With a killer title and a great cover, Ally Carter's teen fiction debut I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU will certainly grab the eyes of potential readers. Thanks to the author's quick wit and the book's squeaky clean romance-meets-teenage spy girl storyline, the book will keep readers both laughing and interested. (Read the rest of my review in a new window.)
I was able to visit the Gallagher Girls Academy in Virginia last week. Don't ask me to give you exact directions to the school, however, because I was blindfolded during the entire trip. A blindfold remainded firmly over my eyes as I rode on a plane, on a scooter, in a swanky car (I didn't see it, but I could tell it had a chauffeur) and, finally, on a donkey named Jote. I really think I was already on campus when I got out of the car, and the operatives made me ride the donkey around the campus for their own amusement, but I digress.
The kind Miss Ally Carter - if that is, in fact, her real name - took time out of her busy schedule during admissions week at the Academy to answer some questions for me and other hopeful
spies applicants readers.
When did the concept of the spy academy strike you?
I remember that moment so well! I was in my living room watching Alias with the sound on mute. I glanced at the screen to see a group of girls running through a big, dark building, and the first thing that popped into my mind was "Did she go to spy school?" Well, I turned the sound up and figured out it wasn't a school for spies, but by that point I knew what my next book had to be.
Did you write this book specifically for the teen market?
I didn't have any YA books under contract, but I knew this was something I wanted to try. There are just so many amazing YA books now, so when this idea came to me I knew I'd found the story I wanted to tell.
Have you finalized the title for the next Gallagher Girls book?
Yes, we do have a title (and I love it!) but unfortunately it's currently TOP SECRET! Encrypted! I could tell you, but . . .
There's going to be a contest (with an awesome prize) this fall for potential Gallagher Girls to decode the new title. Keep checking www.allycarter.com or sign up for my newsletter now to find out the details when they're available.
How many books will the series contain?
There will absolutely, positively be a sequel. After that, I'm at the mercy of my readers. If people keep buying books I'll keep writing them.
Will Cammie learn what really happened to her father?
Cammie has been raised in a world where "need-to-know basis" is a way of life, but in the first book she's started going off of her own, questioning authority. And now . . . well . . . I'm zipping my lips now. Throwing. Away. Key.
In the first book, in order for Cammie to sneak out and stay as under the radar as possible, her mother had to be on the periphery, but I'd really like to learn more about Rachel's past and her own accomplishments. Will she feature more heavily in the next book?
I want to be Rachel Morgan when I grow up! Don't you? And yes, there is a lot of Rachel's story that's left to tell. Plus, I think Cammie is a pretty typical girl in that as she gets older she's going to start appreciating her mother more and more.
Congratulations on the Disney deal! Can you tell us a little more about that? Is the option for a Disney Channel Movie or for a feature film?
Well, it's all insane. I keep wondering when I'm going to get the phone call saying it's all been a huge mistake - but it hasn't come yet. There are a lot of very cool things about having a movie optioned by Disney. The first is that Debra Martin Chase, the producer behind Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Princess Diaries, is heading up the project which is phenomenal. Technically, Disney owns the rights to feature films, TV movies, musicals - the works. But everything I hear is that they're aiming for the big screen, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
How involved do you hope to be in the movie adaptation?
I got my start by working on screenplays, but they were all so terrible that when Disney asked if I wanted to adapt the book I knew to say no. It's really a different craft, and I feel comfortable that it's in great hands. I'm not worried about what changes they might make because I know what works on the page might not work on the screen. As long as they stay true to the spirit of the book (and I know they will) I'm sure I'll be very, very happy.
Your first published novel, CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE, was a bit of a book within a book, with the main character being a relationship/self-help author. It is shelved in adult fiction, but you've said that it is suitable for teens. What do you think about age vs. maturity, character vs. content?
Really the main difference readers will see between I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU and CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE is that one has characters in their teens and one is about people in their thirties. I write very PG-rated stuff, so I don't hesitate to recommend my "older" books to younger readers. In fact, I know a middle school librarian who says that CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE is the most popular book they have on the shelves right now, which makes me happy.
Will there be more books about Julia James or other characters from SOLITAIRE?
Yes, in fact. My next book, LEARNING TO PLAY GIN, will be out in November and it picks up where Solitaire leaves off.
Who would win in a duel, Cammie or Kim Possible?
Never bet against a Gallagher Girl.
Who are your favorite spies from fiction or from history?
I've got to go with Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn, right? And Jason Bourne is awfully impressive. Overall I think James Bond is the most over-rated spy ever, but maybe that's just me. And I'd love to list some real-life super spies, but I can't - that's the thing about this business, no one ever knows their names.
What are your top ten books of all time?
This is my list right now, today. Ask me again tomorrow, and it'll probably change!
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Pride and Prejudice
- The Great Gatsby
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Motherless Brooklyn
- Mystic River
- Girls' Poker Night
- The Blind Assassin
- Amazing Grace
- and In The Best Families: a Nero Wolfe mystery
An odd list, right? But hey, you are what you read.
Just then, alarms began to sound. Fixtures moved and bookshelves rotated. Miss Carter ensured me that it was simply a fire drill, but told me in a firm voice that I had to leave for my own safety. I was escorted to the door - and back to the donkey - as I thanked Ally for her time and added, "Plaid skirts ROCK!"
She smiled and replied, "Do they ever!" before walking up a spiral staircase that I could have sworn wasn't there two minutes earlier and disappearing from my view.