Interview: Nova Ren Suma, YA Author

color_on_roof_border_highNova Ren Suma is the author of IMAGINARY GIRLS and DANI NOIR (aka FADE OUT). She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, and Yaddo. She grew up in small towns across the Hudson Valley and can currently be found in New York City. Her newest novel, 17 & GONE, is forthcoming March 21, 2013, from Dutton/Penguin, i.e. TOMORROW! Click here to buy!

17&Gone_300Let’s see how Nova answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
Those few moments after writing the perfect chapter, page, or paragraph, when your heart is beating from the wild intensity of it and you feel accomplished and content and fully alive… however long those moments last, before the inevitable doubts set in.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
I go through cycles in which I love a song to death and basically kill it by playing it on repeat for weeks, even months, on end while I write to it. In order to see which song I most destroyed this way out of all the songs in my music library, I checked the “Top 25 Most Played” songs in iTunes. It’s Stars by the xx, which was one of the songs on the 17 & GONE writing playlist. I first discovered this song through my little sister, who opened my eyes to the xx years ago. I get the best music from her.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Public speaking.

On what occasion do you lie?
When asked how I am. So I pretty much lie every day.

What is your present state of mind?
As I type this, my new book, 17 & GONE, is coming out in about a month, so my state of mind is a little disconcerting. Mostly it’s anxiety, dread, and doomsday scenarios laced with childlike excitement and smiley giddiness. Talk to me after, and I hope to be much calmer and more myself.

What is your motto?
Life isn’t worth living unless you follow your dreams. I’d rather be an extraordinary failure who at least tried to reach her greatest dreams in life than an ordinary, even content person who makes excuses and never bothers to try.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
Trustworthiness. If I can’t trust someone, I don’t count them as a true friend.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I have to scan my manuscripts to remove instances of the words “just” or “only.” In conversation, I tend to say “awesome” a lot, even when things aren’t even approaching any level of awesome. It’s annoying, even disingenuous, and I wish I could stop.

Your favorite painting?
This doesn’t seem at all like me—because it’s a religious painting, and because it’s in shades of brown, and I don’t much like the color brown—but there’s this painting that has intrigued me for years. I wouldn’t say it’s a favorite, more an obsession. The painting is Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage. I must have seen it in a museum somewhere, and I bought a print of it, which hung on my wall for years. I think it’s the expression on her face, the haunted look in her eyes, and her reaching arm. It also looks like she’s standing in the backyard of a house I remember from Woodstock, New York, my hometown. So in a way, it feels more like a memory of something I witnessed than a painting viewed in a gilt frame in a museum.

Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879

Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879

What is your favorite journey?
The one taken while writing a novel.

What is your favorite time of day?
I am going to be very specific. 11:11 a.m.
I especially like when I happen to look up at a clock, accidentally, and see it’s exactly that time.

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
My literary heroines are always the writers who create the characters, not the characters themselves. I wish I could have shared a coffee in a Paris café with Jean Rhys. Reading her work in my early twenties transformed my writing.

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
This is something I came to realize very recently. I’ve achieved what I wanted. I reached my dreams. I wrote and published the novel of my heart (IMAGINARY GIRLS, a book written for my beloved little sister), and I was able to spend time being a full-time writer and living in my favorite neighborhood in the world, Greenwich Village, with someone I love most in the world, my husband. It’s all I wanted out of life. I don’t need to collect more objects or own property or start a family or win awards or get famous or even publish more books. The truth is, when I am deeply honest with myself, I can see that I did what I set out to do. If a meteor struck me tomorrow, wouldn’t I die happy? I think so.

Who or what is your first love?
His name starts with an E. I met him when I was a teenager, and we are still together—nineteen years later.

What’s the last dream you remember?
This was two mornings ago. It was the end of the world, or some kind of disaster in the city, and E and I were running through a maze of streets. He got up ahead and I was trying to follow. He was wearing a white T-shirt, but I lost sight of him. I lost him. And I spent the rest of the dream looking for anyone in a white T-shirt, needing to catch up to him, needing to find him. When I woke up, I was so relieved he was there beside me in the bed.

