Between Two Lockers: We get the dish from YA authors on their books, lives and secret crushes. See More...

Between Two Lockers with Ashley Hope Pérez!

An interview with Ashley Hope Pérez, author of What Can't Wait.

Between Two Lockers with Ashley Hope Pérez!

Hi guys! It's FRIDAY! Wait. Sorry. Those mere capital letters did not adequately convey the joy of my previous sentence. Let me start over: IT'S MOTHEREFFIN' FRIIIIDAAAAAAAAAY! A day so good they named a movie AND a restaurant AND several songs after it! What other days of the week get that treatment? Okay, well . . . Tuesdays. But other than that!

Today I am pleased and proud and SUPER EXCITED to present another hard-hitting segment of our Between Two Lockers series. (And man, do I wish we could hire a few of the folks from The Colbert Report to create a gif of a bald eagle wearing a Hell's Angel jacket that would swoop over the page anytime you guys read the words "Between Two Lockers." And then guitars would kick in; it'd be awesome.)

The YA author who is baring her soul today is none other than Ashley Hope Pérez, who moved me to tears and loud, blubbery exclamations of adoration with her debut novel, What Can't Wait. I knew I had to delve into the mind of someone I'm pretty sure is my soul twin, so I'm super excited she agreed to be interviewed! Check out her interview inside, and for those of you in the Houston area, A) why haven't you come drinking with me yet? and B) check inside for details of Ashley's book signing, coming to a Barnes and Noble near you!! (well, as near as anything can be to anyone in Houston.)

Let's get to it! Pretend I'm Piers Morgan! Only not actually a giant douchenozzle who, for some reason, everyone has decided to love all of a sudden. You guys, I thought we'd all pretty much decided how we felt about him. ANYWAY!



One of the things I loved about Marisa was that she was not only good at math, but she liked that she was good at math. You were a teacher, so how often did you see students who liked being good at school? What are your suggestions for getting all students more interested in school? (i didn't say the questions would be easy)

The vast majority of my students did not see any important part of their identity invested in their academic work. If anything, when they first came to my class, they were invested in proving that they didn't care. I had one student turn his homework in on the sly so no one would know he was actually doing it.

I had to condition my students to see school success as a life asset. My biggest success came from modeling goal-setting and problem-solving. I also think much of our motivation comes from relationships, so I spent a lot of time connecting with my students outside of the school day, and I showed them that no matter how hard they tried, they wouldn't get me to stop caring about their future.

Students knew that I was working just as hard as I was asking them to work and that I never asked them to do something I wasn't willing to do myself. I did every single assignment that I asked them to do. If they had to write a research paper, one-act play, or college application essay, I wrote one, too. In fact, Marisa's application essay in What Can't Wait came in part from something I wrote with my students.

My biggest suggestion for teen advocates is that they talk to teens about what they care about and build bridges between that and whatever is being offered in the classroom. Many, many scholarly habits (this was a buzz word in my classroom) for school success are transferable to other life situations.

She knows of what she speaks - here's Ashley with her AP Lit class.

H-town!! This book spoke to my heart because it was set in Houston. What are your top five favorite Houston places?

Onion Creek in the Heights - right behind the house I lived in while in Houston, and they have the best iced coffee in the world.

Memorial Park -- I got tricked into running here by my husband, Arnulfo, and I trained for my first marathon with one of my best buds by running many a time around the trail.

Also, it's like 10 degrees cooler there than anywhere else in the city.

Cavatore's Italian restaurant--best manicotti and the site of one of my first dates with my husband. Plus they have red-checked table clothes and a piano player named Michelangelo. I can't wait to take Liam here!

This little adorable be-overalled small man is Liam. He would like FYA to know he's got more hair now.

Taco Laredo on 45 and Howard -- yeah, this is a breakfast taco place inside a gas station, but I still fantasize about the egg & potato tacos that I used to get before work on Fridays. So delicious.

Spanish Flowers Mexican restaurant -- great margaritas within walking distance of home. They also have yummy soups and a really pretty bathroom.

The Teahouse on Westheimer -- I'm a bubble tea junkie, and I wrote a lot of What Can't Wait while slurping almond milk tea here. (I know this is my sixth pick; I can't follow directions and can't stand to leave anything out.)

Damn, I'm hungry now.

Marisa's story isn't something we get to read a lot. Or even occasionally. But it seemed very real to me. What made you decide to write a story in which the main character's parents would rather their daughter be married right after high school than go on to college?

Your question almost answers itself. I wanted to write this story because it's a kind of experience that many teens have lived but that hasn't been written about. My nerdy, teacher self thinks that, beyond the book's entertainment value, it also has the advantage of showing a possible path through challenges. I hope that even readers whose life experiences are very different from Marisa's will connect to the ideas of self-reliance and autonomy without cutting ties from family.


If your real-life adolescence were a YA book...What would you, the main character, be like?

