YA writer Trish Cook drops by to talk with us about her novel Outward Blonde:
Outward Blonde (genre: YA romance; length: 288 pages)
Sixteen-year-old Lizzie Finkelstein is a hard-partying socialite who lives a charmed life with her mother in Manhattan. After a public drunken escapade results in both an arrest and an embarrassing viral video online, Lizzie’s parents stage a late night intervention. Lizzie finds herself whisked away to Utah to learn a lesson or two about taking responsibility at Camp Smiley, a wilderness survival program for troubled kids.
Camp Smiley is a far cry from Lizzie’s high society life in New York. Without her stable of luxury hair/makeup items, her teacup Pomeranian, contact with the outside world or access to social media, Lizzie must face the harsh conditions of the outdoors. Grouped with troubled campers in which she’s certain she has nothing in common (except Jack, who’s pretty hot), Lizzie must now learn to dig her own toilet in the woods and build a fire by rubbing two sticks together before the camp will ever let her go back to her former existence. She has a choice: get with the program, or get out of there.
Outward Blonde is a fabulous romp. Your writing has great levity and humor. How did your writing style evolve?
I think most of my friends would say I write like I talk, and they can “hear” me in my writing. I love witty dialogue and banter, juxtaposed with honest inner thoughts. I think a writer’s voice is the most important tool they have to connect with readers, and that it’s best to keep that voice as authentic as possible.
Why write YA? What draws you to a younger readership and how are you able to get into the heads of these very realistic hormonal teenagers?
I think the fact that I still feel like I’m 16 on the inside is what first drew me to writing teen characters. I still remember what happened to me back then and how I felt acutely. Plus, I honestly love teens, especially how they have such passion and energy and ultra-sensitive BS detectors. I think as adults, we grow more polite and complacent about things, but teens are totally outraged by the injustices of the world and still believe they can fix them (which they can)! Plus, I have two teenage daughters to keep me grounded in the kinds of issues and fun teens are having these days.
What was your main inspiration for Outward Blonde?
My publisher, Adaptive Books, has a really unique way of approaching YA books: They take unmade film projects and ask YA writers to create novels based on them. Outward Blonde was originally a movie set to star Hilary Duff. Adaptive came to me with what they call a “spark page”—just the most basic outline of what the story is: A spoiled, rich New York girl gets in trouble and gets sent to wilderness camp. I never read the script for the movie that was never made. I just developed the story based off the spark page and had so much fun doing it.
This book could have easily resembled the cast of Mean Girls but you went more Clueless (and beyond). What ruled your decision to include a diverse cast of characters?
My editor and I collectively decided it was important both for readers as well as Lizzie’s growth as a person to have a more diverse cast. I think it’s awesome that the book includes a variety of people from different backgrounds, and that each is a well-rounded character who is not solely defined by their “diversity.” At the end of the day, we’re all just people, people.
You turn stereotypes on their heads. How much of that is purposeful and how much was a byproduct of letting the characters develop?
I just believe that what you *think* you see usually isn’t what you get with people. Especially in high school but really throughout our lives, it’s easy to throw people into convenient buckets: Jock, partier, nerd, loser, try-hard. But people are much more complex than labels allow for, and I wanted that to come through in Outward Blonde.
Outward Blonde isn’t your mother’s Heathers; it’s a fresh take on YA that’s relatable to today’s teens and will make adult readers nostalgic. KEMPS thanks Trish Cook for stopping by and giving us a road map to her emotional coming of age adventure novel Outward Blonde!
Kate E. Stephenson is a freelance communications specialist whose business encompasses content writing, comprehensive editing and quality resume services. Lexicon is her brainchild, a blog all about Language—insight into today’s job market and hiring tips, book releases and reviews, and general folly concerning the many mysterious facets of the English language and human communication. Be sure to read more about Kate, check out a full listing of services, and enjoy her columns here on Lexicon and on Kate.Book.com!