June 11th, 2010

Looking for a great summer read? Well you can KISS IT

Remember last summer when I read Erin Downing's manuscript for KISS IT and told you how awesome it was? Well, it's FINALLY IN STORES ON JUNE 15! Here's a description:

A girl's gotta do who a girl's gotta do.

Chastity Bryan has never been shy about going after what she wants. And when sexy, mysterious, so-not-from-this-town Sebastian walks into Chaz's life, she knows in an instant that what she wants next is him. Chaz has no intention of playing for keeps—but she most definitely has intentions. Who needs true love when you've got true lust?

Sebastian has no idea what he's in for—but maybe neither does Chaz.

In celebration of Erin's big day, I invited her over and asked her some questions about the new book and her plans for the future.

Jenn: I have always said that of the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies I’ve read (and I’ve read not all but a lot of them), yours are the funniest. But they’re also very innocent imho, and I was astounded that KISS IT is hilarious but not innocent at all. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would say KISS IT and your ro-coms were written by different authors. Do you agree that they’re very different? Is KISS IT a symbol of pent-up frustration with writing three ro-coms in a row?

Erin: Ha! Thank you for enjoying my odd brand of humor...but we all know your books are the funniest in the ro-com line!

Jenn: Oh yeah. I almost forgot.

Erin: You're right--my Romantic Comedies were all very innocent, which is really why I wanted to take a drastic departure when I started working on my fourth novel for teens. I was kind of bored from playing it safe, and I was a little annoyed with my own sugar-sweet take on romance. I'd written these three books about girls who--while very different from each other--are all sort of the same in that they are traditionalists when it comes to love, romance, and everything in between.

Chaz (the main character in KISS IT) is so unconventional in her approach to love and romance (like, she doesn't really want it)...and that's why I love her. There are all these books and movies and other media that show guys with sexual desires, and the girls around them are often looking for love and flowers and marriage. But I think a lot of us know that's not always what girls are thinking about! I wanted to write a female character who wasn't looking for the things that the girls in my other books were looking for...Chaz doesn't want a fairytale, she just wants to get some.

Jenn: *snort*

Erin: I guess I just wanted to show that that's an okay approach to "relationships", too! Not that I'm trying to tell people that they should think the way Chaz does about sex, but that it's okay to step outside the conventional ro-com approach to romance and lust sometimes! Everyone has a different take on how they interact with girls, guys, whatever.

Jenn: Where is this snarky voice coming from all of a sudden?

Erin: Oh, Jenn, you know secretly know I always have a snarky voice. Here's the thing about me in real life--I'm really in-your-face and honest about things (I guess that's sometimes perceived as snarky, depending on the situation). I grew up--and now live again--in Minnesota, where people are really quite polite. As soon as I graduated from college, I fled to New York, where people tend to be a little more honest about what they're thinking. It was hard living there at first--my ego was bruised a lot, and my feelings got hurt when people told me what they thought about things I did or said. But slowly, that New York style really grew on me, and I let my inner snark come out. Not that I'm mean...I'm just honest. I think you form much stronger relationships when you talk about stuff in an honest way--so my closest friends always know what's on my mind and when I'm frustrated about something.

Jenn: KISS IT takes place during Christmas break in a tiny town in Minnesota. How close is it to your own high school experience?

Erin: I certainly drew on my own experience to paint the wintry setting and some of the places and feelings in the book...but this book is not even the itty-bittiest bit autobiographical! Chaz was a really easy character for me to write, in some ways, since she has such a clear personality and says a lot of the things I wish I would have thought to say back when I was in high school. But she's also the main character that is most unlike me, so it took some time to figure out the her voice and the tone of this novel.

Jenn: I’ve seen several bloggers liken KISS IT to FOREVER… by Judy Blume. Personally, I see the similarity in that both books address the topic of teens losing their virginity, but that’s about it. What do you make of the comparison?

Erin: I agree with you. The frank discussion of sex in KISS IT is making people think about FOREVER… and how that book really broke a mold by talking about sex and boy parts and stuff. But really, the two books couldn't be more different. First of all, FOREVER… was written a while ago now...so I do take things a bit further and probably push things a little more content-wise. But also, the style of KISS IT is so different from the style of FOREVER…. Judy Blume is my literary hero, so I'm always giddy when I see my book compared to hers in any little way, but I do think they have very different takes on sexuality and the characters really aren't similar in any way. I sure do appreciate the comparison, though!

Jenn: Tell us what’s next for you. I hear you have some exciting new deals!

Erin: Yes, I do! I've been working on my next book for teens, ECLIPSED, which will be published by Disney-Hyperion in spring 2012. It isn't as risky as KISS IT, content-wise, but I'm shifting gears a bit again and writing a romantic comedy type of story, but with a paranormal twist. I'm only about halfway done, so that's the big project for the rest of this summer. I also have a book for younger readers coming out this fall with Bloomsbury, published under my maiden name (Erin Soderberg). It's called MONKEY SEE, MONKEY ZOO and is told from a young monkey's POV. It was so much fun to write--and very different from my teen stuff!

Jenn: And finally…I’m not sure how many people know about your experience as an editor, how you got the job, and who you worked for. I find the whole story fascinating. Will you recount it for us?

Erin: It's a long one...you sure?

Here goes - trying to make a long story short. I had always wanted to have a part in making books, but I'd never really thought of myself as an author...so I decided I wanted to be a book editor. I didn't know much about the job, honestly (when it comes down to it, a beginning editor reads a lot of crappy submissions and does very unglamorous filing)...but even still, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I decided we were going to try to move to New York when we finished college so I could work in the mysterious and fascinating world of publishing. I sent cold-call cover letters and resumes to literally every single publisher I could think of, even if I didn't really like their books. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I somehow managed to get interviews at a few cool places and flew out to New York for a crazy round of interviews.

The last day I was in New York, I got a call from Scholastic--my dream employer. I really, really wanted to work in kids books and up until that call, I'd been meeting with all highly-literary adult houses. Scholastic wanted to interview me for an editorial assistant position in the trade and licensed paperback division. I changed my flight to make it work, obviously! I met with David Levithan (heard of him? ahem, he's now a famous author himself and still a really respected editor, too) and Bethany Buck (who is, coincidentally, now the Publisher of Aladdin and Simon Pulse, the publisher of KISS IT!). David and Bethany asked me a lot of random questions about Star Wars and The Baby-sitter's Club, two things I happened to love. We really hit it off! And what could be more fun than an interview where you talk about your favorite characters in your favorite children's books and movies? By the time my flight landed back in Minneapolis later that day, I had a call from Scholastic telling me I'd gotten the job!

I learned everything I know about plotting and stories and books from the crew at Scholastic--they are really the reason I became a writer eventually myself. Editors at Scholastic are very hands-on, so I got my start in crafting stories while I was working with authors there. For more on this story and how I published my first book, see here.

Thanks for stopping by, Erin, and here's to a happy release week!
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Public Shame Writing Challenge: Week 2 check-in!

The Week 2 check-in isn't until Monday, okay? I'm creating a place for you to post early because I was late last week. Better early than late, right?

And I can tell you already that I'm not going to make my goal for the week. Shame is at my house right now.

But Week 3 is a new week, and things are actually looking better than usual schedule-wise. I'm going to make it through chapter 13.

How about you?

Your goal for June

Your goal for Week 2

Your achievement for Week 2

Your goal for Week 3 (check-in is Monday, June 21)