Author Samantha Schutz's new PUSH novel You Are Not Here was published in October 2010. To celebrate its release, Samantha is hosting an awesome photo contest and three winners will receive personalized/signed copies of You Are Not Here and her first book, I Don't Want to Be Crazy. More information about the contest can be found here
In January 2008, I read Samantha's I Don't Want to Be Crazy and I instantly became a fan. I am thrilled that she is participating in my PUSH feature. Visit her website at http://samanthaschutz.net
Q: Can you describe your experience having your first book I Don't Want to Be Crazy published by PUSH?
A: AWESOME! When I was getting ready to pitch I Don't Want to Be Crazy to publishers, I did a lot of research on who was publishing what in the YA world. PUSH was my absolute first choice. I was really impressed with what David Levithan, the editor, was doing. And I knew that IDWTBC would fit really well into the PUSH program.
Q: Where is your favorite place to write? Do you participate in writing circles or workshops?
A: For IDWTBC and my new book, You Are Not Here, I worked quite a bit at home, but that was really hard. I’m easily distracted and having my bed and the TV so close by was not easy. So, a lot of the time, I would pack up all my stuff and head to a café. Cafes are pretty productive places for me. But the best and most intense work I’ve done has been when I was somewhat isolated. I think it’s important for me to be away from distractions—especially the internet. I have not been in a writing workshop since college. I do, however, share bits of my manuscript or even first drafts with a few close friends or my sister for some initial feedback.
Q: How did you experience writing your first novel, You Are Not Here, differ from writing I Don't Want to Be Crazy which was a memoir?
A: IT WAS SO DIFFERENT! In IDWTBC, I knew the story, the characters, the setting, the ending. But when I started developing YANH, all I knew was that there was a teenage girl whose boyfriend died and is buried very close to her house. That was it. That was all I had. At times, it was scary to think that every moment — every word — had to come from somewhere inside my brain. I have some friends who write fiction and they think that all those possibilities are freeing (and that writing a memoir would be considerably harder), but it was the opposite for me. One nice surprise, though, was how much I found I could draw on my own experiences. A good bit of what’s in YANH is based on actual events — just twisted around and reworked. (I think this is sort of a “duh” moment, but since I had never tried fiction, it didn’t occur to me how much I could draw from real life.)
Q: Some of my favorite books are written as narrative poetry, You Remind Me of You by Eireann Corrigan and Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. Before you began writing, was it your intention to write books in poetry format? Do you have any influences?
A: This is how I’ve always written. When I was younger I was an avid journal writer and my writing never really came out in complete sentences — more like fragments. But as the years have gone by, I’ve learned to play with the format more. Writing in verse gives me the opportunity to lead the reader in a way that’s more aggressive than traditional prose. By changing the line breaks or the way the words are spaced out, I can give a different effect. I can really stress something. Or I can lead a reader to think one thing, and then have it revealed as another when you read the next line. I get to be tricky.
Another great thing about writing a novel in verse is how spare I can be. And I often try to use as few words as possible. Writing in verse allows me to cut out all the fat and just get to the meat — the emotions — of the story.
As for influences: Erica Jong, Anais Nin, Dorothy Parker, Sylvia Plath. And those are just the women…
Q: Searching for new books to read is a small part of my love for books. What are some determining factors when you are selecting new books to read? Current favorites?
A: A unique concept is what really draws me in. For example, Room by Emma Donoghue is told from the point of view of a five-year-old boy that has been held hostage in a single room with his mother since his birth (the mother was kidnapped several years prior). His mother never tells him that they are being held hostage, so to this little boy, “room” is the entire world. I read the jacket copy and was SOLD!
Q: Do you judge a book by its cover?
A: Yes. It’s hard not to. When you’re in a crowded bookstore or library, first impressions are really all you have to go on. And I suppose I am doubly biased because I am also a children’s book editor. My standards are extra-high. However, if someone recommended a book to me and it didn’t have a great cover, that wouldn’t prevent me from reading it.
Q: The blogging community is growing daily. What influences do you think bloggers have on writers?
A: I’m not sure that blogging is influencing what writers write. However, there are loads of incredible indirect influences. For example, authors have so many more opportunities to give interviews and do “appearances,” host contests, etc. Also, one of the most incredible benefits is how easily fans and authors can connect.
Q: Are there any blogs you visit frequently?
A: http://leftasrain.com: a music blog. The “posts” are all songs. And you can listen to them like a continuous playlist.
blog/: the blog of a writer and friend. She also does lots of contests and interviews.
livejournal.com/ and http://www.gayleforman.com/ blog/ are authors with exceptional blogs.
com/: has all sorts of crafty and design ideas.
Q: I think the music we listen to can tell a lot about who we are. If you could make a playlist that reveals something about you, which songs would you include?
A: Here’s what was on my playlist while writing You Are Not Here. For the most part, I needed music that was pretty mellow but felt emotionally intense. Out of all of the songs below, I probably listened to these three song the most: “Walking with a Ghost” by Tegan and Sarah, “re: stacks” by Bon Iver, and “Illgresi” by Sigur Ros.
Bon Iver: tracks, 1, 3 and 4
Sigur Ros: tracks 1 and 8
Tegan and Sarah: tracks 42, 45, 54, 65
Passion Pit: track 9
Metric: tracks 1, 5, and 10
Q: Can you tell me about what you are currently working on?
A: I am working on a novel about a teenage girl who finds herself in Thailand and has no idea who she is or why she’s there. This is going to be a big change for me. First of all, it’s kind of a mystery. And second, I may not write this book in verse. The great news is that this December I am going to Thailand for research! If all goes according to plan the book could be out Summer/Fall 2012.
Thanks Samantha for participating in this interview. I will definitely check out your music recommendations for You Are Not Here. (which broke my heart - but in a good way)