In middle school, I was a little punk rebel with an over-sized attitude (think Cyd Charisse of Rachel Cohen's Gingerbread), although my shenanigans never jeopardized my grades. By high school, I decided to clean up my act and be nice to my folks. I spent a lot of time in a garage darkroom and even more time reading, agonizing over papers for my English class, and writing stories with no action. Oh yeah, like Marisa, I worked at a grocery store. I had a fierce (and totally secret and unannounced) rivalry with another cashier for the fastest scan times.

Who is your secret crush?

My secret crush---since basically forever---is Ed Harris. Oh, and Paul Newman. It's a secret because most people think it's weird to have a crush on old (or dead) guys.

My not-secret crush is my husband and best friend, Arnulfo.

What is your number #1 source of angst?

Ani DiFranco. Oh wait, the question was source of angst, not source for angst.

Um, my own clumsiness. I think I could trip over my own shadow.

Luckily she didn't fall down while posing for this pic in Mexico.

At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?

When I left East Texas in the dust and got a full scholarship to go to college early. I loved that I made my world bigger before other people thought I should. Made me feel like a rebel in a good way.

Having been in drill team and instructed by a former Rangerette, and then having been teammates with many girls who became Rangerettes, I know more about Kilgore, TX than I wish I did. I feel ya, girl.

And who would play you in the film adaptation?

The Minnie Driver of the Circle of Friends era. Pretty, wholesome, and secretly sexy.


What is your secret power?

Baking cookies that bring about world peace.

What is your #1 favorite food?


Does that count? I really love food, so it's unfair to ask me to choose.

Fair enough! I see lentil soup, which gives me pause, but I can't fault you the brownies and tiramisu and pizza!

If you could assemble your own Ocean's 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick?

I'd have my Ocean's 11 take over a public school district. Arnulfo (who was the first calculus teacher EVER at the school where we taught to have students pass the AP Calc exam, 6 the first year he taught it and over 15 the second) would get the district's math program on track. Because that's a really tough job, he would get some help from superstar math teachers Kym Riggins and Alice Fisher. My friends Shelley Burns and Sarah Derry would be in charge of encouraging work- life balance among all our amazing, Type A teachers. Of course, I would run the English program.

And because this is a fantasy, I'd also get to work as a librarian whenever I felt like it, because I have some unscratched librarian itches.

Oh, I'd also add TFA leader Wendy Kopp to my crew because she knows all the right people. She'd fill in the gaps.

You know, normally we go for fictional characters, but after reading this, I NEED THIS TO HAPPEN. Preferably soon, before all of our teachers are fired for doing their jobs.

Tell me something scandalous!

Ummm, I have a (really small) tattoo. It comes with a story, part of which you can read here.

What is your favorite adult beverage?

A nice, spicy bloody Mary.

Have you ever been to Beavers, which is in your old neighborhood of the Heights? Cause they'll serve you a bloody mary with a full piece of BACON in it.

Who is your "freebie"?

I'm so lame that I didn't even know what this meant. Seriously. I had to google it. No freebies for me (or my man) except the ones they hand out on Saturday's at Sam's.

YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?

I have so many author crushes it's not even funny. I L.O.V.E. Sherman Alexie but worry that I'd be too boring for him to accept my charm.

Out of all of the characters you've written, which one do you most wish you could be?

Actually, I've spent most of my life learning to love being myself, so I'm going to stick with it!

Look how adorable she is!

If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and obvs, you ARE), what pajamas would you wear, and what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie you'd bring?

If it's girls only, I'd be wearing a big sleep shirt so I could move freely for the vigorous pillow fight. Snack food would be Australian licorice only I would want to eat but that you could try if you wanted, and the movie would be A Love Song for Bobby Long.

And now, the ever-scientific life prediction game of MASH. As always, Ashley provided three answers for each category, and we added the fourth. The random number is THREE, so let's see what we get!

Mansion Apartment Shack House


Arnulfo (sorry, this is the only non-nego)
That guy who hosts the Little Miss Perfect pageant on WE

Riviera Maya

Puerto Rico
Paris, TX

# of Kids
(I have to push these babies out---be merciful)
58 (A woman releases about 522 fertilizable eggs in her lifetime. I divided by 9, since obvs a lady wouldn't be getting pregnant if she was already pregnant, and so 58 is as many embyros she could conceivably, uh, conceive.)

Super-star librarian

Charlie Sheen's publicist


Monopoly dollars

Kilgore, TX
Los Angeles
East Chicago


Koala bear



Um . . . yikes. I'm not sure that you can raise 58 kids on even a nice salary like 100 grand. And I'm pretty sure that your job as Charlie Sheen's publicist isn't going to give you much time to raise those kids. But, on the plus side, at least you're not married to that dude from Little Miss Perfect! And hopefully all of your kids are as adorable as the one you've got now!

Thanks so much for hanging out with us, Ashley! And everyone, please go pick up What Can't Wait, cause OHMYGODIT'SSOGOOD!!!!!!!

And, if you'd like to see Ashley, she's coming to Houston to do a book signing! Here are the deets:

March 12, 2011: Barnes & Noble Book Signing, 2-4 p.m.
Pasadena Barnes & Noble
5656 Fairmont Parkway
Pasadena, TX 77505
(281) 991-8011

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.