Interview: Courtney Summers
Current Mood: giddy
Current Song: Imitation of Life score music
With her debut novel Cracked Up to Be coming out in a matter of weeks, Courtney Summers - writer, photographer, actor, and volcano enthusiast - is excited and scared. Though her nerves are understandable, I don't think she needs to worry; I found Cracked Up to Be to be quite impressive. (Read my full-length book review.)
Since reading the book, I've gotten to know Courtney via the wonders of the internet. We have discussed our current projects, our past productions, and our favorite books. We've also discovered a mutual admiration for sparkly objects. I got her to read Soulless by Christopher Golden; she taught me about degus. Interviewing Courtney was fun because it was pretty darn similar to a regular conversation with her - except for the fact that I was asking her all of the questions, of course.
When did you first know you were a writer?
I wasn't born a writer, but I always liked telling stories. So for me, it was a matter of nailing down the medium that would best allow me to do that. I dabbled a lot -- I wrote, I acted, I wanted to direct, thought about becoming a cinematographer, and then I was *sure* I would be a photographer. When I was 18, I wrote my first novel. It was a mess, but I was totally hooked. That's when I knew I was a writer.
Cracked Up to Be, your debut novel, will be published at the end of December. When considering its imminent release, how do you feel?
SCARED. All in capitals. But it's a good, healthy scared. Like, 'five minutes before curtain!' -- that kinda scared.
Did Cracked Up to Be ever have a different title? A different impetus? A different reveal?
For the longest time, Cracked Up to Be was called The 'Notice Me' Girl because I started writing it in an old Word file that was about that girl, I guess (I wonder what happened to her!). Then it had another title that embarrasses me, so just think up something ridiculous and we can say that was it.
Cracked Up to Be was always motivated by the question, "What's the worst thing you've ever done?" And that question -- and the answer -- informed everything Parker did and kept the momentum going. I didn't know how the reveal would happen until I wrote it, though, which is weird because it's the most important part of the book and there were so many ways it could've gone down. I decided to play it by ear, which was, um . . . fun. I kept giving away too much, too soon, and the closer I got to the give, I kept having to go back and delete and revise.
Cracked Up to Be was your fourth completed novel. Have you or will you ever revisit, revise, and resubmit novels one, two, or three?
The third novel is, I think, retired for good. The other two -- sometimes I think I'd like to take the themes and characters and turn them YA, but I don't know if that'll ever happen. A lot of me feels like those stories are told, even if they never see the light of the day. When I get really sentimental, I'm like, "Yes! They will have their time!" But the problem is I'm never sentimental long enough to give it to them...
What were you like as a teenager? Were you anything like Parker, for better or for worse?
Well, I wasn't popular, but I wasn't unpopular. While I was in high school, I got along with my teachers, but socially, I fell into a group that didn't really raise anyone's eyebrows, for better or for worse. Like Parker, I was a bit cynical and judgmental -- sometimes more than I had a right to be -- but unlike Parker, I was a lot less vocal about it. I wanted to be liked.
You have a wide array of interests, including zombies, Popples, volcanoes, Edward Cullen, and shiny objects. You have dabbled in acting and photography. If you were to combine all of your interests into one big tasty stew, how do you think that would turn out?
It would not look as promising as it tasted. Or it would not taste as promising as it looked. Edward might throw the whole thing off, because while I'm sure the ~*sparkles*~ would add a certain tastiness, he IS a walking corpse (and when you add the zombies in on top of that...). The trick would be in balancing the ingredients, I guess. So maybe for every pound of Edward, I'd throw in a couple of Popples. The shiny objects would be garnish! And now I'm hungry.
You are also a fan of social networking sites. In addition to your website and blog, you also use Tumblr, Twitter, and Flickr. Are you a naturally social person who indulges in these sites as a way to communicate with others or rather as a means to procrastinate?
I think I'm a naturally social person on the internet! I really love social networking. Lots of people roll their eyes at it, think it's a waste of time, but I roll my eyes at them. I think these sites are great and I believe there's a real value in them if you go in knowing what you want out of them and you enjoy using them--and I did and I do.
I use Twitter, Tumblr et al as a way to keep up-to-date and to communicate with others . . . friends, family, artists I'm a fan of etc. I'm also able to use the sites as a tool to promote Cracked Up to Be, though that's not their primary function because I'm not interested in selling to people 24/7 and I'm sure they're not interested in being sold to. I am genuinely interested, however, in interacting and being involved online. The people I interact with and the communities I'm involved with often inspire me, make me happy, or provoke me. Maintaining an online presence takes a certain level of time and commitment, true, but I'm down with it . . . and yes, I'm totally guilty of using them as a means to procrastinate sometimes. But if it wasn't them, it'd be something else. Not to brag, but I'm a FANTASTIC procrastinator.
One of your online handles is iheartvolcanoes. Do you also heart Canada?
I heart heart heart heart HEART x infinity Canada! That will be my next online handle.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Beyond the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Pierre: Colleagues and Friends Talk About the Trudeau They Knew edited by Nancy Southam
Imagining Canadian Litereature: The Selected Letters of Jack McClelland
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Pierre Trudeau's Memoirs
Canada: A Portrait in Letters by Charlotte Gray
Why are you so taken with Robert Cormier's novels?
Oh, I could talk about this forever. Because he wasn't afraid to take things away from his characters. Because he wasn't afraid to take things away from his readers. Because he wrote from the gut. Because he told it like it was and is. Because his endings were honest. Because even when his characters weren't likeable, they were understood. I think Robert Cormier was a genius, so straightforward in his storytelling and absolutely fearless. His work gives me chills! I'd love to be able to give people chills.
What's next for you?
My next book, Some Girls Are, is coming out in Winter 2010, also from St. Martin's Press. It's about really, REALLY mean girls. I have always been fascinated about really, REALLY mean girls, so I'm pretty excited about it. While it's being whipped into shape, I'm working on my next book. I'm too superstitious to say much about WIPs (works-in-progress) . . . but it's another YA and I'm excited about it too.
Anything that you'd like to say in closing?
Jeff Probst, if you are reading this, call me.
Visit Courtney's website, drop by her blog, and pick up Cracked Up to Be upon its release on December 23rd. You won't be sorry.
This is the first of five interviews I conducted for this year's Winter Blog Blast Tour, a week-long series of author interviews being held at various blogs. Read my other 2008 WBBT interviews and consult my complete interview archive.
Monday's WBBT schedule:
Lewis Buzbee at Chasing Ray
Louis Sachar at Fuse #8
Laurel Snyder at Miss Erin
Courtney Summers at Bildungsroman
Elizabeth Wein at Finding Wonderland
Susan Kuklin at The YA YA YAs
Check out this year's full schedule.
Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Book Review: Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers
What Makes Courtney Summers Smile
Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers