Town Sinners is auds07 from LiveJournal! Congrats! I will email you for your address!

Today we have the fabulous debut YA author Arlaina Tibensky here tell us about her book AND THEN THINGS FALL APART. I was lucky enough to meet Arlaina for coffee while she was visiting Chicago a couple of weeks ago. See, aren't we adorable?

I can tell you firsthand that she is made of awesome and I am really excited to her book and I'm guessing that if you love my books you will love Arlaina and her book, too. So let's meet her, shall we?

Q: Please tell us what AND THEN THINGS FALL APART is about and what inspired you to write it.

ARLAINA: The book is about how Sylvia Plath and an old typewriter usher an angsty reluctant virgin through the worst summer of her freaking life.

That’s the tagline but it’s about a lot of things, great literature, misbehaved parents, the coolest grandmother ever. Garage sales, vintage clothes, Chicago, expensive nail polish…

When I was 15 my parents were getting divorced and I was staying at my grandma’s house when I got the chicken pox. I had been writing other novels and short stories forever but this idea about a sick literate girl stuck in bed without a computer really stuck with me. One day I heard an interview with Libba Bray on a podcast of Meet the Writers where she talked about making a playlist for all her books. I had never even heard of her and she was so warm and funny and we seemed to have a similar sensibility and I thought hmmm. YA, huh? Why not! I went home, made a playlist and started typing. And as soon as I hacked out three pages in like, 5 minutes, it felt like the planets had aligned and I was finally writing what I was supposed to be writing. FINALLY.

Q: If there was a soundtrack for AND THEN THINGS FALL APART what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate the story?

ARLAINA: Smokestack Lightnin' by Howlin' Wolf
This one makes me feel the kind of sad I get at Christmas, which is a feeling I adore and think of as a particularly teenaged feeling.

You Know I'm No Good by Amy Winehouse
This song is so open and raw- love it. It best exemplifies the kind of tough Keek wishes she could be, especially in matters of the heart. Don’t get me started on the heartbreak of her dying on me…

Stand And Deliver by Adam Ant
My love of Adam Ant knows no bounds. This song was also a kind of battle cry for Keek, daring her to stand up for herself. And it’s kind of funny and Keek has nothing if not a sense of humor.

Remember (Walkin' In The Sand) by The Shangri-Las
This one tears you a new aorta. It reminds me that the passionate turmoil of being a teenager is timeless and really embodies the kind of hurt and betrayal Keek feels over both Matt and Amanda.

Like Cockatoos by the Cure
I hear this song and I am instantly16 and in an attic making out with my hot goth boyfriend. INSTANTLY. So it really helped ground me in that time and place so I could write with authenticity.

Q: We have a lot of things in common like being raised in the Chicago suburbs and going to punk shows at the Fireside Bowl. But it also sounds like you loved Sylvia Plath as much as I did in high school. Can you please talk about how she influenced you?

ARLAINA: Sylvia Plath was one of the first writers I read where I actually noticed the writing. There’s this whole idea, especially in high school English class, that when the writing is really “good” you don’t notice it. Plath’s poems and the best places in The Bell Jar just captivated me with the surreal and punk rock beauty of the words and the way that she chose to put them together. The words called attention to themselves in the best possible way. It made me see, probably for the first time, that writing was an art. And of course, her suicide glamoured me into loving her too, the maudlin idea of a beautiful, tortured young poet, dead at 30. It fit perfectly into my romantic notion of the suffering artist.

Q: Who else has influenced you as a writer? It could be anyone from other artists to parents and teachers. We love hearing about inspiring women on Women Who Rock Wednesday, but feel free to include men as well.

ARLAINA: I can’t leave out Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. That book was a huge influence on And Then Things Fall Apart (and me). Holden’s voice is so powerful and has a flat-footed oddness to it that made me notice the words as I was totally caught up in the momentum. Dorothy Parker. Jane Bowels. The Hernandez Brothers of Love and Rockets. Bukowski. Those are four more big influences. I’m really drawn to slightly off-kilter dark yet redemptive characters with a sense of humor. I guess because they mirror how I see myself. Or something.

