Today I have a very special treat: an interview with my awesome friend, Chelsea Pitcher, fabulous author of The S-Word. (You may remember me reviewing it here.) Chelsea is such an amazing person—one of the kindest, smartest, and bravest ladies I know, no lie—so I feel incredibly honored to have her here. And afterwards, do enter the giveaway for a chance to win a brand new copy of The S-Word and a signed bookmark!
Now, without further ado, the interview:
1. The S-Word released May 7th, 2013 from Gallery/Simon and Schuster. How does it feel to have your book out in the world?
Honestly, it still feels pretty surreal! But sometimes it will really hit me that my book is out in the world. Like recently, I joined a group of YA authors called Uncommon YA, who all write books that don’t shy away from the darkness that a lot of teens face. When I clicked onto their Twitter page, they’d put all of our book covers into a collage. Just seeing my cover there was a shock—another reminder that, yes, my novel exists. Yes, it is a real book. Yes, I did it!
2. I loved The S-Word. It’s harsh and scary, dealing with issues like suicide and sexual abuse, but also has glimmers of hope. Tell me, is there any specific message you hope readers will take away from The S-Word?
First of all, thank you for the compliment! Secondly, I think readers will take away different things, but if I had to choose a message, I’d want people to know that they’re not alone. Inevitably, things will happen in life that will make you feel like you’re alone, and that no one will understand. But there are people who will understand, and people who will love you, even if they haven’t had your exact experiences. You are worthy of love and of life.
3. How do you feel about books like Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park being censored from schools, which is a contemporary love story, but under attack for adult language and themes? Do you feel that the darker subject matter of some young adult books is ever “too much” for a young audience?
I mean . . . maybe if teens didn’t experience bullying on a daily basis . . . maybe if so many teens weren’t abused by their family members or peers by the time they hit middle school . . . maybe then there would be some merit to trying to protect their “innocence.” But in reality, pretending bad things don’t happen, simply because we wish they didn’t, actually allows them to happen more. If you forbid your daughter from reading books about sexual assault, how can she possibly come talk to you if it happens to her? If you pretend bullying in books is worse than bullying in life, how is your son supposed to open up about being tormented at school? Adults who refuse to accept these dark realities contribute to the feeling of isolation that bullied and abused teens struggle with on a daily basis. The best thing we can do is make these things okay to talk about, so that teens being attacked feel comfortable coming forward, and teens doing the attacking gain insight into their actions—before the people they’re hurting resort to self-harm.
Besides, if those parents want to ban Rainbow Rowell’s book, they’ll probably want to burn mine.
4. Do you feel like authorial intentions even matter? Is it even “your” book anymore after it has been released?
Oh man, this is a loaded question. I guess it depends on what your intentions are. If you intend to put your art out into the world, engage with readers and possibly affect the way they see the world, then yes! Intentions definitely matter. But if your intention is to impart one specific message, and every reader must come away with the same reaction, well . . . that may not work out in your favor.
For what it’s worth, I’ve really loved the whole collaborative process. The S-Word’s agent, editor, editorial assistant and cover designer all had a part in making this book what it is today. And I am eternally grateful to all of them, because their unique insights have made the book better. So it isn’t just my book anymore. It’s ours.
It can be yours as well. 🙂
5. What’s a reaction to The S-Word that you’ve loved? A reaction that you haven’t enjoyed?
I had one reader tell me she thought I was born to write books. Another told me, upon reading The S-Word, that she loved me for writing it. But I think my favorite reaction of all was when a thirteen-year-old emailed me personally to say that she didn’t usually like to read, but she’d finished my book in three days and couldn’t wait for me to write more. To get a reluctant reader to not only read one book, but to want to read more, well . . . it’s hard to think of something more gratifying than that.
In terms of negative reactions, the only thing I’m really worried about is my book being banned or challenged by adults. Readers can love, feel okay about, or passionately dislike my book. But please don’t keep it away from teens! I fully encourage adults to pay attention to what their teens are reading, and even use those books to facilitate difficult conversations. Just don’t censor dark stories entirely, because you never know what teen might need them.
6. How much do you keep a possible public reaction to your work in mind as you write? And while we’re at it, what is your general writing process like?
Joss Whedon once said, “Don’t give people what they want. Give them what they need.” I think there’s a lot of value in that. If you’re giving people what they want, you’re giving them what they’ve already seen, and liked. I want to give people something they’ve never seen before. I want to surprise them. So I write what I want to write, and I think my novels reflect how much love I put into them.
And I think they reflect my weirdness. 😉
As for my general process, I like to down lots of caffeine and write for as long as I can. And if I get a lot done, maybe I get to play Wii as a reward. 🙂
7. I had the awesome pleasure of hearing about your upcoming book deal with Flux, my own publisher! Can you tell us a bit about your next release? … And did I hear correctly that we might be getting two more books?
You heard right! My deal with Flux is for two books: The Last Changeling* and its sequel. The story centers around two seventeen-year-olds: Elora, the faerie daughter of the Unseelie Queen, and Taylor, a human boy who’s struggling from alienation at school and neglect at home. Both Taylor and Elora have things they’d like to change about their worlds, but they can’t figure out how to do it until they meet each other.
Unfortunately, Elora’s only in the human world because she needs a mortal offering, and no matter what she learns there, or who she comes to care for, she can’t leave empty handed . . .
8. Does The Last Changeling share similar themes with The S-Word, even though it’s urban fantasy and The S-Word is contemporary?
Oh, I love this question. And the answer is a resounding yes! Just as The S-Word deals with the way girls are socially punished when they don’t conform to an impossible standard of purity, The Last Changeling deals with the way boys are punished if they don’t conform to a dangerous standard of masculinity. Seventeen-year old Taylor is funny, brave, and intelligent, but he’s bombarded with taunts of “pussy” and “fairy” simply because he doesn’t want to treat girls like pieces of meat and beat up on gay kids. Struggling with the death of his younger brother and the detachment of his parents, he’s desperate to make a real human connection. But if he admits to being vulnerable, does that make him less of a man?
9. Is the publishing process any different for you, the second go-around? Are you less/more stressed/nervous/excited?
The first time around was exciting, hectic and scary. This time, I’m definitely feeling more relaxed. All I can do is write the best possible story, and promote it in all the ways I know how. Everything else is out of my hands.
(Of course, if you ask me this a lot closer to release, I may feel differently.)
10. Other than The Last Changeling, are you working on something else at the moment? Can we expect more awesome young adult contemporary and/or paranormal fantasy from you in the future?
I’ve been cooking up an idea for a YA conspiracy thriller, which, as you can imagine, is kind of different from what I normally write. But within the broad scope of YA, I really enjoy experimenting with various genres. I think you can expect to see more contemporary, mystery, thriller and paranormal from me in the future.
Thank you so much for having me, and for writing such fantastic questions!!
Thank YOU, Chelsea!
*You can read about The Last Changeling’s recent title change HERE, and enter Chelsea’s changeling-themed giveaway!
Now for my giveaway! Enter below to receive a shiny new copy of The S-Word, along with a signed bookmark! The giveaway is open for a week, from Wednesday, October 9th through the 15th. And sorry, the contest is only open to those in the U.S.