Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Releases, New Projects, New Tumblrs (Oh and Comic Con pix)

Hey lovely blog readers, sorry it's been awhile since I've posted properly. I've been prepping for my crazy fall and hang out with these cool people:

Yeah, that would be Norman Reedus. Or you may know him as Daryl from The Walking Dead or Murphy MacManus from Boondock Saints. I know him as that guy who my friend Lindsay and I became insanely obsessed with in like 2002 and watched all his movies over and over. And he touched me. And called me babe and sweetheart several times.

Those lovely ladies would be Sherilyn Fenn and Sheryl Lee or Audrey and Laura from Twin Peaks or the women who collectively changed my life when I was eleven and my mom decided that yeah it would be cool to let me watch her favorite show with her. They are also incredibly sweet and both complimented me on my flower crown. When I told Sheryl Lee about writing for Rookie and the next gen of teen girls inspired by Twin Peaks, she got so genuinely excited it made my day.

And these people, that dude, who looks like he's about to get all bumpy-faced and bite my best friend (in the awesome unicorn shirt)'s next, that of course would be James Marsters AKA Spike from Buffy and his partner in crime on the far left is Juliet Landau AKA Drusilla.

Yes, I spent the first part of August totally geeking out and going to my very first Comic Con, Wizard World Chicago as well as my very first Ren Faire in Bristol, WI, where I met this adorable little guy:

From now on my husband and friends judge the level of my happiness/excitement by whether or not I'm making "bunny face." (Note: that Norman Reedus definitely got "bunnyface"... which sounds wrong. Especially since my husband was mentioned a sentence ago.)

Now on to that preparing for a busy fall thing, but here are a couple of things that also bring on bunnyface for me.... NEW RELEASES!!!!!!

Sorry to disappoint, but these are not solo ventures, ie. new books just written by me. They are both anthologies/collections of sorts, but that's what makes them so bunnyface worthy. They are a million times better than if they were written by just me.

First up...

Actually I believe the official title is Rookie Yearbook One because there will be more and I hope way way way more than four yearbooks I have from high school. Of course they will definitely be way way way better than high school yearbooks, chock full of the best Rookie photos, art, and articles of the year. I'm not actually sure what if any of my pieces are in there, but I do know my school photo from senior year will be!

This releases on September 4th, next Tuesday, which also marks the one year anniversary of Rookie, when I wrote this highly excited post about. I'm still just as thrilled and honored to be a part of Rookie, especially now that I see the incredible INCREDIBLE content that has been produced and the community that has grown from it. This summer during the Rookie Road Trip, I even got to take my niece and one of her BFFs to a zine making party. Rookie is probably the thing I am most proud of, even more so than my books, so if you haven't yet, I urge you to check it out. These two pieces in particular mean a lot to me, my most recent article about grief and losing my friend Marcel, and my piece on my history with self-injury. And for those of you wondering about the advice I'd give teen writers, you will find it all here at Rookie.

I will also be talking about something very close to my heart in the other new release...

Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves comes out on October 30th.

I will be in AMAZING company with people like Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Oliver, Tara Kelly, and more. I wrote about the emotionally and sexually abusive relationship I was in as a fifteen year-old. I can't wait to read all of the other letters, which I imagine will range from heartbreaking to hilarious.

Fall, for me, is also a time for New Projects.

Okay, one new project. I've decided after much soul-searching, stress, and conversing with my agent that while the partial of the Modern Myth YA is being shopped, I can't keep writing it. I just get too freaked out. This doesn't mean I've given up on it. I hope/believe that my agent will call me any day now with an offer and then I will dive write back in. I explained a bit more in depth about why I felt this way/made this decision and gave some hints (in playlist form of course) about the project I've switched over to working to on YA Outside the Lines last week. As I mentioned there, the new project is a Contemporary Realistic YA (which for right now I will call quite creatively the Contemporary YA even though I have a working title that I adore for it, yanno, superstitions.) That doesn't completely do it justice those because I'm pondering some ghostly/magical realism twists to it.

