Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What's Fresh with Justina Chen Headley's Girl Overboard

The worst thing about having it all, is having to deal with it all - the good, the bad, and the just plain weird. Everybody thinks Syrah is the golden girl. After all, her father is Ethan Cheng, billionaire, and she has everything any kid could possibly desire, right down to a waterfront mansion, jet plane, and custom-designed snowboards. But as Syrah reveals in her manga journal, most of what glitters in her life is fool's gold. Her half-sibs hate her, her best friend's girlfriend is threatening their friendship, and a snowboarding accident exiles her from the mountains - the one place where she feels free and accepted for who she is, not what she has. After Syrah rehabs her busted-up knee and broken heart, makes a new friend, uncovers a family secret, and discovers a way to help a young girl with leukemia, she is finally able to realize her real worth.

Hello Justina, it's so great to have you here at YA Fresh! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Justina: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade when I wrote my first 50-page YA novel. I’m not joking. Kitty and Dot, those were my teen protagonists. Where I got their names, I don’t know. My incredible and much beloved agent Steven Malk took my first novel—Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)—to auction where he sold it in a two-book contract to Little, Brown Books.

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.

Justina: To tell you the truth, now that I’m touring for Girl Overboard, I have NO writing day schedule. But typically, I try to work out first thing in the morning before my kids get up. Then as soon as they’re off to school, I hit my computer to put in 3-4 hours of writing. A break for lunch, possibly coupled with a walk to clear my head. And then two hours of readergirlz work or business correspondence. Then I morph back into Mommy. When the kids are asleep, I do my research. That’s pretty much it.

Please tell us about your latest novel Girl Overboard and what we can expect from your characters.

Justina: I’m touring right now with Olympic Gold Medalist Hannah Teter for my new novel, Girl Overboard (Little, Brown; January 1, 2008). So meet Syrah, the protagonist. She’s a trust fund baby whose dad is a billionaire tycoon. The only place Syrah feels real and liked for herself, not her last name, is up on the mountain when she snowboards. I hope readers will get inspired by Syrah’s story and actions to change the world…and they apply for the Go Overboard Challenge Grant that I’m co-sponsoring with Burton Snowboards and Youth Venture. We’re giving away 12 grants, $1,000 each, to fund the BEST youth-led ideas to change the world.

The book and the grants sound awesome. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Justina: My next novel, North of Beautiful, is coming out in February, 2009. From behind, you’d think Terra Cooper was a knock-out-blonde with a killer body. But all everybody in her small town sees is the “flaw” on her face. I have to tell you: I love this character and I love the boy who shows her what true beauty really is.

Thanks for sharing with us, Justina! I wish you the best with Girl Overboard. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Justina: Write every day. (I better take my own advice. Now.)

"I always wanted to be a writer--and wrote my first 50-page novella when I was eight. My parents like to remind me that my Taiwanese name even means "lover of literature." After graduating from Stanford with honors, I took a minor detour to work at Microsoft, both in Seattle and Sydney, Australia. Afterwards, I returned to my first love: writing young adult fiction. My debut novel, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) won the 2007 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature and is a 2008 ALA Popular Paperback. As well, the book was a Borders' Original Voices nominee, BookSense pick, and NYPL Book for the Teen Age. My new novel, GIRL OVERBOARD, is a Junior Library Guild Premier Selection. Publishers Weekly writes, "Headley crafts a tale that will stand out in the crowd by offering a good dose of girl power and an intriguing family backstory." I tie community service to every novel I publish and encourage everyone to check out the Go Overboard Challenge Grant I'm co-sponsoring with Burton Snowboards and Youth Venture to fund the BEST youth-led ideas to change the world. Check it out at And feel free to contact me on Facebook or MySpace at"

4 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Welcome to YA FRESH, Justina, and so great to read about you and your books. I started writing in second grade, too, but I don't remember completing more than 4 or 5 consecutive pages. I'm really impressed you had the stuff to write 50 pages!

Erin said...

Hooray! Justina is so amazing.

Justina said...

Thanks for having me here! It's an HONOR to be on YA Fresh.


Kelly Parra said...

Thanks, Justina, it's been a pleasure!