A few weeks ago, I reviewed So Much Closer, by Susane Colasanti, which inspired a flurry of comments about girls moving to another city to follow a boy, as well as a slew of reminiscence about a little television show called Felicity.
Today, we have Susane herself visiting us, to answer all of the questions we asked, and to put her author seal on the great Ben vs. Noel debate!
THE ACTUALLY RELATED TO THE BOOK QUESTIONS
Okay, so the fact that Brooke moved to NY to follow Scott, and the resulting story that unfolded really gave me pause and caused me to question some of my own judgements about what is or isn't acceptable healthy behavior for a young woman. So I have to give you props. I love it when a book makes me examine my own thought process! This point has also had pretty polarizing reactions amongst our readers. From "I completely understand" to "No, that's creepy and stalkerish". I thought it best to get it straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. So tell us your inspiration for this story, for Brooke's character arc, and what you think about heavy topics like following a boy to another city and how that is or isn't okay!
Can I just say you rock for asking this question? Because I have been burning to share my answer.
It's tempting to never take risks with my writing. Play it safe. Keep the characters' conflicts within standard parameters. Only have them do things we want them to. Write the story that's acceptable to everyone. Oh wait. That story doesn't exist. What I find way more interesting is taking risks that will instigate debate, that will get readers thinking about their own values and how far they'd go for someone they're passionately in love with. Brooke is so in love with Scott that she's afflicted with a sort of tunnel vision. She just wants to get so much closer to him, no matter what the process entails. It's not until she later realizes that she actually moved to New York City for herself, not for a boy, that she begins to see clearly.
Until we are deeply, madly, crazy in love with a boy, until we feel how that overwhelming type of euphoria can affect our decisions, it's impossible for us to say what we would or wouldn't do when faced with Brooke's situation. Scott is not just some random boy. He's the boy Brooke feels is her soul mate. She sees so much potential in everything they could be that she has no choice but to follow him. She'd live with regret forever if she didn't, and Brooke likes living her life with no regrets. A huge point we also need to keep in mind is that Brooke is 17. When I was 17, I did some wild things that I would never do now as a grownup (note: I am only a grownup by definition -- my internal age is permanently set at 16). We're talking hormones, people. It's easy to criticize Brooke's choices when viewing them through a grownup lens, but teenagers' brains are still developing. Their decision-making abilities just aren't sharpened to the same degree, regardless of intelligence or maturity level.
Is following a boy to another city okay? When you're following your heart, I think a major decision like moving is more about the other things going on in your life. People move for their boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, and husbands all the time. What makes this story controversial is that Scott is not Brooke's boyfriend. She just had a Knowing that they're meant to be together. I made a very similar decision about a boy when I was 17. I left everything behind and moved to a whole new state to be with him. But like Brooke's decision, it wasn't just about him. It was about where I was at that point in my life and why I needed such a drastic change. In the end, the move made me stronger and more aware of what my next steps in life needed to be. Brooke gains the same clarity by moving. If she had stayed home, not taking the chance that would allow her to wake up to a whole new life, she would not have been inspired to improve her life academically, socially, or professionally. These are all important aspects of a young woman's development. I followed a boy to another city. Yes, I think it was okay for me at the time. I needed to leave in order to find myself. Would it be okay for me to follow a boy now? No freaking way. But when I was 17, in love, and allowing myself to be swept up in the excitement of starting the new life I desperately needed, it was a chance I do not regret taking.
So Much Closer was inspired by my own experiences in other ways, too. I'm from Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey. I would have qualified for Garrison Keillor's Talent from Towns Under 2,000 contest if I had any actual talent. Like Brooke, I felt the pull of New York City from across the water. I knew that New York was my true home. What Brooke doesn't realize until later in the story is that Scott was only a catalyst. She belongs in New York City. She has a love for this city I totally understand because I feel the same way. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Brooke comes to realize that she's found her true home as well.
Wow! Thanks for sharing your personal story, and shedding so much insight! That was awesome!
The initial premise of So Much Closer has caused a whirlwind of reminiscence on our site for the tv show Felicity. So of course we have to ask: Who would you pick? Ben or Noel?
Felicity is one of my fave shows. It's such a shame that most teens aren't familiar with it. During school visits on my book tour, I talked about the ultimate shows My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks. Like two people knew what I was talking about. Even Dawson's Creek is largely unknown these days. Sigh.
Noel. Duh. But not when he got all Leon. Although that was hilarious.
OMG! I just realized that Leon was totally the precursor to brainwashed Peeta. Except less murderous and more entertaining.
Your descriptions of NY make me want to come visit you. And they also made me hungry. So, will you be my NYC tour guide? If I bring you some champ cans? Seriously, though, what are your favorite places in the city, secret or otherwise? Where's the best cup of coffee? The best cupcake? The best sandwich? And any other bests you'd like to share?
Dude, of course I will be your tour guide. What are you waiting for?
A lot of my fave NYC places can be found in So Much Closer. The High Line, the Zen garden in Hudson River Park, rooftops, basically any place in the West Village. The energy here is amazing.
Best cup of coffee -- Joe the Art of Coffee
Best cupcake -- Sprinkles (which just opened; Crumbs is a close second)
Best sandwich -- Still looking, please let me know if you find it
Best intersection -- Bedford and Barrow Streets
Best vegetarian restaurant -- Vegetarian's Paradise 2
Best movie theater -- Battery Park (it's always empty!)
