Monday, March 25, 2013

17 & Gone Week: Q&A with Nova Ren Suma!

Hello, you wonderful people!

I am so insanely excited about the post today. I've been looking forward to this for a couple months now, and can't believe the day has come! Today I have a fantastic interview with the awesome author of 17 & GONE, Nova Ren Suma! Check it out!

Ciara (Lost at Midnight): Hi, Nova! First I want to say a huge THANK YOU for taking the time to stop by my blog! And, I gotta ask, how much do you love your book cover?

Nova Ren Suma: Thank YOU so much for having me, and for being so enthusiastic and supportive about my new book. It means the world to me. I’m so happy to be here that I’m offering up a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone to one of your readers! So however and whenever you choose the giveaway winner, just let me know. :)

As for the book cover of 17 & Gone, I was thrilled and, must admit, a tiny bit frightened by it. When I first saw the image of the girl’s silhouette in what appears to be an abandoned building, I was chilled. It was like the cover designer had taken a peek into my brain and could see what I see when I’m writing. It felt too close to real, you know? Then when the red, fiery effects and the text from the Missing poster were added to the cover image it was even more connected to the book. It’s the kind of cover that makes me want to take my time and look and soak in every detail… and it says so much about the story. So much.

C: Was there a lot of research involved in the writing of 17 & Gone?

NRS: I don’t want to give anything away about the twists and turns in the story—because I will tell you, there are surprises… some of which surprised me while writing!—but there is one element in the plot that did take a lot of research. I wanted very badly to get it right and to be respectful to anyone who has experienced it. I did a lot of reading, and I also had the help of a professional*, who read the manuscript and gave me notes. And there was one moment during the research that inspired a specific plot point in the story: Lauren’s mom’s beauty mark. You’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about once you’ve read the book. 

* Want to know a secret? The professional I mention above was my own mother! She’s an amazing woman—I am very lucky to have her. She also knows her stuff and really helped me with the research for this novel.

C: What would you say is your favorite characteristic about Lauren? And what's something the reader should know about her?

NRS: I admire Lauren’s bravery and her tenacity. She just does not give up. When she believes something is true, she cannot be talked out of it. She must find out the truth, no matter the cost or the danger to herself. She’s far braver than I could ever be. I’d want a reader to know that Lauren’s heart is in the right place, even if she makes a mess of things. I hope that comes through.

C: Lauren is haunted by the ghosts of missing girls in 17 & Gone. Do you believe in ghosts?

NRS: Oh… Should I admit this? I will. Okay, listen: I have no proof. No evidence or anything close to it. I have never actually seen a ghost in my life, though I’ve had a couple shivery experiences I can’t explain. But yes. I believe in ghosts. I believe they’re possible. And nothing you can say will talk me out of it. Believe me… people have tried!

C: Lauren's mom has some pretty creative tattoos. Do you have a favorite? And do you personally have any tattoos?

NRS: I think of Lauren’s mom’s tattoos as a beautiful living design all over her skin. My favorite of her pieces is the flock of birds on her neck, taking flight behind her ear. Lauren finds herself comforted by that tattoo, counting the birds in panicked moments to reassure herself that everything is as it should be. Of course it’s not.

I never ever thought I’d get a tattoo myself, only because I couldn’t decide on what I’d want inked on my body for the rest of my life, but recently I did get one. It’s small and simple. Those of you who’ve read my other novel Imaginary Girls will understand this without too much explanation: The tattoo is for my little sister. We both got the same thing on our arms, to be connected to each other forever.

C: 17 & Gone deals with some pretty heavy subject matter. Was there ever a time while you were writing that it became overwhelming?

NRS: This novel sent me spiraling. Maybe it was the subject matter—and maybe part of it was the pressure of the deadlines—but altogether, it was not always a pretty sight, me writing this book. I probably scared everyone who knows me, and strangers in caf├ęs, too.

C: How did you create such a spooky atmosphere in 17 & Gone? And how important a role do you think it plays in the story?

NRS: The fantastical, ghostly elements and places in my books always stem from somewhere real. Something I’ve witnessed. Somewhere I’ve been. There are two places in 17 & Gone that were inspired by real places: the burned-out building in Lauren’s dreamworld comes from a block of abandoned rowhouses in Philadelphia, on a street where my sister used to live. The buildings across the street from her apartment always scared me. (I’m relieved to say she doesn’t live there anymore.) And the closed summer camp in the novel is based on a place much like that in the Hudson Valley, where I grew up. It used to be down the road from one of the houses where I lived. I like taking real things—places, even people—and twisting and reimagining and spookifying them. And I can’t imagine this particular story without those two specific places that shaped it.

C: Without giving away any plot spoilers, was there a scene that you found difficult to write?

NRS: There is a big sequence of events in the final part of the book that confounded me. I wrote at least four different versions of what might happen there, a couple that were more disturbing and heartless than others, and one very explosive and Hollywood that embarrassed me and that I had to tone down. It was like a choose-your-own adventure story there for a while. I just wanted someone to come in the room and choose one for me. But when I finally made the choice myself and found the sequence that felt good to me, that felt perfect, I was so relieved. I remember emailing it in to my editor and then collapsing in the deepest, most dreamless sleep of my life. Nothing and no one could have woken me.

C: I have to say, one of my favorite parts of this book is the beautiful writing. Do you have any writing quirks?

NRS: Thank you so much! I will admit to you that I am a terribly quirky writer. I have weird rules for myself that I have a difficult time breaking. One of my rules is that I must find the “right” first paragraph—not just for the first page… for every single chapter opening and every scene change—before I can move on and write what comes next. It’s about momentum, and it also has to do with this belief I have that everything comes from what came before, which is why I can’t skip ahead or write out of order. I hate this about myself, because sometimes I can be stalled on a single page for weeks at a time. But when I find that perfect opening I get this delicious thrill up my spine and a little hum jittering in my brain. I just know it’s right. Finally. Then I plunge forward.

C: What's one thing you hope people will take away from 17 & Gone?

NRS: That feeling of being immersed in something intense and vivid and gripping and so worth reading you need to stay with it and see what happens. I know my books aren’t for everyone, but I can’t help but have my fingers crossed this happens for some of you.

Thank you so so so much Nova for taking the time to stop by the blog! And for offering up a giveaway!

Nova Ren Suma is an easily distracted YA writer living in New York City. She wrote Imaginary Girls and Dani Noir (aka Fade Out in paperback). Her newest novel, 17 & Gone, is coming from Dutton/Penguin on March 21.

Find her online at her blog or her website

Speaking of a giveaway, be sure to stop by TOMORROW for all the giveaway information! (And yes, it's going to be international!)

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)

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