Friday, August 5, 2016

Q&A with Teresa Toten

Teresa Toten, photo by Matthew Wiley
Teresa Toten is the author of the new young adult novel Beware That Girl. Her many other books include Shattered Glass and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. She is based in Toronto.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Beware That Girl, and did you plot out the whole story before starting to write it?

A: I never plot or outline any of my novels! Every page, scene and chapter is propelled by what went on before and where the characters think they are heading. It’s a nerve-wracking way to write but it’s the only way I know how!

For Beware That Girl, I had that opening scene of the two blonde girls in the ICU, one in the bed comatose and the other in the chair covered in mud and blood for a long time. Page by page I discovered which girl was in which position and why as I wrote the book. I had no idea how it would end until I wrote those last few pages.

Q: The story is told from Kate and Olivia's alternating perspectives. Why did you choose to write Kate's in first person and Olivia's in third person?

A: Playing with POV is a wonderful instrument at the writer’s disposal. When we meet Kate, she’s not likeable or particularly sympathetic, I felt I had to do her in first person so that the reader could more easily identify with her and get into her head.

Olivia was more glamorous but a bit unknowable, so I felt strongly that she should be in third person and the reader would get a wider lens on what was going on.

Q: There are many recent novels with "Girl" in the title. How was the title for your novel selected?

A: Oh the irony! Beware That Girl was untitled for a couple of years! Titles flew from both my American and Canadian publishers and were all found wanting.

It was in the copy edit stage when I did a very close rereading of that first scene when it came to me.  We have to “beware” of one of the girls but which one?

So I came up with “Beware THE Girl” but Beverly Horowitz, the genius publisher at Delacorte, said that was too vague and she suggested Beware THAT Girl” was both more specific and it keeps the reader guessing. She was bang on.

Q: Do you see this novel as appealing to both teenagers and adults?

A: Absolutely! In fact, responses I’m getting are skewing slightly more to adult readers at this stage.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m in the rough and terrifying stages of another mystery that explores moral ambiguity through the course of a lifelong friendship between two guys and a girl. The working title is "Three on a Match."

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I had no idea that writing such a dark, twisted and fairly creepy book would be so much fun!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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