Today, as part of the The Stone Girl blog tour, I’m interviewing author Alyssa Sheinmel!
Alyssa is also the author of The Beautiful Between and The Lucky Kind and today, she’s been nice enough to stop by and answer a few of my questions relating to herself, writing, and her upcoming release, The Stone Girl.
About The Stone Girl: Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.
Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.
The Stone Girl will be published August 28, 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.
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Jen: Welcome to Almost Grown-up, Alyssa! Tell me, what did you do professionally before becoming a published author?
Alyssa: I worked in the marketing department at Random House Children’s Books for almost seven years. I had always wanted to work in publishing as well as wanting to write, so I knew there was a chance that I would end up doing both at the same time, at least for a while.
Jen: So basically, you’ve always been professionally immersed in books. I have to admit I’m jealous! When it comes to writing, are you a plotter or a pantser?
Alyssa: Somewhere in between. I don’t always plot out my books before I write them – I tend to get ideas as I write them – but I make tons and tons of notes as I’m writing, and those notes end up almost outlining the plot.
Jen: Do you have any writing habits; things you like to do right before you write, things you like to have with you while writing, etc?
Alyssa: I don’t think I really have any real writing rituals; I find that reading always helps me move forward if I’m feeling stumped, and I can’t really write with music on. I always end up singing along, getting the singer’s voice in my head instead of my character’s!
Jen: I do the same thing! But if you could choose any other job in the world EXCEPT for “writer,” what would you choose?
Alyssa: Probably marketing children’s books. I loved my job – it just got so tough to balance both careers! I’ve also always wanted to be an English professor; I love the idea of creating a class where I get to teach some of my favorite books.
Jen: Those both sound like fun alternatives. Back to The Stone Girl, how many drafts did it go through before it was ready for publication?
Alyssa: Oh my goodness, so many! The first draft of The Stone Girl was much shorter than the current version. (My editor called it a “skeleton” – no pun intended!) I had to really dig in deeper to build the book out to what it is now.
Alyssa: Absolutely. The setting is where I went to high school – in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Sethie and her friends go parties up at a fraternity house near Columbia University, which, in my imagination at least, looks exactly like the fraternity houses where I went to parties while I was at Barnard. Janey teaches Sethie how to make herself throw-up; that scene is loosely based on my own experience being taught by a friend to force myself to vomit. (Though I learned about a year later than Sethie did, when I was a freshman in college.)
Jen: What would a Twitter pitch of The Stone Girl look like?
Alyssa: Sethie is hungry, a mean angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. Soon, she is sinking like a stone into her own illness, her own loneliness – her own self.
Jen: Could you pick a song that you’d associate with Sethie at the beginning of The Stone Girl? Would you associate the same song with her at the end?
Alyssa: Maybe “River” by Joni Mitchell for the beginning of Sethie’s story. The song isn’t a perfect match, but the line “I wish I had a river I could skate away on,” sounds like Sethie to me. By the end, I’d like to think her song would have changed; since I’m already thinking about Joni Mitchell, maybe a good song for the end of the story would be “All I Want”; Sethie isn’t strong and laughing yet, but she’s begun to want more than her life has become, at least.
Jen: I really want to check those songs out now. What other books would you recommend to readers who liked your book?
Alyssa: When I was at my most body-obsessed, I loved reading about eating disorders – they were simply fascinating to me. The one I read over and over was Wasted, by Marya Hornbacher. More recently, I read Unbearable Lightness, by Portia DiRossi, which really resonated with me. And, there’s a short story by Franz Kafka called “A Hunger Artist” about a man who makes an art out of starving himself that has always stayed with me. For more scholarly books about eating disorders, I recommend Hunger Pains by Mary Pipher (my own copy is still marked up with the notes I made when I was writing my thesis in college) and Fasting Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg.
Thank you so much for stopping by Almost Grown-up, Alyssa!