Interview: Kim Flores
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In Gamma Glamma, high school student Luz is proud to be both a science geek and a fashionista. In the very first chapter, Luz learns that the Homecoming dance and the regional science competition will take place on the same night. She can't possibly be in two places at once. Using her book smarts and her people smarts, she concocts an interesting plan and project. Can her two interests combine or will they clash?
Like Luz, Kim Flores likes bringing her favorite people and things together. She's worked in various facets of the entertainment industry, and novelist is the newest addition to her resume.
What inspired Gamma Glamma?
My background is a little unusual. I started making stories and films when I was ten. In high school, I did a lot of theater productions and wrote for things like the annual staff and newsletters for the clubs I was in.
After graduation, I attended college and I thought about pursuing a degree in theater and/journalism. But when I took my first film class, I was hooked. I've worked in the film industry for quite a while and I've directed and written short films and even a feature film with my partner Mike. Today, we still direct commercials together and he's also a brilliant director of photography.
Our feature film VOCESSITAS/LITTLE VOICES we produced ourselves and helped open all kinds of doors for us. One of them was the opportunity to pitch television shows to television networks. Gamma Glamma was one such show. I wanted a show where girls could be smart and fashionable that you didn't have to pick or choose.
I thought it would be fun to see teens using their talents and passion to create their serums, gadgets and inventions to help them navigate through the journey of high school and life in general.
The network liked Gamma Glamma but passed, and continued to look at another show I had presented.
At the same time, I met my brother's friend who happened to be a literary agent in NYC. He asked me what I was doing in town and I told him about Gamma Glamma. He then asked me if I could turn my show into a book. Since I had written films before, I was like, why not? After six months, I had a novel. I had lived with all these characters for a year so I knew them very well. Plus, I used all my TV episodes and combined them to form a longer story.
I was very fortunate to generate interest and I sold my book to Kensington Books. Right now the plan is for Gamma Glamma to continue as a series.
Were any of Luz's science experiments based on something you had tried - or just something you wish were available?
Most of the experiments I tried in high school were of the beauty/ science/tragic result kind.
Here's a few experiments that you SHOULD NOT TRY AT HOME. This all comes from my personal database of HORRORS.
A.) NEVER use Nair on your eyebrows because you're too lazy to look for tweezers.
B.) Don't leave a chemical perm solution on your hair for a longer than it says on the box because it will not make your hair curlier - only crispier and crunchier (like Cheetos). And you will have to cut it. This is where Luz's "hair harnesser" hair growth accelerator would come in handy. I had super straight hair (and still do) and wanted those cute spiral (think DNA molecules) curls. Instead, I got hair the texture of pork rinds and it started breaking and falling out.
C) If you want your cute white denim jeans to be extra white, then read and do EXACTLY what the bottle instructions say and DON'T leave your pants in a plastic bucket overnight because you think you can out smart a bottle of Clorox. Trust me, the Clorox will win every time. Leaving denim or any clothes too long in bleach solution will rust out your zipper and cause the fabric to deteriorate thus causing your bootie to bust the seams after only a few hours of wear. Not to mention your skin will reek of Clorox. I walked in Algebra and this one guy said, "You smell like Comet." I told him he better step up his public education and nasal passages because I didn't smell like Comet. I smelled like Clorox. Totally two different chemical solutions. Duh...Although now I know that Coment has bleach in it.
D) If you have to dissect a frog in science, and you don't know what organs are what, then don't just start cutting things out and labeling them with identification flags. Your teacher will know you are trying to bluff her. And besides that, no one wants to look at frog innards that have been chopped up like barbeque.
E) NEVER put formaldehyde specimens in living fish tanks. Not so good on the living fish. My boyfriend at the time was spinning a dead frog around and it landed in the aquarium. It was more than the dead frog that hit the fan that day when our teacher found out.
F) I tried many chemicals to get rid of that dreaded pimple in the middle of my forehead. Here are things that DON'T work. Toothpaste. Rubbing Alcohol. Baking soda or Dawn dishwashing liquid and Pixie Stix. (I know, what were you thinking?) I read the ingredients and it said it had citric acid I thought it would help dry my zit out. Instead people wanted to know why I had grape Kool-Aid on my forehead. I told the kind ignorant people, "It's not Kool-Aid, it's Pixie Stix." Totally two different chemical solutions. Duh... Okay maybe not duh. Pixie Stix and Kool-Aid are very similar in formulas but Pixie Stix had sugar and at the time you had to add your own sugar to the Kool-Aid packs. What does work on pimples: not picking them (that causes scarring) and using a topical cream that has peroxide or tea tree oil.
Do you recall any science experiments you conducted in school?
Yes, the one that sticks out in my mind was a last minute science experiment to find out if my cats were colorblind. I colored all of their food and water green, blue and red. We found out that cats can see blue and green but not really red. The cats really didn't go for the blue or green food but ate the red just fine.
I didn't win because it wasn't "break-through" science. However, I got many kudos for drawing tons of cats on my poster that looked like Garfield which was hot at the time. And I got to draw Garfield (and Snoppy) on all my friends notebooks and lunch sacks after that like Susan/Jabba in GAMMA GLAMMA.
I also had an experiment to taste whether Meow Mix tasted like Chex Mix. It doesn't. It wasn't a scientific experiment - it was Truth or Dare.
What were you like in high school?
I was a total hybrid in high school. Most people knew me as the feature twirler. I twirled batons, hoop batons, fire and knives. I was also in band, drama, student council, annual staff and Keywanettes, a community service organization. Everyone was pretty nice to me because I don't think they knew how to label me and it didn't hurt that I twirled machetes.
