Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Guest blogger Danielle Joseph, author of SHRINKING VIOLET

For our next installment in the Mostly Debut Author interview series, I'm thrilled to have Danielle Joseph, whose first novel, Shrinking Violet, came out last month.

Danielle and I first met in that decrepit old bar known as MySpace (just kidding--it wasn't decrepit back then). It turned out that we had the same editor, the lovely and brilliant Jennifer Heddle. Not only that, we each wrote about radio stations! How cool is that?

So of course I had to read her book, especially when I discovered that the main character, Tere Adams, is painfully shy. This may come as a surprise to those who have met me at a convention, but I could totally relate.

Like all shy people, Tere has an amazing imagination, and often dreams of being someone different, someone "better." Her secret fantasy alter ego is Sweet T, the hottest new DJ on Miami's SLAM-FM. She knows the new music scene inside and out, and senses in her heart that given the opportunity, she could be a fabulous disc jockey.

As an intern on her stepfather's radio station, she gets her chance. Of course she's terrified--millions of people hearing her voice? What if her classmates recognize her? What if the hot, sensitive guy from English class--the one who loves the same bands and who actually talks to her--finds out she's been living a double life?

Despite her fear, she goes on the air as Sweet T, and that's when her life changes.

I fell in love with Tere as she struggled to find her voice, both literally and figuratively. Her pain at being looked at and expected to speak--speak now, speak up, for crying out loud!--I could feel in my gut. I loved that she lived out her dream not because she wasn't afraid, but in spite of her overwhelming terror. That's true courage. I also loved that the Hot Dude in Question, Gavin Tam, appreciated her for everything she was--her real self and the Tere she knew she could be.

Though the book is ostensibly targeted at a teen audience, there's a lot here for us over-twenties, particularly music lovers and anyone who's had to overcome the fear of being oneself.

Danielle was kind enough to subject herself to my silly questions, and generous enough to offer a signed copy of Shrinking Violet to one lucky commenter.

***BREAKING NEWS: THE DISNEY CHANNEL JUST BOUGHT THE FILM RIGHTS TO SHRINKING VIOLET! WOO-HOO!!***


Q. I saw on your website that you were a DJ yourself for a few years in Boston. Care to share any funny or just plain odd stories with readers? What was it like the first time you went on the air?

Danielle: I will say that I had a lot of creeps call when I was on air. I don’t know what possesses people to let you know intimate details about what they’re doing while listening to the show. For awhile there I thought maybe the station’s phone number got mixed up with a phone sex line! And as for my first time on air, I was definitely nervous but it was also thrilling!

You've probably had this question a million times, but were you shy like Tere growing up?

I was shy growing up, especially when I started Kindergarten and had just moved from South Africa a couple of months before school started. I was never as shy as Tere but certainly experienced many of her fears.

I loved the lyrics you wrote for the song contest in SHRINKING VIOLET, both the funny ones and the poignant winning entry. Have you always written poetry and songs, or was this your first effort? Do you have melodies in mind for the songs in the book? If so, can you hum them for us? ;-)

Thanks! Well, if this interview came with sound, you’d probably run—lol! I am not the best singer in town! But I do love music and did write poetry in high school and college. I also wrote a song in college and a friend used some of the lyrics for a CD that he recorded with his band. I wouldn’t mind getting into songwriting one day!

What's the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a debut author?

I really love mostly everything about being a debut author. The whole ride is a thrill. But one thing that really makes me happy is hearing from readers that can relate to Tere and how much they enjoyed the book.

If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?

Hmm, tough question but I think I’d chose Gavin. First off, I’d find out what it’s really like to be a guy and I’d love to be a musician. Through Gavin’s eyes I’d really see Tere evolve at a peer level.

Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world (as a friend or a little bit more ;-) ?

Again Gavin comes to mind. Actually, an old high school friend wrote me after reading Shrinking Violet and said she had one question: “Who was my Gavin in high school?” My answer, “I didn’t have one.” So I’d bring him back to high school with me!

Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?

Oh, I have so many authors that I admire but if I could only pick one untouchable, I’d pick Maya Angelou. I think her poetry is amazing and would love to write a young adult novel with her. Although even talking to her would probably put me into a state of shock!

What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?

It’s not necessarily weird but for Tere’s first kiss I did surf the internet and found some very interesting sites that actually teach you how to kiss. The kid in me giggled reading the how-to’s!

What's your earliest memory?

One of my earliest memories is of my nursery school in Cape Town, South Africa. I remember my dad walking me into school one day and I told him I was going to walk in backwards. I thought I was so cool!

Do you have any phobias?