And of course there are all the badass women (including two nuns!) who taught me how to diagram sentences and conjugate verbs and write lucid and entertaining 5 paragraph essays. My English teachers expected the best from me and encouraged all my writing endeavors and I wouldn’t be writing today if it weren’t for them and their red pencils.

Q: I know AND THEN THINGS FALL APART just came out, but as soon as we devour it, I know we're gonna want more, so what is next for you?

ARLAINA: I have two ideas arm-wrestling for dominance in my brain… One is a mother daughter thing and the other is an effed up family with a brother and a sister. I love them both and can’t seem to figure out which one I should dance with first. The short answer is: another book. Soon…

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!

ARLAINA: First album I bought on purpose was the soundtrack to Fame- the original… I used to listen to it in my grandma’s oversized sea-foam green carpeted bathroom and construct these elaborate routines in the mirror. “I sing, the body electric…” And it was a cassette tape.

The first concert was U2. I know! It was a big big show at Rosemont Horizon. I want to say it was the Joshua Tree tour but it’s kind of a blur.
I was so caught up with the drama of the guy who invited me (we had just broken up and I didn’t know if it was a date or what and that kind of thing totally unnerved me then) but it was big and fun and electric. I saw the Cure there too on the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me Tour, not long after…

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.

ARLAINA: When I was in high school my mom and I went on a safari in Africa. To prepare we had to attend a pre-trip meeting at the Rosemont Hilton. The meeting room was near the pool and was very exciting. We learned about the shots we would need and the unique places we were going to stay and we were all dazed and drunk with the glamour of international travel when we got into the elevator to take us back to the parking lot. As we were waiting for the doors to close, a very tattooed and skinny eyelinered and wet man got in the elevator with us, a towel around his neck. Dude. I RECOGNIZED the giant blue dragon tattoo. And my mother (who is the true rock star here) asks him, “Excuse me, but aren’t you a musician?” and he says- in total British accent, kind of like a question, I kid you not “I’m Ozzy Osborne.” And I’m practically inside out with embarrassment and awe and then my mom says: “Oh, my brother really enjoys your music.” And he says, “Thanks very much” and we got out at the lobby.

This was like, 1989 when he was still a rock star and not a reality TV star. But the moment was very rock star all the way around, my badass mom, the badass trip my mom couldn’t really afford, the nonchalant half nakedness of the encounter. I think of that experience often because it made me realize in a concrete way that you are always the rock star of your own life.

Today's Contest:

After hearing more about it, I'm guessing you want AND THEN THINGS FALL APART and you are in luck! Arlaina is offering up a copy!

This contest is open to international entries!

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment. However you can gain additional entries:

+1 for tweeting or posting on facebook about this interview
+1 for tweeting or posting about AND THEN THINGS FALL APART
+5 for blogging about AND THEN THINGS FALL APART

Note your additional entries in your comment as well as giving me an email address or some way to contact you if you win. I will be drawing the winner on August 31 when I bring you the next Women Who Rock Wednesday interview, which will be with Kody Keplinger!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why I've Been Quiet Lately

Sorry this blog got all kinds of spotty again after a really good June. I feel bad when I only post up interviews even though I do like to share the cool authors and other folks that I discover with you guys.

I think I'm still trying to figure out how to best use my blog. I want it to be a source of interesting information as well as personal reflections on well, my life, writing, and music as the blog's name Life, Words & Rock 'n' Roll suggests. But I don't even know how often people read blogs any more because Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and now Google+ (which I'm on but haven't actually used much) make it easier to get the basics and small doses of information.

The thing is, I'm not a small doses kind of gal. My blog entries are longer than they should be and I know it and so are my books. But I write the stories I write because they are what I want to tell and I don't like to blog for the sake of blogging. I blog when I have something urgent that I need to share whether it be my own news or a great band or book or author or just an observation or obsession I need to talk about. I also use this a sort of public journal where I work through my own issues whether they be with my writing process or regarding things I've gone through in the past like self-injury, abuse, addiction, etc. So I guess I'm saying that I hope this is okay with you and you will keep reading and entering my contests, etc and that you will also bear with me during my quieter moments like right now because I just don't blog when I don't have things that are interesting or appropriate to say and I also seem to go through cycles when I barely have time to eat or sleep so blogging just falls off.

