Simone Elkeles is an award-winning Young Adult Fiction author celebrating the release of her fourth teen drama, PERFECT CHEMISTRY.
We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.
AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?
Simone: My novel How to Ruin a Summer Vacation. It was released in 2006 and was voted #3 on the Teens Top Ten list by YALSA, a division of the American Library Association. It’s a young adult novel about a 16 year old American girl who goes to Israel for the summer with her father. She’s got an attitude, a funny outlook on her surroundings, and a chip on her shoulder…which makes for a very funny read. I receive a lot of email from teens who profess to “hate to read” but love How to Ruin a Summer Vacation.
AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.
Simone: Perfect Chemistry is a contemporary Romeo and Juliet story – a romantic and edgy teen novel about Alex Fuentes, a suburban Latino gang member from the suburbs of Chicago, who is paired with the rich and popular blonde cheerleader Brittany Ellis for chemistry class their senior year of high school. Alex makes a bet with his friends to lure the spoiled rich girl into his life. Soon Alex and Brittany learn that the stereotypes they have of each other is far from reality, and both teens are shocked that a person who is their total opposite can share so many of the same trials and tribulations. Perfect Chemistry has been enjoyed by teen girls as well as teen boys.
I created a funny parody rap video “book trailer” for it, and hired a director and Chicago actors to do the rap (I even have a small cameo in it). You can watch it on my website at www.simoneelkeles.net
AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who else do you feel has contributed to your success?
Simone: My father was a workaholic. I know it sounds cliché, but he really did teach me that whatever I wanted to achieve I could do it if I just worked hard enough at it. That’s a huge lesson, and one that I learned by merely watching him. If he wanted a sprinkler system put in, he did it himself…if he wanted to build a model solar car, he built it himself. He wanted to open up his own business and be a successful entrepreneur, and he did it. I hope by watching me, my children learn that they can do anything they want if they work hard at it (although I hired people to install my sprinkler system and have yet to pull out the shovel to dig that hole in my backyard for that pool I’ve always wanted). When I first started writing, I got lots of rejections. But I kept at it, worked hard on writing more books, and never gave up.
Judy Blume, who wrote edgy teen novels that I read as a teen, has definitely inspired me. If I can write “real” teen novels like Judy Blume, I’ve done my job. I can’t end this question without mentioning my wonderful friends who read the awful rough drafts of my novels and critique them. They are the ones who give it to me straight…and a writer definitely needs friends like that to challenge them to make the end product better! Don’t tell me my rough draft is great when it’s not…just tell it to me like it is!
AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?
Simone: When the kids are not home, whatever time that might be. I do well in the morning when it’s quiet, and after the family is asleep when it’s quiet. If I could just get my dogs to stop barking when someone walks by my house during the day, when the UPS truck drives by, and when the mailman comes I would really get a lot of writing done. Life around my house is never boring, that’s for sure!
AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?
Simone: I get that question a lot. Most aspiring writers I talk to have a “work in progress.” My suggestion is to finish the book, because most people who start a book never finish it. You learn by writing, so even if you aren’t the best writer or even if you don’t have a degree in writing, or even if you’re a teenager with an idea for a book…or even if you’re a stay-at-home mom who has that great book idea…FINISH the book. If you have writers block, get over it. Nora Roberts (I think it was her, forgive me if it wasn’t) said, “You can’t revise a blank page.” Those words echo in my head, especially when I feel writers block coming on. So I release my inner critic and let myself write ridiculous stuff or stupid stuff in a scene…because I know I can always go back and revise it. But if the page is blank, there’s no way to revise it. I have to be honest and most times I go back and what I thought was crap was in reality just a slow time and is actually good.
While you’re writing, try and join a writers’ critique group (it helped me!) because you can get feedback while you’re writing. And giving feedback to other aspiring writers is also a huge learning tool, because “writers are readers!”