Friday 1 June 2012

Friday Feature: Interview with Stephanie Guerra

I reviewed, and really enjoyed, Stephanie Guerra's Torn earlier this year. She was kind enough to do this interview with me.

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

I see teenage girls who are negotiating decisions about love, sex, drugs, drinking, and other edgy issues that are so prevalent in our culture. Their friendships matter deeply to them, and they often rely on each other for help and advice about these things.

2. Torn is centred on a fabulous pair of friends in Stella and Ruby. Who's your favourite fictional pair (or group) of friends?

Oh, wow, that’s a tough one. I guess I love Anne and Diana in Anne of Green Gables. Anne is such a funny firecracker, and Diana is her perfect complement; quiet, slow, and prudent. They balance each other, which I think a lot of good friendships (and marriages) do. I tried to create that yin/yang dynamic with Ruby and Stella. 

3. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what was the soundtrack to Torn?

Actually, I prefer complete silence! I rarely get it; more commonly my “soundtrack” is toddler screams, crashes, and thumps. But quiet is what I crave.

4. If you were throwing a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?

I hope you don’t mind if they’re all dead. Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Booth Tarkington, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien—and a translator, I guess. Then, of course, I’d have to hide under the table because I’d be too awestruck and intimidated to actually face this crowd. 

I agree with you there - a very high-powered group of people. I'm sure the conversation you could hear from under the table would be fascinating, though!

5. Torn's your debut novel - congratulations, by the way! How difficult was the road to becoming a published author?

Thank you! I’m grinning at this question, because the road was so difficult, it’s almost ridiculous. I’ve been writing since I was a child, and I’ve written seven novels that I never submitted for publication because I knew I hadn’t developed enough as an author. As with any craft, there’s an apprentice period for writing, and mine was approximately ten years. During that time, I did an M.F.A. in creative writing and sent around a middle-grade manuscript which got some encouraging rejections. Torn was the first manuscript that I felt sure was salable—and it was.

6. Can you recommend another book you think readers of Torn will enjoy while they're eagerly waiting for your next novel?

I recommend anything by Sara Zarr, Laurie Halse Anderson, or Holly Cupala. They all write in the same uber-real, gritty vein that I do.

I really want to try Cupala and Zarr and keep meaning to get round to them. Anderson is a favourite of mine, an incredibly powerful author.

7. You're the Seattle host for Readergirlz, which looks like an amazing project! Can you tell us a bit more for those who aren't aware of it?

Readergirlz is a nonprofit literacy and social media project for teens. Our mission is to promote teen literacy and corresponding social service. As the Seattle Host, I blog about book events in Seattle, and offer author interviews and book reviews.

8. What advice would you give to someone looking to write a novel for teens?

I would tell them to find a way to be around teens. Teach a class, volunteer with teens, or find some way to engage with teens in the community. It’s the best way to put a finger on the pulse of the issues teens are facing, and to get an idea of their constantly evolving language.

9. If you could ask any other author any question, who would you ask and what would you ask them?

I would ask Fyodor Dostoevsky to talk about his Orthodox faith and how it informed his novels.

10. What's next for Stephanie Guerra?

I have a middle-grade novel coming out in Fall of 2013, and right now I’m working on the first round of revisions. It’s about a hyperactive ten-year-old with a behavior problem and a penchant for making movies. There’s a graphic element, and I’m very excited to see who my publisher chooses as the illustrator. Other than writing, I’ll keep teaching at Seattle University, and I’m applying for a grant to start a creative writing program in the King County Juvenile Correctional Facility. 

Really looking forward to the new novel, Stephanie! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me - and best of luck with the writing, teaching, and getting that grant.

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