I’m so happy to host one of the smartest debut authors around–Stephanie Kuehnert. Her MTV Books release, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, is finally out and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a vivid, compelling story centered around punk goddess Emily. She’s tough as a pair of old Doc Martens on the outside, but there’s vulnerability just below the surface that even she doesn’t want to admit to.
As part of her week-long blog tour, Stephanie takes the mic and shares her thoughts about the writing process. She’ll also be on hand to answer your questions and pick a winner for our book giveaway (details below).
Describe IWBYJR in a classic, three-sentence elevator pitch.
Ahh, I suck at this! I always use the back cover copy because they are so much better at this than I am! Okay, deep breaths….
Music is in Emily Black’s blood. According to her father, her mother Louisa abandoned them when Emily was an infant in order to follow the punk rock scene. As a teenager, Emily finds solace in making music herself and forms the band She Laughs. In a way, she is using her music to search for Louisa because if Louisa is really following the music, shouldn’t she follow it back to Emily?
Okay, I think I cribbed some stuff from their summary, but really, they do a better job than me!
Hey, you don’t suck at all! The depth of Emily’s raw and realistic emotions is one of many reasons why I couldn’t put your book down. I really felt every high and low. When you sat down to write each day, what helped you get into Emily’s head space?
I don’t listen to music when I write, but I listen before I write. I also tend to read over what I’d just written a bit if I am not ready to dive into the character’s head space. And I allow myself to suck at first. I look at the first fifteen or thirty minutes of writing time as warm-up. If it comes out good, it stays, but if not, I trust that I will write myself into the place I need to be.
If IWBYJR were being cast for a movie, who would you choose to portray Emily and Louisa, or any other characters?
Hmm, I have a hard time picking an actress for Emily. My agent once said she thought of Zooey Deschanel, but I think she might be too old. I’d actually love to hear what other people think because I’m not as familiar with teen actresses. One I did think of was the girl who plays the daughter in Sweeney Todd, Jayne Wisener, because she can really sing and she’d look cool with black hair.
As for Louisa, I know a lot of people have had mixed feelings about her as an actress and a person in general, but Courtney Love. She was so amazing in People Vs. Larry Flynt and if she brought that power and emotion to the role, wow! Plus she’s got Louisa’s bleached blonde look and she’s a rock star so she’d get the whole rock thing. Um, and I just love her.
When did the writing bug first hook its fangs into you?
Soon after I learned to read. I started keeping a journal and writing short stories at eight. I even went to Young Author conferences! But I didn’t consider myself a serious writer until high school when I wrote a lot of bad poetry and some good feminist zines.
What’s your writing routine like? Do you need total silence or could you write in the middle of a grand parade?
I mostly need silence. Sometimes the occasion calls for music, which I usually listen to on headphones. My biggest distraction is my cats who seem to love to climb everywhere in my office. Eventually I get frustrated and banish them. For some reason I seem to do first draft stuff in my office and revisions at my dining room table. This may be because it allows me more space to spread out paper, but more likely just a weird quirk.
We all love to hear stories about The Call, when an agent or publisher rings to say they want to represent you/publish your book. Tell us about your Call story.
Mine was an email actually. My agent forwarded me the offer and said, “Call me as soon as you can and let’s talk.” I was at work, hence the email, but I immediately dropped everything and went to use an empty office to call her. We’d had an offer almost a few weeks ago, so I thought this was what they would like to offer me if everything was approved by higher-ups or something. But no, my agent told me, I could accept or deny this, it was in my hands now. Of course I accepted. Then she told me, “Call your mom, you’re a published author!” LOL!
Steph, you’re one of my amazing CPs. And that not only stands for “critique partner” but also for “cat person.” Here’s a vid of Stephanie and her cat signing the publishing contract:
Are there any publishing myths you’ve busted or confirmed since selling your first book?
Well, I’m not up on all the publishing myths, so I’m not entirely sure, but when I was in school for writing, one of the myths discussed was that editors nowadays don’t really work with writers the way they used to. They don’t put their heart or much thought into guiding the author. It’s all about mass production now. This is so not true, at least not with my editor, Jen Heddle. Jen is insanely busy and has a ton of various projects, yes, but her revisions letter to me was as thoughtful as the revisions I would get from my thesis advisor in grad school, a man I admired very much. So I was thrilled to work with Jen. She posed great questions about the story, allowed me to bounce ideas off of her. A good editor is still a writer’s best friend and they still exist… At least at MTV Books!
Music is at the heart of IWBYJR, so I have to ask–who is your rock’n’roll hero/ine and did you ever want to be a rock goddess yourself?
I have lots of heroes and heroines. My top two heroes are Kurt Cobain and Mike Ness. My heroines are Courtney Love, Mia Zapata, and Brody Dalle. And I totally wanted to be a rock goddess, but I wasn’t instantly good at it and was too undisciplined to practice. The only thing I’ve ever been disciplined with is writing.
Congratulations, Stephanie! IWBYJR is really gonna strike a chord (geddit?). Thanks so much for being here.
Now, for your chance to win your very own copy of I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, all you have to do is post a comment. Tell us who your rock’n’roll hero is, ask Stephanie a question, or maybe suggest actors who could do the character of Emily Black justice. And being the hostess, I’ll throw in some iconic Australian chocolates as a rider. We’ll announce the winner on July 8.
Sleater-Kinney play I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, the song that inspired the title of Steph’s novel.