06 December 2006

Author Answers with Tanya Lee Stone

This week's author is Tanya Lee Stone, whose first teen fiction book, "A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl" has gotten lots of good marks from reviewers. Stone has also written picture books and non-fiction books for kids.

To read an excerpt from "Bad Boy" or to see Stone's other titles or learn more about her, check out her website.

WN: You’ve written picture books and non-fiction for kids, why did you decide to try your hand at teen fiction for “A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl”?

STONE: It was a combination of things. I had been primarily writing other kinds of books for kids, as you said. And I felt ready for a change. I wanted to stretch myself, grow in new ways, challenge myself as a writer. I've always loved writing fiction and I wanted to see where it might take me.

WN: "Bad Boy" is written in a free-verse poetry style, yet it tells a story like a novel. How did you decide that format was right for your story?

STONE: The book actually started out as a short story, and the poetry format happened organically. It felt like a natural way to tell Josie's story in the 1st person. When I added the other two girls to make it a complete novel, I quickly discovered that the poetry really allowed me to let the characters speak in their unique natural cadences. Each girl's section even looks slightly different visually as, for example, Nicolette speaks in shorter, more powerful phrases and Aviva's sentences are longer and more-flowing, in keeping with her personality. Poetry was a wonderful way to explore their voices.

WN: What's next for you in the writing world?

STONE: I'm usually working on two or three things, each at various phases. In January, I have a biography of Amelia Earhart coming out. The following year, 2008, there will be a picture book about Elizabeth Cady Stanton called Elizabeth Leads the Way, with wonderful illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon, as well as a Young Adult biography of Ella Fitzgerald. And two other projects are also in the works--another novel and a book for readers 10 and up, about the Mercury 13 women who started NASA training in 1961 before NASA pulled the plug on them. That book is called Almost Astronauts.

WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you? What's the most challenging part of writing for you?

STONE: I love, love, love writing. It's often how I really figure out what I'm thinking about. It's a way of processing the world: you explore issues and questions that are on your mind. The bonus, of course, is getting to go to work in my pajamas! The most challenging part of writing is often finding nice long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to think.

WN: How did you feel when you first saw your name on the cover of a book?

STONE: Oh gosh, we're going back more than 10 years, but I seem to recall feeling pretty giddy.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?

STONE: I don't think I could pick just one. When I was little, Harold and the Purple Crayon made a big impact on me. Imagine that you can create the life you want simply by drawing it. Oh, the possibilities! In middle school, A Wrinkle in Time was a big book for me. A strong girl, speaking her mind and trusting her instincts. Yes! Books in general were a huge part of my life, and continue to be. So many world views, so many things to learn and think about. I'm a book baby, for sure. My mom is a retired librarian and my dad is a professor and a writer.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?

STONE: I love the word splendiferous. It sounds like what it means, and it makes me smile.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?

STONE: Someone once told me to give myself permission to write a crummy first draft in order to get the ideas that were percolating in my head down on paper. Excellent advice. There is always time to revise (and revise and revise) to get the words just right!

UPDATE: Stone tonight will be doing a live chat at 7 p.m. EST/6 p.m. CST at Young Adult Books Central in the chat room. Word Nerd was going to post the link, but Blogger is being persnickety, so you may just need to search for it instead. Apologies.

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