Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview with Julie Kraut!

Julie Kraut, author of this summer's Slept Away and co-author of Hot Mess, took some time out for a FNC mini-interview. Julie's one of the funniest writers we know -- she's one of CollegeHumor's few female contributors, and she put that zany sense of humor into each page of Slept Away. Check out the interview below for Julie's thoughts on characters who don't wear pants, being on the other side of the publishing world, and why her writing is like pepper jack cheese.

About Slept Away: Laney Parker is a city girl through and through. For her,
summertime means stepping out of her itchy gray school uniform and into a season of tanning at rooftop swimming pools, brunching at sidewalk cafes, and—as soon as the parents leave for the Hamptons—partying at her classmates’ apartments. 
But this summer Laney’s mother has other plans for Laney. It’s called Camp Timber Trails and rustic doesn’t even begin to describe the un-air-conditioned log cabin nightmare. Laney is way out of her element—the in-crowd is anything but cool, popularity seems to be determined by swimming skills, and the activities seem more like boot camp than summer camp.
Splattered with tie dye fall out, stripped of her cell, and going through Diet Coke withdrawal, Laney is barely hanging on. Being declared the biggest loser of the bunk is one thing, but when she realizes her summer crush is untouchably uncrushable in the real world, she starts to wonder, can 
camp cool possibly translate to cool cool?
Summer camp might just turn this city girl’s world upside down! 

What was your creation process for Slept Away? Meaning, what was the original nugget that inspired the books – the characters, the setting, a certain scene or line of dialogue, the plot? How did it develop/evolve from there?
Because I still want a spot at the Thanksgiving dinner table, I won’t go into too much detail about this, but during a trip home, I found myself yelling down the stairs, “I swear I’m like the only person in this family who wears pants on a regular basis.”  And then I thought to myself, “What a ridiculous thing to say. I want the main character in my next book to say that.”  And that really was the little kernel of the idea that started the book. I outlined my ideas for Laney and her mother and not-at-all-step-father and made sure that the two adults never wore pants.

After I laid out this little trifecta of pantsless family dysfunction, it felt like the perfect set up for sending Laney to camp. After ten years (No wait, more—ah, when did I get this old?) of reminiscing about my summers at camp, I was ready to step back and somehow turn my collection of memories into a story.  While Slept Away isn’t the love letter to sleep away camp I’d write if I were telling my own story, writing the book still allowed me to rehash many of my summer experiences and had the added bonus of prompting me to Facebook stalk some of my former camp friends and get in touch.
Slept Away includes many pop culture references and current slang. How did you get the teen voice right?
When people used to ask me this question, I’d say something like, “You know how we all have that inner teenager that we hide when we’re faking being adults?  Well, I just stop faking when I write.”  But then I realized that no one ever answered, “Yeah, I totally know what you mean.”  So, maybe everyone else isn’t faking this adult thing, huh? Anyway, I am and that’s what I do and how I get the teen voice.
What do you see as your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as a writer?
Not sure what my greatest of each is.  But here’s my top three for both:
My weaknesses: Endings
Author photos
My strengths: Deadlines
You’ve also been on the other side of the publishing world, working for Random House. How has the knowledge you gained from that helped you as a writer?
Being on “the other side of the desk” is such a different experience from working at a publishing house. Still, I was really surprised by how new everything felt publishing my own book when I’d been in the industry for a few years. There’s so much more emotion involved when it’s your book and that can change your perspective a lot. That being said, understanding the business has helped in terms of managing expectations, anticipating the process, and digesting the sales and marketing information.
Lastly, you said in your website bio that you love cheese. If you could compare your writing style to a type of cheese, what would it be and why?
This might be one of my favorite interview questions of all time!  But also, kind of a toughie.  Picking just one cheese…hmmm…ok, I think I’ve got it. I’d like to think of my writing as fun reading with a line every page or two that’ll make you giggle to yourself. So, I guess I’d go with pepper jack.  It’s delicious all the way through with little nuggets of heat that make it even yummier.

Want more Julie? Check out her website and purchase Slept Away on Amazon!
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