Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's Fresh with Jennifer Banash's The Elite

It’s the most exclusive luxury apartment building on New York’s Upper East Side. If you don’t live there—you don’t know how to live…

When Casey McCloy steps into The Bramford, she’s overwhelmed by the sophistication and elegance of it all. Fresh from the Midwest, she’s moved to NYC to live with her grandmother and attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy. Here all that matters is who you know. The designer to know is Zac Posen. The girl to know is Madison Macallister: popular, pretty, platinum-blond. She’s not just Casey’s new classmate and neighbor; she’s an icon. So Casey aims to get in with Madison and her gorgeous gal-pals from the start. As the reigning queen of coolness, Madison is capable of destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. Better to be on her good side.

But after a city-haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and meeting the right people—including Drew, the boy-about-town who Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone…

Hi Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to visit us at YA Fresh! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Jennifer: I started out as a poet about a million years ago, and then began to write adult literary fiction in the mid-nineties—my first novel HOLLYWOODLAND: AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE was published last year by Impetus Press—where I am co-publisher. We’re a small literary press located in Iowa City, Iowa, and we’ve made it our personal crusade to publish serious works of literary fiction with a pop or urban sensibility. I got into writing YA kind of by accident—I needed to make a few bucks and I was offered a job ghostwriting a bestselling YA series for Alloy Entertainment (no, I can’t tell you which one!). It turned out to be a happy accident, as I totally bonded with the characters—even though they weren’t my own—and had a great time doing it. When that job was finished I thought, why not write my OWN series instead of working behind the scenes for someone else (never my strong suit—I’ve been fired from menial jobs more times than I can count for refusing to be a “team player”—whatever that means). So, I pitched my idea for THE ELITE to Kate Seaver over at Penguin, Berkley and she bought the series based on the thirty pages or so of spec material I’d written, so I guess its safe to say that she really fell in love with it! She’s continued to be my biggest cheerleader, and for that I feel really lucky. Only after I’d negotiated my own deal with Penguin and signed on the dotted line did I retain Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency as my agent. So, basically I did everything backwards, which is unfortunately pretty typical for me. Sigh.

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.

Jennifer: Wake up cranky with sunlight sticking in my eyes like tacks. Read D-Listed online and spit soy milk out through my nose as I laugh uncontrollably. Email my best friend in NY funny pictures of monkeys or lemurs I pull off the net (don’t ask). Read about Britney’s latest disaster and thank god I’m nobody’s mother yet. Eat cereal while staring at my manuscript on the glowing screen of my iBook. When I finally do start writing—usually around 10 AM—its pretty common for me to continue right through the day—stopping usually around five if I’m actively entrenched in a book. I tend to work very hard and very fast at breakneck speed, get the whole story out on the page, and THEN go back and edit once I’ve got a complete manuscript. Of course there are plenty of breaks in between to make coffee, dance around my kitchen to sixties soul music, or order a chocolate chip muffin if I happen to be working at my neighborhood coffee shop (Damn you, chocolate chip muffins!). My jeans do not thank me for such behavior.

haha! Yeah, muffins are addicting! Please tell us about your novel, THE ELITE, and what we can expect from your characters.

Jennifer: My series, THE ELITE, drops June 2008 from Penguin, Berkley. THE ELITE revolves around sixteen-year-old Casey McCloy—who has just moved from Normal, Illinois to The Bramford, a luxury apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to live with her grandmother. The series is all about Casey’s attempts to fit in with the most popular girls in her building—the Bram Clan, led by the indomitable, popular, pretty, platinum blond Madison Macallister—who is capable of ruining lives and destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. She’s not just Casey’s new classmate and neighbor; she’s an icon. Better to be on her good side. But after a city-haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and meeting the right people—including Drew, the boy-about-town who Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone…

I'm intrigued already!  What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Jennifer: I’m working on a couple of different ideas—of course what I’d REALLY love is for THE ELITE to take off and become so popular that it becomes a ten-book series instead of three, but I’ve also got two other books in the works. One is entitled BITTEN and is about two identical twins form Manhattan, Lucy and Mina Vanderbilt, whose parents buy Dracula’s castle in Romania in the midst of a mid-life crisis, forcing the family to move to Eastern Europe and live in a dilapidated, musty, stone castle. But before both girls begin attendance at a posh boarding school in Geneva, Switzerland, they’ll spend the summer at their new home sweet home—a castle situated in the heart of Romania, just off of Highway 73—better known as the intersection of creepy and get-me-the-hell-out-of-here—worlds away from their sophisticated Manhattan lifestyle. Upon their arrival, Mina quickly falls in with Jonathan Marlowe—the town’s resident hottie, who’s left London to visit his grandfather for the summer and spends his days attempting to pen the next great British novel at the local café. But after Mina suffers a “bite” from a mysterious apparition one evening while trolling the grounds of the castle, her love life will never be the same again. Expressions like “can I have a bite of that?” take on a WHOLE new meaning, and suddenly, the most notorious, identical, and inseparable twins in all of Manhattan have never been quite so different . . .

The other series I’m working on is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Belle who moves with her diplomat father to the Plaza Athanee hotel in Paris and begins to have a series of French fried adventures when she’s let loose on the city of lights. It’s kind of inspired by the Eloise books—which I adored as a kid (OK, who am I kidding? I love then NOW), except with lots of champagne and dating!

All sound like my kind of reads! Thanks again for chatting, Jennifer.  I wish you the best with all your projects.  Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Jennifer: Just keep writing—even if you think what you’re putting down on the page is crap. Writing is mostly about having the discipline to get up and do it every day—whether you feel like it or not. And all the frustration is definitely worth it in that moment when a book, character, or story really begins to come alive—it’s my favorite part of the writing process, and what makes me get up every day and want to sit down and write—the feeling of being utterly lost in a world I’ve created.

Jennifer Banash grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and is the author of HOLLYWOODLAND: AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE. Her Young Adult series THE ELITE drops June 2008 from Penguin Berkley. She divides her time between Paris and the Midwest—where she lives with her vast designer shoe collection and her beagle puppy, Sigmund.

3 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks for joining us at YA FRESH, Jennifer, and I'm looking forward to your book!

Em said...

All of your books sound good, Jennifer! I'll be keeping my eye out for them. :-)

Melissa said...

Can't wait to get ahold of THE ELITE and tear through it--sounds exciting!