- What was your road to getting I KNOW IT'S OVER published?
I got my first agent in 2002. They’d already sent my very first YA book a few places when I showed them I Know It’s Over in 2003. Unfortunately, they didn’t like it much and the fixes they had in mind weren’t what I wanted for the book. We were both firm in our opinions and decided to go our separate ways. While I was searching for a new agent I wrote another book and entered I Know It’s Over and One Lonely Degree in the Delacorte Press Contest. Rejections for both of them came in the mail on the same day at the end of April. That was a really, really bad time and I had so many doubts about whether I’d ever be able to get a book published but I kept working on yet another YA novel, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, and sending out query letters to agents.
An agent with Curtis Brown in England requested I Know It’s Over and then offered to represent me. She really loved the book and was totally determined to find a home for it. When she couldn’t secure a British publisher for it she teamed up with a U.S. agent to shop it in the States and that agent found I Know It’s Over the perfect home with Random House. My editor, agent and I were completely on the same wavelength when it came to I Know It’s Over and the experience showed me how much making the jump to publication depends on getting your book in front of the right pair of eyes. I’m so grateful to them both for taking on this book – given the subject matter it’s obviously not the easiest sell but they took a chance.
- How has I KNOW IT'S OVER changed from the first draft to the finished copy of the book?
It’s slightly less contemplative. There are still lots of scenes where Nick is ruminating on his situation but some of them were shortened to pick up the pace a little. I think Sasha’s more sympathetic in the finished version than she was initially – not that I ever intended for her to be unsympathetic, but initially I don’t think I went far enough in making her feelings for Nick and her fears about her situation clear. Overall I think it’s pretty similar to the first draft – none of the events changed – but everything my editor suggested made I Know It’s Over a stronger version of the book I’d wanted it to be.
- Why did you write from a male P.O.V.?
I enjoy writing from both male and female points of view, whatever the story calls for. Usually my ideas come with a character attached – in this case, it was Nick’s story from the start.
- Why do you write YA?
I’ve read some studies that show your brain chemistry as a teenager actually makes you experience things more intensely and that intensity, as well as the fact that you’re experiencing so many things for the first time and figuring out who you are, makes the teenage years a fascinating time. I don’t think I’d get anywhere near the same buzz from writing about adults. I don’t know…maybe my brain chemistry is stuck in a permanent state of adolescence.
- Where did the plot from I KNOW IT'S OVER come to you?
It was actually inspired by the Third Eye Blind song Ten Days Late about a guy finding out his girlfriend is pregnant. At the time there weren’t many novels dealing with that from a guy’s point of view and it occurred to me that it’d be even harder to deal with if it was your ex-girlfriend. Christmas Eve seemed like the worst possible time to hear the news. So in that first chapter I really piled on the drama and everything that happened after the initial revelation just seemed to evolve naturally from the characters themselves.
- The time leaps were an unusual touch to the novel, present-past-present. Why did you format the book like that?
Initially I wrote a short story called Happy Families, which became chapter one of I Know It’s Over. When I decided, after several months, to develop it into a novel I wanted to explore what had brought Nick and Sasha to that point and it just made sense to go back and fill the readers in before returning to the present.
- What are you reading right now? What YA book have you read recently that you really enjoyed?
I just took this nonfiction book called How To Hunt Ghosts out of the library but I haven’t started it yet. I love shows like Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted so this seems like it could be interesting. It breaks down the different types of ghosts and the type of equipment you need to detect them – although I’m not sure I’d ever actually go ghost hunting because I’d while I’m intrigued by the idea of ghosts I think I’d be scared to death if I ever saw one in real life!
I’ve read two amazing YA novels in the past few weeks – Boy Toy by Barry Lyga and Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers. Both were incredibly tense, powerful and impossible to put down and both of them deal with emotional healing after a trauma. I like light novels too but generally my favourite books are the ones that make a strong emotional impact.
