I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest on The Debutante Ball! Jennifer Caloyeras – author of two young adult novels (Urban Falcon, 2009 and Strays, 2015) and now her brand new book of short stories UNRULY CREATURES!
Jennifer and I have been friends since our older sons went to preschool together, and our younger sons were born just a month apart. I’ve watched Jennifer accomplish so many great things in her writing career…from publication of her first book to the publication of so many incredible short stories in various literary magazines, being the writer-in-residence at The Annenberg Community House here in Santa Monica…it’s truly an honor to have her here on The Ball today. I know you’ll love her stories as much as I do. They’re wildly inventive and imaginative and so well-crafted. You’ll feel as if you’re in a dream, reality and fantasy blending seamlessly. You’re in for a treat!
But first, a little bit about UNRULY CREATURES:
In this collection, alienated characters struggle to subvert, contain, control and even escape their bodies. A teenage girl grapples with pubic hair grown wild, a biologist finds herself in love with a gorilla, a prisoner yearns to escape his biological destiny. In some stories, the bodies have surrogates: a high-school girl babysits an elderly woman’s plastic doll while negotiating her own sexual awakening, and a young man finds that he can only receive affection from his father when he is in costume. Dark humor, magical realism and speculative fiction put in sharp relief the everyday trials of Americans in a story collection that asks, In what way are we more than the sum of our parts?
Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
I started watercoloring this summer. I no longer have a dining room table and instead, I have a dining room studio. I am by no means an artist, but I find it so calming and relaxing. I can’t sit still long enough to meditate, so painting has achieved for me what I think meditation does for others. And sometimes the paint moves around all on its own and creates some really cool images, which I get to take credit for! Beautiful mistakes indeed!
Where do you love to be?
I love to be outdoors anywhere in nature. The beach. The mountains. The forest. I think more clearly outside. My number one go-to when I get writer’s block is to take a walk or hike. My young adult novel, Strays, takes place in Santa Cruz, so nature-as-backdrop plays an important part in the narrative. I just finished reading My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent, and there’s a perfect example of how nature can be a character in a book.
What’s your secret or not-so-secret superpower?
Sleep! I love it! I need it! I’m such a mess without it! And I work a lot of things out when I sleep. Often times I’ll think about a character or idea before I go to bed and when I wake up, I’ll have new insight and direction or I’ll have had a wacky dream that inspires something in my writing. In fact, a lot of the more surreal elements of my short fiction collection, UNRULY CREATURES, came about through dreams I’d had.
If you were a drink (preferably alcoholic), what would you be and why?
Oh, that’s an easy one. I’d be a spicy tequila drink. (She’s been a longtime, special occasion kind of friend.) A shot of tequila over a chunky ice cube with some fresh-squeezed lime juice, a dash of cayenne, and a thin slice of jalapeño pepper. To be consumed slowly and deliberately.
Have you ever tried writing in a different genre? How did that turn out?
Before UNRULY CREATURES I published two young adult novels. I am a big fan of that genre! I find that time in a teenager’s life to be so exciting and inherently dramatic, which is great fodder for storytelling. I had spent ten years as the dog columnist (yes, that’s a real thing) for two local papers in Los Angeles and for my last young adult novel, I took a community outreach program I had researched and turned it into my young adult novel, Strays, about a girl with anger management issues who gets sentenced to a summer rehabilitating aggressive dog. I am very interested in working in all sorts of genres and in addition to fiction and young adult, I’ve written a play, two screenplays and a middle grade chapter book! (all of which are sitting quietly at my desk.)
Thanks so much, Jennifer, for being on The Debutante Ball today!
If you want to win a copy of UNRULY CREATURES, please share this post on Facebook or retweet on Twitter! Winners will be picked and notified next Friday. (US entries only)
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) October 7, 2017
Jennifer Caloyeras is the author of two young adult novels (most recently, Strays 2015) and a short fiction collection Unruly Creatures. She teaches writing at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons. She holds a MA in English and a MFA in Creative Writing. Jennifer was recently the writer-in-residence at the Annenberg in Santa Monica.
You can also find Jennifer on the web, Facebook, and Twitter:
FACEBOOK: Jennifer Caloyeras