Sonya Sones has written one novel in verse for adults, The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, and four novels in verse for teens: Stop Pretending, What My Mother Doesn’t Know, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, and What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know. Her books have received many awards, including a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nomination, a Cuffie Award from Publishers Weekly for Best Book Title of the year, as well as the coveted “Omigod, Having a Mother Who Writes Teen Novels is SO Embarrassing” Award, from her teenage daughter Ava. But the coolest honor she ever received was in 2010, when the American Library Association listed What My Mother Doesn’t Know on its “Top 100 Most Challenged Books of the Decade.” (To find out why, see page 46 of that book.)
Sonya Sones Takes the Deb Interview!
Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
My first book for grownups, The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, has just been published. I say it’s for grownups because if I say “my first adult book” it sounds too much like porn! It’s a coming of middle-age story about learning to grow old disgracefully.
And what is making me happy right now is that I’ve begun to receive lovely letters, like this one, from people who have read it:
…I am SO loving your book – I am headed to chemo tomorrow because instead of fighting menopause, I am fighting cancer and having this book of yours makes me laugh, cry and forget all my troubles. Thanks for keeping me entertained and distracted – I owe ya big time!
Receiving a letter like this one, make me feel like all the hard work I poured into The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus was way worthwhile.
I love to be in my brand new Top Secret Office by the sea. (It’s top secret because I’m really just sort of squatting there until someone asks me to leave.)
I have a lovely office at home. In fact, you can see a video tour of my office here.
But, lately, my writing chair has gotten so old and saggy that I need to get it repaired. And since I’m writing on a deadline, I don’t have time to look into how to get it repaired right now. That is why I’ve been writing all summer long in my incredible Top Secret Office. It has a comfortable chair and a plug. And the view is awesome. I am one very lucky author!
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Write from the heart. Write about what you know (your own experiences and feelings). Don’t avoid writing about the pain in your life. Do avoid using clichés and overusing adjectives. Try to find ways to describe things in fresh new ways. Similes work well for that. Try to show instead of tell. Like instead of saying “I felt happy” (telling), say “I felt like a jar all filled up with a thousand fireflies” (showing). Or instead of saying “I felt scared” (telling), say “my heart fluttered in my throat like a trapped bird” (showing). Or instead of saying “I felt sad” (telling), say “my heart sunk all the way to China” (showing). And read, read, read—whoever, and whatever, inspires you.
And don’t be afraid of writer’s block. It’s incredibly simple to avoid. Just stop worrying about how good what you write is going to be. I always assume that what I write will really stink. And my own first drafts always do. But I have to write that awful version first, so that I have something that I can work on and eventually make better. You’ve got to remember that even if what you write is terrible, you can revise it and keep on revising it, until what you’ve written is good. Believe that, and you’ll be immune to writer’s block!
The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus was the easiest (and the most fun!) book for me to write, because the main character, Holly, is a poet, like me, and I’ve always wanted to write about writing poetry. Holly’s problems were familiar to me, since I’d been through so many of the same ones myself.
But The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus was also the hardest book for me to write. It wasn’t easy to allow Holly to tell the whole truth—about her insecurities, fantasies and deepest yearnings—because I was painfully aware that people reading my book would assume that all the most humiliating parts were based on my feelings and experiences. And on my body! Even the most sophisticated readers fall into this trap…
But when I was writing this novel, it felt especially important for me to let Holly be totally honest about what it’s like to grow older. I wanted the women who discovered my novel to know that they weren’t in this thing alone, that someone else truly understood what they were going through.
What’s your next big thing?
I am working on a book about a really big liar right now. It’s so much fun writing in the voice of an unreliable narrator. And for the first time ever, I am working from an outline, which is making my work go much faster! Instead of feeling like I’m walking through a long dark tunnel without a flashlight, I feel like I’m walking through a long dark tunnel with a flashlight! Soooo much better…
What is the best perk of your job?
I have two best perks:
The first perk is that I get to meet and become friends with my fellow authors. They are a brilliant, fun, and funny group of individuals! And whenever I’m hanging out with them, I feel like I have been invited to be a member of the club I would most like to join.
The second perk is receiving letters from teens who tell me that they used to hate to read, but now that they have discovered my books, they love to read. What an honor to be able to help bring new readers into the fold…
Special Bonus Travel Photo!
Since the topic of discussion this week is travel, here is a special bonus travel photo!!! I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, helping my college roommate celebrate her birthday. This photo is of a field of lotus blooms at the Los Poblanos Inn, one of the loveliest hotels ever.
Getting in Touch
You can find out way more than you ever wanted to know about me at my website.
You can friend me on Facebook.
You can like me at my author page on Facebook.
And you can find out what I had for breakfast on Twitter.
About the Books!
I write novels in verse, a series of poems which, when read all in order, tell a story. I was stunned and delighted when my latest one, The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, leapt onto the Los Angeles Times Bestsellers List three weeks after publication.
There’s nothing I like better than reading my poems aloud, and talking about my books with the people who’ve read them. So if your book club chooses to read The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, I’d be happy to attend your meeting to participate in the discussion, in person or via Skype. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See? Did we tell you, or what? And as a bonus, Sonya’s giving away TWO copies of The Hunchback of Nieman Marcus to two lucky readers! Say hello in the comments below to be entered to win!