April 19, 2007

3 Questions with Paula Hyman (and more Psychic Amazon Jackson Books)

In So Not The Drama, Paula Hyman introduces readers ages 11+ to bright-eyed optimist Mina Mooney, a high school freshman with nothing more on her mind than climbing the popularity ladder, until a sociology experiment to rid the world – or at least Del Rio Bay High School – of prejudice backfires. The project causes a rift between Mina and her best friend, Lizzie and sends Mina on a journey of exploration that’s both funny and eye-opening.

Booklist calls it a “Contemporary friendship story, which revels in rich diversity of race, color and class,” and Publisher;s Weekly says, “Readers will like the genuine dialogue.”

JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

PH: I dedicated So Not The Drama to three people, my two daughters and one of my best friends, Eddie Sellman. I dedicated it to my girls because this series is my gift to them. I grew up without a series depicting African American suburbanites. And though that never ever stopped me from reading voraciously, as a mom it bothered me that the void still existed some twenty years later. So this is for my girls, may the void in teen lit I experienced be dead and buried forever and ever amen.

I dedicated it to Big Ed because he and I rolled in the same clique in high school. We were a core of best friends who had some of the greatest times – good, bad, ugly. Right around the time my final mss was due, Big Ed passed away. It was the first time I’d lost one of my closest friends. Since the book is about a close-knit group of friends, it was fitting that I honor one of my own dear friendships by dedicating it to him. After all, our high school years was an inspiration for the Del Rio Bay Clique.

JJ: This book is the start of a series… How do you keep timeline/world you have built straight and characters fresh, growing and yet still themselves from book to book? Did you always plan for it to be a series, and if so, did you structure the first book differently, knowing another would follow?

PH: I’d always planned for So Not The Drama to be part of a series. I actually wrote the second in the series, directly after the first. I had two other storylines in mind, as well. But I didn’t flesh them out because my focus was on getting the first book sold.

Right now, there are a total of five books planned for the series. I don’t want this to be an open-ended series. Right before I go to write book #5 I’m going to look at the series’ future and decide on a number. I don’t want my characters to overstay their welcome. Unofficially, I’d like to take them through their senior year. So there’s the possibility of having two books per year – you know, to cover fall and spring semesters. So if that’s the case, there would be nine books total.

Hey, I think I just kind of committed myself to a close-ended series of nine books! Let’s see if my publisher will go along for the ride.

I was at the SCBWI Mid-winter in ’06 and Francine Pascal mentioned there was a Sweet Valley High reunion of sorts planned, showing her characters as adults. That sounded interesting. But…not sure my mind is going there. I’ve been asked if I’d consider doing something like that. But it’s way too early to know if that’s in the cards.

When it comes to keeping the timeline and world straight and fresh, I’ll admit, it’s a challenge for me. For being such a planner, I am horrible with wrangling paperwork. It’s why I don’t outline stuff. I get too excited and want to jump right in!

I have an author’s wish list. It consists of all the things that would make my life as a writer easier. At the top is a comprehensive binder detailing the world I’ve created. Man, that would make my life sweet! But when I sit down to start it, I immediately grow bored with it. Writing is so much more fun than book housekeeping. So I use the guide provided by my Copy Editor. It’s a big help. What’s missing are those little details about a character that are hard to retain when you’re writing about so many people. My cast is six-strong. And even though everyone isn’t the focal point each book, they’re all playing some part each time. It’s exhausting trying to remember who looks like what, or their mannerisms.

Seriously, I need an intern. If anyone would like to intern with an author who is a bit scatter-brained, please look me up!

JJ: You were popular in high school. So. Um. What was THAT like?

You know, I endure a lot of “cheerleader/popularity” bashing. I’ve been in countless conversations with other adults and when the conversation gets around to high school experience it seems that someone always utters this, with a roll of their eyes “well, I wasn’t a cheerleader or in the popular crowd.” And of course popular has air quotes around it.
I always feel like sticking my head in the sand since I was a cheerleader and was popular. It’s like if you were either of these things you were automatically a huge, rhymes with witch. And that wasn’t the case, for me. I look back on my high school years fondly. Being popular wasn’t necessarily who I was or what I labeled myself. It was just the way other people viewed me.
I had a group of very close friends and my world revolved around them. But I was also very active in high school – so my life was full and I was well-known because I was so active. I guess that’s what popularity is, being well-known. So that’s why I can say I was popular. But I wasn’t a mean girl type and being popular wasn’t a priority.

What I’ve tried to do with my main character in So Not the Drama is make her a very involved student, which puts her in the mix of a lot of people. So by sheer volume of people she interacts with through cheerleading, track, writing for the school paper etc…she’s “popular.” But she’s also quite obsessed with being more popular.

I’m trying to show that popularity is relative and that for those people who are “ultra” popular they’re nothing more than slaves to that status – very fake, always on stage people. My MC, on the other hand, isn’t like that. Despite realizing others are like that, she still wants that ultra pop status.

Contrary to popular belief (even my mom thinks so), So Not The Drama is NOT autobiographical. I just wrote what I thought would be fun, a peek inside the various high school circles. For every similarity I share with my MC, we’re also quite different. And most of the experiences in the book are things I wished I could have done as a teen.


IN OTHER NEWS, The fantastical DEB R has “found” another book Psychic Amazon has decided I should write…


Okay, look, this is a long standing FTK in joke… here is the thing about the pink socks---first you have to read the entry where the WHOLE PINK SOCKS THING BEGAN.

