I recently finished The Naughty List by Suzanne Young, Portland area debut author, blogger, and part of the Portland Kidlit community. I met her at the 2008 Kidlit Blogging Conference. The Naughty List was the perfect escape book for spring break. It was really fun to interview Suzanne who is transitioning from teaching to author.
MsMac: Were you a cheerleader in high school? Any of these characters based on your own experiences?
SY:In high school I was in the speech and debate club and lots of plays. I was sort of oblivious to a lot the things going on around me. I didn’t wake up until my senior year, and then I saw everything differently (a traumatic breakup will do that to a person). Although none of The Naughty List is based on an actual event, the feelings were definitely ones I’ve had myself. I think emotions are universal. I was a cheerleader for about three months in 8th grade, but I was terrible.
MsMac: Where did the inspiration for The Naughty List come from? You really captured what high school is like these days. It felt like I was right back at high school (even though that was more than a half-life time ago, some things don’t change).
Except, I think that teens are much more open about drinking, hooking up and sex. Have you gotten any feedback about this? I didn’t find it explicit but my librarian-spydy-self kept wondering if a parent might find reason to complain.
SY: When I write I try to be honest—both emotionally and story wise. I didn’t think that The Naughty List had anything offensive, but I did hear a few adults think it was racy. Nothing happened on the page, and other than mentioning a few times (both in cheater reports and in the chapters) there wasn’t much else. I think in YA lit some people think if sex is mentioned, it has to become an issue that’s talked about. And since my book wasn’t about “it”, I didn’t really address it. It’s in the background. There are plenty of great books dealing with teen sex. Mine isn’t really an issue book. Unless your issue is that you suspect your boyfriend is cheating on you.
MsMac: Without spoiling the ending, I loved the moment that Tessa realized something about herself Did you know when you started writing the book that she would have this “AHA” moment?I guess another way to ask is what can you share about the writing process of this book?
SY: I knew that Tessa would have to figure herself out—no one can stay that perky forever! I definitely didn’t know what was going to happen until it did. I like to keep myself interested. I don’t outline, but usually have a vague idea of what I want to accomplish.
MsMac: I think that reluctant readers will pick this book up and read it. Did you write with that audience in mind?
SY: I’m so happy to hear that. I didn’t have any specific audience in mind, but I’m a reluctant reader myself. I need books that are fast paced and have romance, so in turn, that was the type of book I wrote.
MsMac: This is a series, isn’t it? How many more books are coming out? Because I want to read them. Great escapes.
SY: It is a series. The second book, SO MANY BOYS, will be released June, 10, 2010 and the third book A GOOD BOY IS HARD TO FIND will be out November 25, 2010. Things will take a total turn for the worse in book two, so keep your eye out for it!
MsMac: Ooh I can’t wait, will need a good road trip book.You taught up until recently. How is writing like teaching? Do you miss teaching?
SY: I absolutely miss teaching. I taught at a Title 1 school in South Phoenix for five years and it was the best job I’ve ever had. I loved my students and the school. My first year teaching 7th grade I found out that my class had an average reading level of 2.4. I spent the rest of my teaching years getting them to fall in love with reading.
MsMac: When you aren’t writing, what might we find you doing?
SY: Camping or going on long drives. I try to escape life whenever possible.
MsMac: What’s your current project?
I’m currently working on a new series for Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins. It’s about a girl who’s compelled to do good deeds, only to find that each time she does, people start to forget her. It’s called A Need so Beautiful and it’ll be out Summer 2011
MsMac: What books are on your nightstand?
I’m reading The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
MsMac: Where do you find inspiration?
SY: In my own emotions. I’m one of those people who feels a lot. And when I hear something or see something that triggers an emotion, I often translate it into a story. And it helps to hang out with other writers. I think we keep each other going.
MsMac: Favorite time of the day to work?
SY: In the morning after the kids are at school. At night I’m way more interested in Supernatural or Project Runway.
MsMac: Chocolate: white, dark, or milk?
MsMac: Coffee or tea or —?
SY: Coffee. Lots of it!
MsMac: Dance Funky chicken or the tango?
SY: The Electric Slide!
So what are you reading? Happy Reading.