Monday, October 14, 2013

Author interview: Elena Perez

Today I’d like to welcome Elena Perez, author of the YA novel, The Art of Disappearing, to my blog today. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to sit down and compile a Q & A, so I’m super thrilled to have Elena stop by on my blog.

In this interview, I chat to Elena about issues such as identity in YA (Her book, The Art of Disappearing, is very much centred around this theme), ask for an introduction to some of the characters featured in her as well as sharing a sneak peek from the book.

But, before we kick off, here’s some more information about the book (How awesome is the cover by the way?). 


About The Art of Disappearing
Delia can see the future . . . but can she change it?

All Delia wants is to be popular. She has the perfect plan: join the cheerleading squad with her best friend, Ava, and rule the school from the coolest table in the cafeteria.

But everything changes the day she watches a boy die—before it actually happens.

After dreaming about a classmate’s demise, she’s shocked when she witnesses his last breath—just like she dreamt it.

Ava insists Delia stop acting so strange, but Delia worries her abilities are beyond her control.

Torn between who she is and who she wants to be, Delia wishes she could simply disappear.
 
She doesn’t get her wish, but when someone close to her vanishes, Delia must use her gift to solve the mystery, before it’s too late.

Add The Art of Disappearing to your Goodreads TBR pile.


Q & A with Elena
Q: The Art of Disappearing is about a young girl who finds herself struggling to find her identity.

What do you think it is about this theme that makes it so relatable amongst readers, particularly the YA audience?

 
Well, it’s something we all go through in varying degrees. And it becomes excruciatingly important during those years when we first begin to really manage our own time. Initially our parents are shuffling us from here to there, we’re taking the bus to school and back, it’s all kind of programmed for us.

But then, suddenly, we’re old enough to start choosing where we go, who we spend our time with.

We’re making all of these decisions that might seem small, but they ultimately add up to votes for who we’re choosing to be. That’s why it can be such a nightmare to chose between one activity or another, one friend or another. It really does have huge repercussions.

Q: I’m always interested in hearing about how the character and the character’s voice came to the author. Can you tell us a little bit about the moment Delia first introduced herself to you?

The minute Delia came to me, I knew she was a girl on the cusp, on the edge of being edgy. It was like there was potential within her to be something more than she needed, but the spark hadn’t arrived yet.

I knew that spark would occur the moment the novel began and that the rest of the novel would involve her coping with that disruption, navigating a new sense of self.

Q:  It goes without saying that characters who battle with finding themselves often go through a tremendous amount of discomfort during their transition.

Could you perhaps give us a little insight into some of Delia’s most difficult moments?

The story has its fair share of tragic and chilling moments for Delia, but those that were ultimately the most difficult were rooted in betrayal.

I think we all begin to understand at an early age, unfortunately, that you can’t get through life pain-free. But when the source of that pain is someone you love and trust… that’s a much deeper level of hurt.

That’s the kind of experience Delia has with her best friend Ava. Their lives have suddenly diverged and neither of them know how to handle it so it gets really messy. And then it happens again later in the story, on a much bigger scale.

Both really uncomfortable moments for Delia, but they are also – as uncomfortable moments tend to be - enlightening.

Q: I believe that supporting characters are just as important to the story as the main protagonists are.

What do you think makes a great sidekick and can you introduce us to some of the other characters we’ll meet in The Art of Disappearing?


The best people that we align ourselves with offer trust, so we can feel comfortable enough to share who we really are.

But they also challenge us, using their unique point of view and the rare perspective they get from being so close in order to support us as we become who we really want to be.

In the beginning of The Art of Disappearing, Delia doesn’t quite understand who she is, or who she wants to be. And when she begins to figure it out, she discovers that she can’t trust her friends like she thought she could.

She’s forced to find it elsewhere, make other connections.

That’s where Zach comes in, Delia’s cousin. He grew up on the west coast with Delia’s aunt – a frazzled version of Delia’s mom – and is far more independent than Delia. When he comes to visit, they get to bond over their crazy family, but he also brings a new perspective with him that instantly expands Delia’s world.

In a lot of ways he provides Delia with the accessories for her new identity – music, fashion, attitude.

Delia also connects with another classmate named Regina – however unwilling – after she is banished from her core circle of friends. It’s not a perfect match; Delia’s hardly comfortable with Regina’s sarcasm and frank bitterness.