It's about a girl who is grieving--a few characters actually are grieving, but my main character is not only grieving for her older brother, she has also fallen into an emotionally abusive relationship.

Yeah, I know, I mentioned both grief and abusive relationships above as my own experiences. As usual, I am drawing from those things, emotionally, creatively, cathartically, but not directly. I pondered writing a memoir, but for now I've decided against it, so my real life stuff will be found at Rookie and in anthologies like Dear Teen Me.

Something else that Ballads of Suburbia fans will enjoy is that Cass makes a cameo appearance in this one, as a grown up. As you will see in this scene that I've decided to be daring enough to share with you even though I wrote most of it while hungover last week.

Cass swiveled her head to the right, dreadlocks spilling over her left shoulder. She mimicked Kat’s posture and as she crossed her arms, the sleeve of her gray t-shirt rose to reveal her birdcage tattoo. The cage was open and empty with a ribbon hanging down from it. Loopy handwritten script on the ribbon read, “Secrets lead to sickness.”
“First day back and you’re ready?” Cass deadpanned.
Kat matched her dry tone. “Maybe that’s why I’m back.”
Maybe there was a grief group therapy certificate and Kat wanted it.
Cass flicked her chin upward, indicating that Kat should spill.
Kat’s face faltered momentarily like a kid at Six Flags who’d spent their whole time in line bragging about what a piece of cake a certain roller coaster was and then almost chickened out when it was her turn to step into the first car. But then she blinked and her expression hardened once again.
“Two years ago yesterday, I was hanging out with my brother Stevie at Denny’s like usual. Our sister Corin worked there, so we could just sit around and drink coffee for hours without getting hassled. Corin usually comped most of our food, too, but that night Stevie insisted on actually buying me a slice of pie because he’d only had to fix a couple of sentences in my final English paper, which he said was like a record. I always had him proofread my stuff even though it meant listening to him gloat about being the twin that got all the brains. It was this ongoing thing we had. I’d be like, ‘I’m older,’ and he’d be like, ‘Well, I hung out in the womb longer so my brain could get bigger.’” Kat half-laughed before saying, “Whatever, it’s one of those stupid things that’s probably only funny to us. Anyway, it wasn’t about him being smarter. Even Corin had him proof her college essays. She’s the musician, I’m the artist, I guess, and Stevie’s the writer….”
Kat swallowed and tugged on the colorful jelly bracelets on her left wrist. “Stevie was the writer. And fine, fuck it, he was smarter than me, too. Except for that night. He was so fucking stupid that night.”
She rolled her eyes heavenward and blinked rapidly. Cass started to say something, but Kat stomped her foot. “No, I can do this,” she insisted.
Taking a deep breath, she stared out into the center of the circle, focusing on a scuff on the tile that I usually spent group studying. It was the perfect arch, like a gray rainbow. “We should have gone home with Corin’s best friend Stella,” Kat continued. “Corin had to work ‘til midnight and Stella offered to give use a ride. We were in the parking lot with her when Stevie’s friends rolled up. Well, they weren’t really all his friends. Riley, he’d been one Stevie’s best friends since grade school. The two other guys, Murph and Jared, were a couple years older than us. Riley met them in woodworking class and thought they were cool because they had a car and did stupid shit like steal lawn ornaments and rearrange letters on signs and act like they were movie stunt guys.”
Kat rolled her eyes again, but this time she looked pissed rather than on the verge of tears. “I thought they were cool, too. I tried to impress them just like Stevie and his friends did. Especially Murph, I thought he was so cute. It was pathetic. That’s why we didn’t ride home with Stella. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ride shotgun in Murph’s shitty Ford Explorer. Stella even asked, ‘Are you sure?’ And right when she did, there were sirens. I remember that. An ambulance, a cop car, a couple fire trucks. It was really loud. Definitely a warning, but did I take it? No. I just waved Stella off.”
I glanced over at Cass, wondering if she was going to interject. She was always telling us not to blame ourselves or take on the burden of regrets that didn’t belong to us. She frowned sadly, but kept her mouth shut. She was probably saving the hindsight is twenty-twenty lecture for after Kat was done. Getting us to confess about that day was always her biggest priority.
“Part of me wishes we’d gone with Stella, but another part of me wishes she hadn’t been there at all because seeing her probably gave Stevie his idiotic idea.” Kat bit her lip and shook her head. “Like I said, Murph and Jared were into doing these idiotic stunts and one of them was car surfing. We’d do it in parking lots when they were empty at night. You’d climb up on the roof of the Explorer and Murph would drive. Not super fast, maybe twenty miles an hour. Riley actually did it down our street one time at closer to thirty. Stevie had never tried it, though, which everyone teased him about, especially since you know, I had,” she pointed to herself. “His sister.
“When the guys started giving him crap that night, he was like, ‘Okay, I’ll surf,’ and then he turns to me and smiles and says, ‘In fact, I’ll surf the dark spot.’ And I was like, ‘Bad ass! Shotgun!’ because of course I was way more concerned about sitting next to Murph than how fucking idiotic it was to car surf through the dark spot, which is this winding stretch of road through the forest preserve about a mile from Denny’s. Corin discovered it when Stella got her license. Stella’s kind of a daredevil, so she would turn off her headlights and go around that curve blind and crazy fast because right afterward there’s a set of train tracks and you can catch some pretty good air when you hit them.
“So we’re, like, explaining this as we’re directing Murph there and he actually got a little freaked by the idea. He said he’d do it with no headlights because Stevie really wanted to surf in the darkness and he’d go around the curve, but he wasn’t going to go that fast and he wasn’t going to go over the tracks. Not that it mattered because we never even got to the curve…” Kat’s voice cracked and she ran a finger under her eye before a renegade tear could smear her black eyeliner.
She’d been speaking at an incredible clip, her words gaining momentum like when the roller coaster goes down that first big dip. When she paused to catch her breath, the ten of us listening seemed to take a collective inhale with her. Plastic chairs creaked as kids pressed against them, trying to escape what came next in Kat’s story, what came next in all of our stories: that ugly moment that changed everything.

