Toni interviews Alexandra Diaz

March 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm (Author Interview) (, )

Alexandra Diaz, photo credit Owen Benson

Ninth grader Toni was one of the first students to scoop up Alexandra Diaz’s debut novel, Of All the Stupid Things. Ms. Blakemore just happened to have met Ms. Diaz at the YALSA Teen Lit Symposium (and even got a ride to dinner in Alexandra’s supercool pickup truck). Alexandra graciously agreed to have Toni interview her for our AuthorView blog.

Toni: I found that when I started reading this book I couldn’t put it down. I loved it, The characters in the book made me think of how me and my friends are. I can relate to some of the things that they went through in the book. I have a few questions for you though. Where did you get the idea to have the book switch to the points of view of each of the three main people in the book

AD: From the start I wanted to write a book from three perspectives; that’s how the story came to me. I liked the idea of each girl having her own story and also different points of view regard the same thing. I initially thought it would be too difficult and that I wouldn’t be able to make them sound different but I decided to try anyway. Once I got to know the characters writing their different voices was pretty easy.

Toni: When you were writing the book what made you think of making Tara be the one to get the feelings she did for another girl, Was it the because of all the problems she was having with guys?

AD: The general idea for the book pretty much came to me one evening. I knew Brent was going to cheat on Tara and I wanted someone to have a lesbian relationship. It felt right to have that be Tara between her personality and her journey. I couldn’t see Pinkie or Whitney Blaire with a girl (WB maybe, but it’d have to be a dare or her really drunk). However, I don’t think having problems with guys was the real reason Tara fell for Riley, though it did play a factor. I think she would have been attracted to Riley regardless of how she was treated, but the fact that she wasn’t with Brent anymore allowed her to better explore these feelings for Riley. In one draft, Tara and Brent were still together when she got mesmerized by Riley.

Having an absent father was something I thought of later and again just seemed to work with Tara’s journey.  Even through the ups and downs, Tara is a strong character and goes for what she wants. She would have found a way to be with Riley regardless of her personal dilemmas.

Toni: I realized that the book has to do with problems you could have with friendship, love, and family. What is the main reason you wrote a book that had to do with friendship , love, and family? Was it because these are some of the things that teenagers may go through or is there another reason?

AD: I wanted the book to have a little bit of everything and I certainly didn’t want it to be an “issue” novel. I personally never saw it as a “gay” book but rather a book where sexuality is explored and accepted. Being a lesbian doesn’t make Tara who she is, but rather it’s just one of the many aspects of her personality.  Yes, it is a book about friendship, family, and love; that was my intention. I knew teens (and older audiences as well) could relate to these topics and hopefully relate to one or all of the girls. I also wanted to have a fun, pacy read and not something heavy and dense. I’m a big believer of writing what I want to read.

Toni: I realized while reading the book that Pinkie is the one that is kinda uptight and always wanting to know what going on with the other two now what made you think if having one of them being that way?

AD: Yes, Pinkie can be over the top sometimes with her worry. That was exactly how I wanted her to be (believe it or not, she’s actually toned down from how she originally was!). From the evening I got the idea, I wanted three very different girls: the athletic one, the brainy one, and the drama queen. But I wasn’t happy with Pinkie just being book smart, she needed more depth and that’s where her anxiety came in. The loss of her mama at a young age helped fuel that. She was also the easiest to write; I just greatly exaggerated and multiplied the “what ifs” that already cross my head.

Thanks to Toni and Alexandra for a great interview. If you want to read Of All the Stupid Things, come to the library to check out a copy.


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Brandon interviews Allen Zadoff

December 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm (Author Interview) (, )

When Brandon, a junior, read Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff, he thought it was a great read: “I kept saying ‘I have to keep reading, I want to know what he does next!'” So, the WHS Library put him in contact with Mr. Zadoff. Brandon came up with great questions, and Mr. Zadoff has wonderful responses. Enjoy!

Q. When did you originally come up with the idea for Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have?

The idea is based on something that really happened to me in high school. One day my gym teacher (who was also the football coach) asked if I’d ever thought about trying out for the team.  I told him, “No way!” Many years later I thought about that day and wondered, “What would have happened if I’d said yes?  Would my whole life have been different?”  That was the beginning of the novel FOOD, GIRLS.

Q. I can easily relate myself to some of the experiences Andy has in his high school career, can you?

I can relate to everything! All of my writing is inspired by real experiences, or at least real feelings I’ve had in my life.

spoiler alert!
Q. My favorite part of the book was when Andy finally asked Nancy on a date at the end of the book, what was your favorite part?