Best bookstore -- The Strand
Best milkshakes -- Stand (half a block from The Strand)
Best new fun times -- mini golf on a pier in Tribeca
Ahhhh! I want to go there! I had never heard about the High Line, and let me just tell you, it's top on my list of things to see next time I'm in the city! I'll bring the champ cans!
THE YA QUESTIONS
OMG, the awesome tiered dress, the mock-turtleneck! Dude, did you have any idea that was the future Mrs. Gyllenhaal* in your arms?
If your real life adolescence was a YA book... What would you, the main character, be like?
You can find out in my next book! I've decided to share some of the most mortifying things that happened to me in an attempt to reach out to readers who are dealing with the same issues. The book focuses on bullying and neglect and how dealing with these heavy issues affects the way my main character approaches relationships. Junior high/high school was the worst time of my life. Hopefully, this book will help readers feel less alone. It will be out next year.
Again, wow! I can't wait to read it! And relive that horrible time... er...
Who is your secret crush?
See, I'm not really secretive about my crushes. In fact, I have a Top Five Husband List. When I was a teacher, I'd start the year off by writing my list on the board (it fluctuated a bit every year). Then I'd introduce myself and say that you can call me Ms. Colasanti if you want, but feel free to call me any of these other names! I got a little thrill every time my kids called me Mrs. Maguire or Mrs. Gyllenhaal. Which they would call me most of the time. Because then they'd be more likely to get a sticker. Yes, I taught high school. People who are 17 want stickers. Dubs true.
If I were still teaching, my current husband list would look like this:
1. John Krasinski
2. Tobey Maguire
3. Jake Gyllenhaal
4. Paul Rudd
5. Jon Hamm
Can I give you a BFF charm? That is an excellent way to assert your teacherly authority!
What is your number #1 source of angst?
Neighbor noise. Specifically, my downstairs neighbor, who snores so loudly I can hear him through the floor. His snoring even wakes me up at night. But hey, it's better than my ex next-door neighbor who blasted Modern Warfare II seven hours a day. Or my ex upstairs neighbor, aka Mr. Herd of Elephants.
Youch! I sometimes get mad at a noisy neighbor for making too much noise when I'm trying to sleep, but it usually turns out to be my husband. Word of advice: get a fan.
At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?
Oh! Okay, just now realizing that this whole section is supposed to relate to my real life being a book. My bad. But pertaining to my previous answer, we can safely say that fists will be pumping when I buy my own apartment right here in the West Village. I know mine will.
Yes! I will raise a fist (and a champ can) to that!
And who would play you in the film adaptation?
THE SLUMBER PARTY Qs
So pretty! With super shiny hair that I know is full of secrets.
What is your secret power?
The best kind.
What is your #1 favorite food?
Homemade pasta with fresh pesto sauce and shredded Pecorino Romano.
And do you cook this? For people participating in tours of your city?
Tell me about your area of expertise.
Personal organization. I can organize your closet like you wouldn't even believe. And don't get me started on what I can do to your desk.
So just when are visiting Austin next? We can schedule something, 'k thanks!
If you could assemble your own Ocean's 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick and why?
Ponyboy Curtis -- able to rumble even when sick
Andrea Marr -- badass chick seeking adventure
Harriet M. Welsch -- the ultimate spygirl
Miranda Hobbes -- distracts by arguing, is always right
Jordan Catalano -- distracts by leaning, is always gorgeous
Daniel Desario -- instantly blends in with the chemically altered
Katniss Everdeen -- obvs
I think this magic seven should do the trick.
What was that? I was distracted by Jordan's leaning...
What is your best karaoke song?
"Stayin' Alive" -- the Bee Gees
The respect keeps building. That is tough.
Tell me something scandalous!
I haven't driven a car in so long that I don't even remember which one's the gas pedal.
Oh to live in a city with trains! P.S. It's the one on the right.
What is your favorite adult beverage?
Shirley Temple. This body is an Alcohol Free Zone.
I guess those champ cans will be all for me! Well, I'll make you a killer alcohol-free mojito instead!
What book have you read the most number of times?
Who is your "freebie"?
See husband list above. They're all free.
Alright, Mrs. Rudd!
YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?
Laurie Halse Anderson. She's my fave.
Out of all of the characters you've written, which one do you most wish you could be?
Lani from Something Like Fate. She has an awesome home life, major confidence, and is adorable. I heart her tremendously.
Ooooh, now I have to read that one!
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?
My pajamas of choice are usually a soft fitted tee with either thermals or shorts, depending on the season. Slumber parties are all about being yourself, so I probably wouldn't dress up or anything. For snacks I'd have to go with Crunch 'n Munch. So freaking tasty, yet so loaded with calories that one must avoid it on non-occasions. And not to be bossy, but I would have to insist we watch Crazy/Beautiful.
For Crunch 'n Munch, I'd def watch Crazy/Beautiful!
And now it's time for everybody's favorite game of fortune, MASH! Susane gave us her top 3 picks for each category, and let us add in the 'bad' choices 'for an added element of surprise'! We picked a random number (14) and the all wise MASH predicted her future!
# of Kids
New York City
Persian longhaired cat
An assortment of puffy little dogs
Vintage golf cart
Well, now, we know that MASH NEVER lies, so you better load those pouffy dogs in the stair car and head to Jersey Shore! John Krasinski is waiting!
Thanks so much to Susane for taking the time to stop by our site and give us such heartfelt and kickass answers! You can visit her website here, catch up on her blog posts by going here, or follow her on Twitter!