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Odd Things About Me

Debbi Michiko Florence BAITED ME with this meme. She knows I can't resist, even though I am supposed to be writing book proposals!

37 Odd Things About Me

1. Do you like blue cheese? Love it. Stinky cheese is my friend.

2. Have you ever smoked?  Yes, I am sorry to say. At a conference, I once defeated YA authors Matt de La Pena (Ball Don't Lie -- there's a movie, too!), John Green (An Abundance of Katherines) and Dana Reinhardt (How to Build a House) in a contest for who had the most embarrassing thing in his or her bag by having a pack of Kool cigarettes AND a dvd of Northern Exposure, season 1.  

But it was only a brief fling with the evil weed of tobacco (mentholated!) and I do not smoke any more. 

3. Do you own a gun? No!

4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite? I have probably only had Kool Aid twice in my life. My mother was not in favor of it.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No.  

6. What do you think of hot dogs?  I am sorry they are made from animals using noxious farming practices, and that tofu dogs have not been developed to the point of actually tasting good. 

7. Favorite Christmas movie?   It's a Wonderful Life. 

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Decaf coffee, very hot.

9. Can you do push ups? Yes. But not as many as in my youth. 

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? A jade necklace given me by my late grandmother when I graduated high school.

11. Favorite hobby? Reading.  

12. Do you have A.D.D.? Absolutely not.

13. Do you wear glasses/contacts? 20/20, baby.

14. Middle name? You already know it, I bet.

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?  Too darn hot. Should stop procrastinating. I have an early copy of Janes in Love

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? water, decaf, diet ginger ale

17. Current worry? Computer on last legs.

18. Current hate right now?  I am not so full of hate. But maybe that is because I have been avoiding reading the news.

19. Favorite place to be?  Martha's Vineyard.

20. How did you bring in the new year.  I was probably asleep. But I baked a cake on New Year's day, as I always do.

21. Where would you like to go? India. This good Chinese restaurant I know. Scotland.

22. Name three people who will complete this?  Maybe literaticat? Maybe Lara? Lauren! Lauren, you must complete it! 

23. Do you own slippers? I am very devoted to my slippers. They changed my life. Before that, I always had cold feet.

24. What shirt are you wearing?  J.Crew navy heather t-shirt with bleach stains, about 4 years old. 

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? blech

26. Can you whistle?  I am quite a good whistler, yes.

27. Favorite color? Dusty blue.

28. Would you be a pirate?  I don't like the idea of being out in the middle of the sea. Gives me the heebeejeebies. 

29. What songs do you sing in the shower? I don't. But I sing around the house. Lately, ABBA, thanks to the Mamma Mia film.

30. Favorite Girl's Name? I like plant and nature names.

31. Favorite boy's name?  I met a child named Cerulean recently. That's an awesome name.

32. What's in your pocket right now? I don't have pockets in summer. I wear skirts. But lipstick, when I have a pocket. 

33. Last thing that made you laugh? Remembering how someone I know sunburnt his feet really badly, and the fact that I laughed at him then, and being reminded  how evil and bad it was of me to laugh at his misfortune. But this, if you haven't seen it yet, cracks me up bigtime. Thanks to the evil genius of Lauren Myracle.

34. What vehicle do you drive? I don't own a car. I walk or take public transportation. This is normal in New York City. Also green! 

35. Worst injury you've ever had? I have been very lucky. Sliced open foot, age 5. Thirteen stitches.

36. Do you love where you live? When I go to the theater, eat strange new food, run into interesting people on the street, go to the wonderful stinky cheese store, see some art, notice that I have friends of all colors and backgrounds. No, when I see piles of garbage and crazy people on the street, when housing is so expensive my friends can't afford health insurance, when the subway is packed and stopped underground. 

37. How many TVs do you have in your house?  One. No cable.

Awesome Books

Now that I've finished The Treasure Map of Boys (and even seen an early version of the cover! which I will release to you as soon as I'm allowed) --   

I've had a bit of time to READ. 
I know you all need some summer reading ideas, so here they are:

HOW I FOUND THE PERFECT DRESS by Maryrose Wood. She is my friend! She is so funny!  Her first in this ridiculously hilarious series is WHY I LET MY HAIR GROW OUT, and this is the sequel. Leprechaun romance. Hot guys. Beautiful clothes. Garden gnomes. Magical shoes. And some highly innovative not-swearing. If you like comedy, romance and fantasy, I think these are for you -- I find them so, so much fun. 

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie. He is not my friend! He is so funny! There are cartoons! And a little romance. And some tragedy. And racisim and then the complexities of racism when the racists can also be nice people. And an amazingly fascinating setting on a Spokane reservation. I admit, a perverse little part of me was resisting reading this book BECAUSE it won the Boston-Globe Horn Book award and the National Book Award. But It was terrific fun, a page-turner, and it made me think. 

