A Manatee with His Little Friends at Blue Spring

More than two hundred manatees lounged and played in Blue Spring run last week. Manatees are mammals, and though you wouldn't think so, they basically have no blubber. When river temperatures get too cold, manatees migrate to warmer waters. Blue Spring is a popular destination for them.

They're known as sea cows, but their closest relative is the elephant! Gentle giants is another nickname. You wouldn't believe how graceful these creatures are. At times, they twirled slowly, beautifully, like aquatic ballerinas. They looked like they were smiling. A couple of them launched out of the water like dolphins, to the joy of the onlookers crowding the docks.

The Thing that Courtney Summers, Author of SOME GIRLS ARE, Doesn't Want You to Know

Even before I read Some Girls Are, I knew I wanted to interview Courtney Summers again. If you follow Courtney on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Goodreads, Flickr, AuthorsNow! BlipFM, FriendFeed, her blog, her book trailers, and countless other places (which can all be accessed through her website), then you know she never actually stops working.

I began to realize this after Some Girls Are was accepted and was going through the usual editing/proofreading rounds. Courtney spoke of being so many thousands of words into another draft--a new draft. How is this possible? I thought. There aren't enough hours in the day.

But what if she works into the night. What if she works all night? A shudder went through me. Courtney is Team Edward, but even vampires sleep. I went through her posts, and one word stood out that explained everything: ZOMBIES.

They never sleep; they don't need to eat; and they don't stop for anything!

Just think about it.

In any case, I was very happy when Courtney said yes to an interview with Summer Friend. I recently read her young adult fiction, Some Girls Are, and was taken by not only the tight writing and the excellent pacing, but by the way Courtney sent me back to the crowded halls of my own high school. Even though I'd never experienced the events in the book, the atmosphere, the attitudes, and the crucible that is high school were so accurately depicted in this book that I found myself once again caught but unwilling to look away from the machinations of a group to which I could never belong. For my full review, scroll down or click here.

And now, on to the interview!

Welcome, and thank you Courtney for your visit! Let's get right into it.

Some Girls Are was so intense. When you were writing, how did you come off the intensity to merge back to real life?

It's funny (well not really funny, but), but the writing and publication of Some Girls Are marks an extremely difficult time in my life. My grandfather, who I was very close with, died, and I experienced some personal upheaveals in 2009, when it was being prepared for publication. So I was basically sandwiched between the intensity of what was happening on the page and what I was going through when I wasn't writing; there honestly wasn't a lot of breathing room. Maybe that benefitted the book in the long run, but it wasn't until I finished the book that I was able to decompress and sort merge back to reality completely.

I know how hard that was for you when your grandfather died. I'm so glad that he got to see you succeed with Cracked Up To Be and to know that you were doing something you loved and excelled at.

An odd little detail I loved in Some Girls Are was that Regina found that secret spot where the volleyball nets were. I found a similar spot in my high school where the gym’s balcony had a folding partition. Were you like Regina—finding secret hiding spots and skipping out?

I was too much of a chicken to skip out! And I always wanted to! I wish I'd found a folding partition. My friends and I never ate in the cafeteria, so we spent lunch period searching for relatively quiet places to eat, but it was hard to find a private spot that hadn't been claimed. I remember the first--and last time--we ate on the steps outside of the drama room. Prime real estate!

Both CUTB and SGA deal with the inner workings of the popular group. Where did you exist in the high school hierarchy?

I didn't even exist on it! I was in a group of people that sort of hung around the outside. It was a good spot to observe, but sometimes I really wanted to matter more than I felt I did.

You have definitely found your niche now!

As Regina began to exact her revenge, I couldn’t help but feel a little bloodthirsty. How did you feel as you wrote those scenes? What music or other things helped keep you in that mood?

I actually loved writing those scenes. A lot. Probably too much, maybe. :) But they were so vicious and driven by raw emotion and it was fun to tap into that place while writing. Honestly, I was so amped to write those points in the book--because I knew the biggest moments in the book would be those moments--that it wasn't hard to get me in the mood to do so or keep me in the mood to do so.

Regina’s parents were largely absent and Regina didn’t confide in them. Can you give us a little backstory on their nescience?

I think when a book is about bullying, people really expect or want parents to play a larger role. They don't in Some Girls Are. The book isn't about them. I made that choice, not out of convenience, but because that's a reality for many teenagers. Regina's parents are largely absent because of their jobs, and they are largely unaware because--exactly, as you said--Regina doesn't confide in them. Growing up, I had a very close and very communicative relationship with my parents (I still do), but when I didn't want them to know something, they didn't know it (Hi, Mom & Dad!). I've said this elsewhere, but I don't think someone is ignorant because they are unaware of every thing that goes on in another person's life (whether that person is their child or not), and I definitely don't think you have to be clueless to be deceived, to be misdirected. Regina's mother attempts to find out what is going on and Regina misdirects her at every opportunity. Keeping secrets, manipulating truths, is--bad as it sounds--pretty easy. :) Annndd it was sinister to end this answer on a smiley, wasn't it?

