Monday, January 29, 2007

What's Fresh with Simone Elkeles's How To Ruin a Summer Vacation

Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home.

Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci.

Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone…

Goodbye pride--hello Israel.

Hello Simone, thanks for agreeing to chat! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, to Flux?

Simone: I don’t really have a writing background. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Industrial Relations (although I did finish my minor in English at Purdue University before transferring universities). I sold a manufacturing company to be a stay-at-home mom. While raising my kids, I loved to read. One day I wanted to try my hand at writing because I loved reading so much and thought “I can do this”. I’ve been writing ever since, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. How to Ruin a Summer Vacation was the third book I wrote. I’d been writing for five years and I was lucky that agent Nadia Cornier from Firebrand Literary Agency loved my work. After I signed with her, a month later I got an offer from Flux and sold the book and two months after that they bought two more books of mine. I do feel very lucky, I know many authors who try to sell their books and it doesn’t happen. I’m so thankful to my agent and publisher for helping me realize my dream! (It also helps that I never gave up.)

Great, Simone! Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Simone: Routine? Typical? Nothing in my life is routine or typical. Considering I’m the biggest procrastinator I know, I’m probably not the best person to answer this question. Seriously, the Internet has helped me waste more time than I ever thought possible. My first book (which will probably never be published), I wrote from 10pm-1am every night. Don’t ask me how I did it, I was a new mom and knew I had a 1am feeding to be up for. I seriously couldn’t keep that schedule now.

If I’m under a contractual deadline, I write all the time. I ignore my friends, the phone, the laundry, my kids and husband. I’ll write a page and let myself check my email after each page is done. Call it an obsession. Now that I’m not under deadline, I write when I can. I write during the day when my kids are in school. If you write one page a day (12 point Times New Roman, double spaced), you’ll have an entire book done in one year. Right now, with publicity and my book tours scheduled, I’m trying to write at least two pages a day. But if I’m under deadline it’s at least 5 pages a day or more. Of course if a friend asks me to lunch, I’ll drop everything…especially if it’s sushi.

Please tell us about your latest novels and what we can expect from your characters.

Simone: Well, I have one book in the stores (How to Ruin a Summer vacation), one coming out in April (Leaving Paradise) and the sequel to How to Ruin a Summer Vacation called How to Ruin my Teenage Life.

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation is a hilarious coming-of-age novel about a girl who has to go to Israel with her estranged father for the summer. She thinks she’s going to have the worst summer of her life and ends up having an adventure like she’d never imagined! (expect to laugh and cry because you never know what ridiculous shenanigans Amy is going to get herself into.)

Leaving Paradise is a complete 180 degree turnaround from How to Ruin… It’s about a boy who is being released from a juvenile detention center after being incarcerated for the past year for a hit-and-run drunk driving accident. He’s coming home – to the town called Paradise – and has to face the kids at school (he’s a senior in high school), his parents, and the girl he went to jail for hitting. It’s told in his point of view as well as the girl who got hit by the car in alternating chapters. (Caleb Becker and Maggie Armstrong’s lives have both been altered by the accident, and they both need to heal. What they don’t know is that in order to do that they need to trust each other once again.)

How to Ruin my Teenage Life is the sequel to How to Ruin a Summer Vacation. It’s the continuing story of Amy Nelson and her hilarious adventures back home in Chicago. She won’t disappoint readers looking for a spunky, snarky heroine.

They all sound great! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Simone: I’m working on a proposal that is a four book series about four high school football players. They’re going to be funny and emotional, like most of my books. And told solely from the male point of view. I know I’m a girl, but I like writing from the male point of view. And they’re going to be edgy, so watch out.

Thank you again for sharing with us, Simone! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Simone: Seriously, it’s the ones who don’t give up who get published. I know it’s hard to finish a book, but just do it. Sometimes each word will take you five minutes (or ten in my case) to come out of you. I promise if you don’t stop writing, and write through those achingly slow times, you’ll be triumphant. Because behind the slow times are the fast ones, where you’ll blink and you’ve written five pages. Stick with it and never give up on your dreams!

Simone was a teen in the 80’s and still overuses words like grody and totally, but resists the urge to wear blue eye shadow or say “Gag me with a spoon”. When Simone’s not writing, she’s speaking to middle and high schools or teaching writing to aspiring authors. In her spare time, she Tivo’s reality television and watches teen movies. She lives near Chicago with her family and two dogs. Simone loves to hear from her readers. Visit her at or and watch her book trailers!

7 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Hello to my literary-agency mate, Simone. I've read the book and thought it was terrific...with the added bonus of a to-die-for hero...

Great interview, Kelly!


Kelly Parra said...

Thanks, Tina! Simone sounds like she has a great line up!

Sara Daniel said...

Wow, Simone! You may be a self-admitted procrastinator, but you still deliver the goods when it counts. I loved How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, and I can't wait for the sequel and for Leaving Paradise. I think it's awesome that you have such a healthy balance of writing, family and friends.

Sara Daniel

Lisa Lang said...

You are my inspiration -- truly -- because you manage to squeeze in the time for writing around the edges of a truly hectic life. I haven't mastered that yet, which is probably why I haven't made much progress on my latest manuscript. -LL

Kelly Parra said...

Hi Sara and Lisa, thanks for stopping by and cheering on, Simone!

Anonymous said...

I love Simone Elkeles books! I have read Leaving Paradise,How to ruin a Summer Vacation and the sequel! They are all awesome! Cant wait for your next book!f

Anonymous said...

sorry if I wrote f by accident just a spelling mistake from anonymous