Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's Fresh Stephanie Kuehnert's I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

A raw, edgy, emotional novel about growing up punk and living to tell.

The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones.

Punk rock is in Emily Black's blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn't it lead her right back to Emily?

Hey Stephanie, as always, good to chat with you! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Stephanie: I've been writing since grade school, but I really started to take it seriously at the end of high school. However I didn't think going to school for writing was necessary. I thought I should just work and write. It didn't work out very well, so I ended up pursing my BA in Fiction Writing at Columbia College when I was 21. I stayed on for MFA and I met my agent, Caren Johnson, at a literary festival hosted by my college in March of 2005. I was working on I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE as my thesis and I met with her for a critique. Instead of critiquing me, she asked me when I could finish the manuscript. I was in the midst of writer's block, so I asked to have the summer to finish. I brought the manuscript to her in NYC in September. She gave me some revisions and we signed a contract in early 2006.

It took over a year to sell the book though, so thank goodness she was really passionate about it. She shopped it to all the adult houses with no luck, and then decided to try shopping it as a YA. Jen Heddle at MTV Books snapped it up right away and I couldn't be happier with that!

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.

Stephanie: In about a week this is going to change and hopefully for the better because I'm quitting my full-time job. I'm a binge writer which means I like to have 6 to 8 hours to write. That's how I wrote IWBYJR and most of my second novel. Then I finished school and had to get a full-time job. Right now my routine goes, come home from work around 5:45, cook dinner and eat it while watch One Life to Live. Yes, the soap opera. It's been my guilty pleasure since the summer I turned 14. I use it to unwind. Then around 7:30, I try to start writing. I usually spend 30 min to an hour screwing around on the internet and wind up with about 2 hours to write before I have to go to bed. It's been really hard, which is why I have to take the risk and change jobs. I'm going back to bartending which is much more flexible.

Please tell us about your novel, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, and what we can expect from your characters.

Stephanie: My first novel, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, was published by MTV Books in July 2008. It follows the intertwined stories of Emily, a small-town Wisconsin girl with the dreams of being a punk rock goddess, and her mother, Louisa, who left when Emily was an infant, supposedly to follow punk rock. You can expect to learn about Emily's trials and tribulations both as a female musician in the male-dominated rock world and also as a girl struggling with the hole her mother left in her life. You'll also learn about Louisa, the real story behind her leaving, and between the two of them, you'll see what happens when you follow your dreams versus when you run from your nightmares.

I already told you how much RAMONE rocked! :) What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Stephanie: Yes, my second novel, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, is forthcoming from MTV Books in Summer 2009. It's a little bit harder for me to summarize other than to say it's a classic coming-of-age story, following a year or so in the life of Kara, a teenage girl from the suburbs of Chicago as she finally finds friends that she feels she fits with, but all of them--Kara included--are grappling with some pretty heavy issues. They try to take care of each other, but things spiral out of control….

Can't wait for it. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! Best of luck with RAMONE. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Stephanie: Writing should not be viewed as a solo activity. I spent four years trying to write by myself without getting feedback from others. I never got much done because I had nothing to motivate me and what I did produce wasn't very good because I wasn't getting suggestions from others. So find a trusted group of readers. Find other writers via a writing program (my route), a writing association like RWA (many of my friends' route) or online to be your critique partners. You'll get amazing feedback and you'll be inspired by reading their work to keep improving as a writer.

STEPHANIE KUEHNERT got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she discovered punk rock and produced several D.I.Y. feminist 'zines. After short stints in Ohio and Wisconsin, Stephanie ultimately returned home and received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. She currently resides in Forest Park, IL. I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE is her first novel. Visit her website at

3 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Great interview, and I'm really looking forward to reading this book (when I meet my book deadline and can read again). =) And Stephanie, while you were writing bad poetry in 8th grade, I was writing bad short stories!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks Tina, I'm glad you are excited about the book. I started writing bad short stories in high school, lol!

andrea said...

I'm really interested in reading this book. It's not only on my "to read" list, it's on my "to buy" list. Maybe this weekend!