Yes, you read right – the totally awesome Stephanie Perkins, author of my most anticipated YA novel of 2010, is here to answer some questions! Anna & The French Kiss comes out in December and if you haven’t heard of this one yet, you may have been living under a rock for the better part of the year! Anyone with a French-fetish (myself included) has no doubt been salivating for it’s release date and Stephanie graciously answers some questions about the novel itself!
Q: In Anna & The French Kiss, our narrator (Anna) is sent to a Parisian boarding school and isn’t too happy about that. If it were you in her place, what would your reaction be? Would you be packing your bags eagerly or barricading yourself in your room?
Anna’s reaction is very similar to what my own would be. When I got the idea to write a novel set in Paris—when I knew relatively nothing about France or the French language—I was terrified. Writing a story in which my protagonist was also uneasy was the ONLY way I could have written it. As Anna had to learn something, I did, too. We grew braver (and more cultured!) together.
Q: What can we expect from our leading man, Étienne St. Clair? Other than be irresistibly gorgeous and swoon-worthy, what are his talents and interests? What makes him different from every other stereotypical ‘French Boy’ character out there (not that there’s a problem with those, I wouldn’t mind one myself!)
Well, he’s not actually French! His father is French, his mother is American, and he was raised in London, so he has an English accent. He’s also flawed. He makes mistakes and bad decisions. It’s my hope that his flaws will make him MORE sexy, MORE real in the eyes of my readers. I’m not interested in perfection. Perfection is boring.
But he does have really, really good hair.
Q: Anna & The French Kiss is of course set in Paris, France. Do you plan on basing any of your future novels in any other international cities, in the tradition of Anna? A summer romance in Rome, a steamy fling in the Greek Islands, love at first sight in London…the list could go on!
My next novel, Lola & the Boy Next Door (a companion to ANNA), is set in America, but the final companion, Isla & the Happily Ever After is set back in Paris. I’d love to write more international novels. I’m a longtime Anglophile, so I imagine someday I’ll write something set in England. And I already have plans in the works for a few novels that take place in other (secret, for now!) countries, based on some sort of weird history or aspect of those countries that I find fascinating.
Q: What sort of music inspires you to write? Are there certain moods, voices or verses that really spur on your imagination? (Anyone following your blog will know about your soft spot for Chris Martin, Rufus Wainright and your general taste in ‘awesome’)
Thank you for the compliment! It’s a generic answer, but I listen and write to almost everything. I love seventies punk, I love piano solos, and I love almost everything that falls between. My favorite band is Radiohead, so they make every playlist. I listened to a lot of French rock and punk (Which is rare! The French are more interested in hip-hop and electronica) while writing Anna, and Lola has been almost exclusively written to Jónsi’s (of Sigur Rós, another favorite band) debut solo album, GO. The colorful, bombastic, crazy song “Animal Arithmetic” is Lola’s theme song. Anna’s theme is “Besoin De Rien” by The Hellboys. Not so much for the content (the title means “thanks for nothing,” ha!), but because it *feels* exciting and confusing.
Q: These days, it’s hard to choose a good novel from the Young Adult section! Beautiful covers are often sneaky ways to obscure a not-so-good story and the influx of paranormal/supernatural plotlines make it so difficult to weed out the good from the bad. In your opinion (as a reader and a writer!), what makes a good YA novel? And what makes it stand out from all the rest?
Yeah, unfortunately, I have to agree with this. There’s still amazing stuff being published, but it takes more effort to find than it used to. First, I’d take anything you read online about HOW TOTALLY AWESOME something is—including my own book!—with a grain of salt. Ask your librarian or your local indie bookseller what’s awesome. They don’t have ulterior motives. They want the good novels to succeed, and they love turning people on to quality books that DON’T have huge marketing campaigns.
Also, it never hurts to read the first few pages of a book before investing time or money on it. Those first pages will tell you a lot. If it feels familiar, it is familiar.
As for my opinion on what makes a good YA novel, I’m flexible. I read all genres. I enjoy both the popular stuff and the literary stuff. Overall, I hope to find characters that feel real and experience some level of growth, an engaging setting, something (anything!) that surprises me, and, yes, a happy ending. Throw in a strong romantic element, and I’m in heaven.