Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The guest blog series strikes back!

We're thrilled to have YA author Robin Wasserman as a guest blogger! I can't possibly improve upon the bio on Robin's website -- "writer, chocoholic, certified procrastinator, TV addict, sometime cupcake baker, and all-time world champion klutz" -- except maybe by pointing out that Robin has written Hacking Harvard, Chasing Yesterday, and the Seven Deadly Sins series. The second book in her Skinned trilogy, Crashed, pubbed in September. Whether your taste runs toward snarky high school drama or dystopian sci-fi, Robin has a great book for you!
First of all, thanks for having me on your site; I’m so excited to be here! I lived in Cambridge when I was in college and used to stop by the Curious George Bookstore whenever I needed a pick-me-up. I would stare at the “W” section on the shelf and dream of seeing my own name there someday. So it’s a little surreal that it’s actually happened. Clearly Curious George is some serious good luck.

How soon can we get our hands on the third Skinned book, Wired?!
Well, as of this week, the manuscript is officially finished, so you’re definitely one step closer. But the book won’t be in stores until September 2010 (plenty of time to go out and read the first two in the trilogy…).

How is writing your sci-fi novels different from writing the contemporary realistic ones? Do you prepare differently, write in another space, listen to different music? (Do you think of Skinned and Crashed as “sci-fi,” or do you prefer something else?)
I was a huge sci-fi fan when I was a kid, so I definitely have no issues with the term. I always figured I’d grow up to write books about spaceships and aliens and time travel, but I guess for the moment, angsty mechanical teenagers will have to do!

That said, I don’t approach these books any differently than the realistic fiction I’ve done (except for the fact that I do a bit less on-the-spot research, since it’s hard to go visit the future). I think when you’re writing about a world that doesn’t exist, it’s incredibly important to make sure that the characters and their relationships feel grounded in reality—that their experiences and emotional reactions are just as believable and identifiable as they would be in any conventionally “realistic” novel. Lia, the main character in Skinned, may be living in a dreary dystopia, trapped in a mechanical body, but that’s reality for her. She doesn’t know that she’s in a science fiction story, so as I write, I try to pretend she isn’t.

Although I do enjoy the occasional robot song. This one is not to be missed.

What was the inspiration for the Seven Deadly Sins series? Was it ever tempting to stop at, say, the third or fourth deadly sin?
In 2003, I moved from New York to LA, and spent a couple weeks driving all my stuff cross country. It was the first time I’d ever seen the desert, and I was blown away. There was something about the broad expanses of arid land dotted by cacti, deserted highways, and the occasional dusty, small town that grabbed hold of my imagination and wouldn’t let go. I couldn’t stop wondering what it would have been like to grow up in a place like that.

The characters followed the setting, and the plot came after that—I mapped out all seven books at the beginning, so I was determined to get them all down on the page, as long as my publisher would let me. Fortunately, they did, and even though it was tempting to give up sometimes—sloth, as you can imagine, posed a particular challenge—I managed to push through. Actually, of all the characters I’ve written, those are the ones I miss the most. I lived in the Seven Deadly Sins for so long that the characters became almost real to me, and I often wonder what they’re up to these days…

You’ve blogged about the idea that some books are “bad influences.” Has there been any controversy about your books, i.e., accusations that they “make teens do things”?
When the Seven Deadly Sins came out, I worried that there would be some uproar, especially since the title seemed to invite it, but I’ve been fortunate in having very few challenges issued to my books. However, I’ve watched several of my friends deal with their books being challenged in schools and libraries all over the country, and it never fails to alarm me to see words and ideas labeled as dangerous.

How did you and Scott Westerfeld become “partners in crime”?
I still remember sitting in airport several years ago, shortly after I’d sold the Seven Deadly Sins, reading an advance copy of Uglies. I loved it. And I couldn’t believe I was going to share a publishing imprint with the author. Over the next couple years, I read and loved Scott’s other books (including the final book in the Midnighters trilogy, my current favorite), and eventually I got to meet Scott himself. I was incredibly intimidated and, I’m sure, made a complete fool out of myself as I babbled about what a fan I was of his work. Miraculously, I managed not to scare him away, which turned out to be a lucky thing for me.

Scott is about as generous as he is brilliant, which means I’ve gotten a lot of advice from him in the last couple years. (And he’s as brilliant at the advice-giving as he is at the writing.) This fall our publishing company sent us on the road together for a week, and the rest was history. (Or at least, it was a fabulous road trip with plenty of very cool Westerfeld fans and some excellent food and drink along the way).
Thanks so much to Robin for the post (and bonus Flight of the Conchords video)! Make sure to check out Robin's website, blog, and Twitter, all of which are thoughtful and hilarious. I totally want to invite Robin over to bake cupcakes (with chocolate, of course -- and I hope she doesn't mind vegan) and talk YA.

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