Yep, I'm gonna leave you hanging there. Also, worth noting, Kat is not the main character. Meredith, the girl listening to her, is, but I haven't written her recollection of her own brother's death yet. I know it. I know a fair bit about this story, but not everything. I'm writing by the seat of my pants now and just trying to fall in love with telling a story again, not worrying about an audience or who might or might not buy it, just writing what I need to write. And so far it has been working. Yesterday I wrote nearly 3,500 words. More than I've written in one day all summer, possibly all year. Here's hoping the momentum keeps going.

Because I'm trying to sink back into a solid fiction writing schedule on top of my freelance work, my bartending job, and once again I'll be teaching a YA Fiction Course at Columbia College Chicago this fall, I don't know how well I'll keep up with this blog. I'll try my best, but to fill the void, I also have this...

My new bartending tumblr.
Adventures in Bartending/The Bartending Diaries can be found here. I still don't post as regularly as most tumblrers, but I do what I can, namely posting funny bar related photos and videos and accounts of my experiences at work, which I can do LIVE FROM MY PHONE so I find that convenient and exciting. I'm also doing it because even though it hasn't sold yet, my agent and I still have high hopes that we will find a home for my bartender book and you'll get to read it.

That's all from me. Hope you guys had fabulously fun summers and exciting fall projects planned too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

GCC Presents: Elise Allen (with a contest!)

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?


WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you had the chance to erase your past and reinvent yourself as the person you’ve always wanted to be? Would you grab it? Would you stick with it, no matter what the consequences?

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:

After starting her career in television, ELISE ALLEN has emerged as a vibrant new voice in teen fiction. She is the co-author of Hilary Duff's New York Times Bestseller Elixir, as well as its sequels, Devoted and True. She received an Emmy nomination for her work on the PBS show Dinosaur Train, and fulfilled a lifelong dream when she wrote for the Muppets. She lives in Los Angeles, where she indulges her inexplicable desire to run marathons. Visit her at www.eliseallen.com, or on Twitter @EliseLAllen.

The Interview:

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!

The Giveaway:

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/