I love that part, too. I wanted Andy to maybe find love, but he needed to grow up a little first. Remember, he hated Nancy Yee at the beginning of the story because he couldn’t see that she was really the most authentic person he knew. Fame was more important to him than being real.  I can relate.

end spoiler!

Q. Did Andy’s “broken home” life come from a bad home life that you had yourself?

My home life wasn’t exactly broken–my parents stayed together for 43 years–but it often felt like war in my house, particularly during my teen years.  Despite having our family together, I felt very much alone.  Physical presence is not the same thing as emotional connection.  So it’s easy for me to imagine and write about fighting parents, separated parents, divided families, and the hunger to be together as a family because I felt that hunger myself.

Q. I found this book incredibly difficult to put down, in about 3 days with only short periods to read i finished it, what is your favorite book that you haven’t seemed to be able to put down?

I’m glad you couldn’t put it down.  I love when that happens to me. I get sucked into a book so hard that I can’t stop reading, even though I’m exhausted, my back aches, and my eyes hurt. The last book to do that to me was probably The Hunger Games.

Q. Do you have any form of continuation of this book in mind? I know I’m wishing for more detail into how Andy continues his high school life.

A sequel to FOOD, GIRLS? That’s a great idea. I want to know what happens to Andy and Nancy and O. and April.  I’m going to tell my publisher!

Q. Andy seemed to have been pressured into drinking and other things, were you ever peer-pressured into things of that sort?

I felt pressure a lot of the time, but I’m not sure if it was coming from other people or coming from inside myself.  Because I was a fat kid, I wanted to look and act normal, but I always stood out from the crowd. It made me feel like an alien, and I hated it.  Today I look back and think, “So what if you were different? Everyone is different in their own way. It’s not a bad thing.”  But I didn’t know that then.  There was a lot of pressure to fit in.

Q. If you could give Andy any advice about how to get through high school, what would it be?

I would say high school is not the real world–it’s an intense experience, but it’s actually a short one. You have a lot of life and a lot of experiences yet to come. So try to relax, don’t worry so much, and keep going.

My favorite times in high school were when I was acting and I could pretend to be someone else.  I did a lot of plays in high school and fell in love with the theater. That’s what my next book is about. It’s called MY LIFE, THE THEATER, AND OTHER TRAGEDIES. So one other piece of advice would be to find something you love and make friends with other people who love it. That’s the way I found my “group”.

Q. Did you have any struggles with what to write when writing this book?

Writing this book was a lot of fun, but any story has struggles.  I knew how FOOD, GIRLS began and ended, but the middle gave me some trouble.  Writing a novel is a little like doing anything in life. You start out filled with energy, you run into some problems along the way, maybe you want to quit, but if you keep going, you eventually get through it and you’re so glad you did.

Q. And lastly, what was your biggest struggle you had in high school?

My biggest struggle was with my weight and the way it made me feel about myself. At the time, I didn’t know that guys could struggle with food or eating disorders and I didn’t know there was help for me.  I spent a lot of high school feeling alone, when really I wasn’t alone at all.  I just didn’t know it.  That’s part of why I write–I try and tell the truth about what goes on inside my head so maybe other people will feel less alone when they read it.

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Aprilynne Pike interviewed by Melanie

May 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm (Author Interview) ()

Aprilynne Pike is the New York Times bestselling author of Wings and Spells, the first two installments of a four part series about about a seemingly ordinary girl with a not-so-ordinary destiny.

After reading Wings, Westbrook student Melanie had some questions for Aprilynne. You can read Melanie’s review at the Blue Blazes Book Blog. Here’s the interview:

M: How do you decide where to begin?

Beginnings are really difficult for me. Generally, the beginning of my story is 10-15 pages after I started writing! I delete a lot. I do try to start my stories with immediacy. Something happening, or a problem right of. I like to call that the inciting incident, and I like to see that in my first five pages. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I try! Sometimes it’s as much about starting at all as starting in the right place. You can always delete a bad beginning and start in the right place later. But if you never start at all, you won’t have a beginning at all!

M: What advice would to give to someone who wanted to become a writer?

Two things. First, read! The best writers are avid readers! I am a firm believer of this! You will learn as much about writing from reading regularly as from any writing class.

