Wednesday, March 28, 2007

SO NOT THE DRAMA by Paula Chase

Today, we welcome young adult author, Paula Chase, to the Cafe. Paula has written for Girls’ Life, Sweet 16, and Baltimore Magazine among others. Her Del Rio Bay Clique series helped launch Kensington Books YA line and joins the growing number of YA books targeted to multi-culti suburbanite teens. Chase calls her brand of teen literature, Hip Lit, a nod to the diversity spawned by the MTV-watching, 106th & Park-ing, pop culture hungry hip hop generation.

The Cafe is pleased to have her as our guest as she celebrates the debut of her first YA novel.

Mary P: Tell us about So Not the Drama! What was your inspiration for this story?

Paula: It's about a high school freshman's quest for popularity and how that quest is abruptly ended when a sociology project's assignment to eliminate prejudice backfires, causing a rift between she and her best friend.

At its core, So Not The Drama is a friendship story. But surrounding it is a light, fun look at the highs and lows that go along with making the transition from middle to high school and how that period can be such an awakening for some teens. The story’s very much in the vein of Two-A-Days and The Hills or any t(w)een show that proves, when you're under the age of 20 life is drama. The two are so interconnected, you can't tell the difference at that age. And I love it. Dramalicious!

Several things inspired this book:
1) my own experiences as a 'burb teen
2) knowing my daughter would likely go through a similar ‘black in the 'burbs’ experience
3) my absolute adoration for how simple and complex being a teenager can be

Mary P: Tell us about "the" call. How did you find out you sold a book and how did you react?

What sticks out most in my mind about the call was it was actually a series of calls. My agent and I were on the phone back and forth the entire day as she passed me key parts of the deal and kept me in the loop on the verbal negotiations.

It felt very much like wheeling and dealing should...even though I wasn't doing any of the wheeling. More like riding along while my agent did the work.

I'll confess that my reaction was boring. I didn't scream or cry or start shaking. I was incredibly happy and I kept filling my husband in on every detail each time the phone rang. But I guess I'm not excitable. And yet, I don’t have a poker face. Go figure.

My favorite part was when she called back with the final numbers. It was hilarious. If a camera had taped that moment it would have caught me looking pretty dumbfounded. It felt just like when you go into a fancy store where you know you can't afford anything. But just for kicks and giggles you ask, in this real serious tone "How much is this?" As if you could actually afford it. And they say, "Fourteen."

In that moment, you're attempting to keep your face stoic. But for one brief millisecond your real emotions seep out and the look says, "Thousand? Is this thing really fourteen thousand?!"

Of course, you don't say that out loud because obviously the person doesn't mean it's fourteen dollars since everything in the store costs more than what you pay for your mortgage.

So when my agent uttered the number that's how I felt because she didn't say the full out number. She said it like they do in fancy circles. That's why I love my agent. She's such a cool cucumber.

Mary P: How did you become a writer?

I've always been one. As a kid I made up stories all the time. I also read voraciously, which only fed my urge to write my own.

Then as a teen, me and my best friend Nicki would write stories and exchange them. Instead of paying attention in class I'd read the story she wrote and then I'd add on to it. She'd do the same and we'd just keep exchanging stories like that.

It was sort of like a write-your-own-adventure. It was fun because she might take the story a place I never intended. It was equally as exciting to read what she wrote as it was to add on.

As much as I love writing, I detoured to PR in college. So I ended up doing a lot of corporate writing for a long time. Fairly boring, but no matter what I wrote about I still felt there was some art to it. No doubt there are a few thousand purple (read: flowery) press releases walking the earth thanks to me.

In '01 I jumped back into writing by doing music reviews and eventually I began contributing to magazines. Once I started doing that I was hooked. It made me wonder why I never bothered to seriously pursue Journalism.

But my PR background isn't just a nice thing to have, now that I have books to promote, it's a Godsend. So that cliche, "everything happens for a reason," is true this time round.

Mary P: Besides writing, do you have any other passions?

Paula: Pop culture!!

I'm the queen of mindless (often useless) information. I was so geekily excited about the VH1 show, World Series of Pop Culture. It was cool seeing that there are others out there like me - hopelessly addicted to information as inane as the name of the housekeeper that took Alice the maid's place for a brief period on The Brady Bunch. I mean, seriously, who keeps this type of minutiae in their head?

Oh right, I do.

Music, TV, Film, whatever. I consume it all. And I consider a great deal of it research for my YA. Well, at least that's my story…and I'm sticking to it.

Mary P: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Paula. We wish you much success with your new book! Congratulations!

~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Paula, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!


Melissa W. said...

Hi, Paula and congratulations on So Not the Drama! I'm curious about the series. Have you planned subsequent books out in advance? Do you know exactly what's going to happen or do you have a looser outline?

MarPerez said...

Great question, Melissa!

Paula, I love pop culture too and ALWAYS tell my husband and kids that I'm doing "research" when I watch Veronica Mars, OTH, or Friday Night Lights.

Paula said...

Hi Melissa and Mar. Whew, glad someone stopped by. I'm getting bloated from sipping frappes alone. :-) At least now I can share the calories.

I wrote So Not The Drama and its sequel, Don't Get It Twisted back-to-back in '03. At that time, I had an idea for two more books and a desire to create a complete series.

All I knew was I wanted to follow the characters throughout high school, perhaps even their freshman year of college to bring it full circle.

I never outlined the two additional stories - just knew that if the first two ever got picked up, I had ideas for more.

Now, that there are others under contract, I'm letting myself think about plot lines. But I'm still hesitant to think too far out or really commit to plot lines.

I found out the hard way how difficult it can be to divorce yourself from text once it's written.

One con to having TWISTED written before it was sold, were the changes DRAMA went through during the editorial phase. I had to do quite a lot of re-writing to TWISTED because there were key character changes and one major plot change.

Half the battle was convincing myself it was okay to let go of the old text and some plot lines.

So now, I have a lot of loose ideas running around in my head.

But I'd rather let the story line for each book come organically from the ending of the book previous. This way, I can also feel free to borrow from things going on around me as fodder.

I'm a natural pantser, anyway. So no real shock that I'd leave the fates of my characters to the writing gods.

I kind of like not knowing what's going to happen until I write it.

Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled about your success and the continuation of your series! I'm another one that bows to the Writing Gods. Too much planning ahead and my characters get stiff as scarecrows!

Best of luck, Paula!

Leslie Muir

Paula said...

Thanks Leslie. What's funny is many times I wished I were a better plotter/planner.

And a few times I've attempted to sketch out an entire book - even finished them. But do I end up following them?

Usually loosely but somehow the story always veers off whereever it's going to go.

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