(Image adapted from cover; cover art © 2012 Terry Ribera)
Why, hello there. Today I have the last Summer 2012 YA Debut Interview in the series! Yes, the very last interview of these summer debut YA authors who’ve written books I am absolutely dying to read!
The final Summer 2012 YA Debut is Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia. Read on to see how this author answered the Q&A… And be sure to enter to win a temporary tattoo and a signed and personalized finished copy of Fingerprints of You!
Kristen-Paige Madonia: Fingerprints of You is about that strange but brilliant time in life when you realize the world is much larger than you thought, and that you have the ability to decide what kind of person you want to become. It’s about a pregnant teenager and the cross-country road trip she takes in search of her father, a man she’s never met. It’s set on the road and amidst the inspiring music and art scene in San Francisco, and the book explores the challenges of growing up in a single-parent home and the various ways we can confront our pasts, our skeletons in the closet. But at the heart of it, Fingerprints of You is about hope. About the comfort we find in one another and the security of family; not blood-born family necessarily, but the families we create for ourselves from the people we love and the people that love us back. The book is about a seventeen-year-old named Lemon Williams and her discovery of hope and strength as she stands on the brink of adulthood.
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? How did you appease it? Did it ever misbehave?
In general, the book came fairly fast, and the characters arrived in my imagination with great stubbornness and spirit. I was actually writing a different book when I first created the central characters in Fingerprints of You, but once they existed, I just couldn’t leave them alone. I began the book as a short story but quickly realized it was much larger than that, so I wrote a second story, and a third. Once I accepted that I was working on a new novel, the manuscript came quickly. I wrote the bulk of the first draft chronologically during a one-month writing residency in Key West in 2008, and then, as I always do, I took some time away from it to let it breathe. I rewrote the book during another 4-week residency in New York and felt fairly confident I had told the story I was supposed to tell. Of course there was a lot of revision and editing that followed, but the process was rather straightforward. And the book belonged to Lemon from the first day I started it—it was always driven by her voice, her restlessness, and her journey into adulthood as she tried to determine the kind of person she would become.
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.
It began in the coffee shops of San Francisco where I was living at the time, but I wrote the majority of the first draft in a wonderful studio in Key West with a Mango tree climbing through my deck and a sculpture garden in the back yard. The second draft was written in a large writers’ studio in a converted barn in upstate New York at the Millay Colony. I lived in Charlottesville by then, so I reworked the novel and edited it in various rooms of a small house my husband and I were renting at the time. And somewhere in between, we spent about three months living out of our car during a road trip we took to Alaska, so, like Lemon, I moved around a lot during the writing of this novel. There was no one place, per say, but a number of places that were as different in size as style, but they each contributed to the making of the book in some way. I feel fortunate because I was living in transit when I wrote the novel, just like Lemon was, and I think it worked well to help me understand her wanderlust and, at the same time, her craving for stability. In that way, we’re very much alike… And in hindsight, that was the ideal way to write this particular book.
Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could picture devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.
That’s an easy one: The ideal reader would be a person so absorbed in the book, so involved and engaged that they forget to get off the bus, they don’t notice their subway stop was an hour earlier, they don’t realize the park is now dark and the day has slipped away from them. Other than that, there is no perfect reader; I hope the book appeals to a broad range of people—men and women, teens and adults, people living in big cities and small towns alike.
Publishing a novel is full of high points, low points, absolutely surreal points, and shocking points you never thought you’d see in your lifetime. Tell us a high point, a low point, a surreal point, and something shocking or at least somewhat surprising about your experience so far.
I’m writing this about five months before the release date, so I still have a ways to go, but needless to say, getting the offer from Simon & Schuster was THE absolute high point because it marked the beginning of a long and wonderful path to the publication of my first novel. My agent phoned with the news, and it was nice because I was alone when I got the call. I had some time to myself before the champagne and celebrations and the calls to family and friends; the news was just mine, it was private, and that was really lovely. You work so hard for so long, and most of that work you’re alone, so it seemed fitting to be alone when I found out we’d sold the book. It was perfect, really, to have an hour or so when that news, that thing that I had been fighting for, for so long, was all mine.
