I have Susane Colasanti, author of When It Happens, Take Me There, Waiting for you, and upcoming book which will be released on May 4, Something Like Fate.
Q: What is the most challenging part of writing? Easiest? Most fun?
Good writing requires good choices. What I probably find most challenging while writing a new book is deciding which choices are the best. There tends to be at least one point in the story where I can see a few possible paths to take, all of which look good to me. Which relates to another challenge: deleting scenes (or even whole chapters) that are difficult to part with. While revising, there are inevitably parts of the story that need to be cut. The bad parts are easy to delete. Then there are parts that are good, but they’re just not right for that particular book. I have a file of cut parts from past revisions that can maybe be used in another book somehow. The easiest stage for me is going over copyedits. Although it’s an extremely tedious job, I’m a detail-oriented person and love when I finally get to polish my manuscript. I always have a fun time integrating random, weird things from my own life that have spoken to me in mysterious ways. Or taking annoying experiences we all can relate to and making them look hilarious. There’s a scene in Take Me There where this dude is ordering a very complicated drink at Starbucks, all yelling into his cell phone and just being generally obnoxious. We’ve all encountered That Guy.
Q: I love to write young adult romance as well. What about romance (writing, reading, and/or in general) do you love the most?
You know, it’s funny. I had no idea I was writing teen romance until people started classifying it that way. It makes sense that my books are associated with the romance genre since the main plots all focus on a boy-girl relationship. All of my books are about soul mates. Soul mates are fascinating! I love taking the concept of two people who are destined to be together, who have this instant connection they can’t explain, and convincing readers that they have to be together. If readers can feel even a fraction of the passion that my characters feel, that’s awesome.
Q: I actually have a number of novels involving male POV, and my secret to getting it right is being a good listener when I’m around guys. Your male POV is very believable. What’s your own secret?
We have the same technique! I did a lot of spying on boys when I was a teacher. Not even spying – just listening very carefully to the way they talk and how their speech patterns are different than girls’. To write realistic dialogue, it must be influenced by dialogue heard in real life. All of my books contain lots of dialogue. When I’m writing a new book, I write the kind of story that I would have liked to read as a teen (which actually hasn’t changed, except that I also read more adult novels now because I am apparently a grownup). I love listening to conversations – inflections, word choices, slang, everything. I’ve absorbed a decent amount of boy conversation, which makes writing realistic boy dialogue much easier.
Q: I almost died when I found out Sara from When It Happens liked Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. In a previous interview, you said a lot of your own philosophy factored into When It Happens. What are some other things from your own life that inspire different aspects of your novels?
I’m very into green living, a concept I’ve been wanting to incorporate into one of my books for a while. Something Like Fate was the perfect opportunity to do this. The main character, Lani, is president of One World, her school’s environmental club, and is all about healthy lifestyle choices. I’m hoping that my readers will be inspired to make healthier, more sustainable choices as well. Also, I believe in karma. If you are someone who puts positive energy out into this world, good things will come back to you. Karma is a concept that can be found to some extent in each of my books.
Q: It is so clear in previous interviews I’ve read that Sara is the character you identify with the most. But to switch things up on you ... if in some alternative universe you were a guy, who would be the male character you’d identify with the most?
Ooh, interesting question! I’d have to say a cross between Tobey Beller from When It Happens and Danny Trager from Take Me There. Tobey is sensitive, introspective, quirky, and listens to The Cure when he’s depressed. That pretty much describes how I was in high school. While I’m not a political activist like Danny, he’s vocal about what he believes in and is trying to make a difference in this world. I try to make a difference with every book I write, to hopefully help my readers feel less alone. And I’m very opinionated. If I believe in something strongly, you’ll definitely know.
Q: In previous interviews, you said you didn’t know if you were “allowed” to write a book based on college characters when asked if you could write a sequel to When It Happens. What are your thoughts on the “New Adult” genre that has been getting some interest from St. Martin’s Press?
The whole concept of “teen for adult” books is evolving. More adults are reading teen novels, which I think is the result of greater exposure and selection. The YA market is expanding in so many creative ways. Some novels that are now shelved in the teen section used to be classified as adult, like Girl by Blake Nelson and Forever by Judy Blume. It feels like the time is right for a new crossover genre to grow. When I was a teen, I would have loved to read about characters in college or in their early 20s. Not many books out there are about these early adult years. So I think that writing a book with college characters would be a welcome concept at this point (although I still haven’t decided about a When It Happens sequel!).
Q: What is your favorite moment from high school and is it included in any of your current published works?
Graduation day. That was the day I was free. That was the day I looked forward to for so long. I clearly remember walking across that stage, going down those steps, and knowing that my ties to high school could be completely over. When It Happens has a graduation scene that was not unlike my own experience.
Q: What authors did you look up to when in high school?
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the only book I read in my entire junior high/high school experience that I loved. It inspired me to write my own book that would hopefully help others the way The Outsiders helped me. I still have that original copy from 7th grade, sitting on my shelf next to a newer edition of the book (published by Viking), which sits next to my own books (also published by Viking). Cool, right? Stephen King was also popular with me. Even though some of those books scared me so badly I had nightmares, I could not stop reading. One of my high school English teachers argued that his books were trash, but I was like, “Really? Then give me something good to read.” Which of course he couldn’t do because everything I had to read for English was a total snore. The authors that I loved were ones I discovered in libraries and bookstores. I looked up to them because they inspired me to dream about a better life. When life got unbearable (which it did a lot back then), I could always count on picking up their books again and again and feeling comforted.
Q: What is your best piece of writing advice for aspiring writers?
Read. Then read some more. The more you read, the better your writing will become. You should write about what makes you feel alive. If you feel passionate about what you’re writing, you will be compelled to keep going.
Q: If you were still a teen, which one of your male characters/love interests in any of your novels would you date?
Tobey Beller from When It Happens will always have a special place in my heart. It seems like an author’s first book is usually the most autobiographical one. The first book is what you pour all of the emotions and experiences from your whole life into. Tobey was inspired by a real boy in my life. I want my readers to know that boys like Tobey actually do exist!
Check out Susane elsewhere on the internet!
Thanks to Susane for a wonderful interview!