Tuesday, June 09, 2009
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!