Stephanie Parent is a YA author repped by Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major.
1. Can you describe Defy the Stars in a sentence?
Two teenagers from very different backgrounds are drawn to each other despite the many forces pulling them apart…but will their love save or destroy them?
2. What inspired you to write Defy the Stars?
I had written a previous novel in verse and received feedback from editors that it wasn’t “edgy” or dramatic enough for today’s YA market, so I knew I needed to go further in my next novel. Someone in the publishing industry actually suggested the idea of a modern Romeo and Juliet story involving drug addiction. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but then I reread the play and was struck by how well the “poison” in the original play correlated with modern drug use. I was also frustrated with several recent YA books that I think portray Romeo and Juliet in an overly simple, one-sided way, and I wanted to explore Shakespeare’s work in a deeper way.
3. I noticed on your site that you were a piano major and that Julia wishes to be the same, was that a planned similarity or something that sort of came about on it’s on?
I knew I wanted my main characters, Julia and Reed, to connect over a shared love of music. Since I play the piano and know it more intimately than any other instrument, it seemed like the most natural choice for her. So, yes, it was planned…but Julia is a MUCH more dedicated pianist than I ever was!
4. I actually listened to some of the classical music mentioned in the novel while reading, besides the classical pieces did you have any other musical inspiration?
That’s so cool that you listened to the pieces while reading! In addition to the classical music, I was inspired by two more recent songs: The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” for the first half of the novel, and Alice in Chains’ “Your Decision” for the last third or so.
5. Which was your favorite character from your novel?
I love Reed, and even though he’s a much smaller character, I actually really like Marc, Reed’s friend. I think I know a lot about Marc that didn’t fit into the story and thus didn’t make it onto the page. He was definitely one of the lighter characters in the novel, so it was always a relief to write his lines/actions in the midst of all the drama!
6. What is your favorite thing about being a writer? Are there any cons?
My favorite thing is hearing from readers—even little things, like you mentioning that you listened to the music referenced in the book, can totally make my day. Of course I love hearing that readers enjoyed my book, but I also like reading the more critical reviews—it’s just fascinating to see how each reader comes from a different place and gets different things out of the book. It will definitely make me a better writer in the future! As for the cons, the writing process itself can be incredibly difficult for me—sometimes it feels like banging my head against a brick wall! In addition, I think this is a really hard time to enter the writing business, especially writing YA—more books are being published than ever before, both from traditional publishers and indies. It makes it that much harder to stand out and find readers in a crowded market.
7. Some authors need things to help them write, like candles or music. Do you have any quirks that help your writing process?
I actually like to write with a TV show on in the background of my computer! It has to be a show I’ve watched before so I’m not too distracted, but having that extra noise rather than the gaping silence really helps me. Oddly enough, though, I can’t listen to music while writing, especially music with lyrics—I find that too distracting. I also like to give myself permission to take frequent breaks and surf the net while writing. It means the process takes longer, but it preserves my sanity a bit!
8. Do you like to plan out the story before writing or do you simply let it come on its own?
I try to plan out as much as I can before I start writing, but I do so only in my head without writing it down—having it written feels too restrictive. And I’ve never been able to plan the entire plot before writing a book—usually it takes me till I’m about halfway through to really figure out what I’m doing.
9. Other than writing what do you like to do in your free time?
I love to read, of course, and I also like to take walks while listening to audiobooks on my ipod. Since I live in LA, I love to go to the beach. Shopping is my guilty pleasure, and playing with my dogs is my non-guilty pleasure!
10. What are some of your favorite books?
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Local Girls by Alice Hoffman, and the Weetzie Bat books by Francesca Lia Block
11. If you could sit down and chat with any author (dead or alive) who would you choose?
Emily Bronte. I’d LOVE to meet the woman who wrote such a strange, unique, disturbing and darkly romantic love story, at such a young age, at a time when very few women were writing at all.
12. Do you have an advice for aspiring writers?
This is going to sound odd, but…my advice is actually to remember you don’t have to take every piece of advice you’re given. If you find a writing process that works for you, you should feel confident enough to stick with even if other people tell you it’s not the “right” way. And while every writer has to learn to take criticism, you also have to decide which criticism is helpful to you and which isn’t. If you tried to revise a book to please every single reader, you could spend your entire life editing and rewriting and never finish.
Those were some fantastic answers and I love your advice Stephaine. Thanks once again for taking the time to answer a few of my questions! Also! As a treat for my readers Stephaine has agreed to let me host an awesome giveaway! What’s the prize you ask? Well it’s an ebook copy of Defy the Stars and a $5 Amazon gift card!
Entry is easy, just fill out the form below and you are done! The only mandatory option is your email address to contact you if you win. This is International and will end on September 4th, 2012. Only one entry per person please.