Friday, August 17, 2018

Q&A with Christina June

Christina June, photo by Hannah Bjorndal
Christina June is the author of the new young adult novel Everywhere You Want to Be, based on the Little Red Riding Hood story. She also has written the YA novel It Started With Goodbye, a modern-day Cinderella retelling. She is a school counselor, and she lives in Virginia.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Everywhere You Want to Be, a modern-day Little Red Riding Hood story?

A: I knew Tilly, the "evil" stepsister from my first book It Started With Goodbye, had a story to tell, and after going with my good friend, Lisa Maxwell, on a research trip to New York (for her New York Times bestseller The Last Magician), I wanted to write a New York book too! 

And what better substitute for the evil forest in Little Red Riding Hood than the skyscrapers of NYC? The rest just fell into place as I began to brainstorm.

Q: What did you see as the right blend of the traditional fairy tale and your new characters?

A: A lot of fairy tales we loved as children have just a few really recognizable elements, but when you dig deeper, it's the themes that stick with us. 

I wanted to make sure the things we associate with the story were there--the red cape, the big bad wolf, Grandma, the basket of bread--but that I also stayed true to what the story is really about. 

It's a cautionary tale about a girl striking out on her own. Ultimately, things work out okay in the end, but not without some complications. When I'm adapting a fairy tale, I look for those "must have" items and then work in the new elements after those are in place.

Q: Do you usually plot out your novels before you start writing, or do you make changes along the way?

A: I normally plot a lot in my head, both in terms of characters and conflict, but this is the book that forced me to write it all down in advance. I sold on proposal, which meant writing a detailed synopsis (seven pages!) and three chapters months before I wrote the whole thing. 

A lot changed in the synopsis, but once it was accepted, not much changed when I sat down to write. I hated it, but in the long run, I think changing my process has really helped me. 

Now I can't imagine writing without doing the synopsis ahead of time. My first drafts are much cleaner and there are less big ticket items to revise, which is great because I am not a lover of revisions.

Q: Who are some of your favorite writers?

A: I'm a huge fan of Judy Blume--all-time favorite author. I grew up reading a lot of V.C. Andrews, L.M. Montgomery, and Christopher Pike. In current YA, I love Miranda Kenneally, Katy Upperman, Tiffany D. Jackson, Jenn Bennett, Marci Lyn Curtis and Brigid Kemmerer. 

In adult, I've really enjoyed Alyssa Cole, Liane Moriarty, Helen Huang, Kevin Kwan, Celeste Ng, Taylor Jenkins Reid and Jane Green.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am headed into copy edits on my 2019 book, No Place Like Here, which is a modern twist on Hansel & Gretel. Ashlyn thinks she's going home after a year in boarding school, but instead, she learns her dad's going to jail, her mom's going to rehab, and she's off to work at a wilderness retreat center with her estranged cousin. 

It's about a girl finding her voice and I'm excited for it to be out in the world next spring!

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I've got a couple of events coming up in August--8/25 in Richmond, Virginia (with Katy Upperman) and 8/31 in Arlington, Virginia (with Sandhya Menon).  I'd love to say hello to readers who want to drop by!  Check my website for more info.

And, if you're into newsletters, my subscribers are the first to know about events, giveaways and new stuff.

Thanks for hosting me!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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