Which of your characters is the most like you?
I would have to say that's Luz and Susan. I was like Luz when it came to crazy fashion and that was partially influenced by being in drama. I would wear vintage clothes, pajamas, safety pins and slick paint creations that I would make. Like Luz, I wanted to have friends and boyfriends and would plan on how I could make that happen.
I was also like Susan because even though I wanted to have friends, I didn't feel the pressure to be anything else than me whether folks liked it or not. I believe this is because I am one of six kids so I learned to have a pretty thick skin even in my own family!
I could be loud like Adam and I was also a writer for the annual staff. I like to draw (and still do) like Mase and Susan. And I could be catty like Venus. (I hate to admit it but we all have our bad behavior days!)
Which character is the least like you?
Luz's best friends, Bridget Joiner. Bridge wears all the right clothes and does all the right things but is still terrified what people will think of her. Growing up, our family had the basics so I couldn't have all the designer clothes I wanted. So I just used what I had and WORKED IT. I did have many friends who were like Bridget and we had a great trade off. They would let me borrow some of their cute clothes and I made sure to fend off any of the bullies that roamed the halls. It was a perfect situation.
Luz's closest pals, Bridge and Adam, help her with her experiments. Who showed you support while you were writing this novel?
For starters, it was my literary agent, Nicholas Lewis, who was very supportive of me to turn my TV show into a book. If he hadn't challenged me to do so, there wouldn't be a GAMMA GLAMMA.
Writing a novel, I found out can be a lonely experience sometimes. But what kept me going is I had a friend of mine name Rodney Stringfellow who is a brilliant TV writer. Rodney writes for The Backyardigans, Little Einstein and the Wonder Pets. Rodney wanted to write a novel at the same time. So every week or every so many pages, we had to turn in something to each other. Being accountable made a huge difference to getting both our novels finished. Along the way when were writing, we gave constructive criticism to help tell the best story we could at the time.
My brother John (who is third of the six kids) was instrumental because he works at a College library and is a playwright. He gave me great insight.
And lastly, my biggest support was my husband/crushable Mike Swenson. He encouraged me along the way to keep on going and would help with the edits. He has amazing patience and intelligence. I also helps that he's "man-some".
Supporting character Mase rarely speaks. Was it difficult to express his intentions in details rather than dialogue?
No, because I knew a guy like that in high school. At first it was like trying to be a mind reader. But after a while it felf more like an easy game of charades or I should say Pictionary. But when you did get him to speak or laugh you felt like you just walked on water.
Luz has a watch/planner called Watchame which resembles something you drew.
I love stickers and anything that looks Japanese. I wanted something fun to have that would work as a Luz's mini-me and also works as a mascot for GAMMA GLAMMA. It was important that she looked hi-tech and fun. People really have taken a shine to her. We call her GG (like GiGi) for short. I love her and have her on all my folders, books etc.
You are also a screenwriter, a director, and a producer. What are you currently working on?
These days I'm working on little sleep and trying to catch my breath, but really, they are all projects that I am very excited about. I just finished a new YA novel called American Twirl. It's very different from GAMMA GLAMMA in that it's edgier in subject matter but still always leads with heart.
In the independent world, Mike and I are producing with my father a documentary called Hispanic in the 1950's about his growing up in Corpus Christi. It's really interesting.
In the TV world, Mike and I are gearing up to pitch one animated show (cartoon) and two live action shows to Nickelodeon in NYC this summer. It's a very long process but you just have to think of yourself as a little store that offers many stories and products. If a network doesn't feel your story or idea is a good fit then you take your shows to another network and/or you can create something else for them.
What are your ten all-time favorite books?
It's a strange mix, I know, but here are the adult books that helped mold or transform me or just plain freaked me out.
1) The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder
The first big book I read out loud with my Mom.
2) A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The first big book I read by myself.
3) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The first book I couldn't put down.
4) The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles
The first book that really freaked me out.
5) Shakespeare (All)
These are the oldest books I read after I seeing all the plays at Shakespeare in the park with my family when I was growing up in Dallas.
6) Deepak Chopra (all of his books)
These books made me look at life in a whole new way.
7) A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
This book is continuing to help me grow.
8) Mama-Latinas and the Mothers by Maria Perez-Brown
This book honored my mother that she got to see right before she passed.
9) Luna by Julie Anne Peters
I know I said this was adult books, but this is actually a YA book that I just read and not only is it relevant but it's brilliant. This is one of my new favorites.
10) Dress Your family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
I love David Sedaris and I have never had someone make me laugh out loud (like wet your pants) in print like he does.
My favorite books for kids and teens:
1) The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St. John
This book kept haunting me for years. I think I read it when I was nine. I just bought it again.
2) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
This is a classic along with the movie and always reminded me to live by it's values that "you always had it in you, Dorthy" and "There's no place like home."
3) Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
This book helped nurture my love of crayons, drawing and the color purple. I still take notes in purple ink like my character Luz from Gamma Glamma.
4) Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
This book made me fall in love with dinosaurs. I still can't get enough of them.
5) Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
First book that I felt was written for me.
6) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
This book made me appreciate life and trees.
7) James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The first book that I could taste and smell.
8) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The second book I could taste in smell.
9) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
This book was very magical to me and was my first introduction to the sci/fantasy world.
10) Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
This book makes me boo-hoo just reading the cover. I can't stare at the cover too long. I get hysterical, I swear.
Visit Kim's official website.