Monday, December 15, 2008

YA Author Coe Booth Talks about Latest Novel, KENDRA

The Author

Coe Booth was born and raised in the Bronx, New York and spent her childhood reading, writing, taking dancing lessons, and (of course!) playing double dutch. In 1996 and 1998 respectively, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, and then began working with teenagers and families in crisis situations in New York City. Four years later, she became a full-time college professor, teaching both English and psychology. In 2003, she returned to graduate school at The New School in New York City and earned an MFA in creative writing. In 2006, her first novel TYRELL was published. Her second novel KENDRA followed in 2008.

Want to learn more about Coe?
  • Official website [link]
  • Coe Booth Blog [link]
  • The Longstockings Blog [link]
  • MySpace [link]

The Book

Fourteen-year-old Kendra was born to teenage parents. She has always lived with her grandmother while her mother Renée has been away at school, collecting one degree after another. But now Renée has graduated with a Ph.D. from Princeton and, for Kendra, this is what she’s been waiting for. Finally she will get to live with her mother. But when it becomes clear that Renée has different plans, Kendra doesn’t know how to deal with that level of rejection, and the choices she makes and the consequences that follow change her whole life.

Click cover to order KENDRA!

The Interview

Fill in the blank: "When I wrote KENDRA, I wanted to write about a girl who is going through the normal pain and confusion of growing up and figuring out who she is and what she wants. I also wanted to show another side of teenage pregnancy -- what happens down the road when the babies are now teenagers. I wanted to write about what it’s like to be the daughter of two parents who, in very different ways, are still children themselves."

You walk into a movie theater and there's a movie poster for your latest novel, KENDRA. What's the logline?
Oh, I’m not good at these things! Maybe, “Things Used To Be So Easy.”

What are THREE adjectives that best describe KENDRA?
Sensitive, needy, creative.

What are THREE adjectives that best describe YOU?
Sensitive, funny, introspective.

Both KENDRA and your debut novel, TYRELL are young adult novels - what initiated your desire to write novels for teens [and for those who love a good read]?
I’ve always wanted to write for teens. Even when I was writing my little pretend “novels” in elementary school, the main characters were always teenagers. The teen years have always held a special place for me. I guess it’s because there’s so much going on then, so many important decisions and so many heightened emotions. I find it very exciting to write about teens because they go through so many experiences, and often for the first time.

I'm loving the titles of your work - focusing on just a first name of the title character - was there a rationale behind doing that?
I don’t think it was really planned that way. For my first book, my editor and I referred to the manuscript as TYRELL for so long, it just kind of stuck. And the same went for KENDRA. One day I’ll actually come up with a title that doesn’t contain a character’s name... maybe!

Do you foresee yourself moving into other genres?
While writing for teens is definitely my main focus, I’d like to write for middle-grade readers, too. And one day I’d like to try my hand at writing for television.

INSIDE YOUR MP3: What THREE TRACKS are you loving right now and why?
Oh, that’s such a hard question! But I guess I’ll choose “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” by Alicia Keys and “Till It Happens To You” by Corinne Bailey Rae because they are both very emotional songs. And I’m loving “Live Your Life” by T.I. and Rihanna because the beat is hot!

You're walking down the street and you feel like a million bucks - what song plays in the background?
“Single Ladies” by Beyoncé. That song always makes me laugh!

We all know that writing for an author is only part of the journey - publicity soon follows. What are some things you're doing to promote KENDRA?
Well, I’ve gone to a few conventions this year. I went to ALA in Anaheim, California; YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium in Nashville, Tennessee; and the ALAN Workshop in San Antonio, Texas. These were, of course, great opportunities to read from KENDRA, speak to librarians and English teachers, sign books, and generally get the word out! I’ve also done some magazine and website interviews and local readings/signings.

Many people believe that good writers are also voracious readers. What are three of your favorite books, and why do they make the list?
My favorite books are THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston, THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner, and OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck. I love books with real characters and authentic dialogue, and in all three of these books the characters are unforgettable and the dialogue just jumps off the page. These books are REAL!

Looking back on your writing journey, who has been one person that has inspired you the most in your literary aspirations? How has he/she inspired you?
I’d have to say it’s been my best friend Samantha. We were next-door neighbors growing up, and she’s read just about everything I’ve ever written – literally since second grade! She lives in Maine now, but I still send her draft after draft of my novels-in-progress just to get her feedback, which is so honest and helpful.

What's currently going on in your WRITING LIFE?
Right now my writing life is very busy! I’m currently working on the sequel to TYRELL. I’m also promoting KENDRA and doing a lot of traveling for school and library visits. It’s a lot of work, but it’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life!

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