Courtney Summers is a young and brilliant YA author who seemingly can do no wrong with her writing. Her first book, Cracked Up to Be, instantly vaulted onto my Favorites list (check out my review of CUTB here), and her sophomore novel, Some Girls Are (St. Martin's Press / Jan. 5, 2010), which I reviewed this morning, is perhaps even better, more dark, twisted, and visceral. Courtney is generally awesome and *~*sparkly*~* if you talk to her on Twitter (@courtney_s), but this time she was awesome enough to agree to an interview for Steph Su Reads, much to EVERYONE'S delight, I'm sure! YAY!
1. Hi, Courtney! So where did the inspiration for Some Girls Are come from?
The long answer to that question is a blog entry I wrote recently called 'On Mean Girls and Writing Some Girls Are' and can be read here: http://courtneysummers.ca/2009/11/on-mean-girls-writing-some-girls-are/ --the short answer is, I was eager to make sense of my own experiences as a bullied girl and a girl who bullied other girls when I was in school. I wanted to write a book that showed how truly awful high school can be and how truly awful girls can be to one another. I think a lot of my inspiration in general comes from my interest in what makes the worst parts of us tick. I touched on it a little bit in Cracked Up to Be and I REALLY got to go there with Some Girls Are, and it was fun. Well. Maybe 'fun' isn't the right word. Wait, no--it is!
2. Back when you were a teen in high school, what characteristics did you share with Parker? With Regina?
When I was in high school, I think, like Parker, I was very, VERY cynical and at times, definitely more judgmental than I had a right to be. And like Regina, I was pretty insecure and sort of strategically mapped out my day with the people I hung around because I wanted to feel secure as possible. These aren't the most flattering things to admit about myself, I realize, but this is just me keeping it real! And stuff.
That's a great question! It's hard to pick just one. With Cracked Up to Be being my debut, pretty much every response was memorable. The first time I got an email from a reader saying Parker's story inspired her to get help for her own problems isn't one I'll soon forget. I never expected that would happen and I was very humbled when it did.
4. Tell us a bit about your writing process. How long does it take for you to finish a first draft of a novel? Do you like to revise/edit as you go along? Do you have a set time and place to write? Listen to music or snack while you write?
Overall, my writing process is butt-in-chair and type! I write every day, no matter what. How long it takes me to finish a draft depends on the novel. I started Cracked Up to Be in March 2007 and finished it that June. Some Girls Are, I technically started (I say technically because it was mostly plotting and replotting) in September 2007 or so and I didn't have a finished draft until August 2008. I am a rolling reviser, which means I edit as I go along, but there's always lots of work to do when the first draft is done. I am a TOTAL night owl and write at night, from 9 PM to about 6-8 in the morning. Music is an integral part of my process. I really need to feel locked in to what I'm writing and nothing helps me with that as much as a good song blasting over my headphones! But summarized: butt-in-chair. ~Fin.~
5. How was the experience of writing your sophomore novel, Some Girls Are, different from writing Cracked Up to Be?
Though Cracked Up to Be was not without its hardships, it was a piece of cake compared to writing Some Girls Are. When I was drafting, I had a really hard time unearthing Regina's story. I think it took almost four months to figure out WHAT the book was about, and I wrote and scrapped a lot of pages that to do that. Just when I was sure I had the idea, it kept falling apart on me. That went on for months. By the time I had figured the basic plot out and had gotten to a point where I was enjoying writing the book, my grandfather died. We were very close and it became nearly impossible for me to disassociate the book from his death. I managed to finish the first draft about two months after that and it was just very, very hard.
When Some Girls Are sold, it sold in an incredibly rough stage and the editorial process was INTENSE. But this was a good thing, as intense as it was. I have a wonderful editor and she really pushed me to make SGA the best book it could be and that made me totally love my book again, after having attached this awful sadness to it for so long. Overall, from start to finish, SGA was a diffficult book to write. I feel like I fought with it a lot. We had a complicated relationship, me and that book, but in a way it seems fitting to have a complicated relationship with a book that is about complicated relationships!
6. What's the most difficult part about being a writer?
7. Hah, you silly goose. :) If you weren't a writer, what other career would you love to have?
I would love to do something in film. A cinematographer, maybe.
8. Okay, admit it: what's your guilty pleasure movie and TV show?
I have no guilty pleasures! I love everything guiltlessly. Guiltlessly, I say! But... if I had to pick, TLC's Say Yes to the Dress MIGHT qualify. I mean, I love it guiltlessly and without shame, but. I honestly could marathon that show forever. It's so fascinating and awesome and it always makes me cry. Sometimes I cry tears of happiness for the brides and sometimes they are appalled-at-the-prices-of-some-of-those-dresses tears.
9. You are on a reality show where the grand prize is a date with your dream celebrity. Who would you want to win a date with?
AT FIRST, I was going to say Lady Gaga. I would kill for the opportunity to meet with her and talk about her creative process and her business savvy. But then I realized that would kill the mystery of Lady Gaga a little bit and I do not want to do that. So I am going to go with Jeff Probst. Yes, Jeff Probst. The most gorgeous and snarky reality TV show host of them all. TAKE THAT, PHIL.
10. As the year draws to a close and the holiday season is upon us, we are more and more intrigued by "Best of" lists. Can you tell us your Top 10 list of books you've read in 2009, along with a short sentence describing why you picked them?
I am going to do these in alphabetical order by title! It's too hard to rank them, and not all of them came out this year, but they were my faves:
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab (out January 2010!)
Features a male protag I can really love; honest, real. A mystery that kept me guessing.
Beautiful by Amy Reed (out now!)
The Boys Are Back in Town by Christopher Golden (2004)
Entertaining as all get out.
Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma (out now!)
It has an INCREDIBLE voice, a must-read for girls, wonderful wonderful wonderful.
In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami (2006)
Okay, this was a re-read but it is one of my most favourite books of all time--next best thing to some of my favourite Robert Cormier.
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (scheduled for fall 2010!)
Intelligent and heartbreaking, you will root for this fierce, smart, brave protagonist.
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (2008)
Made me--and will make you--feel like one amazing, incredible, miraculous machine.
One Lonely Degree by C.K. Kelly Martin (out now!)
A gutsy book with one of the most relatable characters I've read all year--a must read.
Overqualified by Joey Comeau (out now!)
It's nuanced, bleak, heartbreaking and HILARIOUS.
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (out now!)
Sutter Keely is a Holden Caulfield I can actually like and that's no small thing.
Thank you, Courtney, for sharing your answers with us! Personally I find her revelations about writing SGA and writing in general to be quite interesting to know. I hope you check out Some Girls Are when it comes out next month--but for those of you who don't want to wait, I have a special surprise coming real soon....