Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Author Interview: Meredith Zeitlin

Meredith Zeitlin, author of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, kindly took the time to stop by and answer some questions.
"Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it. Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…" (Summary goodreads.com)

1.) What inspired you to write Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters? 
     "When I first got out of college, I used to babysit for an awesome little girl named Zoe (I also brought her to auditions with me when I first start doing v/o! She was - and is - a great sport). Sometimes when she did her homework, I'd read her books, and for the most part I found them really disappointing. They weren't at all like the YA novels I'd grown up with, which were about girls I could relate to; these were all about rich, sophisticated girls with unlimited spending accounts and wild sex lives. I decided to try my hand at writing about a REAL girl in NYC, based on my memories of high school and my observations of Zoe and her friends."

2.) What was your own high school experience like?
     "I grew up in New Jersey, so I had a pretty typical high school experience in that respect: hanging out with friends, myriad after-school activities, parties my parents didn't know I was going to, riding bikes around the neighborhood until I was old enough to drive all over the place with no real destination in mind, hanging out at the mall, doing piles of homework, working at local stores and babysitting, taking the train into the city and walking around the Village... that kind of stuff. Overall, aside from the many disasters and embarrassing moments (most of what happens to Kelsey in the book actually happened to me), I had a pretty great time in high school, actually. I went to an all-girls' school and I started there as a freshman, so that was hard. Being new is never easy, and this was a small, very competitive school where most of the girls had grown up together. But I loved it. I did a ton of plays, both at my school and the boys' schools nearby, and was Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper my Junior year, and I'm still friends with lots of my high school friends today. Of course, I also had my heart broken about a hundred times by guys, and doubted myself constantly (particularly looks-wise), and had fallings-out with friends, and made some very stupid mistakes - usually involving alcohol. So there were some rough times, too. I've been asked a lot during the book tour what I'd say to myself if I could go back in time, and while I'd have lots of good advice based on what I know now, ultimately I think we need all the experiences we have - good and bad - to make us who we are."

3.) Did you ever play soccer or take part in the school musical like Kelsey?

    "I played lacrosse, actually - and I was terrible at it. The soccer story in the book is actually my sister's, including the goalie stuff and the awful girl on the opposing team. I was in all the school plays, though - I was a total theatre geek from elementary school all the way through college. The original plan was to be a musical theatre actor after a graduated."

4.) Did any music inspire you while you were writing?
"I don't think I get inspired by music, per se but I love listening to it - and singing along, most of the time. The cast album for the musical "Once on This Island" is my go-to for serious writing sessions. It's not actually my favorite musical, but it is my writing soundtrack. I really can't explain why - it just is!"

5.)What was the last book that you read?
     "I tend to read several books at once, but yesterday I finished "Jewel of Medina" by Sherry Jones. It was really interesting, and a nice easy read."

6.) What is your top favorite book?
"That's a hard question - there are so many different kinds of books that I love! But if I have to choose, I'll say "The Time-Traveler's Wife," by Audrey Niffenegger. I think it is brilliant, sexy, complicated, totally original, and I have no idea how she wrote it. I was crying so hard when I got to the end (the first time I read it) that a nice lady asked if I needed help getting home. After that, I told everyone I lent it to that whatever they did, they must NOT read it on the subway - if they didn't want to make a scene, that is."

7.)Are you currently working on anything new?
    "I wrote a children's picture book that I'm hoping will find a home soon, and a friend and I wrote a super-creepy horror feature. (So, some pretty different stuff!) I'm also working on another YA novel. It's not a sequel to Freshman Year..., but it takes place in the same world, so you'll see some of the characters again."

Thank you so much again Meredith! I highly recommend Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters! This book is hilarious and you can read my full review here: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters.

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