Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Author Interview: Leslie Stella

Leslie Stella, author of Permanent Record, kindly took the time to stop by and answer some questions.

1. First tell us a bit about yourself and your book Permanent Record.   Permanent Record is the story of a bullied Iranian-American teenager, and the powerful way he retaliates against his tormentors. But it is not only about bullying; it is about the all-out push for athletics at the expense of everything else, prevalent in high schools across our country; it is about the expectations of an immigrant family, and the line they tread between who they were and who they are becoming; it is about the stigma of depression and one boy’s determination to get better on his own terms. This is my fourth novel published since 2001, but my first for young adults. In the 1990s, I co-founded a politics and pop culture magazine here in Chicago called Lumpen, and my work has been published in the Mississippi Review, the Adirondack Review, Bust, and anthologized in The Book of Zines (compiled by Playboy editor, Chip Rowe), a collection of essays from the obsessive, frequently bizarre world of zines. The first time I was paid in actual money for a piece of writing was a fake interview I conducted with Fabio and Yanni.

2. What inspired you to write Permanent Record?
   School violence in this country is an issue that constantly lurks in my brain. I wanted to explore the link between it and bullying, and ask how they feed off each other. School violence takes many forms, and it is not always black-and-white, so that was at the forefront of my mind when I created Badi, the protagonist of Permanent Record. I wanted him in the gray area of a good guy who does bad things/a bad guy who does good things. I love the struggle of the flawed hero.

3. What is your writing process like?
   I have to fit my writing in between my part-time job and being a full-time mother. I don’t have the luxury of a set schedule for writing, so I’ve retrained my brain to make use of the time given me! I love when I have a huge chunk of uninterrupted time to write, but that hardly ever happens. I grab hours after everyone goes to bed, early mornings, and weekend days.
I don’t usually listen to music when I write; I find it interferes to hear words in my ears. But sometimes I will listen to instrumental music when I work, jazz usually. I’m irritated when I have to stop and eat, so I have terrible eating habits when I’m in the thick of writing. Like skipping meals, or eating cereal out of the box all day instead of proper meals. Sometimes I find myself starving at three o’clock, so I take a break from writing and run into the kitchen to grab a chicken leg and eat it over the sink like a barbarian. I don’t know if barbarians actually had sinks, so perhaps I am culturally stereotyping them.

4. What is your all-time favorite book?
   Depends on how shitty my day is, and how much I need to laugh to get myself out of the funk. I love Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

5. What was the last book you read?
    I wasn’t crazy about the last book I read, so I’d rather mention the book I am ABOUT to read, which I’ve preordered and am expecting any day now: Period 8 by Chris Crutcher. He’s my favorite YA author.

6. Are you currently working on anything new?
   When my contract is final I will post about it on my website (
www.lesliestella.com), but in the meantime I will say that it is another YA novel, this time about a girl overcoming a strange and troubling home life. For someone who used to write only comedy, I sure am drawn to some messy and dark themes these days.

Thanks again Leslie for taking the time to answer some questions. Make sure to check out Permanent Record!

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