But what’s interesting about Regina is that she’s direct in a way that Ava (Delia’s best friend) hasn’t been. She doesn’t leave Delia guessing about her feelings and that’s something Delia can appreciate at a time when everything else is so unclear.

Q: Love triangles in contemporary YA: yay or nay?

There’s no cure for love triangles in real life, so I don’t imagine they’ll stop showing up in YA any time soon.

The challenge is bringing a new approach to the table. And there are a ton of great writers writing now, so hopefully something will bubble up soon that scratches the itch for love triangles in a way that surprises us all.

Q: What themes would you like to see more explored in the YA genre?


After such a long stretch of magic, vampires and other paranormal, there’s a big push for realistic fiction right now. I’m excited about that because it opens the door to explore our current world – which is kind of crazy and weird in its own right. 

I’d like to see something that meaningfully and emotionally explores the rapid-fire change around us. I don’t mean a book that does a good job of including texting or Facebook in the narrative. Something further out there. If I knew what it was, I’d be working on it. ;)

Q: What song do you think describes The Art of Disappearing best? (Please feel free to elaborate on the music that were inspiring to you during your writing process)

I absolutely count on music as a source of inspiration for my writing. It’s huge for me. And the same is true for Delia. In The Art of Disappearing, Delia discovers a band that totally inspires her.

It’s a fictional band, The Angrists, but their song served as a source of inspiration for me as I wrote.

Another thing that might not be really evident is that The Art of Disappearing plays out in the 90’s.

I didn’t write it as a period piece, but I really wanted to explore the way music used to be discovered – you’d see an obscure t-shirt of a band and could go days or weeks or months before you actually heard the band. Agh!

So different than now.  So I listened to The Cure’s Disintegration a lot while writing this. It was released in ’89 and, for me, the songs on this album are like a time machine right to the early 90’s.

Q: What’s the best part of being a writer and what’s the hardest part?

The best part is the experience of connecting with readers. After I spent so much time and thought getting to know Delia Dark and her world, the ability to share it with others is nothing less than exhilarating.

I love hearing from readers on GoodReads, or Twitter or Facebook, wherever.

The hardest part? Bad writing days for sure. At best, writing is a magical experience wherein the words seem to flow so easily that I wonder if my hands are just outputting work my brain has already done long ago. It can be totally surreal and mind-blowing.

Other times, I get stuck and it’s about as awesome as chewing on glass. Ouch. But I love doing it, so I keep chewing through the disappointment until it starts to flow again.  I just keep going. 

Q: Finally, could you share a snippet of your favourite scene from The Art of Disappearing?


Tough pick! I’m going for one that won’t include any spoilers. This is a scene where Delia and Zach are walking home together and Delia, currently obsessing about her seemingly psychic powers and the responsibility that comes with them, is trying to get some input from Zach.

Except he’s all-science, all-the-time. Here goes:

We walked a bit before I finally asked, “What’s so cool about physics?”

Zach thought for a minute. “The certainty. There are laws of physics? Every time it’s, ‘If you do that, then this happens.’ ‘If you do this, then—’”
 

“That happens,” I answered automatically.

“Exactly. I like knowing how things are supposed to turn out.”

“Except they don’t always turn out the way they are supposed to.”

“In physics they do.”

“But not in life they don’t.” I could have given him a bunch of examples, all starting from that day at cheerleading tryouts, but instead I asked, “Do you think it’s possible to stop things from happening?”

“What things?”

I thought for a second. “Like, if you know something’s going to happen, do you think it’s possible to change it so that something else happens?”

“Depends. I’m not going to stop the earth from rotating but if I—” Zach slammed into me hard. I had to hop a step to keep from totally losing my balance.

“Hey!”

“If I push you, you move eeeasy.”

“You pushed hard.”

“It was a scientific experiment, D. One object asserting force on another, changing its path. You can’t get mad at me for that.”


A huge, huge thanks Elena for taking the time out to stop by on my blog and to answer my questions.
 

About Elena:
Elena Perez was born and raised in New Jersey; Elena discovered a love for writing early on.
She majored in English as an undergrad and was then awarded a graduate fellowship in Creative Writing at Temple University.

She lived in Philadelphia while she completed her M.A. and taught writing courses—an experience that she still cherishes—until she decided to make the long-anticipated leap to New York City.

Today Elena lives on NYC’s Lower East Side and is currently working on her next novel. Follow her on twitter @elenabooks or visit her website: www.elenaperezbooks.com.

You can also check her out on Goodreads.

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