Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit interview with Elise Allen

I can't believe the summer is almost over! Though honestly, I'm loving the sixty-something-degree temps we've been having on the East Coast. Yay fall! (Boo hay fever, but yay fall!)

It's not too late to indulge in one last bit of summer reading, and for that, we have our latest Girlfriends Cyber Circuit guest, Elise Allen, whose Populazzi is now out in paperback!

WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you had the chance to erase your past and reinvent yourself as the person you’ve always wanted to be?  Would you grab it?  Would you stick with it, no matter what the consequences?

Cara Leonard always wished she could be one of  those girls: confident, self-possessed, and never at a loss for the perfect thing to say.  One of the Populazzi.

It always seemed impossible… but now could be her chance.

When Cara moves to a new school just before junior year, her best friend urges her to seize the opportunity and change her life… with the help of The Ladder.  Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms herself into the perfect girlfriend for guys higher and higher on the Popularity Tower, she can reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi, the most popular girl in school.

The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment — a straight climb up — but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted.  And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.

Praise for POPULAZZI:

"In her first solo novel, Allen offers a smart mix of hilarity and tragedy in this Macbeth–meets–Mean Girls tale.” -- Publishers Weekly

"The story unflinchingly depicts the dark and dangerous side of high-school popularity, making it a captivating read."—Kirkus Reviews

Named a "Great Summer Beach Read" by Shape Magazine
One of Justine Magazine's "Chick Lit Picks"
Named one of the "Top Hits of the Summer" by Girl's Life Magazine


After starting her career in television, ELISE ALLEN has emerged as a vibrant new voice in teen fiction.  She is the co-author of Hilary Duff's New York Times Bestseller Elixir, as well as its sequels, Devoted and True.  She received an Emmy nomination for her work on the PBS show Dinosaur Train, and fulfilled a lifelong dream when she wrote for the Muppets.

She lives in Los Angeles, where she indulges her inexplicable desire to run marathons.  Visit her at, or on Twitter @EliseLAllen.

And now, my interview with Elise Allen!

We're always told to "kill our darlings." Do you have a short excerpt--a couple lines or a paragraph--that you'd care to share with us, something you love but just didn't quite make the cut?

There’s an exchange between Cara and Archer from draft one that I enjoy.  It’s a little wordy (my draft ones define wordy), and I’m happier with the version that’s in the final book, but I really enjoyed this bit as well.

Archer eschewed the regular get-to-know-you questions and asked, “What’s your absolute favorite thing in your room?
I thought about it a minute, then decided it was my shell-covered, turtle-shaped, googley-eyed jewelry box.  I’d won it playing Skee-Ball at the Atlantic City arcade next to Caesar’s Palace when I was thirteen.
It was the first time my parents let me go off to the Boardwalk by myself while they gambled, and coming back with a hard-earned treasure made me feel fiercely independent and accomplished.
I asked Archer the same question, and he responded right away. “My grandfather’s telescope. My parents got it for him when he moved from India to live with us. He was a practicing Hindu, and a deep believer in astrology, so actually gazing at the constellations was a huge joy for him. Every night I’d go into his room and sit with him, and he’d show me the stars and tell me stories about how they affect our lives. He said Sagittarius, capa, had a great influence over mine. That’s how I got my name; Sagittarius is the Archer.
Dada died when I was ten, so I only knew him for about six months, but it was incredibly special having him around.”
“Wow,” I said appreciatively, “now I feel really really shallow for my turtle jewelry box.”
Archer grinned.  “My second-favorite thing is a potato chip that looks like Humphrey Bogart.
“Yes,” I smiled, pleased, “that’s what I want to hear.”

Turn to page 99 of your current release: which word on that page describes your main character best, and why?

“Embarrassment.”  Poor Cara spends a lot of time trying to avoid embarrassment, and in typical fashion, the more you try to avoid something, often the more you end up running headlong into it.  She’d save herself a lot of drama and trauma if she weren’t so afraid of looking like a fool, but that’s a tough reality to embrace.

What’s the funniest book-related thing to happen to you in the last year?

The funniest thing?  Because of Populazzi, I heard my grandmother discuss male genitalia for the first time ever.  She was reading it, and when we went out to lunch she was all excited to talk about how even though she’s in her 90s, she totally related to Cara’s journey.  “I remember feeling that way,” she said, all flushed and giddy, “but it’s so long ago I keep trying to remember the first time I thoughts about things like… you know…”  She looked around to make sure no one was looking, then whisper-hissed, “…testicles!”

Do you have a quirk or detail in common with your main character (e.g., favorite food, habit, phrase)?

Yup.  I eat similarly bizarro-foods.  Fries dipped in chocolate milkshake?  Love it.  Apples rolled in peanut butter and Cap’n Crunch?  Delicious.  Bowl of peanut butter stirred with chocolate syrup?  Dessert of champions.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled for book research?

Dude!  (I’m so excited about this one it warrants a “Dude!”) My very first book was a travel guide for marathoners, and I got to travel all over the U.S. for research, including Hawaii, where I got to swim with dolphins (unbelievable), and get surf lessons from the Hawaiian Fire Surf Company.  Why is it called Hawaiian Fire?  It’s staffed by hot Hawaiian firefighters with a flare for snark.  Are you kidding me?  It was spectacular.

Speaking of travel, which do you like best: planes, trains, or automobiles?

Automobiles.  When my significant other is driving, I’m in the passenger seat with my stocking feet up on the dash, and I have control of the radio.  I’ve been married 15 years, but I say “significant other” because this has been my favorite mode of travel ever since I had boyfriends who could drive.

In the SHADE trilogy, Aura is the first of a generation that can see ghosts. What do you think defines your generation? 

I believe as a generation, we have the amazing alchemic superpower to turn deep cynicism into bitingly funny comedy.

[from Jeri: THIS is the truest thing I've ever heard about us.]

If you could bring any person back as a ghost so you could ask them about their lives, who would it be?

My great-grandmother, Rose Leibowitz.  I knew her – she was around until I was ten – but I was too young to recognize the opportunity I had to ask her about her life.  Even if I had realized it, she only spoke Yiddish, so I’d have had a tough time understanding what she said.  I’d love to bring her back… maybe with a translator… and ask her all about her life.


I decided the other day that my reading resolution for the rest of the year is to stop masochistically putting off books I know I'll enjoy. This one is definitely going on the list!

Thanks to Elise for stopping by, and congrats on the release of the POPULAZZI paperback!



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