Can I just stop and say, I love your questions, Jeri!! I hate rats! The fear started in college when I looked under my bed and all my hot chocolate packets were chewed to bits by a rat. I called my mom and told her that I wanted to come home!

My husband hates when people use the word 'barometer' to mean 'measure.' Which word usage faux pas drives you berserkest?

I always cringe when people say ant instead of aunt. I know it’s pretty common in the U.S. so I’m finally getting used to it.

Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?

My husband often makes fun of the TV shows that I like to watch. I don’t watch much TV but for some reason I am drawn to shows like: Unsolved Mysteries, Deliver Me and plenty of TLC specials.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

I’d sleep in at a hotel on the beach and have breakfast on the balcony. Then I’d swim in the ocean, read on the beach and go back to the balcony to do some writing. After that, I’d meet my family for a lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant and watch the sun set with them.

If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?

I would ask Toni Morrison for her writing secrets.

If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?

I would choose poetry because I never really had the guts to share my poetry with too many people.

What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?

Right now I am working on a YA, Graveyard Shift, which involves humor, love and spirits. My next book is scheduled to be released in Fall 2010 from Flux. It’s called Indigo Blues and is told in two points of view, in which a songwriter's hit tune tells the world about his break-up with his girlfriend, but the two have no concept how much their lives are going to change.

If you could tell a stranger just one thing about SHRINKING VIOLET (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?

I’d tell that stranger that it’s about a girl who chased her dreams, despite her obstacles and that it comes with its own soundtrack if you check out the play list on my web site.

---

To enter to win a copy of this sweet (in all senses) novel, just leave a comment or question for Danielle--or tell us the biggest fear you've ever overcome--in the comments below.

I'll draw a name Friday night at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight Time. Anyone is welcome to comment, but the prize will be limited to U.S. residents.

As they say in radio, thanks for listening!

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20 Comments:

Hi Danielle, the book sounds great and I love the cover!

How did growing up in South Africa influence your writing about life in the US?

Posted by: Anonymous Jess at 6/09/2009 10:52 AM

Danielle, your books sounds fantastic. And if it's got music in it, I'm so there. Jeri's Wicked Game is one of my favorites books too.

The biggest fear I've overcome, well still overcoming, is public speaking. I'm scared to death to speak in public. I may look cool doing it (yeah, I've no humility) but underneath I'm shaking big time and I feel like I'm going to get sick.

So I've been forcing myself into situations where I have to speak in front of people. Don't know if its working, but maybe one day I won't feel like I have to pee my pants when 100 set of eyes are on me.

Posted by: Blogger Vivi Anna at 6/09/2009 11:20 AM

this book sounds amazing. the interview was great! thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Blogger californiameaghan at 6/09/2009 11:52 AM

Definitely spiders are my fear! Lol...though I'm still working on it.

Your book sounds wonderful :D

Posted by: Blogger Vanessa at 6/09/2009 2:05 PM

What?? *horror* People use "barometer" to mean "measure"???

The biggest fear I've overcome(uh, just that one time, not forever) was my claustrophobia when I did the CN Tower Climb. All those metal stairs that went around and around in that stairwell with all the echo-y noise and everything painted in what may or may not have been middle gray. *shudder* I decided not to bug out through one of the emergency exists despite my hyperventilating and shaking and to finish the climb. Though, to be honest, I didn't set out to overcome that fear. It just didn't occur to me that I'd get claustrophobic during the climb. Silly me.

Don't enter me in the giveaway. I don't have a US address. :(

Posted by: Blogger Pissenlit at 6/09/2009 2:24 PM

Danielle - Thanks for the interview. I will have to add the book to my TBR list.

I can't say that I have gotten over any of major fears, falling and public speaking, but I have over come some of my smaller fears like traveling alone. I count those small wins as important baby steps. :-D

Posted by: Blogger Katie at 6/09/2009 2:46 PM

I've been lusting over SV since the beginning of May. It looks awesome. Thanks so much for the interview!

My biggest fear was thunderstorms. Every time one happened at night, I made some excuse to get my parents to let me sleep with them. Finally, they had enough and I actually went to therapy for it! As a 6 year old! And we played in the sand box and I got to make a guillotine and chop the heads clay models representing people bugging me. No thunderstorms mention. But it worked. I now love them!

Posted by: Blogger Mik at 6/09/2009 4:04 PM

I love discovering new authors! Thanks for the interview Danielle and Jeri!

Posted by: Blogger Jacqueline C at 6/09/2009 5:58 PM

I just had to stop by and say I loved Shrinking Violet (no need to enter me in the contest, I have it!) and this was a great interview! Thanks Danielle and Jeri!