Ha! You keep us wondering, Courtney. Very good point on the misdirection--I hadn't thought of that before, but you're right. Misdirection is easier/better than an outright lie, because misdirection takes only a nudge, just a slight angle off, to prevent anyone from seeing the truth. Also, I think sometimes parents might be relieved to not know the truth in its full ugliness, because that ignorance allows them to not have to act (in a situation in which they might not know what to do). They can tell themselves, Oh, it's just teenager stuff; everyone goes through it.

Courtney, thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us. Readers--intrigued? Check out Courtney's website to read excerpts from Some Girls Are and don't forget to watch the trailers--they're excellent!

Book Release Jitters

Over on Verla Kay's, there's a discussion going on about the anxiety and anticipation as the release date for your book arrives. Violet Raines was published end of summer 2008, and The Summer of Moonlight Secrets will be out May 2010.

Here are some true things I've learned:

There will be no big ceremony heralding the stocking of your book on shelves (but you will be exquisitely aware of it).

When you last went to the bookstore, there were three copies left. Your mother just went by and saw only two. "Who could have bought it?" she will say. You live in a town with more than two million people.

Not everyone will like your book. Some of them will post their reviews.

Some people WILL LOVE your book and some of them will post their reviews.

People who hardly know you will ask you for free copies.

You will love those who love your book. They are the best people.

Your family and friends think you are making the big bucks now. They want to know how much.

You will scour the Internet looking for your title, but you will be afraid to click into the Search results.

Young people will send you emails saying that you wrote a perfect book and they are having the same problems as your main character. You will almost cry over these emails.

You will receive handwritten letters expressing joy over your book. Most of these will be printed in pencil. You will buy pretty stationery to write back in your own handwriting.

You will write another book.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers opens with a heart-pounding, thoughts-racing incident, and Summers lets up only for a second to give the reader a chance to breathe before she puts the hold on again. Her second novel for young adults is intense and real.

The premise for SGA is simple: Spurned by the popular crowd of which she was once a part, Regina Afton retaliates. But, oh, the complexities that Summers weaves into this design.

SGA is so tight, so fast, so intense--just overall excellent. The feelings in it are true, and even for those of us who weren't in the popular circle, we know the machinations, so the downfalls and the vengeance are excellent. Regina suffers through a good part of the story like a boxer who refuses to fall, then she comes out swinging. One can't help but revel as Regina exacts her revenge. (I read with blood dripping off my teeth, a wild look in my eyes.)

Summers draws the high school experience with a fine hand: loving but oblivious parents, parents who are largely absent, secret hiding places of the school building in which to hide out for a while, and of course all the drinking, drugs, swearing—none of it gratuitous, all of it real.

In both Some Girls Are and Cracked Up To Be (Summers’ first novel), Summers ends without putting the characters in a circle holding hands in field of daisies (where of course they'd be singing, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.") I think these are realistic endings, the only kind of endings for YA readers who know that life doesn't dot all the i's or cross all the t's.

Books like this become a friend to the reader because the secret feelings of being in high school--the insecurities, the ambitions, the alienation--are laid bare for all to see. You know that old writerly saying--"Open a vein"? Courtney Summers has done it with this book.

I recommend this novel for mature YA readers. I also recommend it for writers—Some Girls Are is the epitome of tight writing and excellent pacing. I guarantee you’ll turn every page in one sitting.

Suprise at a Book Signing

Another flash fiction for you. The prompt for this was to describe the scene at your first book signing, where you encounter a surprise visitor. My flash comes in just under the line at seventy-four words.

* * *

My brother.

“You bastard!” he yelled. “You stole my book!”

The crowd gasped.

“Security!” I shouted, then turned to him. “The court already settled that—my handwriting, my fingerprints, my book.”

He fought as they escorted him out. He threw a right hook, forgetting that arm has never been the same since he shattered the bone last year. Long time in a cast. I’d had to write everything for him, bills, grocery lists--everything.

Scholastic Book Clubs Editor Answers Five Questions

Ever wonder how a book makes it into Scholastic Book Clubs? The answer to that and more are in this video, featuring Scholastic Book Clubs Editor David Allender. (For the full post, click here.)

Maggie Stiefvater's Many Talents

Oh, sure--you probably know Maggie Stiefvater from her bestselling books, Shiver, Ballad, and Lament, but did you know she could do this?