Secondly, even if you are not finishing projects, be writing, as often as possible. Then, writing becomes a way of life, even if you are not finishing novels. Once you get older I put on my stern look and start telling you to finish the book! But as a teen, I think it is just as important to be writing regularly and to get in that habit of being creative.
M: Where do you get your ideas?
From the idea store.

No really. I tend to get my ideas when I am not trying so hard. When my mind is relaxed and can flow freely. I get lots of my ideas in the tub or shower, or just as I am falling asleep or waking up, because my brain is at rest.

M: How old were you when you first started writing?
I wrote my first “book” when I was in first grade. It was about a fairy princess and flying horses and was probably twenty words long.:D I have been writing stories and snippets of stories ever since. I started the first full-length novel that I ever finished when I was 22. Quite a journey!

Thank you Aprilynne Pike!

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Sarah Ockler interviewed by Christine

November 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm (Author Interview) ()

Our very first interview subject is Sarah Ockler, the author of Twenty Boy Summer.

Sarah Ockler wrote and illustrated her first book at age six—an adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. Still recovering from her own adolescence, she now writes books for young adults. Sarah has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of New York at Buffalo and also studied creative writing through Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Visit her on the web at

Christine, a senior at Westbrook, recently asked Sarah a few questions about writing.

C: How old were you when you started writing?

SO: I started writing short little poems and stories when I was about 4 or 5 — pretty much as soon as I could read.

C: Why did writing appeal to you?
SO: I loved books and I loved that I could create stories, people, and places with words. It was a way to imagine and escape into entirely different worlds. Writing still appeals to me now, thirty some years later, for the same reasons.
C: I love how the book starts off with Matt and Anna are in love and sneaking around, it makes me wonder how often it happens in life. Has anything like this happened to you?

SO: Yes. But everyone kind of figured it out once we sent out the wedding invitations. 🙂 It was fun having a secret for a while, though! On a more serious note, I bet this happens a lot in life. So many times people hide their feelings from one another — often even from close friends and loved ones — because we fear judgment. We think others won’t understand or they won’t be supportive, or, as in Anna’s case, that another person might be unintentionally hurt. Secrets like that can be just as painful as they are exciting or light-hearted. I don’t think a relationship could sustain that kind of secrecy for very long! People always suspect, especially when they catch you smooching on the subway. I mean, wait, never mind… 😉

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Christine, and best of luck with the Westbrook Marching Band this year!

Thank you, Sarah, for being our first interviewee!

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What Makes a Good Story?

November 3, 2009 at 12:41 am (Group Question) ()

In The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes “What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.”

In this spirit, Ms. Blakemore, on behalf of AuthorView, asked some YA authors what they think makes a good story. Here’s what they said.

Everything gets broken- only some of it gets fixed. Saundra Mitchell, author of Shadowed Summer

One that makes you think or see the world in a different way. Sydney Salter, author of My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters

Someone you care about very much desperately wants something and can’t have it. C. Lee McKenzie, author of Sliding on the Edge

Any story that lingers long after we turn the last page… Michelle Zink, author of The Prophesy of the Sisters

Most anything that is real and true in the deeper sense (even if it is fantasy.) Cheryl Renee Herbsman, author of Breathing

A story that is unafraid of the truth that everyone laughs, everyone cries, everyone has triumphs and despicable moments and everyone, eventually, dies. Jennifer Jabaley, author of Hate List

For me, stories revolve around a question that needs an answer. Jennifer Hubbard, author of The Secret Year (coming 2010)

A story with a lot of emotional Truth — where either the characters, or the author (or both!), are not afraid to go deep and maybe uncover what is not so pretty, what nobody wants to talk about, or what you’re supposed to keep behind closed doors. Those are the stories that make me sit up and take notice. Neesha Meminger, author of Shine, Coconut Moon

A good story leaves room for questions. Megan Frazer, author of Secrets of Truth & Beauty

The anticipation of a kiss! Whether or not the kiss actually happens is another matter. Sarah Quigley, author of TMI

Something you can relate to, no matter how small. Erin Dionne, author of Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies

What do you think makes a good story?

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Welcome to AuthorView!

October 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm (Information)

AuthorView is a new blog from the Westbrook High School Library. Students will interview authors about their lives and their work, and those interviews will be shared here.

If you are a Westbrook High School student interested in participating, please see the guidelines.

If you are an author interested in being interviewed, please email the librarian, Ms. Blakemore.

If you are a reader who wants to see what others have to say, check back soon!

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