Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What's Fresh with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo's Feels Like Home

Growing up in a dead-end South Texas town, Mickey had two things she could count on: her big brother, Danny-the football hero everyone loved-and a beat-up copy of The Outsiders. But after the accident-after Danny abandoned her to a town full of rumors and a drunken father-all Mickey had left was a smoky memory, her anger, and the resolution to get out of town for good.

But Danny is back-and he's not the golden boy who left six years ago. He's altogether a different person, and the life Mickey has worked so hard to rebuild seems to be falling apart. Danny's anger is something Mickey just can't forgive, and his best friend's mysterious death six years ago keeps coming back to haunt the edges of her mind. No matter how hard she tries, she can't remember what happened that night-and she's starting to realize that remembering is the only way she can move on. She'll have to face the brother who broke her heart, and that beat-up book that will never again feel like home.

Hello e., thanks so much for agreeing to chat! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale PRIZEFIGHTER EN MI CASA to Delacorte?

e.: I've been a writer my whole life but never really saw it as something I could do. See, sometime around the age of four, I decided I wanted to win an Oscar for directing. A little ambitious, but it seemed more realistic than my dream of being the drummer for KISS.

So, I eventually landed in film school and soon working with famous people that seemed a million miles away from where I grew up in Mathis, Texas -- population 5,039 and three stray dogs. At the end of grad school, life threw me a curve ball and a pretty significant loss. So I ditched a solid gig with a Los Angeles director and started scribbling a book on a dare. I crashed out on couches and floors before eventually living in Belgium with my brother and his wife (the ticket was $300 round trip, go figure). I finished PRIZEFIGHTER EN MI CASA in two months. The friend who had dared me said, "People gotta read this."

I sent it out to a few publishers while writing this other book called FEELS LIKE HOME. A year from the date of finishing PRIZEFIGHTER, I won the Delacorte Dell Yearling Award for First Middle Grade Novel competition. Random House hadn't given out the award in four years! When my soon-to-be editor called, I thought she was the student loan people who had been stalking me since graduation. We still joke about that.

She asked if I had any other books and I told her about FEELS LIKE HOME. My pitch was terrible! But she read it anyway and two weeks later, I had sold that one and picked up an agent. I couldn't believe that I went from filmmaker on the rise to novelist almost overnight? But it happened and I'm still blown away by it. It's pretty swell!

Wow, what a great story, e.! 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.

e.: My day always starts with music. I tend to have three novels and a screenplay going at the same time. To keep the energy up, I build a soundtrack on my iPod for each novel. Usually, I'll have a song for each character or possibly for key scenes. As a filmmaker, I see novels cinematicaly and it seems natural to incorporate music. Once I've got a groove going, I dial down the music for a while and run with it.

Also, hit the page early. Sometimes at 5:30 in the a.m. I'm definitely a morning writer. There are times I'll crack away for 8 to 10 hours a day. When I'm done, I jet to the gym, come home and maybe watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Veronica Mars (if it's Monday then it's all about Heroes). Somewhere in there, I try to get some skate time and have dinner with pals. Writing can be a lot of work but it's well-worth the it...

Please tell us about FEELS LIKE HOME and what we can expect from your characters.

e.: FEELS LIKE HOME (Delacorte) releases April 10th...YIKES! These characters couldn't be more night and day from the world of PRIZEFIGHTER EN MI CASA. FEELS LIKE HOME is the story of seventeen year-old Michelle "Mickey" Owens and her estranged older brother, Danny. There's a lot of tension between these two because Danny ditched Mickey six years earlier after an accident tore them and their small Texas town apart. Her father has died and Danny has come home. Mickey is definitely not warm to a reconciliation. This is definitely not a feel good After School Special!

For S.E. Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS fans, you'll get an ample dose of that world in FEELS LIKE HOME. It was an important book to Mickey and Danny before the accident and is key to coming to terms with who they are now. I know it all sounds heavy but I swear it isn't a total downer. Mickey's best friend Christina is hilarious! She's a Mexican-American with intelligence and humor--I wish I could come up with some of her lines on the spot. And there's an anti-popular popular heart-throb by the name of Ricky that really blows Mickey's otherwise practical mind away.

So, if you're looking for humor, drama, coming of age, THE OUTSIDERS and a taste of growing up in Texas...it's all here and more.

e., I just have to say, I'm currently reading an ARC of FEELS LIKE HOME and I'm engrossed with Mickey and Danny's relationship. I can't wait to chat about it on YA Fresh. What's up next for you? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

As I said, I've always got something going. I'm writing along with directing a feature film out of Chicago this summer. So it's a little crazy at the moment. I'm working on a novel that is a spin off character from FEELS LIKE HOME. We'll see...maybe that Oscar and a Newberry won't be too far off.

Thanks, e., it's been great chatting with you! I wish you the best with both your writing and film careers. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

e.: Be specific who you take criticism from. You know your characters and your landscape better than anyone. A lot of people will try to write the story for you. Be honest with your characters regardless of the subject matter. Know them the way you know your closest friends and you'll rock the page! All the best and thanks for the read.

"I may have grown up in small-town South Texas, making movies in stills with a dinky Kodak 110. But my career has spun me from Ohio to New York City, Belgium and the dairy state of Wisconsin.

"I studied as an actress before becoming a director/writer/producer and most recently a novelist. In filmmaking, I've worked with such talents as Douglas McGrath (Infamous, Nicholas Nickelby), Betty Thomas (John Tucker Must Die, The Brady Bunch Movie) and Lucy Walker (The Devil’s Playground). Some of my mentors have been novelist Carolyn Coman (What Jamie Saw and Many Stones), playwright Charles Smith (Pudd'nhead Wilson and Knock Me a Kiss) and screenwriter and playwright Vincent Cardinal (MTV's The State and Greenpoint). All in all, I have to say I feel pretty lucky.

"As far as writing goes, I’m just a person who loves storytelling. Bending a story and stretching it to its limits. In whatever medium it comes. Kodak 110 or ink and pen." Visit e.'s website, www.bigdreamswrite.com.


(Read the YA Fresh review here.)

4 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Very interesting interview, Kelly, and e, I'm looking forward to reading your book! I recognized the cover from Krista Marino's power point presentation last summer at the SCBWI, and it so intrigued me that I scribbled the title in my notes. Best of luck with it!

Kelly Parra said...

Hi Tina, thanks! It's so neat you guys have the same editor. Small world! :) :)

Daryl Andrews said...

Great interview... Diving in for more now...

I always wanted to be the guy that had the job of making up new Walt Disney World Rides... until I discovered the Tea Cups caused my PseudoVertigo to act up... which spiraled into anti-depressants and a fear of flying elephants.

Glad to see I wasnt the only one with cool aspirations as a child. Now I just blog ;)

Kelly Parra said...

Hey Daryl, glad you liked the interview!

Yeah, blogging kind of just sucks you in! :) :)