- Besides writing, what other things are you really passionate about.
Human rights. Everyone should be able to feel at home in the world – safe and secure with their basic needs fulfilled and regarded as completely equal with every other person. We have to fight for that – vote for governments that will treat human rights as a priority and put pressure on them to address these issues and make our voices heard through organizations like Human Rights Watch, Make Poverty History, Amnesty International and Stop The Traffik. Sexual trafficking, people without access to clean water, girls denied education, people jailed and tortured for speaking against their governments – none of that can be allowed to stand.
I’m also really passionate about other art forms too – music, movies, theatre. They’re just as big an influence on my writing as other books are.
- Do you listen to music when you write? What are your favorite bands and artists?
I need quiet to concentrate when I’m writing but sometimes I listen to music before I start writing or during a break. There are certain songs I listened to/thought about a lot during the period when I was writing I Know It’s Over, stuff that fit in with Nick’s frame of mind – Ten Days Late, I’m With You (Avril Lavigne), Sometimes Wanna Die (Joydrop) and Times Like These (Foo Fighters).
My personal favourite bands and artists are Billy Bragg, Blue Rodeo, Our Lady Peace, The Frames, John Lennon and Leonard Cohen. I think two things they all have in common are sincerity and that they’re strongly poetic. I also really like Bloc Party, Aimee Mann, Sam Roberts, Sean Millar, Paddy Casey, Bob Dylan, The Pogues, The Magnetic Fields and Blondie. I started listening to The Airborne Toxic Event a couple of months ago and their CD is amazing – especially the song Innocence, which I haven’t been able to go more than a few days without listening to since I first heard it.
- Can you give us the story on the cover?
Initially the cover was going to be of two pairs of feet in bed, shot in such a way that you could sense a conflict between the people, and there were some good shots of the two models’ feet captured during the photo shoot but they just didn’t evoke the right feeling for the book. Shortly after the shoot my editor mentioned that the photographer had snapped a really cool spontaneous image of the girl walking away from the bed and when the original cover idea didn’t pan out the way it was planned I reminded her of that shot and the designer, Nicole de las Heras, was able to create an amazing cover from it. I love it so much that I had the cover blown up to poster size and framed. I was so happy when I found out Nicole was going to design the cover for my second book too.
- Can you tell us about your future books coming in the next few years?
My next book, One Lonely Degree, is coming out at the end of May. It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl named Finn who considers herself an outsider at school. Finn’s suffering emotional fallout from something that happened to her at a party several months earlier and that intensifies her feeling of alienation. She really doesn’t trust anybody aside from her best friend Audrey but then an old childhood friend moves back to town. She’s drawn to him but not ready to have those kinds of feelings so ultimately lets Audrey go out with him. He basically becomes a second best friend to her so when Audrey goes away for the summer and Finn is left watching her parents’ marriage fall apart and still struggling with her feelings about what happened at the party, she naturally leans on him. She still has those other feelings for him too, which complicates things even more.
The Lighter Side of Life and Death is due out in May, 2010 and is about a sixteen-year-old guy named Mason who in chapter one is having the most amazing night of his life. He’s just delivered an incredible performance in the school play and goes on to celebrate his accomplishment at the party of the year and lose his virginity to one of his best friends, who he’s had a crush on for years. He thinks that will mean such good things for them but when he sees Kat again she makes it clear that she regrets the incident and just wants to forget it. Their friendship begins to collapse, as does Mason’s friendship with his other best friend who also had a thing for Kat. Around about the same time Mason’s future stepmom moves into the house with her kids. One of them absolutely can’t stand him and he’s feeling really unpopular when his luck takes a turn for the better and he hits it off with a twenty-four year old woman at his stepmom’s engagement shower. She’s involved with someone else and Mason still has feelings for Kat but that doesn’t stop them from getting mixed up together.
- Anything else you want to add?
Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Kelsey!___________________________________________________________________