2012 YA Debut Interview: WHERE IT BEGAN by Ann Stampler (+Giveaway!)

My favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. There’s a whole crop of debut YA novelists coming out with books in 2012, and I can’t wait to read them! So, to share my excitement with you, I’m doing a new series of short interviews on this blog.

From December 5 through December 16, I’m featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debut authors who wrote books I want to read! Look for giveaways accompanying these interviews—as well as a chance to win a pre-order of your choice at the end of the series.

Read on to see how Ann Stampler answered my questions about writing Where It Began and more (and if you comment on this post, you could win an ARC and a personalized book plate!)…

2012 YA Debut Interview:

Ann Redisch Stampler, author of Where It Began (Simon Pulse, forthcoming March 6, 2012)

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?”

I am a very poor summarizer, but fortunately, my publisher is great at it, so here’s their description:

Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving and lacking a single memory of the accident that landed her there. What she can remember, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the accident.

As she takes us through her transformation from invisible girl to on-trend Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby herself does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why is Gabby left alone to take the fall?

Putting the pieces together will take every ounce of Gabby’s strength. As she peels back the layers of her life, she begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex…and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be.

In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

This novel came to me in fits and starts, entirely out of order. I knew the character of Gabby first, so I had her voice, and I had a general sense of what happened. Beyond that, I would get up in the morning and usually I wouldn’t have much of a sense of which bit I was going to be writing.

Once I was into it, I would read virtually everything I had so far for a couple of hours most days to get warmed up, and make little edits along the way, and sometimes in the middle of that, but generally after, I would know what I had to do, I would hear a conversation or see a glimpse of a scene, what everything looked like, and I’d go from there. And sometimes Gabby did take me places that I didn’t expect the book to go when I was first thinking about the story, but she became increasingly real to me, which created some imperatives that I hadn’t anticipated.

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

On the contrary, I think it’s safe to say that this book distracted me from doing everything else. There were periods, when I was revising in particular, that I would work for very long stretches, sometimes all-night kinds of stretches (Hint: Never send your agent email after 4 a.m. unless you think loopy email is a lot more adorable than it actually is). I had to clear very big chunks of time to be able to work on large enough pieces of it to get anything done properly. I was possibly a bit obsessive with it, I was completely taken over.

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.

I wrote this book mostly on a couch in the den at my old house. The couch is tan and the exact color of my dog, which is a good thing, because he sheds and he was right there with me. I come from the cut-and-paste school of writing—the literal kind of cutting and pasting, not the Microsoft Word kind, that involves clearing a large space on the floor and a bunch of Scotch tape and garden shears—so I also spent a certain amount of time on the floor with this book.

I also worked on this book all over town. I took a spiral notebook with me and I wrote at my favorite Japanese restaurant, the Beverly Hills Public Library, and in my car. (I wrote a couple of my picture books in a notebook propped on my steering wheel in carpool line, so this was nothing new.)

We moved shortly after I sold the book, so I can’t take a picture of the den for you, but now, even though I (supposedly) have a wonderful office in the new house, my husband is much happier working at a desk and I’ve taken up residence on a white couch in my bedroom, for when I’m writing, and at my dining room table when I’m spreading out to revise.

What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?

The upcoming publication felt real when I first sat down to read the ARC. I loved everything about it, the paper, the font, the cover, the scent of the pages. Still do.

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?

Jane Austen to England; she could plan the itinerary. Jane and I would serve trifle. That glorious summer English trifle with fresh berries and lightly whipped cream. Although if Jane felt that this was inappropriate, I would defer to her judgment on issues of menu and probably everything else. And William Shakespeare to Verona. We all know what he’d be signing. (All right, he could be signing The Two Gentlemen of Verona, but seriously, if you were William Shakespeare in Verona, what would you be signing?) And we’d be serving lemon gelato. I’m sure there are Elizabethan dishes with more literary panache, but it’s Verona, and it’s summer, and we’re eating gelato.

(I feel extraordinarily arrogant even suggesting that I might sign with these two, but given that this is the dream question, these are the writers I’d most like to meet.)

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on March 6?

I’m writing this in October, and I’m not sure yet. I have a great many wonderful ideas, but I’m not exactly sure how to get the Rolling Stones, Queen Elizabeth, and everyone who ever thought that I was weird in school to come. Also, is the entire city of Florence available for party rental, and how much confetti can you toss before it becomes a fire hazard? I’m sure that I’ll carry on about this at length on my blog as soon as I figure it out, though.

Ann Redisch Stampler: “I was born in Hartford, raised mostly in Santa Barbara, and have lived in Los Angeles throughout my adult life. I’ve been married for decades and have two children, whom I adore (husband, too), and a dog/writing companion. I dropped out of high school (not recommended), graduated from Pomona, and attended a whole lot of graduate school. I always wanted to be a writer but didn’t have the confidence to make the complete commitment and take the complete risk until now. I’ve published four picture books, mostly folklore, which I love, and there are two more on the way. Where It Began is my first novel and as I write this, the next one has to be finished in 92 days.”

Read Ann’s blog at annstampler.blogspot.com.

Follow @annstampler on Twitter.

Do you want a chance to win Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler? Ann is giving away an ARC and a personalized book plate to ONE LUCKY COMMENTER on this post. Just comment below and you’re entered to win.

(If you tweet about this giveaway you get +1 extra entry… just let me know you did.)

RULES: One winner will be chosen randomly. The giveaway to win an ARC and personalized book plate of Where It Began ends Thursday, December 15 at 5:00 p.m. EST. To win this giveaway, you must have a US mailing address. Be sure to include your email in the comment form (it is private and only I will see it), so I know how to reach you if you win.

And stay tuned for the end of the 2012 Debut Interview Series—for a chance to win the pre-order of your choice out of all ten featured authors!

What is the next Winter/Spring 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

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