Saturday, September 13, 2008

An Awesome Author: Stephanie Kuehnert

Why did you decide to title the book, I Wanna Be You Joey Ramone?

IWBYJR went through a few different titles. When I sold it to MTV Books it was called “All Roads Lead to Rock ‘n’ Roll,” but the marketing department didn’t think that was a catchy enough title. That’s one of the dirty little secrets of publishing, marketing has the final say-so over stuff like title and cover. So they asked me to come up with a new title and suggested I name it after a song or a musician or something like that. I turned to my iPod for inspiration, just put it on shuffle and started writing down ideas as they came to me. When the song “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” by Sleater-Kinney, I thought it was perfect on so many levels. First of all, I would be paying tribute to one of the bands that really inspired me during my teen years and inspired me to write this book. Secondly, Emily wants to be the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll like the lyrics of the song describe and she also wants to be her mother’s Joey Ramone since she’s always thought her mother went off to follow punk musicians like Joey. And it fit that whole reference a song and musician thing that marketing wanted, so we could all be happy.

Do you have any personal connections with any of the characters or places in I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone?

I have personal connections with them all. None of the characters are me or are based on anyone I know, but I spent so much time with them they became like friends. Emily is the girl I always wanted to be, but didn’t have the musical talent. Louisa is the woman I could have become if I’d chosen to run from my problems instead of facing them. Regan reminds me a lot of my best friend and Michael reminds me a lot of a friend of mine that passed away recently. I’m from Chicago, so I connect very well with all the real Chicago places in the book. Carlisle, Wisconsin is a made-up place but I spent a couple years living in Southern Wisconsin and I loved the landscape so the book is a tribute to it in many ways. It makes me nostalgic for Wisconsin.

How did you come up with the idea of River’s Edge?

Well, I grew up going to a weird punk venue, a place called the Fireside Bowl, which was a bowling alley that hosted punk shows. One of things I think is coolest about the spirit of punk music is the way it inspires people to basically create a scene out of what they have. I took the idea of the Fireside and brought it to Wisconsin. What would they have there? An abandoned warehouse. And then I took it further and made it a collective-run kind of place. Basically River’s Edge is the fantasy place I dreamed about having as a kid.

When did you first start writing, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone?

I wrote what became the first chapter of IWBYJR in Summer 2002. I was working on another novel at the time, but I quickly realized that that first chapter had potential to create a whole world, a whole book. The idea developed fast and the characters of Emily and Louisa wouldn’t leave me alone, so I put aside my other stuff and worked on the book for three years.

How would you describe the writing process and the editing process?

Difficult at times, but ultimately really rewarding. I got writer’s block at one point when I was about 2/3rds done with the first draft, but then I met my agent at a writing festival and she read the first chapter and wanted to know when I could give her a full manuscript. So that kicked my butt into gear. I spent the next six months writing and rewriting. I really like the revising process best because that is when I get to shape the book into exactly what I want it to be. IWBYJR went through about 8 drafts. 3 or 4 before my agent ever saw it. A couple more for her before she started to shop it and then one revision for my editor at MTV Books.

I have heard that you have another book coming out next summer, is this true? If so what is the title of the book?

Yes, it’s called BALLADS OF SUBURBIA and it will be out in July, I believe. Dates shift around, so until it’s absolutely solid, I’m still just saying summer 2009.

What will it be about?

It’s about a teenage girl named Kara who never really fit in in her suburban town. Then right when life seems to be at it’s worst—her best friend moves and her parents’ marriage is falling apart—she makes a new friend who brings her to hang out at this park in the middle of town where all the punks and misfits and skaters and freaks and geeks hang out. She’s finally found her place. But she and her friends have a lot of personal problems and secret pain and life begins to spiral out of control for them…. That isn’t really the best description ‘cause I kinda suck at writing those descriptions. You can read the first chapter at though!

When did you decide that you wanted to become an author?

When I was 5. Seriously. I got super addicted to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books at that age and I wanted to be Laura. Eventually I realized that my life wasn’t interesting enough to write autobiographies like Laura did, but that I could write fiction about the time period I grew up in instead. So I’ve been doing that since high school. I tried to study other things that would lead to a more stable job, like sociology, but alas, writing is my blood just as much as music is Emily’s blood and I’ve gotta write. I can’t do anything else.

Is there anything that you would like to add?

Nope, I just want to thank you for having me on your blog!!!

if you haven't got a chance to check out or buy I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert, please do it now! It is a wonderful book. That I loved! If you want to hear more about what I have to say on the book click here.