What’s your madeleine?
Driving in a car at night while it rains. I’m in the backseat, my cheek pressed against the cool window, and outside is the pounding, rhythmic sound of a rainstorm. We drive through it. We don’t stop. A shiver crawls up my back, and I close my eyes.

This is something that happened a few times during my childhood. It reminds me of feeling safe.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?
Possibility.

Interview: Deana Barnhart, YA Writer

Deana (404x800)

Deana Barnhart considers herself a teenager stuck in the body of a thirty-four year old (next mth). She writes YA books to fill the void and is represented by Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, LTD.

When she’s not pounding out stories on the computer, she’s chasing her two kids around, has her nose stuck in a book, or is packing boxes for yet another move. At the moment, she resides in Alabama, with her husband, children and bat-looking dog. She’s unsure where the winds will blow her next, and she’s fine with that, as long as she gets to settle down before she grows up.

Her current project is a YA sci-fi called RIPPLE, and she has a couple of other stories that are in different stages of being written. More information can be found on them here.

Let’s see how Deana answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
To me, happiness is in the simple things. Like having movie night at home with my family instead of going out on a Friday. Or waking up at three in the morning to watch a meteor shower with my husband because he’s nerdy like that. And it’s definitely when one of my kids asks me for advice and I wing it because I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. These are the moments when I’m overcome by how utterly, beautifully, perfect this whole imperfect life is. Go figure.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
That changes daily! My very first favorite song was Purple Rain by Prince. And yes, I had the record.I think my current favorite is Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis!! I heard it for the first time last night. I loved it so much I drove around by myself, dancing like a fool in the minivan until it was over. My kids would have been so proud.

If you haven’t heard the phrase, I’m gonna pop some tags…GO. LISTEN. And be changed forever! 

Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be able to skateboard. And I’m talking pro moves.

On what occasion do you lie?
I don’t know if you’d call it a lie, but I tend to round down when I tell my husband how much I spent shopping. So $59.99 becomes $50.00 ;-/

What is your present state of mind?
Focused with a touch of frazzle.

What is your motto?
Relax, I’m hilarious…and yes, I have the t-shirt.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
They know and respect that I’m an introvert, but still pull me out of my shell when it’s called for. Would that character trait be intuitive?

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
so
freakin’
nuh uh
homecheese

Your favorite painting?
I kind of fell in love with Van Gogh’s life in college, so I have a special place in my heart for his work. I’d say my favorite of his is, Sorrowing Old Man (“At Eternity’s Gate”).

Sorrowing Old Man ('At Eternity's Gate') Vincent van Gogh, 1890

Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’)
Vincent van Gogh, 1890

What is your favorite journey?
The one I have ahead of me.

What is your favorite time of day?
Right after I put the kids to bed. I can still look at their cute little faces and be grateful they’re mine, but all is quiet once more.

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
Roland Deschain. And make that a Diet Pepsi please :)

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
To know that my family would continue on and live their lives to the fullest.

Who or what is your first love?
Homemade Buckeyes. They’re heaven sent I tell you!

What’s the last dream you remember?
It’s kind of embarrassing to say, but I’m in the middle of revisions (in real life, not the dream) and I tend to dream about the things I obsess over during the day. So, in the dream I meet my agent, Sarah LaPolla at an amusement park. It’s our first meeting in person and I’ve got this huge stack of revisions with me. So naturally we jump on a roller coaster to look them over.

What’s your madeleine?
Travelling in the middle of the night. When I was a kid we moved around A LOT. My dad preferred to travel to our new destinations in the middle of the night. Not to run from the cops or anything, but so his four kids would sleep…at least that’s what he told us:) When we’d wake up the next morning, we’d be in this new place ready to start an adventure. I always hated going to new schools, but that first moment, arriving, was magical!

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?
Meaningful.