So, today is the day... for another Inte(Re)view!
This time, I Inte(Re)viewed someone extremely awesome... Melissa Walker! Melissa is the author of the highly fabulous Violet series (Violet on the Runway, Violet by Design, and Violet in Private-- click the links for my reviews of all three). She is also an extremely amazing person, and I feel extremely privileged to have done an Inte(Re)view with her.
MW: I'm really glad to do it!
Chelsie: So, mind telling readers what we'll be discussing today?
MW: We're talking about Stephanie Kuehnert's I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, which my book club is also reading this month (conveniently...)
Chelsie: That is convenient, since you've already read it. So, how about a brief summary for those who may not know much about the book?
MW: Sure. The book is the story of Emily Black, an aspiring rock star who's into the punk scene. Emily's mother left her when she was a baby, so she was raised by her dad. Emily always believed the myth that her mom left them to "follow the music." She and her two best friends are in a successful band, and she dreams that playing music will somehow lead her Mom back to her.
Chelsie: So what initially made you want to read this book? Was it the summary? The book cover (so perfect, by the way)? Or was it Stephanie herself, who happens to be a very very cool person?
MW: It was a combination of all three of those things. I had read some of Stephanie's blog before the book came out, and I realized that she really loves music, which made me all the more intrigued to read a book that it seemed like came from her heart.
The cover didn't hurt--it's so gorgeous!
Chelsie: And so, would you say that it met your expectations?
MW: It did. The thing that I really loved was the way Emily felt about the music. You could feel her emotions through the way she talked about playing in her band, and those descriptions were really powerful.
Chelsie: Would you say you connected with Emily and her passion for music: either as a musician or a music-lover? Or did you connect to her or any of the other characters in different ways?
MW: I'm a music lover and I have always admired hardcore girls like Emily from afar. The girls I thought were coolest in high school weren't the bubbly popular girls, they were the fringe girls like Emily, who seem to walk in their own, secure world. They seem wise somehow. And that rockstar style always gets me.
But in terms of connecting to characters, I really liked being able to see behind that facade I'd always admired and into Emily's real pain. It all made sense, and her highs and lows were so intense I really enjoyed taking the ride with her.
Chelsie: How did you like the way the book was written?
MW: I really liked it! I thought there was a real angst that came through on the page. And Stephanie wasn't afraid to linger on an uncomfortable moment. Sometimes things move too quickly in books, but I appreciated the time we got to spend with Emily--it made the scenes more powerful.
Chelsie: Having read the book before, I know exactly what you mean. There really was something so real and uncensored about it. Do you think that this honesty, that you don't see much in YA fiction anymore, will draw in unexpected readers? Or, rather, do you think that someone who may not like to read as much as you or I, would relate to this book more than they would any other book? (Side note: I hope that makes sense...)
MW: Interesting question. I remember reading that Stephanie wasn't thinking "YA" when she wrote it--and it's sometimes shelved with adult books. I bet that gave her some freedom that let her be uncensored, as you say. As a writer, I'll say that I sometimes hold back because I'm unsure whether the reader wants the intensity of certain emotions. But if Stephanie's an example, then she's a great argument for not holding back. I think the right readers will come to you--and love your work--if you write honestly. And she certainly did!
Chelsie: So, in this case, honesty is the best policy Speaking of honesty, how would you rate this novel on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best?
MW: I would say a 9. I truly loooved it. I'm only subtracting a point because I wanted more time with Luisa, Emily's mom. But that's a personal thing. Can I ask you for your input on that? How would you rate it and did you want anything more from the book?
Chelsie: Well, I rated it 4.9999 on a scale of 1-5, so on a scale of 1-10 that would be a 9.999999. And the reason I couldn't give it a perfect 10 (on the 10 point scale) is because of the beginning... I have personal issues with the first chapter, and how it gave a lot of backstory instead of building it up as the novel progressed. I would also agree with you about wanting more from Luisa, but that didn't affect my rating much.
MW: I hear you. I don't want to be putting words in Stephanie's mouth (again) but I remember her saying it used to have the POVs of a ton of different characters, and then she revised it so it was really Emily's story, and partly Luisa's, so I'm sure that affected things. In the end though, they were the two I wanted to see most, so I think that revise was wise. I also loved Emily's dad and their relationship.
Chelsie: I agree that the revision was a very good idea. Did you think that it might have helped her with character development in the final product to have initially written it with different POVs?
MW: Yes! I was thinking about that, and how JK Rowling knew all of her characters' full lives--even the very minor ones. Stephanie's characters also seemed really developed. That's really important for a successful book. Cardboard characters are so blah. *thinking I need to revise some characters in the book I'm working on! make them deeper!*
Chelsie: So, you loved the book... and you're definitely not alone! Is there anything else you'd like to share, about your opinion or about the book itself?
MW: Just that I've been impressed at Stephanie's ability to connect with readers of all ages. I know VENUS ZINE just named her book #2 (after David Sedaris) on its annual Hottt List, and that is amazingly cool. VENUS ZINE connects with 20- and 30-something DIY rocker type girls, and that audience can be really picky! So IWBYJR obviously speaks to people in various stages of life.
Oh, and I also love Stephanie's blog because she really puts herself out there in a way other authors tend not to do. That's a personal choice, but I love that she's somewhat raw in moments on her blog--it feels right, and reading it I feel like I know her a little.
(Hoping I don't sound like a stalker)
Chelsie: No, you don't sound like a stalker at all... I understand what you mean. As readers, it's good to really get to know an author on a deeper level. And I think that part of the reason I really liked Stephanie's novel is because I could imagine her writing it, and connecting with it.
MW: Exactly. In a way it felt like HER story, at least on some intangible level (not that her mom left her and all that!). I think that happens a lot with debut authors--that you can see them in their work--and it really worked for Stephanie.
Chelsie: Agreed. And anyone who has not read her blog or visited her MySpace page, I'll post links on the bottom of this blog post.
(Note: her blog is highly recommended.)
MW: Yes! A great blog with awesome features like "Women Who Rock Wednesday!"
Chelsie: So, anything else to add before I call this interview to a close?
MW: Just thanks for having me--this was really fun, and I feel more prepared for my book club now!
Chelsie: No problem! It was a pleasure doing an Inte(Re)view with a real published author. It gives me a tingly feeling inside!
MW: I'm sure more will want to join you soon--it's such a fun feature. Thanks, Chelsie!
Needless to say... Melissa was awesome!
And, for more info on Stephanie Kuehnert:
Also, look for Stephanie's new novel, Ballads of Suburbia, to be released in July of '09!
If you're interested in participating in an Inte(Re)view, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org