Guest Interview with Former Deb Colleen Oakley + #DebBallGiveaway of CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH

It is with great pleasure that we welcome back to The Debutante Ball author Colleen Oakley. Her latest novel, CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH, has just been released! – Congratulations, Colleen! In CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH, Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in…
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Q&A with Lisa McMann, bestselling author of WAKE and FADE

0207-mcmann-author-3Lisa McMann is the author of WAKE and the brand new sequel, FADE. The final book in the trilogy, GONE, is scheduled for release in February 2010. The romantic paranormal suspense series for teens (from publisher Simon Pulse) tells the story of Janie, who has the unsettling ability to fall into other people’s dreams. In the New York Times bestselling WAKE, once Janie is pulled into the gruesome nightmare of a classmate, Cabel, nothing is ever the same for her again. FADE continues the story with disturbing things happening at Fieldridge High, and nobody’s talking until Janie gets sucked into a nightmare that breaks the case wide open. Trouble is, Janie is in over her head, and the truth behind her ability is even darker than she’d feared… Join us in welcoming Lisa McMann to the Ball.

Debs: Do you remember your own dreams, and if so, are they particularly vivid or weird?

Lisa: I do have vivid dreams. Some are weird and some are so realistic I have to think about them for a minute when I wake up to determine if they happened in real life. I have a lot of scary dreams about people dying and stuff like that, too. It’s an all-night workout to handle all that dream grief!

Debs: How much did you draw on your own high school experiences for Janie and Cabel?

Lisa: A lot. But not exclusively, because I’m not a current-day teen, though I feel like one sometimes. And not in a good way. Anyway, some stuff just doesn’t translate, like language. I can’t use the words we used in the 80s and 90s. Emotions, on the other hand, do translate. That same sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you do something stupid, that same longing for someone to notice you, that same angst when communication seems so hard and everything is so awkward and you feel so ugly and everybody’s looking at you — that doesn’t change. So yeah, I drew on those feelings quite a lot.

Debs: Janie and Cabel don’t have much grown-up support, which seems to be true of many young-adult protagonists. Do you think your fans are connecting with how these characters have to fight their own battles?

Lisa: I think so. I get letters from teens who totally relate to Janie, and who say, “My mom’s an alcoholic, too.” Who love that Cabe is scarred, physically flawed, and what a challenge that can be. In this day, where parents are working two and three jobs to get by, and they’re never home, and so many families are single-parent, dysfunctional, you’d better believe today’s teens are right there in the trenches with these protags, fighting their own battles and feeling comfort that at least the fictional ones are surviving. I think that can encourage teens to try harder in their own lives.

Debs: Young people have really responded to these characters, propelling your debut onto the NYT bestseller list. What’s it like having young fans?

Lisa: It. Is. Awesome. Here’s what I love about people who read YA (and they’re not all teens): they’ll read a great book, and at the end, the first thing they do is get online, find the author, and write to them to express how they felt about the book. Then they find and befriend the author on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, and every other place imaginable. Electronic communication is so natural to them. They don’t even expect a response, but when they get one, it makes their day. I love that. I love that they are so excited, and I love that there is this wonderful medium for them to express their excitement over books.

I think back to when I was a kid, and I read fourteen books a week. Never once did I write a letter to an author. Authors were inaccessible. I love how it is now.

Debs: There have been some gloom-and-doom reports about kids not reading novels anymore. What do you think of the state of young people and fiction today?

Lisa: I think that’s bullsh*t. I can’t tell you how many times I hear about kids picking up some of today’s hottest YA or middle grade novels and saying, “I don’t really like to read but then I read ________ and now I just want more!” And I recall seeing reports over the holidays that the YA section was holding its own in this terrible economy, where booksales are down almost across the board in every other genre. What does that say?

However, I do think we need to get with the program electronically, and we’re getting there, so we can keep up with technology and with the first generation who doesn’t remember life without a computer.

Debs: Are your kids old enough to read your books, and what do they think? Do they read your manuscripts before they’re published? Do they think it’s cool having a writer for a mom?

Lisa: My son is fifteen and my daughter is twelve. My son has read WAKE and FADE and he’s just starting to read GONE so he can give me some feedback before it goes to my editor for her first look. He loves the stories, and isn’t afraid to tell me when something sucks. He and I are in a phase now where we are reading a lot of the same stuff. I’m currently waiting impatiently for him to finish reading The Hunger Games so I can have at it.

My daughter has not read any of the WAKE series yet, mostly because I am a careful mom and I know what she can handle and what will disturb her. There are some scary parts and some racy parts. We talked about what some of the content was, and she agreed that she didn’t want to read it quite yet. We’ll revisit in about a year. But she has read another manuscript of mine that I hope will someday be published — it’s a fantasy for middle graders. When she had to do a “what’s your favorite book” list for school, she put that one as her number one favorite, which gave me great joy, since her number two fave was ARE YOU THERE
by Judy Blume.

At first they didn’t think it was a big deal that I had a book coming out, but now that their friends have read WAKE and are geeked about the next books, and complete strangers (cute ones) befriended my son on MySpace because he was my #1 friend for a while there, I think they’re realizing it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a mom who writes for teens.

Debs: We have many writers among our Debutante Ball readers. Do you have any particular advice or tips on writing for the young adult market?

I think you have to read a ton of current YA titles before you even attempt to write one. YA has evolved. And don’t be asking, “Is it okay if my 16-yr-old protag smokes a doobie?” Because if you have been reading YA, immersing yourself into it, you will know that a) of course it is, if it’s what your character would do, and b) doobie? Really? Go and read. And read and read.

I also think you have to spend time with teens. A lot of time. Listen to them. Watch them. Talk to them, but realize they will talk differently to you than they do to their peers, so observing is better. Read their blogs, find out what music they listen to, what they talk about. Find out how different things are in the teen culture than they used to be, what the cliques are now. And subscribe to UrbanDictionary.com’s word of the day. Learn the slang so you understand the origin and the meaning behind the words, and make up some of your own slang when you’re writing, because by the time your manuscript becomes a book, the slang will have changed completely.

This week’s Deb theme is Deb Hobbies. What are your hobbies?

I love to cook. I am also the reigning Wii Boxing champ in our house.

Thank you Lisa for taking your turn on the dance floor, and best wishes for continuing success!


p.s. If you’re looking for Deb Kristina’s usual Monday post, it was on Saturday this week.