Thursday, January 16, 2014

Q&A with Author Meredith Zeitlin

Earlier this week you saw my review of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters--the fabulous and hilarious read by author Meredith Zeitlin. What you don't know however (although you might suspect) is just how cool and down-to-earth Meredith is. When she heard me fan girl "squeeing" about wanting to read this book she connected with me and sent along a signed hardcopy, and this celebration ensued:

And then Meredith said she'd be happy chat further and do a Q&A and I was like

So here we go. My questions, Meredith's answers, and Part 1 of 2 of our interview. 

How did you get started writing YA?                                   

I used to babysit for an awesome tween in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and while she did her homework I’d read her books. I was curious to see if her books were as memorable as the stories and characters I loved when I was her age. Unfortunately, I thought the books she had were awful - poorly written, for one thing, and also totally unrealistic (and not in a fun, imaginative way). They gave the impression that fourteen-year-olds were all running around clubbing and having sex and acting like sophisticated adults with adult problems. What I loved about YA when I was Zoe’s age was being able to relate to the characters, and having a mirror to let me know that my imperfect life - annoying parents, insecurities about school, friends, guys, my looks, etc - was normal. So I wanted to write a book that would do the same thing for a new generation of kids.

Do you follow a particular writing regimen or how do you find time to write alongside your full-time job?

I set a very bad example for aspiring writers, and I’m the first one to admit it. I write... when and if I feel like it. Sometimes that means with the TV on for five minutes during a commercial break. Sometimes an idea will come to me in the middle of the night and I’ll get up, write it down, and then go back to bed. I’m actually a voiceover artist in “real” life, so I have lots of time to procrastinate - probably if I did have a full-time job, I’d have to budget my time better and get more done. That said, I’ve never missed a deadline. I work well under pressure!

What inspired you to write Freshman Year & Other UnnaturalDisasters?
Like I said, Zoe’s books inspired me to start the project, but my own experiences influenced the story I ended up writing. Kelsey and her misadventures are very, very tightly based on me and my own. And yes, I’m just as disaster-prone now as I was as a teen.

I LOVE the title. It’s humorous, gives a sense of voice, and is an accurate summary of the novel. What advice would you give to writers on how to craft a catchy title?
Thanks so much!! Actually, the original title of the book was “The World vs Kelsey Finkelstein,” but the publisher wanted something that had “Freshman Year” in it because they thought it made it sound older. (I still haven’t figured that one out.) Anyway, I brainstormed lots of ideas and this is the one they liked best. I do like wordy titles, personally. I think a good title has a rhythm to it - almost like a tiny poem. If it makes you wonder what the story is but doesn’t give everything away, or if it’s just plain fun to say out loud, you’re probably on the right track.

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