Back Talk by Alex Richards takes a teen girl out of a small town and puts her in posh Manhattan brownstone with two sophisticated socialites. When Gemma comes to New York for an internship at a popular daytime talk show, she has no idea how much drama happens behind the scenes. As she learns about the city and its social scene from her roommates, she also deals with backstabbing and lies at her workplace and learns how to stand up for herself.
In a matter of days, Alex Richards will be a newlywed. In a matter of months, she will be a published author. While preparing for one live-changing event, she found the time to talk about another.
How long have you been writing stories?
I've been writing YA novels since I was about 10, but back then I didn't have enough life experience to follow through with any of them. I've probably started 8 novels, but lost interest or focus. One time, I even left my half-finished manuscript on a plane, and it was gone forever! I'm still mad about that.
When I wrote the last sentence of Back Talk, I practically flew out of my chair. I was so excited to finally have a completed book. And then selling it -- fuggedaboutit.
Back Talk is my first completed novel.
Why make the characters teenagers rather than twentysomethings?
I think teens are able to perceive things differently than twentysomethings. Call it a sixth sense -- or less cynicism maybe?
Also, writing this book from the perspective of an intern made it possible to more clearly see the inside of the TV industry. Gemma is able to surf from one task to the next, whereas if it had been focused on a twentysomething researcher (like I was), there would have been a lot more pressure, and less time for "fun." Besides, teens kick @$$! I've always written in a YA/teen voice. It feels very natural to me.
Your main character, Gemma, is stunned by the sights and sounds of Manhattan. What is your history with New York? Why set the story there?
I was born in NYC, then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico when I was four. I have always been a city girl at heart, which is why I tried to make New York its own character of sorts. I have been with many friends for their "first time" in NYC, and it is an incredible experience. Their eyes sparkle -- literally -- and they just have such wonderment and awe about them that I feel giddy just to be along for the ride.
You have also worked in film, television, theatre, and photography. Now that you're a published author, will you continue to pursue multiple avenues of the industry, or will you zero in on novel writing?
Oh, I'll definitely continue to pursue other avenues! I'd go stir crazy if I didn't. I think I will always be a filmmaker and photographer, but I also have several other ideas. Screen writing, collage/art . . . I know it sounds crazy, but I kind of like office jobs [too]. I love working with people. It's the best way to gain material and life experience for novel writing.
How did Potato Riot Films get firmly planted?
Andy and I created Potato Riot Films when we were first dating. We went out to dinner one night, wrote our first film, The Experiment, on the back of my paper placemat, and shot it later that night with a close friend. That was the beginning of our filmmaking empire!
We basically do everything film-related together, though I have much more patience for editing than Andy does! Oh, and I'm a better DP (director of photography) with my photography background. Andy, being a physicist, can see everything from a logistical standpoint that I usually can't. We love making movies, and our friends love being in them. It's an awesome hobby.
Is Alex short for Alexandra, Alexandria, Alexis, Alexia . . . ?
Alex is short for Alexandra. I hate it when people call me Alexandria. It's a lovely name, but it's not mine. I went by Xandra a few years ago, but it didn't stick. I'm definitely an "Alex."
If you could star in a cheesy eighties-esque flick, what would it be called?
Oooh, that is a genius question. Hmmm... I'd probably go for naming it after a song by a cheesy band like The Go-Go's: Head over Heels, or Lust to Love; Suddenly Last Summer by The Motels; or Manic Monday by the Bangles, perhaps? It would definitely be a rom-com1.
What are your ten favorite movies of all time?
This is a really hard question for me, because I LOVE movies.
Bottle Rocket (that is my Wes Anderson representation, because I'm obsessed with EVERY one of his movies)
Kicking & Screaming by Noah Baumbach
The Squid & the Whale
The Princess & the Warrior
When Harry Met Sally
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
Again, nearly impossible to narrow it down to ten. You're killin' me!! But...
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffry Eugenides
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Forever by Judy Blume
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The House on Haunted Hill by Shirley Jackson
Frances books by Russell Hoban
Talk with Alex Richards at her website + blog.
(1) Rom-com: romantic comedy