Harmony Book Reviews

Interview with Alexa Young

Posted on: May 31, 2008

Have you always wanted to be a writer? If not, what made you decide to be one?
I’ve always loved writing. My mom recently gave me one of the first books I ever wrote. It was called THE YELLOW KITTEN and it was about a cat who desperately wanted to dye her blond fur black so she could ride on a witch’s broom with all the other black cats on Halloween. My mom was convinced it was allegorical, based on the fact that I was the only blond in a family of brunettes. 🙂 Um, yeah. Anyway…I think I did always want to be a writer, I was just never sure I was any good at it. But when I got to college, I was required to take five quarters of Humanities, and the papers assigned in those courses were notoriously brutal. I worked my butt off to write the best first paper I could. The rumor was that nobody ever got more than a C, but I got an A. I immediately changed my major from psychology to Literature/Writing. That was the beginning of it all, I suppose.

What was your road to publication like? Was it harder or easier than you expected?
I had a much easier time getting a book deal than most authors do—and I’m incredibly grateful for that. Basically, an editor I’d met a few times contacted me out of the blue in January 2007 and asked me if I’d like to try my hand at teen fiction. My response? Uh…YEAH! Several other writers were in the running, but somehow the spec chapter I wrote wound up impressing the right people. Within a few weeks I had a four-book fiction deal! Then the real work began—and no, it was not easy, but I didn’t really expect it to be. I worked very closely with a few different editors who helped me develop the plot and my voice and the characters and all that good stuff. Alas, after writing the entire first draft (the actual writing took about three or four months), we decided it sucked and needed to be completely rewritten. DOH! I was worried it was all my fault, but the editors actually took most of the blame and then we set about creating a stronger plot, more defined characters, and just a better concept overall. I wrote the second draft in a few months, and it was definitely better…but not quite there yet. We wound up pulling some stuff from the first draft, using about half of the second draft, and then I took a few more months to re-write what everybody now knows as FRENEMIES—the book HarperTeen is calling “the debut of a hilarious voice in teen fiction and the beginning of an exciting new series.” 🙂

What’s your writing process like? Do you outline thoroughly or just wing it?
First, I pitch some plot ideas to my editors. They tell me all my ideas are horrid and come up with what they feel is a better plot. I throw a few more ideas back at them and sometimes they humor me and say they like them. Then, we all sit down and hammer out a thorough chapter outline. This process can take a while. I think we spent at least three months working on the outline for FRENEMIES and nearly four months working on the outline for the sequel, FAKETASTIC. You’d think all that work would make the writing of the actual book easier—and it does, to a degree—but there are still a whole lot of blank pages to fill. That’s when I start to wing it.

Of all the characters in Frenemies, who’s your favorite? Who are you most like?
I love them all for different reasons, otherwise I wouldn’t want to spend time with them and neither would my readers. But if I had to pick one, I’d say Tyler Brandon—Halley’s fifteen-year-old brother. I have a real soft spot for big brothers, and especially for super-geeks. 🙂 I think I’m most like Avalon (yes, the more annoying of the two protagonists!) in the sense that she’s a type-A control freak Capricorn (like yours truly). Then again, Halley is a huge music fan (and fan of cute lead singers)—which was me to an extreme growing up, so much that I wound up working in the music industry for six years (just like Halley’s mom). Halley is also a late-bloomer, as was I. Painfully so.

Are there any plans for a Frenemies movie? Who do you see portraying the characters if there was to be one?
Of course I’m hoping there will be a movie or a TV series based on the books, and I’m sure there are some very important people on both coasts working diligently on that as we speak. 🙂 But I have absolutely NO CLUE who would be young enough to play these characters. Dakota Fanning? Abigail Breslin? I’m assuming it would be complete unknowns who would subsequently hurtle to superstardom because of the fabulosity of being in a film or TV series based on my work. Yes, I’m just that awesome.

What can we expect there to be more of in the rest of the series? How many books do you have planned for the series?
Expect to see a lot more of the Style Snarks, plenty of deep, meaningful moments between Halley and Avalon (but are the moments real or faux? With a title like FAKETASTIC, you never know!), more fun with the Dead Romeos, including details on just how serious things are between Sofee and Wade, and more cheerleaders than you can shake a pom pom at. The plan is for there to be four books in the series.

Halley’s best friend, as well as her crush, are in a band. Were you ever in a band as a teen? What are some of your favorite bands?
Ha. No, I was never in a band. That would have been seriously tragic. I did do quite a bit of lip-syncing in my day though. And I have sung in public a few times, but completely as a joke; some of my biggest karaoke hits include “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, anything by the Cranberries, “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond (my brother and I recently performed a modified version of this at our dad’s birthday party; the crowd went wild!). I have so many favorite bands. I really love U2, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Keane, Travis (the band from Scotland—not a country artist), Lifehouse, cheesy eighties hair bands. I just heard a Toad the Wet Sprocket song on the radio for the first time in ages today and it took me back to my college days. I loved that band. And Cake. And Jellyfish. Man, somebody stop me…

What were some of your favorite books as a teen? What are some of your favorite books now?
When I was a teen, I was obsessed with Judy Blume, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, V.C. Andrews and all the cheesy Scholastic romance books (like Dreams Can Come True by Jane Claypool Miner). In the years since, I’ve gone through a major chick-lit phase (I love Jennifer Weiner, Helen Fielding, Melissa Bank, Rebecca Wells, Jane Green, Lisa Jewell…) and also cannot get enough of David Sedaris. Lately I’ve been reading as much YA as I have time for, including, but in no way limited to, authors like Taylor Morris, Carolyn Mackler, Melissa Walker, Tera Lynn Childs, Lisi Harrison, Sara Shepard, Sarah Dessen, Maureen Johnson, and the list goes on…

What’s one fact about you that most people don’t know?
During my freshman year of college at UCSD, I was crowned the Watermelon Queen. You’ll have to Google it to learn more. But that was the other time I sang in public: I changed the words to “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” and sang it right out in the middle of campus—just before dropping a watermelon from the top of a building. It was quite a hit.

What advice do you have for your teen readers?
You want me to give teens advice—like, on life? I’m assuming this is a trick question. Teen readers are far wiser than most adults I know, myself included, so I’m not even going to go there. Now, if you want me to offer some WRITING advice, that’s different. I think the best thing you can do, no matter what your age, is to find a mentor and/or critique partner. Your writing can’t improve if you don’t get some honest, constructive feedback from somebody who knows how to write—and write well. You could ask a teacher or librarian, or even contact some authors (who aren’t on deadline!) or get to know some people in a writing workshop. Getting criticism and making connections are both hugely important in this business.

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2 Responses to "Interview with Alexa Young"

Great interview–I have Frenemies at the top of my pile!

Loved this interview- Alexa is hilarious and awesome, and your questions rocked!!

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  • Megan: Just read LAST CHRISTMAS. I would SOOO reccomend it to people who havent even read the private series. It is soo good.The suspense was kiling me all t
  • Lola: Oh my gosh! i just finished it....i googled the song for i had never herd it before......may have been a mistake because it is in my head for taciturn
  • mais: heeeyyyy.... can anyonePLEASE give me the link or even send me the copy of the eighth book(revelation on my email because i cant find it anywhere for

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