Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What's Fresh with Stephanie Kuehnert's Ballads of Suburbia

Let's discover what's fresh with Stephanie Kuehnert's Ballads of Suburbia!

Hello Steph! It's great to have you back with us to chat! Please tell us about your latest novel Ballads of Suburbia.

Stephanie: Ballads of Suburbia was released by MTV Books on July 21.

Here’s the lowdown on it:

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park. . . .

Amidst the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives.

Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

Awesome! Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes her unique?

Stephanie: Kara starts high school as a loner. Her best friend has moved away and her family is falling apart. She copes by listening to music and going to concerts with her little brother Liam… and by cutting herself. Eventually she and Liam start hanging out at a local park where the other misfit types congregate. Kara finds some good friends, but she also finds herself running from her problems in increasingly dangerous ways. I think she is unique, but her struggles, at least with loneliness and her family are something a lot of teens can relate too.

How did the idea for this novel come about?

Stephanie: It probably started when I was a teen growing up in suburbia, seeing the way no one talked about their troubles and often let them get so out of hand and destructive. But as usual, the real idea for the novel, was inspired by music. I was taking a class and the instructor brought in a bunch of Johnny Cash songs and other ballads and talked about how ballads were one of the original, most basic forms of storytelling. I thought about how honest ballads were and that’s when I found the structure of my book. My characters write their own ballads.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?

Stephanie: For those who don’t have a history of addiction or self-injury, I hope they gain an understanding of how people end up going down those paths. For those who do have that history, I hope the gain a sense of hope or at least know they are not alone. For everyone, I hope they gain the sense that they should speak up or sing out their experiences instead of keeping them bottled up inside.

Thanks for sharing, Steph! Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

Stephanie: I’d like to recommend Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which has totally become a classic and rightfully so. It also shows how important speaking up is.

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. She received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and lives in Forest Park, Illinois. Her first novel, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, was released by MTV Books in July of 2008. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, also published by MTV Books, is her latest release. Visit her website,, and don't forget about her awesome cyber party going on at her blog right now.

4 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks for visiting with us again, Stephanie, and I'll be sure to pick this book up!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks for having me Tina and Kelly!

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Steph! Good luck with Ballads!!

Sara said...

Thanks for the interview! Ballads of Suburbia sounds like a really good and interesting book!