Posted by: Blogger Stephanie Kuehnert at 6/09/2009 9:05 PM

I love the storyline for this book. I'm painfully shy myself so I can definitely relate. And I think it's great that Tere could overcome her fears.

What fear have I overcome? Fear of the dark. When I was a child, I slept with a light on, wouldn't go out in the yard alone at night and refused to be the one who turned out all the lights in the living room before going to bed. I was convinced that someone had snuck into the house without us realizing it and would jump out as soon as the lights went off.

Luckily, as I got older I realized the reasons behind my fear and was able to deal with them. I'm still not 100% comfortable with the dark but at least I'm not terrified anymore.

Thanks! :0)
librarygrinch at gmail dot com

Posted by: Blogger Dawn M. at 6/10/2009 2:41 AM

Oh and big time congrats on the film deal. I just saw in on PM. Very cool!

Posted by: Blogger Vivi Anna at 6/10/2009 4:44 PM

Great interview! I must confess that even though I'm way out of the intended demographic, and I don't have any kids, I really enjoy YA fiction. This especially sounds like one that I'd find easy to relate to, because I have a really big social phobia. I wouldn't say I've overcome it, because I have to overcome it every time I'm in a social setting, but it does get easier with time.

Posted by: Blogger Kimberly B. at 6/10/2009 5:59 PM

Biggest fear I've ever overcome? Spiders. There was a time when even the sight of a tiny one in the same room as me would send me running and screaming out of the house. Now I do my best, when I find one inside, to trap it in a glass with a piece of cardboard, take it outside, and let it go.

The turning point came when I read an info snippet somewhere that there were so many spiders in the world that, unless you lived in an igloo in Antarctica, you were never more than five feet away from one at any time in your life. At that point, I realized I had to try to overcome my phobia, because there was no way I was ever going to be free of them.

Posted by: Blogger BrigidsBlest at 6/11/2009 12:13 PM

Jeri, thanks so much for interviewing me, seriously I had so much fun! And I'm totally loving everyone's answers--thanks to all for opening up! Jess, I grow up mostly in the US but visited family in South Africa often. For the book I drew from my American experiences mostly but I'd love to set a book in South Africa one day! If anyone gets the chance to visit Cape Town, you won't be sorry. It is a beautiful place!

Posted by: Blogger Danielle Joseph at 6/11/2009 1:48 PM

Thanks for the intro Jeri. Danielle I really think I would love your book. I was kinda shy in highschool as well, had only a few good friends but even they changed as they expanded I didn't I never thought of it till now maybe it was my shyness.... I would love to win this book but if I don't I will keep it on the list to check out... :)

Posted by: Blogger HockeyVampiress at 6/12/2009 9:06 AM

I've overcome a fear of claustrophobia and mostly overcome a social anxiety panic disorder thing - can't have back to room, can't be in large crowds, etc. - thanks to commuting via subway, both of these fears are not problems anymore.

Poisonous insects, on the other hand, I am still working on. . .

I love internationally-set books, Danielle. I have a just-for-me book I work on set in Kenya based on a trip I made there in 07. Would love to go back; it's beautiful.

(Word ver: "swopsted" - that's got to mean something.)

Posted by: Anonymous Jess at 6/12/2009 9:15 AM

I got over my fear of public speaking. I would love to read this book!

Posted by: Blogger Christine at 6/12/2009 10:44 AM

This sounds like a book I could totally get in to. As a shy girl myself (and as the daughter of dj), I'd be lying if I didn't say the idea of trying out the dj scene hadn't crossed my mind at least a few times growing up.
Thanks for the interview and preview of the book. I'm totally looking forward to getting my hands on a copy, and CONGRATS on the Disney channel deal. That's awesome!

RebekahC
littleminx@cox.net
readysetreadreviews@gmail.com

Posted by: Blogger RebekahC at 6/12/2009 10:47 AM

This comment has been removed by the author.

Posted by: Blogger RebekahC at 6/12/2009 10:53 AM

Oh, and the biggest fear I've ever overcome is a really hard question. I guess I'd probably say being more social. Like I said in my earlier post, I've always been really shy. However, since the invention of the internet I've really been able to work on coming out of my shell. Online you'd never know I was shy (I'm sure that's the case with all shy people on the computer though. LOL), and thanks to just being able to open up online without the face to face impact I think it's helped me tremendously when it come to actually meeting people IRL for the first time. I'm not saying I'm not still shy, but I seem to be a lot more open to approaching people and/or talking to them when they approach me. Used to be, that would never happen without a lot of work. LOL

RebekahC
littleminx@cox.net
readysetreadreviews@gmail.com

Posted by: Blogger RebekahC at 6/12/2009 10:54 AM

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