And I guess, in contrast, as with anything, the process inevitably involves disappointing moments as well. For me, the one disappointment that has come with the novel is the realization that, in some venues, there is still a slight stigma attached to the YA label. For example, I have a friend, a highly educated published author in fact, whom I saw recently, and when the conversation turned to the release date of my novel, she made the comment, as she always does, that she couldn’t wait for her daughter to read the book. There’s certainly nothing wrong with her excitement at giving the novel to her sixteen-year-old, but to me her comment implies she doesn’t plan to read the novel herself. Of course I realize it’s a personal sensitivity for me as I continue to adjust to being labeled a YA writer, a sensitivity I hope I’ll shed as more time passes. Margo Rabb published a wonderful article in The New York Times a few years ago entitled, “I’m YA, and I’m O.K.”, which I recommend to anyone writing fiction that straddles the line between YA and adult; like myself, she wrote a book she imagined being labeled as adult literary fiction but was sold to a YA division. There are inevitably challenges that come with that process, and many adults still don’t realize the high caliber literature that can now be found on the YA shelves. It’s such a funny thing—these labels based on audience—and I find it fascinating that literature is the only art form that’s adopted the YA category; we don’t classify visual art, paintings or sculptures, for teens versus adults just as we don’t claim music to be one or the other. But it is what it is, and at the end of the day I couldn’t be happier with the home that Fingerprints of You found at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
In terms of surprising moments, I’d have to say my first visit to NYC to meet my editor was pretty astonishing. I was incredibly nervous and intimidated, but when I arrived everyone was unbelievably normal. Everyone was kind and gracious and welcoming, and as odd as it sounds, I was surprised by that. Publishers are in the business because they love books, and it’s easy to forget that sometimes when you’re collecting rejection letters and reading the heartbreaking stories about authors who get orphaned or novels that get lost in big houses. But the staff at S&S is one hundred percent amazing, and they work incredibly hard because they care about stories; that’s the bottom line, and writers need to remember that. S&S has done everything possible to make me feel like I’m part of the team, and when I realized that was going to be how our relationship worked, I was surprised, and so very thankful.
And as for surreal, it was the same day, during my first visit to S&S. My editor spent the morning showing me around and introducing me to people in the office, and when we met someone from the art department in the hallway, and he introduced us, she told me she was in the middle of reading Fingerprints of You. I remember thinking, “Really? Why? I don’t even know you!” Besides my agent and my editor, my family were the only people that had read the book, and it was the strangest thing to listen to her talk about the different sections she liked and the characters she connected with. It’s obvious, of course, but it was surreal, and I think that was the moment, that girl in that hallway, that was when I realized it was actually happening. Other people were going to read the book, and as wonderful as that is, it also means that, in a way, the book isn’t really mine anymore. That’s what I love most about writing, one of the fundamental reasons I do it, but it’s also what I struggle with: it’s yours for so long, and then, it just isn’t. Once it’s out there, it becomes the readers’, and they’ll bring their own experiences and emotions and viewpoints into the novel. It’s really not mine at all anymore.
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?
I would love to go on book tour in Europe, to take the train for weeks at a time and immerse myself in unfamiliar cultures. I’d give intimate readings on houseboats in Amsterdam, drink thick dark beer with book clubs at pubs in Ireland, and lead literary discussions in Paris while sipping small cups of espresso at sidewalk cafes. And I’d bring Flannery O’Connor to keep things honest and Hunter S. Thompson to keep things a little bit Rock and Roll. For food I’d serve red wine, dark chocolate, and extravagant cheeses and baguettes.
If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? (I almost hate myself for asking you this question and making you choose! Almost.)
For me the first sentence is still the sentence that tells you exactly what the book is about: a mother and daughter relationship on the brink of that moment when the child becomes an adult…
My mother got her third tattoo on my seventeenth birthday, a small navy hummingbird she had inked above her left shoulder blade, and though she said she picked it to mark my flight from childhood, it mostly had to do with her wanting to sleep with Johnny Drinko, the tattoo artist who worked in the shop outside town.
Fingerprints of You will be published by Simon & Schuster on August 7, 2012. Read on for a chance to win a signed and personalized finished copy of the hardcover—as well as a temporary tattoo!
Kristen-Paige Madonia is the author of Fingerprints of You, a young adult literary novel, and recent stories can be found in the New Orleans Review, upstreet, and American Fiction: Best Unpublished Stories by Emerging Writers. She has received scholarships or residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, Hedgebrook, the Millay Colony, the Studios of Key West, and the Key West Literary Seminar. She holds an MFA from CSU, Long Beach and teaches fiction in Charlottesville, VA.
Visit her at kristenpaigemadonia.com to find out more!
Follow @KPMadonia on Twitter.
The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner!
Want an *international* chance to win any one of the Summer 2012 debut novels featured in this interview series? Come back tomorrow to enter!