Book Nerd Interview
Julie Anne Peters is the critically-acclaimed, award winning author of more than a dozen books for young adults and children. Her book, Luna, was a National Book Award Finalist;Keeping You a Secret was named a Stonewall Honor Book; Between Mom and Jo won a Lambda Literary Award; and Define “Normal” was voted by young readers as their favorite book of the year in California and Maryland. Julie’s books have been published in numerous countries, including Korea, China, Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil.
She is a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, PEN America, Colorado Authors League, and The Author's Guild.
Julie loves writing because she gets to be her own boss and doesn't have to work in an office cubicle. It's hard to think outside the box when you work in a cube. She lives in Lakewood, Colorado, with her partner, Sherri, and far too many cats. The cats are under the impression that they're creative geniuses, since they spend a majority of their day walking back and forth across her computer keyboard. They probably generate more words per day than she does, but who can read cat gibberish?
What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
To be honest, I can’t remember the first YA book I read. What I do remember is that at the time I was considering becoming a writer, I was checking out armloads of books from the library every week, of every genre. This was how I taught myself to write—by finding the books that appealed to me and dissecting them; figuring out how the authors created such believable, engaging characters and intriguing plots. Eventually I gravitated to the young adult section of my library and never left it. Those were the books that spoke to the young person inside me, and the ones I wish I’d written.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I wasn’t a big reader until much later in life. There are reluctant readers and then there are recalcitrant readers. You couldn’t make me read. The problem was that I’d never found a book I could relate to personally. All the assigned books in school were deathly boring. One time in middle school I stumbled on the Beany Malone series by Lenora Mattingly Weber, and I loved those, but when they ran out, I couldn’t find anything else like them. So it was back to being a reader hater.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book when I was 38 years old. A little late to start, but I’d just burned on two previous careers—teaching and computer science. Correction: I was a failed teacher. But if I’d taught for one more day, the flame would surely have been snuffed out.
My first book wasn’t published, of course. It was terrible. I wrote dozens (or maybe hundreds) of books for practice until my work was good enough to catch the eye of an editor.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
That you don’t go to cram for tests. What school teaches you is the love of learning. You’ll need that to embrace life’s lessons.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Driven, lazy, contradictory.
Did you learn anything from writing It's our Prom (So Deal with it) and what was it?
You can’t force yourself to write “funny.” It either comes naturally or it doesn’t. Also, no matter how many times you revise a book, there’s always something you’d change when the book is finished. (I’d rewrite this entire book if I could.)
For those who are unfamiliar with Azure, how would you introduce her?
She’s one of the two narrators, a confirmed lesbian, along with her bff, bisexual guy friend, Luke. Azure wants to change the world (or at least her school) by planning an all-inclusive prom. She’s hoping the girl she’s crushing hard on will go with her, even though she knows it’s a pipe dream. Azure is not afraid to chase her dreams.
What part of Luke did you enjoy writing the most?
His sweet, funny likability. And his musidramedy, Closets are for Mothballs.
If you could introduce Radhika to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. Maybe Liam/Luna from Luna? I think she’d be accepting of anyone who was differently oriented.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Oh, wow. That’s way too hard to answer. Every book I’ve ever read has taught me something about writing, even if it’s what not to do to captivate this particular reader.
How many books have you written?
The number I’ve written is vastly different from the number I’ve published, so let’s go with the published ones. I just sold a new YA, which will be coming out in 2014, so that’ll make 19 (I think. I don’t really keep count.) And I’ve published three short stories that are available online at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jap. I also have contributions in three or four anthologies. You can find all my published works on my website at www.julieannepeters.com.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
For aspiring writers, read, read, read. And for those who just want to have fun, read, read, read.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
You’re sneaky. I don’t always answer this question with a lie, but when people ask what’s my favorite book that I’ve written, I usually say I love them all as if they were my children when the fact is that by the time a book is published I will have read it probably a hundred times, revised it more than 25 or 30 times, and am absolutely sick of it. There’s no book of mine that I love. In fact, when my author copies arrive, I put a copy in my bookshelf and never look at it again. The truth is, I hate all my books. Isn’t that terrible?
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
Easy one. My first job as a concessionaire at the Denver Zoo. My boss was a tyrant and, let’s just say the three-day-old green hotdogs we boiled and re-served for weeks would never pass the FDA’s minimal standards today.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
My partner, Sherri. She’s my rock and has been for the last 37 years.
When was the last time you cried?
I cry a lot. I cry during TV shows, at parades, at airport reunions. I cry when I’m happy or sad. Anything that touches my heart makes me cry. I’m crying as I write this.
Where can readers stalk you?
Geesh. Like I’d admit hanging out at Wally World 24/7. I’m a glutton for flattery, so it’s likely I’d write you back if you messaged me on FB, twitter, or via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When Azure's principal gives her the chance to turn the school's traditional (and boring) senior prom into an event that will appeal to everyone, not just the jocks and cheerleaders, she jumps at the opportunity. Soon Azure manages to convince her best friends, Luke and Radhika, to join the prom committee as well.
Facing heavy opposition and admittedly clueless about prom logistics, the three friends are nonetheless determined to succeed — if Luke's and Azure's secret crushes on Radhika don't push the committee members, and their friendships, to the breaking point first.
Told in two voices and filled with comical missed connections, It's Our Prom (So Deal With It) explores the ups and downs of planning an alternative prom — while dealing with an unrequited crush on your best friend — and shines with National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters's unmistakable wit and insight.
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