Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Five for Stephanie Kuehnert

Whenever I read a novel that sticks in my noggin, I'm dying to ask the author tons of questions. Especially, when the novel is written so personally, I swear the main character is the author. After finishing I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, I was burning with a boat load of questions. And the fabulous Stephanie Kuehnert was kind enough to answer each one. 

Don't forget to check out the YAY FOR YA HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY. You can snag a copy of IWBYJR, LET IT SNOW, and a TWILIGHT poster. :) 

1. I was impressed with your description and how you were able to capture the sometimes suffocating feeling of living in a small town, like Carlisle, Wisconsin. Did you grow up in a small town? If so, do you prefer the city or the suburb? 

I grew up in a suburb that really felt like a small town at times. I moved from a working class neighborhood in St. Louis to Oak Park, IL, the middle class suburb of Chicago that is famous for Ernest Hemmingway (whose writing I never liked even though that might be blasphemy in some circles) and Frank Lloyd Wright. I felt pretty suffocated growing up there and I'm sure I used some of those feelings when writing about Carlisle from Emily's perspective. Now I live in another suburb of Chicago, but it feels more like a neighborhood than a suburb, so I like it. Chicago just feels too big for me to live in the city proper, plus I just can't afford it. I prefer smaller cities. I lived right in downtown Madison, Wisconsin and I loved it. My dream place to live would be Seattle, Washington. I think both of these places feel a bit closer to nature than Chicago. I love Chicago dearly, but I do miss that about living in Madison and it is why I may defect for Seattle one of these days. 

2. The main character in IWBYJR, Emily Black, has an amazing passion for music. How were you able to capture and communicate this passion so vividly? 

Because I have the same passion. No, I can't play music. I've tried but since I didn't have Emily's natural gift for it, I didn't have the discipline to keep practicing -- I reserved that discipline for my writing! But I have the same feelings as Emily about music. It stirs me up, it soothes me, it is my escape. I got into alternative rock and punk rock when I was about ten or eleven. I felt like a real misfit in my suburban town at that time, but I felt like bands like Nirvana, Social Distortion, Hole, etc, understood me and when I went to concerts I really felt like I was part of something. It also encouraged my creative side. I always write about things inspired by music in one way or another! 

3. I loved the characters in IWBYJR and I remember reading that you list your character traits on index cards. What types of traits do you list on the index cards? Do you interview your characters? Is this something you list before you write or during? 

I actually started the index card trait thing for my second book, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, because I was dealing with so many characters and needed to keep track. With IWBYJR, I wrote a short story form the perspective of each character (Emily, Louisa, Michael, Molly, Regan, Tom) to get to know them and where they are coming from fully. I wrote about the pivotal moments of change in their lives, the story that made them who they are really. Some of those stories stayed in the book in some form or another and some did not, but I think that was my version of interviewing them. I did that for BALLADS too, but those actually stayed in that book because each character gets a chance to tell their "ballad" which is the pivotabl moment I described above. I do all this stuff including the index cards while I'm writing. I'm not too good at plotting out my writing. I see a scene in my mind and I dive right into it and keep going until I get stuck basically. I fill in details as I discover them and keep track of them on my index card if the story is so big it necessitates that. 

4. Do you follow a daily writing schedule? Or do you only write when you feel creative? 

I crave a daily writing schedule. I would love to have one. I actually prefer to start and the morning and write as long as I'm feeling it, but alas there is work and promoting IWBYJR and all sorts of other things that are in my way right now and mildly frustrating me. So right now, sadly, I write when I find time. But the goal is by the end of the month to have a daily writing schedule. 

5. As a teen, how involved were you with the 90's music scene? Were you part of a band? Did you meet or see any up and coming bands before they hit it big? 

I wasn't part of a band though I was friends with people in bands and I went to concerts religiously. There was a place called the Fireside Bowl, a bowling alley where the punk shows were put on that I went to usually once a week. Did I see bands before they made it big... Well it depends what "Big" means. I saw lots of early to mid-nineties punk bands when they were just starting out though I'm not sure if any of them got to be huge or anything. The best example is probably that I saw some of Sleater-Kinney's earliest shows and did meet them at a show in Madison. I saw bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Offspring and Beck right when they were on the cusp of big. More recently, I saw/hung out with Against Me! about a year before their major label debut because they are friends of a friend. Office is a band that got a lot of buzz last year and should be HUGE and I went to high school with the guitarist, Tom and saw almost all of his early shows with this first two bands, The Skexies and the Slackjaws. The drummer of the Slackjaws, Mike, is in a band called Social Studies now that also deserves to be big. I've thoroughly believed since I met them that Tom and Mike would be huge someday and I hope they will. 

Thanks, Stephanie! 

Have a great day, everyone!! :)


PJ Hoover said...

Great, great interview! And yay for Stephanie!

Justin The Teen Librarian said...

Awesome interview. Thanks so much. I just bought "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" for the library. Can't wait to check it out.

Angela said...

Awesome interview. I like the idea of writing a short from each character's perspective to get to know the better. I've struggled with characterization, and something like this would really help me, especially when just starting a novel.

Beth said...

i write the same way- dive into a scene and keep going until i get stuck. or, until im called away to do something else :-(.
i also totally kno what u mean about growing up in a small town- my towns not that small, but my school is, and its totally awkward, say, to crush on ur bro's ex's little brother. cant there just be someone that ur family hasnt known for years and years?!

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, PJ! Thanks!

Hi, Justin! Thanks. It's a great book.

Hi, Angela! I agree. I'm thinking about trying it myself.

Hi, Beth! Me too! :) Uh oh. :)

Beth said...

hey keri, u should do another writing workshop @ the library. that was pretty cool, im so sad i only got 2 go half the time...we need more stuff to do there, most everythings over now, except movie nights...

Barrie said...

Writing a short story from each character's perspective sounds very interesting. Great interview!

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Beth! I'm all set to do another workshop this summer.. I miss you guys too! ;) Are you doing Nano?

Hi, Barrie! Thanks.. I know. I'm definitely going to try it too.

Beth said...

nope, no nano. i was thinking about it, but i dont like any one thing taking up lots of my time, and i dont have any good stories in my mind lately anyway :-( really slacking on my writing...

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Anonymous said...

Giver or receiver--giver.

Twilight on Friday. Yay!