Here's what's been going on with me lately & why I've been so quiet:

1. There is a lot of stuff going on in my personal life that I don't feel comfortable talking about publicly so I'm not. It's been a hard summer. People I love have been sick and/or going through difficult times and it's just seemed like one bit of bad luck after the next. I don't want to be a whiny Debbie Downer, so I'm following the "When you don't have anything nice to say, STFU" rule.

2. There is a lot of stuff going on in my professional life that I either don't feel comfortable talking about or simply can't talk about it. Yet. You'll hear about it when I'm ready/allowed to talk about it. But I spent much of last month in yet another cycle of major self-doubt. Like consulting tarot cards for a different career path self-doubt. Like wondering if I could be a nurse like my mom even though I'm pretty sure I'd faint at the sight of a ton of blood self-doubt. More on that when I've processed it completely, I'm sure because while I don't want to be one of those writers who writes about writing all the time, there are some things that are really important to share and self-doubt and how we work through it is a biggie. But rest assured I'm not quitting any time soon. Still have lots to figure out, but not quitting.

3. There is one professional-related thing that I am so bursting to tell you about but can't. It's not a book, but it's something that I'm as excited about and proud of as I am my books and I'm sure that readers of my books are totally gonna love. All I can say now is that you will find out more in early September. As soon as I can tell you, believe me I will. But this Super Sekrit Project has been sucking up a ton of time and is a large reason of why I haven't been blogging. It's like better than blogging though. You'll see.

4. Another professional-related time suck is I'm going to be teaching a Young Adult Fiction class at Columbia College Chicago this fall. I'm excited and nervous and hoping it will help me learn more about my own writing while I'm teaching others, but holy cow is it taking a lot of prep.

5. I'm trying to figure out which of three YA ideas to work on as my next project. It's caused a lot of angst as you might have noticed from this post. After the trouble I had with the bartender book, I'm gun-shy. I don't want to start writing until I've fully plotted, which is so not my usual style. That's it's own separate blog post (unless you think that would be totally boring!) which I will write about once I figure things out a bit more and get deeper into my process. Every book is a new animal. I'm pretty sure I've chosen my next book idea, but we'll see. More on that later.

So yes between all of those things I've been insanely busy and the rest of this month isn't going to be much better, but I do have two more great interviews planned for you (and you can still enter to win Melissa Walker's latest book here). I also want to eventually (sometime this week or next week I hope!) tell you about going to see the original version of the play Grease here in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing and I have so much to say about it. I'll do my best to get a post up about it before I go on vacation on the 20th. Yes!!!! I get a vacation! Dudes, I need a vacation so bad and it is with two of my bestest girl friends in my favorite city on earth, Seattle, so I am thrilled!

I will definitely be blogging at Teen Fiction Cafe this Thursday, probably about my favorite places in Seattle, and there is going to be some seriously cool stuff going on at TFC soon (that does involve winning/earning free books!), so keep your eye on that site.

Next Tuesday you will find me at my other group blog, YA Outside The Lines talking about beginnings and endings and probably about this new YA book project I'm trying to get settled into. We are doing something cool at YAOTL for September where we are going to pick our topics from questions that readers ask. So if you have a question that you'd like to see one of your favorite YA authors answer-- a serious question or a totally goofy, off-the-wall one, please send it to blog administrator, Holly Schindler, at writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com. Nothing's off limits!

Actually come to think of it, that might be a good idea for me personally to do on this blog too. So if there are certain things you'd like me personally to blog about or reflect on in the future, please leave a comment. I can't promise I'll get to them all and I may not get to any of them until September, but I really could use your feedback about what would make reading this blog enjoyable because as long as it stays enjoyable for me as a writer and you guys as readers, I will continue to maintain it... even if it does get spotty when life gets hectic. Again, I apologize for that and appreciate all of your comments and hope you are having a fabulous summer!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Melissa Walker!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Before we meet today's guest, I have a book to give away. The winner of Jon Skovron's MISFIT is Jasmine1485 from blogger! Congrats! I will email you for your address!

