I was going to do more of a pop culture focus from here on out, buuuuuut . . . then I got an opportunity to interview the ever-awesome Simone Elkeles, author of the recent Rules of Attraction , one of THREE books I am giving away on the blog! (If you haven't entered the contest yet, do it now--it's open till Friday!) Pop-culture fabulosity will return, soon, never fear!
Besides Rules of Attraction, Simone is also the author of Perfect Chemistry (which I'm also giving away, hint hint!), Leaving Paradise, and the How To Ruin . . . trilogy. Let's give her a warm Unpro welcome, shall we?
You are an admitted romance novel enthusiast and have been very involved with the Romance Writers of America. Now that you’re a successful YA author, would you consider switching genres?
I tried writing adult romances, but it just didn’t fit my voice. I was definitely meant to be a young adult author and I love it -- I’m here to stay! Romance novels are my favorite books to read. I write young adult romances and am so happy to be promoting this wonderful genre.
Your novels alternate between lighthearted (the How to Ruin a Summer Vacation trilogy) and more serious and issue-driven (Leaving Paradise, Perfect Chemistry, and Rules of Attraction). Is there a reason for this, and if so, what?
Everyone who has ever met me for at least five minutes knows I’m a really funny person. I love to laugh and to make people laugh, so writing comedy comes naturally to me. I also love edgy and sexy romances, so I try to do it all in my books. I can’t just write one kind of book.
Your characters’ voices, both male and female, are both unique and accurate. How do you write teenagers, especially boys, so well?
I was a tomboy and had a lot of guy friends growing up who were really honest and open with me about sex, girls, and their outlook on life. I “get” guys – at least the ones I hung out with. I was also a teen in the 80’s and enjoyed my teen years, which were filled with stupid adventures. Lastly, I still remember what it was like to be a teenager. Don’t we all?
You stay involved with your characters: Rules of Attraction is a sequel to Perfect Chemistry, with a third book in the works; there’s a sequel to Leaving Paradise coming out this year, and How to Ruin a Summer Vacation has two sequels. How do you decide when to continue with the same fictional world, and when to stop writing about it?
To be honest, I’m a romance novel fan. No, you don’t get it…I’m a super #1 romance novel fan where I have a hard time “getting into” any other books besides romance novels. I just eat them up like that Red Velvet cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory (have you had that sinful dessert…it’s so obnoxiously amazing and no, they didn’t pay me to say that).
The fact that Leaving Paradise didn’t have a happily ever after (HEA for romance authors/readers), it really didn’t feel right to me. So for my own sanity I needed to “finish” Caleb and Maggie’s story so Return to Paradise is the sequel and last one in that series. For Perfect Chemistry, I always wanted to write stories about all the Fuentes brothers (kind of like Julia Quinn did for her Bridgerton series – they were all SOOOOO good!). I think I’m done with the How to Ruin series, which was such a fun series to write. Amy is such a diva and I loved putting her in ridiculous situations. My fans are eager for more of the characters they’ve falling in love with, but I do think there’s a time you have to say “bye” to characters and move on.
Perfect Chemistry has been your most successful novel, and it’s the first YA novel you wrote, but it took a while to get published. Can you share a little bit about this journey?
Perfect Chemistry was the second novel I wrote. My first novel was a historical romance novel that shall remain under my bed for all time. My previous agent sold my first three published novels, but I loved Perfect Chemistry and wanted her to submit it to publishers. She did submit it to a few, but then she lost interest in submitting it and said to work on other projects. I had such faith in Perfect Chemistry that I separated from my previous agent and signed with Kristin Nelson from Nelson Literary who loved the novel. She submitted it to editors and Emily Easton from Walker Books loved the story. The pre-sales weren’t that great for the book, but the reader response was overwhelming and now I think there’s over 100,000 copies sold.
If you had to create a playlist for Rules of Attraction, what would be on it?
Funny you should ask that question because a song list will be posted on http://www.perfectchemistrythebook.com/ next week. I already have a song list for Perfect Chemistry on the site. Of course for the new song list I had to add the song "Hot N Cold" by Katy Perry because Katy Perry’s groom in that video, Alexander F. Rodriguez, played Alex Fuentes (the hero from Perfect Chemistry) in the book trailer I did – which was shot just like a movie trailer!
Can you describe your writing process? Any habits or routines?
I need peace and quiet, which is hard to get with two kids and two dogs (and one husband) so I rent an office space to get away. I write when my kids are in school and when they’re asleep. I really have no habits or routines, but my goal is to one day be organized.
As a speaker at schools, mom of two, and oh yeah, a prolific young adult author, how do you maintain a work-life balance?
I don’t. It’s super hard and I’m trying to figure it out as I go along. I don’t balance it well and hope that changes in the future. I want to be a great mom. I want to be a great author. I want to be a great wife. I want to be a great friend. I want to be the accessible author. I’m trying to do it all, but sometimes I really feel like I’m failing. Life is hectic. I’m not complaining, but I do envy those who are organized enough to balance it all without a hitch.
You wrote for five years before an agent signed you. Any advice for unpublished, unagented writers out there?
Never give up. Perfect your book and work on the craft of writing. If you have writers block, force yourself to get over it. Write realistic dialogue – write how you talk. A lot of times you sell your second or third book first, so move on and don’t be stuck on your first book. Keep it under your bed and sell at a later date – just move on! My bestselling novel Perfect Chemistry was the second book I ever wrote but the fourth book I sold.
I ask everyone this question, but I’m going to modify it for you: what are your desert island, all-time, top 5 teen movies?
The Cutting Edge
She’s The Man
The Sure Thing
(can I add another one?) Superbad
Coming up next week: a very highly-anticipated prequel. Hint: "say hello to your friends..."