BALLADS OF SUBURBIA
Critically acclaimed author Stephanie Kuehnert returns with another gripping and incisive novel. In BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, Kara McNaughton reveals the darker side of suburbia.
In high school, Kara McNaughton helped maintain the “Stories of Suburbia” notebook, which contained newspaper articles about bizarre and often tragic events from suburbs all over, as well as personal vignettes written by her friends,which Kara dubbed “ballads”. Ballads are the kind of songs that Kara likes best.
Not the clichéd ones but the truly genuine, gut-wrenching songs that convey love, loss and an individual’s story. Those “stories of Suburbia” were heartbreakingly honest tales of the moments when life changes and a kid is forced to grow up too soon. But Kara never wrote her own ballad. Before she could figure out what her song was about, she was leaving town after a series of disastrous events at the end of her junior year of high school.
Four years later, Kara returns to face the music, and tells the tale of her first three years of high school with her friends’ “ballads” interspersed throughout. Among them are her best friend Stacey, who dates guy after guy trying to find the one who will take care of her the way her parents never did; Cass, who copes with her mother’s mental illness and her older brother’s abandonment by doing copious amounts of acid; Adrian the creator of the “Stories of Suburbia”, who has “Thrown Away” tattooed on his forearms to express how he feels about his
adoptive parents and his birth parents; Christian, who seems like the nice guy type that Kara belongs with, but has a violent streak; Kara’s little brother Liam, who idolized Johnny Cash as a preschooler and has idolized Kara all his life though she lets him down again and again; and Maya, an eccentric but beautiful redhead who refuses to talk about her mother’s suicide.
Then of course, there’s Kara. She begins high school as a loner, who copes with her lack of friends and her rapidly unraveling home life by going to concerts with Liam, smoking the occasional joint, and cutting herself when things get really bad. She’s reluctant at first when she tags along with Maya to Scoville Park, where the "misfit" kids hang out, but she really wants “a life.” The summer after junior year that life nearly ends with a heroin overdose, the event that triggers Kara’s exit from Oak Park.
All the things that happen in between make up the ballads of suburbia.
Jenn: In my book The Ex Games, Hayden has to overcome her fear of heights to make it as a professional snowboarder. What are your characters afraid of, and how do they conquer their fears?
Stephanie: My main character Kara is a loner and she’s afraid to reach out and try to make new friends. She’s basically afraid of crowds and her brother tries to help her get over it but having her crowd surf at a concert. It’s definitely a big moment for her, but the real way she conquers her fear is by becoming close to a new girl in town and going along with her to meet other people.
Jenn: What has been your greatest fear as a writer, and how have you dealt with it?
Stephanie: Failure. I fear that no one will read my books and then no one will want to publish them again. I just try to put that fear out of my mind for the most part because I don’t have a ton of control over it. But a bigger fear is that I will fail to do my characters justice. It was a huge fear with Ballads. I was tackling big issues and wanted them to be real. I just kept revising until I felt I got it write and I had a lot of people read my drafts and push me harder to get even closer to the characters.
Jenn: In The Ex Games, Hayden goes head-to-head with her ex-boyfriend in a snowboarding challenge. Are you involved in any sports? How do you think being a woman has affected you as an athlete?
Stephanie: I’m not involved in any sports. I do run and workout, but I suck at any sort of actual sport. I don’t think it has to do with me being a woman, more with my total lack of coordination.
Jenn: For good or ill, I design my own web site. Who designed yours? What’s your favorite part of your web site that you wish more people would visit?
Stephanie: My very talented friend Jenny Hassler designed mine. I love absolutely all of it. I don’t know if I have a favorite part, but I did do extras for both of my books that I hope people will check out. Ballads of Suburbia has a soundtrack section and a section that talks about and shows pictures of the real life setting of the book. I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone also has a soundtrack section and it has an outtakes section for people who want more of the story after the finish the book. I also have a cool fan art section and encourage fans to send me art inspired by my books!
Jenn: What’s your favorite gizmo advertising your book?
Stephanie: I did a book trailer for Ballads that I adore:
I also had fans design banners and widgets which can be found here.
Jenn: Stephanie, thanks for visiting!