Quite a cliff hanger ending, eh? Aren’t you breathless, I mean BREATHLESS!!! to know what happened next? No? Me neither. So the next day I had a 3 questions interview, and I said, “I am not going to finish my highly anticipated thrilling sock epic today -- PUT DOWN THE KNIFE! IT IS OKAY! THERE ARE OTHER PERFECTLY GOOD REASONS TO LIVE! I shall defer the rest of the story about my SOCKS (what is WRONG with me???) because a Merciful God has declared it is time for 3 questions…” etc etc. Upshot: I didn’t finish the sock story.

The NEXT day, my blog turned one year old, and I forgot about the socks as I did a birthday post, and the next post I had links and general housekeeping to do, and then gods was about to come out and I had to panic and flail, THEN I got stomach flu (and who wouldn’t pause to blog THAT?) and then I took an interesting trip to Nashville and Maisy fell in love with a 3 year old boy she called AYEX (all more blogworthy topics than SOCKS, fer cryin’ cats) and and and and life kept happening, life AFTER pink socks, until I FORGOT what happened with the socks that made me want to write an entry. All I remember is, I wore pink socks skating. Which, really, I had covered that already.

The regs here do not accept that. The Pink Socks have become the Shangri-La of blog entries, a lovely and coveted thing, transcendent but never attainable, the theoretical perfect blog entry that would end all blogging forever should its Socratic Cave perfections ever become manifest in the world. Now ANY time I say “Oh I have to go, I will finish this tomorrow,” the unforgiving Cult of Sock rises and says YOU WILL SO TOTALLY SHAFT US ON THIS! WE KNOW IT!

Okay, first of all, SINCE the socks, I have MULTIPLE times told stories in halves and always (um, almost) remembered to finish. SECOND! I suspect Sock Part Deux was something dumb, just me planning to make a molehill out of a lumpy pebble, and thirdiferously, I WOULD blog it, I REALLY WOULD, I swear because you KNOW you are my Best Beloveds and I would not deny you… but I have NO IDEA what happened.

Still, let’s look at the close-up. I like how Deb, no doubt feeling vengeful about the never-to-be-told sock story, is letting me set my own hair on fire...Grace in motion, I am, even in FICTION.


Posted by joshilyn at April 19, 2007 8:09 AM

Oh, Deb R, you are a scream! Delightfull. I can't wait to read the 3-Questions interviews for Joss's latest (to be written) books. ::grins and ducks::

Posted by: David at April 19, 2007 8:28 AM

These covers are hi-larious! I would love to see a cover for Joshilyn's true-crime story. You know, when she spent some time in the slammer. :)

Posted by: Leandra at April 19, 2007 8:36 AM

Y'know, I noticed the hair thing and wondered if I should fix that, but then I started giggling and um....But don't your curls look PRETTY! :-)

Posted by: DebR at April 19, 2007 8:59 AM

Okay, I vote us the most creative fan force reader club of all time. . .of course that doesn't really include me since I've not come up with ANYTHING creative. I do, however, enjoy me some creativity in the guise of other people's work, so there.

The Nancy Drew theme--so totally perfect. I know she lit your hair on fire and all, but she DID make sure that your sock/top/skirt ensemble matched. Great work DebR. Oh. My. Goodness.

Posted by: Roxanne at April 19, 2007 9:04 AM

Great job, DebR, because you just *know* from that picture that Joss is wearing matching pink pumps and will soon meet up with her "special friend" Mr. Husband. As for pink sock Shangri-la, if it would mean the end to all blogging, I no longer want it. Pink socks, I release you.

And finally, I have neither the time nor the photo shop skills to do a phony Amazon page, but I want to read "Measuring Your Mental Illness Number," a self-help book by Joshilyn Jackson.

Posted by: Aimee at April 19, 2007 10:37 AM

It's her amazing swan-like neck that delights me.

Very nicely done, DebR. I am so looking forward to reading this when it comes out.

Posted by: hollygee at April 19, 2007 11:07 AM

I didn't read the pink sock episode the first time around, but I believe the first post I read here had something to do with a dark chocolate M&M that wasn't quite a dark chocolate M&M which was force-fed to Mr. Husband.

I saw a commercial for them today with the M&Ms as the Addams Family. I didn't even know they were back.

Posted by: Sabra at April 19, 2007 3:13 PM

Oh, joy! I am in total delight - Deb well done, I did think about her hair on fire. The only think I would have added if possible was Maisy's pink lamby fluff coat.

Posted by: Cele at April 19, 2007 6:12 PM

Those are some mighty big pink socks you got there. Thanks for the laugh tonight - at the expense of your lovely locks, of course.

Posted by: Lisa Milton at April 20, 2007 12:49 AM

Oh, I SO needed that laugh this morning! Thanks DebR for the picture! :)

Posted by: Michelle at April 20, 2007 9:39 AM

OMG. That's all. I can't even think anymore, beyond eh brilliance of your Best Beloveds. Truly Joss, you've got the most wonderiferously creative group of regs I've ever seen.

Posted by: dee at April 20, 2007 9:41 AM

MAYBE the pink socks were under the bed in Paris. . .

Posted by: Roxanne at April 20, 2007 3:34 PM

I come here every day in the hopes that Pink Socks: The Conclusion will appear. Every. Day. I have also stopped buying all three of my girls pink socks because I have no idea whether The Conclusion will show that pink socks are dangerous, or hazardous to your health, or harmful to the environment, or what. I'm waiting. Patiently.


Posted by: Shelley at April 20, 2007 9:33 PM

DebR, that's fantastic!! You have made my day.

Posted by: Laura Florand at April 21, 2007 1:33 PM