Plus, I've read two books that aren't out yet. Nana ananananannah naha! 
But you will want to read them when they do:

HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY by Justine Larbalestier.  She is my friend! She is so funny! But also, the slang in this book is superlatively amusing, and there are FAIRIES that give humans special but sometimes annoying powers. Like getting a good parking space. Or finding good clothes every time you go shopping. Loved it. 

STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE by David Yoo. He is not my friend! He is so funny! The narrator of this book, Albert Kim, is completely original and bizarre and sympathetic. Awesome. 

Have I read any sucky books lately? 
Well, yes, but I haven't finished them. And I'm not going to complain about them here, anyway. 

Also, have you seen Mamma Mia?  
Musicals make me so happy!! 

Jenny O'Connell's Disreputable History

There are two kinds of people on the island— those who leave at summer’s end…and those who are left behind.

I love Martha's Vineyard. If you don't know it, it's an adorable island off the coast of Massachusetts, farm country, quaint towns and gorgeous beaches. I have spent many hours in the settings of Jenny O'Connell's new Island Summer series, which kicks off with two titles:  LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS. 


So I am dying to read this series. And because Jenny wrote The Book of Luke and Plan B, I know that despite the covers, the books are not ONLY ABOUT ABS. They are about complicated friendships and romances between the year-round residents of the island and the jet-setting summer people.  Plus a bit of a mystery....

Jenny has a very cool contest on her blog -- and this is the last week of it. Go investigate! Or check out the trailer on her website.

Anyway,  I got her to tell me her disreputable history (ie answer the usual questions based on The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks)

Jenny O'Connell's Disreputable History

1. Tell me the sneakiest thing you ever did. 

Can’t tell you, I still don’t want to get caught!


2. Tell me the sneakiest thing that happens in your new book. 

In LOCAL GIRLS, Kendra decides to try to find out who her best friend’s father is (Mona’s always wanted to know but her mom was young and he was a summer guy so she never knew how to find him). Kendra does this without telling Mona what she’s doing, and completely oblivious to the ramifications of unraveling the answer.


3. Are you a prankster? Tell me a story.

I love to play jokes on people. April Fools Day has me on the phone bright and early playing jokes on people. I remember once, in the middle of the night, my boyfriend got up to go to the bathroom. I decided it was the perfect time to scare the daylights out of him, so I hid behind the bedroom door and waited for him to come back. When he did I jumped out at him, screaming. He was totally out of it, scared to death, and by instinct, reached out to punch me in the stomach as he screamed in return. It was so funny, if vaguely painful.


4. Were you in any clubs or societies in high school? Did any of those club activities make it into your novels? 

I went to a small private school and there weren’t a ton of clubs or societies, there weren’t enough people.


5. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why, or why not?

As someone who went to a women’s college (Smith) I’ve been surrounded by strong women. I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist, though, although I know most people who know me would. I’d rather think of myself as a humanist – we should all be our best and respect ourselves, not just women.


6. How does your answer to question 5 show up in your new book?

My female characters are always very self-directed and strong. They may make bad decisions and do dumb things, but only because they’re human, not because they lack the ability to make good decisions and do smart things.


7. The club in my book is called The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. If you were to found a secret society, what would it be called, and what would its mission be? 

Girls United to Have a Lot of Fun – our mission would be to hang out and laugh our asses off.


Finally, FAQ

You all have been very patient since it's taken me SOOOO long to answer the second half of the FAQ questions you sent in. But here they are, finally!  And most of them are going up on my website today, as well. Thanks so much. 

Do you get to have any input on what you want the book covers to look like?

I speak up if I think something looks wrong, and sometimes I throw out an idea at the early stages that a designer will use. For example, I suggested the Dramarama cover be a picture of a girl or girls in a theatrical dressing room, and the designer at Hyperion used that ideas. For The Treasure Map of Boys, which comes out Fall 09, I sent three ideas and they tell me they are using one: marshmallow snowmen. But all the over covers were initiated and designed by the publishing house.

I know you've mentioned in a few interviews that Disreputable History was a very difficult book to write.  How did the effort required for writing the book affect your feelings about the results? 

I feel very proud of that book and how hard I worked on it.  But I try to disassociate a book's reception from my own feeling about the work I've done on it.  So if reviewers hate a book, or if it doesn't sell, that doesn't affect what I think of my own contribution. It makes me sad, sure, because it's nice to be loved and get royalty checks – but I try to evaluate what I've done on different terms.

Of all your books, which one would you say you are most proud of?

Disreputable History.

Which one of your characters (main or supporting) would you say is most like you?

Ruby Oliver in The Boyfriend List books. But all of them are me in one way or another. Even Demi in Dramarama.

How often do you write in a writing group? Do you like writing in a group better than on your own?

I write with other people maybe twice a month on average. As I answer these questions I’m in a coffee house with four other writers banging away on laptops and sucking down java. However, we are not a group, in that we don't read each other's work or do any kind of a critique. We just keep each other company and talk shop now and then.

