It’s time to interview one of the January 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Authors! Today’s featured author is Erica Lorraine Scheidt—her first novel, Uses for Boys, comes out tomorrow, January 15, from St. Martin’s Griffin. Read on to see how Erica answered my Q&A…
…And scroll down to see who won the giveaway!
Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” Surely you don’t carry around a copy so you can recite the description off the flaps, so how do you answer this question when asked?
Erica: I stammer a lot when I get this question. I’d like to think that I say this: It’s a story about a sixteen-year-old girl’s search for family. It’s about boys and best friends. About using sex as a shortcut to intimacy. It’s about creating the family we want while learning to accept the family we have.
I wish I could say something like this: It’s about the stories we tell ourselves.
I think what I end up saying is something that sounds more like this: Uses for Boys is about a 16-year-old girl who’s looking to belong somewhere and she uses sex as a way to get there.
NRS: In my experience, novels transform themselves, sometimes unrecognizably, during the course of being written. Were there any shocking transformations that occurred between rough draft and final bound book?
ELS: I really did think, when I started, that it was a book about boys. I was interested in all the complex reasons why teen girls have sex—the healthy and unhealthy reasons and everything in between. The whole spectrum. But the more I wrote, the more I became convinced that it wasn’t a book about boys, it was a book about best friends. And then (I wrote the book for 3.5 years), I realized that the book was about the mother. Marguerite Duras would tell you that it’s always about the mother.
I didn’t know it was about family until it was finished. Now it feels so clearly about family—and not just about the family you need, but about the family that needs you.
NRS: So you’re here with me gossiping about your main characters behind their backs. What’s something they wouldn’t want anyone to know that might make them blush?
ELS: I think Anna is strong. Readers sometimes say that they want to shake her, that they can’t understand her bad decisions, but I look at her and think: she wants to do the right thing, but doesn’t know what that is.
And the thing is, she just keeps relentlessly moving forward. That’s Anna’s strength. I think sometimes the only power a kid has is to keep going, to keep moving forward, to keep trying until something works.
NRS: Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.
ELS: My friends Deanna and Emmett have a mid-century modern furniture store in San Francisco and they helped me buy the world’s most beautiful desk. Even though it’s heavy as fuck, I’ve moved it with me through three homes during the writing of this book. And although I write in bed, I write on the couch, I write in coffee shops, and I wrote a bunch of the book in a tiny dorm room at Skidmore when I was at the New York Summer Writers’ Institute—the desk has seen a lot of action.
Here’s a picture of my desktop.
Now the desk lives in my studio at Headlands Center for the Arts. Headlands is that spot. There’s nowhere to go but down from there.
NRS: To go along with the theme of this blog (and my life), what is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
ELS: The. Internet. Absolutely. That and my own insecurities. I spend a lot of time worrying instead of writing.
NRS: Imagine you’re on the subway, or bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe this person to us.
ELS: The book is stuffed in her backpack. She pulls it out. It’s missing a cover and the edges are blacked in with pen. She’s not reading it, instead she’s writing in a spiral notebook. Her backpack is full of textbooks, but she’s working on a song lyric or a drawing. She has earphones in and right now her hair’s bleached and blue, but it won’t be next week. She’s writing and rewriting, or she’s drawing and redrawing, oblivious to everything around her.
Now I see I’ve basically described my 18-year-old goddaughter, Sonja. I dedicated Uses for Boys to her.
NRS: If you could go back in time to whisper a few words of advice into your own ear before you leaped into this writing career, what would you tell your young, impressionable self?
ELS: Stop smoking pot and keep searching and turn off the TV and feel. It’s OK to feel. Feel deeply and fail and keep trying and write hard and love hard, as hard as you can, and have faith. All the good stuff takes longer than you ever imagined.
NRS: Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?
ELS: Grace Paley? Yes. Grace Paley and Maurice Sendak and we’d be at the Inauguration in 2008 for President Obama and my family would be there too and, you know, Aretha Franklin, and it would be that night when everything felt possible, and I’m sure whatever they served at the Inaugural dinner would be fine with us.
NRS: How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday tomorrow?
ELS: I feel so lucky. I feel so fortunate that it’s hard to express how excited I am about Tuesday. My girlfriend and my stepdaughter and I are going to Green Apple Books (!!) in San Francisco to meet a bunch of our friends and they’re all going to bring their kids too and we’re going to celebrate the book and toast the three teen filmmakers from TILT, at Ninth Street Film Center, who made the book trailer and we’ll all drink wine and sparkling apple cider and buy books.
Uses for Boys comes out tomorrow, January 15, from St. Martin’s Griffin. Read on for a chance to win a signed book and more!
As a teenager, Erica Lorraine Scheidt studied writing at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and later received an MA in creative writing from University of California, Davis. Now a teaching artist and longtime volunteer at 826 Valencia, Erica works with teen writers in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s a 2012 Artist in Residence at Headlands Center for the Arts and is currently at work on a second novel for young adults.
Watch the book trailer:
The trailer for Uses for Boys was created by three teenage filmmakers: Julia Retzlaff, a sophomore; Tiffany Robinson, a senior; and Evatt Carrodus, an 8th grader. All three were alumni of TILT, the Youth Program of the Ninth Street Independent Film Center in San Francisco and were mentored by TILT Media Arts Educator, Kapi’olani Lee.
ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…
One lucky person has won a *signed* copy of Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt plus a bookmark and a few GET OUT OF THE SUBURBS QUICK AS YOU CAN pencils!