Today's Woman Who Rocks, Melissa Walker rocks extra hard because not only did she have a new book, SMALL TOWN SINNERS, come out last month, she gave birth to her first baby this week!!!! Can we all please say congratulations?

I love and adore Melissa. Along with Mari Mancusi, our daily Twitter check-ins and cheerleading helped me finally finish the Bartender Book. Plus she was a blast to hang out with in New York last year. But most importantly, she writes amazing books! I have SMALL TOWN SINNERS on my shelf, waiting to be read as soon as I get through the books I have to read for a class I'm teaching this fall. I think that after hearing about it, you will be dying to read it to, so let's get this interview going and meet Melissa, shall we?

Q: Please tell us what SMALL TOWN SINNERSis about and what inspired you to write it.

MELISSA: Small Town Sinners is the story of a girl who's grown up in an evangelical community. She dreams of starring in her church's Hell House production and has never really questioned what she's been taught at home or in the church. But then she starts to look around and see injustices among her friends, she meets a boy who asks questions, and she starts to realize that faith isn't always black and white. I was inspired by a story I wrote for ELLEgirl in 2005--meeting the people of this small town and watching them put together their Hell House production was truly an experience that stayed with me. I had to write more about it. Here's the original article.

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?

MELISSA: It's funny because this music isn't so much "my" music, really, but it feels very right for the characters, so here goes:

1. Love Story-Taylor Swift. Lacey Anne is definitely a girl who believes in true love and happy endings, so this song--and its fairy tale message--is one of her favorites, no doubt in my mind.

2. Wild Horses-The Rolling Stones. Ty is a big classic rock fan, and I always imagined him listening to this song in his car, thinking about his past and his hometown of West River.

3. Firework-Katy Perry. Lacey's best friend Starla Joy is all about bright pink lipstick and a spitfire attitude, much like Ms. Perry.

4. She's in Love With the Boy-Trisha Yearwood. A 90s country classic, this is the quintessential small-town love story that Lacey, at least at first, hopes will be hers.

5. Oh Very Young-Van Morrison. Another Ty favorite, this song poignantly gets to the loss of innocence in the book.

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!

MELISSA: So many people, but just to name one I'll say fellow YA author Carolyn Mackler, who really helped me start out with pitching my first book (and having the confidence to even say "Maybe I want to write a YA novel"). She's the best.

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?

MELISSA: Sometimes if I want to create a certain emotion that I'm just not feeling naturally, I'll turn on some songs to try to evoke that mood. It definitely helps, but I only use it every once in a while. Usually I write without music.

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

MELISSA: My next book, UNBREAK MY HEART, will be out in May 2012. It's about friendships and betrayal and summer love... stay tuned.

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!

MELISSA: First album: Thriller, Michael Jackson. It was a cassette tape. My first vinyl was Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. I loved MTV and these guys were in heavy rotation. First show: 6th grade, Poison--Open Up and Say Ahhh... tour. Tesla opened. Oh man, I loved it. Fallen Angel, Every Rose Has its Thorn? Somebody get me a lighter!

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.

MELISSA: I've had a few of these since becoming an author, but one huge one was being able to pose with the amazing Sarah Dessen for the cover of our hometown magazine, Chapel Hill Magazine. I could not believe I was back to back with Sarah in our high school hallway--she is a huge inspiration to me and to be included in that article was a dream come true! You can see the full article here.

Umm yeah, that is definitely one of the coolest rock star moments I've heard for sure!

Today's Contest:

After hearing more about it, I'm guessing you want SMALL TOWN SINNERS and you are in luck! Melissa is offering up a copy!

This contest is open to international entries!

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment. However you can gain additional entries:

+1 for tweeting or posting on facebook about this interview
+1 for tweeting or posting about SMALL TOWN SINNERS
+5 for blogging about SMALL TOWN SINNERS

Note your additional entries in your comment as well as giving me an email address or some way to contact you if you win. I will be drawing the winner on August 17 when I bring you the next Women Who Rock Wednesday interview, which will be with Arlaina Tibensky!