I love it, but I couldn't do it every day. I am a solitary animal. 

Is it easier for you to return to old characters-- like Roo and her gang-- or to make up new ones? And what is your process for "getting to know" new characters?

Returning to old characters is easier – except you have to manage them and their copious backstories. For example, Cricket and Heidi could just as well not be in the new Ruby Oliver book at all (The Treasure Map of Boys), but I couldn't cut them, because they'd  been important in the first two books.

Getting to know new characters: I don't have a process, really. I get a visual picture in my mind, very often a composite of a couple people I know, maybe mixed in with a film actor or something. I try and suss out what that character's issues and drives are. Then I start writing. People emerge through their actions and dialogue.

What is your opinion on third person vs. first person? In most of your books, you have written in first person, but you made a different choice when writing The Disreputable History of Frankie Laudau-Banks. What kinds of stories do you think lend themselves to third person/first person and why?

First person comes easily to me; I like experimenting with new voices. Switching to third person for Disreputable History was just a gut instinct, and I took some time at the beginning trying to find a voice for that omniscient narrator. But really it's just a gut choice.

Do you have any specific people who you write with or do you write solo?

I write fairly regularly with YA novelists Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld and Libba Bray. Sometimes other people join us. But like I said above, mainly I'm a solitary beastie.

Who is your favorite character you've written, and who is your favorite character that one of your writer friends has written?

My favorite character by me is Lyle in Dramarama. I have a lot of love for Lyle.  As for a character in a novel by one of my writer friends, I'll go with Hassan in An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.  I would love to be friends with him.  He and Lyle are similar in some ways, actually.

Are there any foods you are particular about eating ONLY a certain brand/type, and that you can not possibly eat any other kind of that food? Or any food you eat in a particular way that might seem like an odd method to other people but to you is just right?

I try not to be rigid about food, even though I was a vegan for many years and am currently a vegetarian. I have preferred brands: Boca burger, Cheese Nips, Rao's tomato sauce. But no hard loyalties. Not even between Coke and Pepsi.

I like baby carrots with pepper jack cheese.  I like diet gingerale watered down.  I make a good salad with watermelon, feta and cilantro. Do those count as odd?

What is your LEAST favorite kind of book? I know, I know, like there could ever be a hated book. But still. Least fave?

I don't like tearjerkers much. If it catches me by surprise and I cry – fine. But I would never knowingly choose a book about a woman whose husband is riddled with cancer and she watches him die a slow and touching death as they come to terms with their marriage and the meaning of life.  Also, no books with abducted children, please. And no torture of small animals. I am too thin-skinned. I can't take it.

Who was your first crush and why?

A boy named Colin Cox in Kindergarten. He was dashing.

Do you have a favorite food?


Were you scared to take the SAT's?

Moderately scared. We didn't go to tutoring classes back in the olden days, though, so it wasn't built up as much as it is, now. I'm also one of those odd people who takes a perverse pleasure in filling in little boxes.

If you could be a writer and pursue another career of interest, what would it be?


What's your favorite comedy/action/romance movies of all time?

Very hard to pick just one. My inclination is to list, list, list. But here you go:

Comedy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Action: Fight Club

Romance:   Truly Madly Deeply

Where's your favorite vacation spot?

Martha's Vineyard.

 Are you tech-savvy?

When I want to be.  I can update my website and set up my computer.  My money and my calendar are computerized. My cell phone is not really my friend, though.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?

At age 8. I wrote two or three novels that year.  But later, I got side-tracked by the theater and thought I wanted to be an actress – and then after that, a literature professor.  I began writing creatively in a serious way when I was 22.

What subject did you hate the most in high school?


Teen Authors this Thursday

This is the Dutch How to Be Bad -- isn't it cute? I love it. 

And on Thursday -- I  can't go -- but I wish I could. For those of you in NYC -- 

July 10th, at BOOKS OF WONDER 5pm:
(here I quote from their PR email)

"ANNA GODBERSENauthor of Rumorsa sequel to last year's best-selling The Luxe, a tantalizing tale of betrayal and mystery set in posh GIlded Age New York; J.M. STEELEauthor of The Market, in which Kate -- discovering that her peers have rated her "market value" as merely average -- sets out to raise her value; RACHEL VAIL, author of Lucky, Phoebe Avery's first person account of the family crisis that rocks her social status and security; the debut authorDANIEL WATERSwho's Generation Dead explores the love triangle of Adam, his goth-girl neighbor Phoebe, and Tommy, leader of the un-dead -- or "living impaired" -- teenagers; SUZANNE WEYN, author ofReincarnation, a love story that unfurls its tender theme through multiple lives, across epochs and into myriad civilizations; and New York Times bestselling writer F. PAUL WILSONauthor of the thrilling, adventure-filled Repairman Jack series, who will introduce us to Jack: Secret Histories, the first in a new series of tales about Jack during his teen years."