Music plays a big part in Ballads of Suburbia, the story is actually constructed like a ballad. If you had to choose one song that reflects the central conflit of the story what song would it be?
Hmm well I'm always indecisive so I'm going to name two songs. I do think that the song Adrian chose "Bastards of Young" by the Replacements suits all of the characters. They are a group of people who feel they have no place, who are all abandoned or neglected by the adults in their lives for one reason or another. But another song I think really suits the book is "The Kids Aren't Alright" by the Offspring. The title pretty much says it all, but specifically it's about kids who had all these dreams and then things fall apart. Yeah it's really hard to choose one song for this book. I have a whole playlist which you can find here.
Each character has their own addiction-Kara's cutting, Adrian's heroine, Cassie's Acid, Etc. How do you think each character's addiction reflected there inner troubles? Was it intentional?
I didn't really choose the addiction for the character, the character chose their addiction. Just when I met them, I knew Kara was a cutter and Cass had an acid problem and Adrian was a heroin addict. They definitely do reflect things about their personalities, but they are all escapes and basically each of the characters needs an escape. Cass's reality is very harsh, so she turns to a drug that distorts reality; also she deals with the mental illness in her family and acid kind of creates a mentally ill state so I suppose that is interesting. Adrian does the most extreme drug because he is always looking to live on the edge. Kara cuts... well I think Kara explains why she cuts in the book best :)
All of the ballads were very unique in their own ways. If you could rewrite Ballads of Suburbia in another characters point of view which would it be?
Liam's or Cass's. Really though, I came to love and hurt for Liam almost the most out of anyone. He really interested me. But Cass too. I wanted her to have a bigger part in the book, so yeah I'd love to see the whole thing through her eyes.
When Kara self injured you described it so vividly. How did your own experience with cutting help you visuilize her inner pain? Was it hard going back to that place?
Um yeah. This book caused me at least three nervous breakdowns. I'm totally serious. And part of it was because I had to get so close into Kara's head and feel that kind of pain again. You don't forget that pain. You don't forget why you cut, so my own experience definitely fed Kara's. In earlier drafts I shied away from getting so deeply into it because I knew it would hurt to go back to that place, but I wanted to do Kara and her story justice. I hope I did. As long as I did, it makes it worth it.
Hmm, no that wasn't done on purpose, but that does work out nicely doesn't it? Hee hee doing this interview I've been thinking about how my high school teacher would ask to discuss why an author did something and I always wondered did they really do it intentionally and now I've learned the answer... not always, but it does work out well sometimes!
How did Maya and Kara's friendship differ from Stacey and Kara's?
I think they had similarities and differences. The main thing is the difference between the friendships you form in grade school and those your form in high school. It's a different beast. You are a lot more open in grade school usually... but you change a lot in high school so you might mesh with people you met in high school better. I think that is a lot of what you are seeing in play with those two friendships.
You were a bartender before you were a writer- what were some struggles you went through to get where you are now? Any advice for aspiring writers?
I'm still a bartender. I don't foresee being able to quit my day job (or night job in my case) any time in the near future sadly. I'd love to write full-time and it's my long term goal at this point. So I'm still struggling with a lot of the same things I've always struggled with. There's the general struggle to make ends meet (and isn't most everyone facing that struggle right now), but there is also that inner struggle where I say, "Am I really good enough to do this? Am I ever going to be able to make a living at it? Should I keep trying?" I have TONS of self-doubt. I probably tell my fiance once a week that I'm going to quit writing, but I never mean it because I can't. It's in me. As long as I keep meeting/dreaming up characters with a story to tell, I'll keep writing.
As a teenager I struggled with a bunch of other stuff, some of the stuff that my characters in Ballads struggle with like cutting and divorce and friends who are losing themselves to addiction. I was a very insecure and messed up girl for a long time. But my dream of writing nurtured me through.
I think the best way to approach your goals as a writer is in parts. First I knew I need to hone my craft and generate a lot of story ideas. I did this by going to school for creative writing. But if that isn't for you, join a writing group either locally or online. My biggest piece of advice for aspiring writers is always get feedback on your work. So I went to school, honed my craft, met people to give feedback and my next goal was: finish a whole novel. I did, but it was a thinly veiled autobiography and it was bad. I shoved it in a drawer. It wasn't a waste though, because I took some of it, especially some of the characters and it eventually became Ballads. But first I finished another novel, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. I had an agent interested in IWBYJR before I finished it so that was lucky. But yeah I finished that book and while she was shopping it I wrote another. But there will always goals and I broke them down. I didn't start with become a bestselling millionaire author. I started with hone and learn my craft, then finish a novel, then finish another novel, then get published, then get published again. And now the goal is write another book and get published again but with the hopes it will do even better than my first two books. Maybe one day I can be a bestseller, who knows. But yeah, break it down into small achievable goals, as small as finish chapter one by this date. That's how I did it!
What influences you as a writer?
Untold stories. The reason I wrote Ballads is because I saw a lot of untold stories that really really needed telling, That's my prime motivator. Discovering characters who really need a voice-- characters who a lot of teens may relate to in some way especially. I'm influenced by what I observe every day. And of course music, particularly punk rock, influences me in a huge way!
What are some of your favorite books or literary characters?
Probably my all time favorite characters are Weetzie Bat and her daughter Witch Baby from Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat series. But I have a lot of favorite books: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno, Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr (I love the whole Wicked Lovely series, but that's my favorite), Beige by Cecil Castellucci, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Are you going to write another YA novel? If so, can you give us a little sneak peek?
I am working on another YA novel. I have a few more YA novels planned. However right now I'm in such an early phase, where I'm still plotting things out and they might change a whole lot, I really don't feel comfortable talking about or sharing much. I did give a little tease over here on my blog though if people want to check out, but seriously, tomorrow it could be a lot different :)
You can check out my review for Ballads of Suburbia here and it's awesome playlist here.
Come back for soon an exclusive interview with Patrick Jones author of The Tear Collector!