Thursday, May 20, 2010

Suzanne Young: So Many Books

Suzanne Young doesn't mess around. She writes. And writes. And writes! She should win an award for most prolific YA author, like, ever. Her debut and first in her comedic series, THE NAUGHTY LIST (Razor Bill, 2010) hit the shelves in February. The second in the series, SO MANY BOYS comes out on June 10th, to be followed by A GOOD BOY IS HARD TO FIND this fall. 

THE NAUGHTY LIST series begins with a racy, frothy and witty tale of Tessa Crimson. Tessa's a perky cheerleading captain by day, but heads a secret spy-for-hire society (SOS- The Society of Smitten Kittens) by night. Their mission? To catch cheating boyfriends in the act and bring justice to the girls of Washington High. But before we continue, you should know that Suzanne's got (at least) two more books coming out next year in which she explores two completely different genres: deep, paranormal fantasy and raw, realistic fiction.

Read on to find out how IMing can lead to a novel, why middle schoolers in Arizona were incredibly lucky, and how to win a copy of SO MANY BOYS!

AB: Congratulations on the publication of your first book in your SOS Series:  THE NAUGHTY LIST, which I read in the span of one two-hour bath and found hysterically funny.  How long did it take from kernel of an idea to the shelves of bookstores near us?

SY:  I started THE NAUGHTY LIST late one night while IMing with a friend. I thought the idea of ninja cheerleaders would be hilarious. At the time, I had no idea I was writing a book. I wrote a draft in 2008 and set it aside for several months. Then out of the blue I picked it back up and revised it. It sold soon after, but didn’t hit the shelves until a year and half later. All and all, about two years from idea to shelf.

AB:  I’ve been told I talk like a sailor, and that’s part of my charm. So I was surprised to find that I really liked your main character, Tessa Crimson, a perky cheerleader-spy who abhors vulgarity, preferring to utter her own euphemisms such as “Fiddlesticks!” and, my personal favorite, “Sticker Shock!” Why did you choose to write Tessa’s character this way? (Was it fun to come up with her sayings?)

SY: Um, yeah, it was fun. And if you think you talk like a sailor, let's just say that I am your captain! This is probably why coming up with Tessa’s ridiculous sayings was so much fun for me. It was purely accidental; a few "dang it’s" and one "strawberry smoothie!" and the language took on a life of its own.

AB: The second in the series, SO MANY BOYS is coming out on June 10th and I’m ready for more. Tell us about it.

SY: I think readers will be surprised at the turn this series will take. SO MANY BOYS starts off three months after THE NAUGHTY LIST ends. Turns out, someone has hacked into the database and now a "copy kitten" is on the loose, enacting vengeance in the name of SOS. It’s up to Tessa to figure out how to save her squad’s rep. Oh… and there are some boys….  Click here to find out how to win a copy!

AB: A GOOD BOY IS HARD TO FIND, the third in the series, hits bookstores next Thanksgiving, just in time for Christmas shopping. What’s it about? Boys?!? And, as an aside, you write very convincingly about straight teen characters. May I ask: are you yourself straight? 

SY: I am what my mom used to call "Boy Crazy". A GOOD BOY IS HARD TO FIND picks up right after SO MANY BOYS, and man… has the smoothie hit the fan. There will be in-fighting, kissing, and poorly-timed broken bones. Not to mention ESPN. 

AB: While THE NAUGHTY LIST is your first novel published, I bet you’ve been writing for some time. How many “graveyard novels” did you write before polishing this gem?

SY: I’ve been writing short stories since I was in 7th grade—but honestly, they were awful. I started writing seriously in 2007 and I completed four novels before I wrote THE NAUGHTY LIST. Before I sold it, I completed three other books. My novel graveyard is overflowing with started stories. I’m addicted to drafting.

AB: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

SY: No, I wanted to be a FBI agent, but I fell into writing. Actually I was a language arts teacher for years. I’d never realized that writing could be a career. I consider myself unbelievably lucky.

AB: Before becoming a full-time writer, you taught writing at a Title I school in Arizona. Do you think that teaching writing to teens helped you in your journey as a writer as well? Do you miss teaching?

SY: I absolutely miss teaching. The kids I taught at that school are among my favorite in the world. Teaching teens to write helped me learn to write. I had to strip the process down and always keep it interesting for them. I still try to do that in my own writing.

AB: You are an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). You even volunteer to do live blogging at their conferences. When did you first become involved in SCBWI/ the greater kidlit community?

SY: I had not been lucky enough to know about SCBWI before getting published—I was still really new to the community. It was actually an author friend who told me I should attend a conference. I hit up the 2008 LA conference and WOW! What a blast!! After that I went to the Western Washington Conference, the NY one, and soon the LA summer conference again. I’m so excited to be part of Team Blog which is a fantastic way to follow the events if you can’t be there yourself. 

Honestly, anyone who’s an aspiring writer for kids and/or teens should really be a member of SCBWI. Even though I already had a book deal when I joined, it was at a conference that I met agents and editors who helped me with my next book deal. The connections you make are amazing.

AB: You’ll have had 5 books published in the next year and a half. This strikes me as notable- likely some sort of record in YA authorship. I think the Young Adult Library Services Association will need to invent an award for you. What about the craft of writing appeals to you? What do you find most challenging as a writer?

SY: Like I said, I am addicted to drafting. I do it constantly, even if the story isn’t going to go anywhere. I love being lost in my head, in this new world I create. But the challenge is my patience. I have none. So sometimes when nothing it going on, it feels like backward progress. It’s taken me a long time to get used to the pacing of the industry.
AB: I’m getting super pumped about your upcoming paranormal fantasy A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL (Balzer & Bray, 2011). Could you give us the teaser for this one?

SY: I’d love to! A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL is about seventeen-year-old Charlotte Cassidy. Against her will she’s compelled to help people—perform good deeds. But soon she realizes that each time she does, her own existence begins to fade. But there are worse things than being Forgotten. And if Charlotte turns away from the light, she’ll see what lurks in the shadows.

Favorite line: “There is no such thing as me.”

AB: How about for your darker realistic fiction novel DELINQUENTS? 

I wrote DELINQUENTS immediately after THE NAUGHTY LIST, but it couldn’t be more different .Here's a bit about it:

After jamming her pencil through her boyfriend’s hand in math class, Savannah Sutton is sent to a school for juvenile delinquents. She was just trying to protect Evan, her mentally handicapped little brother. Somebody had to. A year in another school won’t solve her problems at home, or the real possibility of losing custody of Evan altogether. And even with her troubled new friends, friends more loyal than any she ever had before, Savannah can’t escape the wrath of her ex. He wants an apology, and he’ll break her arm to get it. 

Favorite line: “Don’t you think your boyfriend would be jealous that I’m charming the hell out of you right here in our local McDonald’s?”

AB: Thanks for taking the time to talk about your huge body of work! What are you currently working on?

SY: I’m working on revisions for A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL and DELINQUENTS. As well as writing a new novel titled SICK AND TWISTED. I like to stay busy.


jessjordan said...

Great interview, Amy. Suzanne's books look adorable.

Amy Baskin said...

Thanks, Jessica! Suzanne's mighty talented. The Naughty list cracked my s#$t up. Can't wait for the next one, and I'll be fascinated to read A Need So Beautiful and Delinquents since she's taken on such different genres and tones.