For those who missed our conversation with Coe Booth (KENDRA) and An Na (THE FOLD) last night at readergirlz, here are a few choice excerpts, reprinted with the authors' permission:
How did you tap into your teen years when writing your novels, KENDRA and THE FOLD? Was there anything in those books that you actually experienced growing up?
Anna: I did indeed have a crazy aunt offer my sister plastic surgery. We all thought she was crazy, but there were girls going through with it.
Coe: My teen years are always right on the surface for me. I feel like it was all yesterday sometimes. All I have to do is close my eyes and remember all that angst.I didn’t have to tap into my own experiences for KENDRA. It’s not based on my life in any way, but the feelings Kendra goes through are definitely the kind I would have had. Like Kendra, I was (and am) very sensitive!
Anna, did you grow up in a mostly-white suburb? Or were you around a lot of other Koreans? Coe, what was it like growing up in the Bronx?
Anna: I grew up in a pretty white neighborhood in San Diego, but there was a Korean church nearby and I spent almost every Sunday hanging out with my Korean friends at church and then Roberto’s afterwards. Can I just say how much I miss good Mexican food living out here in Vermont. Sigh.
Coe: I love the Bronx. It’s like another character in the book, especially in TYRELL.
How does eyelid surgery work?
Anna: If you google asian eyelid surgery, you’ll get a ton of photos. I couldn’t look at the pictures. It made me queasy and I would hold my hand up to hide the photos while I read the info. But the before and after photos are interesting.
What is your writing process? How do you think/come up with your characters?
Coe: I don’t really have a real process right now. I’m still trying to figure out this whole full-time writer "thing." I’m a terrible procrastinator, and the only time I seem to get any writing done is when I meet friends for writing "dates" in places where there’s nothing else to do except write. I don’t believe in writer’s block. It’s just another way of saying, "I don’t feel like writing today!"
I’m always "getting" characters in my head. I don’t really know where they come from. They’ve always just been there. (I realize this sounds very schizo, but it’s just how I’ve always been!) I find that whenever I try to force my characters to act a certain way in order to move the plot along, it never works. It always feels forced and ultimately doesn’t work.
Coe, this is your second book, how was writing that different than TYRELL?
Coe: KENDRA is a lot different than TYRELL. They live in the same projects (and Tyrell makes a brief cameo), but otherwise they have totally different teen experiences. Tyrell was under-supervised and Kendra is way over-supervised. Kendra was raised by her grandmother who is the complete opposite from Tyrell’s mother.
The original inspiration for KENDRA was watching some of my friends who had babies when they were teens, now have teenage children themselves. I didn’t want to write about teen pregnancy. I wanted to write about the "result" of teen pregnancy. And so Kendra is the 14 year old child of a woman who had her at 14.
Anna, was it hard to write a second book after winning so many prizes for your first book?
Anna: It was hard. But I also had a lot happen in my life soon after the awards. My daughter was born and my younger brother, Sung, passed away all in a year. So with some amazing highs, I also had some huge life stuff happen so the writing just had to be put on hold for a bit.
As you can tell, our rgz Live! hourlong chats go by fast. They can be funny, poignant, and often painfully honest. Last night, Anna, Coe, I, and others who stopped by also talked about skin lightening creams, our favorite Halloween candes, the possibility of KENDRA facing banning challenges, books we're reading and loving, and the pros and cons of Mario Kart 4 -- among other things.
Tune in all week at readergirlz to chat with authors galore. Tonight it's VERSE BITES at 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. PST with authors Lorie Ann Grover, Stephanie Hemphill, and Lisa Ann Sandell. See you there!