Thursday, June 18, 2009

Introducing... Serena Robar!

~ Author Interview Week Continues on the Buzz Blog ~

In case you're just joining us, each day we are interviewing a different YA author we admire -- and giving away a copy of their books! You can enter to win by leaving a comment after you read the post.

We'll announce the winners at the end of the week -- and be sure to check back each day to see who is new on the blog. There are big, big names ahead, people. And, some wonderful authors who deserve to be big names. Like today's fab author, Serena Robar.

Serena is the author of the popular Berkeley JAM series, Braced 2 Bite -- and is back with a new book called Giving Up the V.
First Serena, tell us a little about your new book:

Spencer Davis is nowhere ready to give up the V, but when she turns sixteen her forward thinking mother takes her to the doctor and puts her on the pill. Now Spencer’s friend are obsessed with her doing it and when the new guy Ben arrives and takes an interest in her, she begins to wonder if he is V worthy.

What compelled you to write a book on such a controversial (yet necessary) topic? Did you have any reservations about
submitting the book to publishers?

Sometimes stories are given to you by the writing gods. Giving Up the V was one of those stories. I was sitting at the doctor’s office for my yearly female exam when one of the doctors (a harried fifty-something man) asked the young receptionist if giving up the V meant what he thought it did. He explained to the receptionist (and me too, but he didn’t know it. I was blatantly eavesdropping) that his last patient was a teen girl whose mother brought her in to get on the pill. The girl was annoyed and complained that she wasn’t ready to give up the V yet, so why did she have to be there? I remember pulling out my notebook (all writers carry one of these for just this sort of occasion) and wrote down the title and premise. The premise came practically gift wrapped. All I had to do was write the story.

As for having any reservations about the subject matter, no-not at all. If anything this book is a weird amalgam of sweet and outrageous, I was worried the publisher might tell me to choose one or the other, but they loved the mixture. Maybe that’s what the creator of Reese’s feared? Is it chocolate or is it peanut butter? Pick a side! Luckily they were two great tastes that taste great together. Just like Giving Up the V.

How did your own experiences as a teen navigating sex and romance influence you in writing Giving up the V?

Hah, that’s a therapy couch question if I ever heard one. When I was in elementary school my mom gave my sister and I a book entitled “Where did I come from?” That book and my teen sex talk which I loosely based on a scene in the book, where Spencer’s mom (a free spirit) talks about her first sex talk with Spencer’s grandmother (conservative Catholic). It boiled down to a single sentence. “Do it before you’re married and you’ll go straight to hell”. That was the extent of my sexual education on the home front. Though my mother would vehemently deny it.

How could I really talk to my mother about sex if her stance on the subject was ‘it’s forbidden’? I still had feelings, hormones, questions, concerns and let’s face it, I didn’t share her core belief system so motivating me with fear of hell wasn’t going to stop me. An open dialogue about sexual consequences, such as STD’s, unplanned pregnancy, etc would have been a much more effective. So instead of taking her advice, I did what most kids do, I discussed sex with my peers and formed my opinions and decisions based on those conversations.

I think the most surprising thing I took away from my own teen years was all the talk and discussion about the act itself but not much mention of how you feel afterward. The onslaught of emotions; vulnerability, insecurity, etc. I was completely unprepared for that side of it. I really wished I would have had someone with more life experience to talk to about that part.

What do you hope readers will take away from Giving Up the V?

Giving Up the V
is a very light and funny look at peer pressure, family and growing up. I remember reading all the Judy Blume books when I was a kid. Are you There God, It’s me Margaret and Forever were required reading. We all talked about it because we totally connected with the characters and situations in the books. I think Giving up the V is like that. If Judd Apatow were to re-imagine a Judy Blume novel, that would be Giving Up the V.

Prior to Giving up the V, you wrote a series of vampire books for Berkeley Jam – do you think you’ll return to the paranormal genre someday?

I love paranormal YA’s. World building and creating a mythos with your own take on supernatural elements is what I love to do. However, my last publisher decided to move away from the light, funny YA paranormal and I had to come up with something that was more marketable. A contemporary story seemed like a natural transition and I loved that I got to explore the virginity theme in a coming of age story without distracting from the message with paranormal elements. I will continue to do paranormal if I can find the right publisher but I think I am hooked on writing contemporaries as well.

Did you always want to be a writer? What led you to writing YA fiction?

I used to write short stories and articles for the school paper when I was a teen, but I never considered myself a real writer. My true passion was reading. I loved to read anything and everything I could get my hands on, which was mostly romance since my neighbor belonged to numerous book clubs and she gave my sister and I all the books after reading them.

I knew I was a storyteller at a young age. I was good at it and people seemed to find me entertaining. I’m just glad I could write my stories down in a cohesive and entertaining way. That’s how I became a writer. The biggest struggle creative people have is finding the right medium. A storyteller can be a filmmaker, artist, game developer, songwriter, etc. Once you find an outlet for your creativity, it’s easier to make sense of where you fit in the world. I know tons of people (myself included) who pondered the question “What’s my role in the universe?” I’m just gratefully to have figured it out.

My voice lends naturally to YA fiction. I think teen fiction has great emotional potential because everything is new, big and all consuming. The only time in life when you are ruled by baser instincts and struggling to make some sense out of the chemical onslaught puberty jettisons into the body. It’s where your sense of self is first tested and character is molded. It’s a challenging and exciting genre to write in. I love it.

What are you working on next? Will there be a sequel to V?

I originally pitched GUTV as a series, but Simon pulse wanted a stand-alone story. I like Alyssa’s character and her story was just starting to heat up at the end of GUTV. Here is a girl who thought of her virginity as a burden, something to dispose of so she could get on with life. What happens to her and better yet, the boy who takes care of business, after the deed is done? So many story ideas. Maybe I will write that book next. I’m currently working on another paranormal and another funny contemporary romance but no release dates I can share yet. Will keep you posted as soon as I can spill the beans.

What is one tip you would give teens who would like to write?

Writing is a talent that will erode over time if you don’t exercise it. Write every day. Break things down into manageable pieces so writing daily doesn’t seem overwhelming. Start a blog. Observe life and write posts on your musings. What’s your take on subjects? A writer writes. Always. Without fail. Write what you love, hone your craft and someday your books will be in my To Be Read pile.

Anything else you’d like to say to our Books, Boys, Buzz readers?

Yeah! For the entire month of June I’m giving it away for free (it’s the only time momma would approve). Sign up for my newsletter and you could win a book a day, every day. All month long.

All this week you can win Books, Boys, Buzz author’s books with a big basket giveaway of their backlist on Saturday, June 20, 2009. Don’t be shy. You know you want to.

Thanks again to Serena for the interview and her generous giveaways! Right here on the Buzz Blog you can win a copy of Serena's new book just by answering this question:

Have you ever had an awkward moment where your parent(s) tried to explain the birds and the bees to you?


Never Cry Werewolf - HarperTeen Sept '09
The Clearing - Harcourt Houghton Mifflin April '10


Summer said...

Great interview! Serena's story was fun to read and I'm looking forward to reading her book.

My awkward parental sex-talk moment happened right before I left for college. My mom, dad and I were in the kitchen and my dad was like (to my mom) "shouldn't you give her the Talk?" and my mom said, "you already know all about that stuff right?" and I was like, "... yeah."

End of discussion. lol

Babycat said...

No, thank goodness... *turns red just thinking about it*

My sister on the other hand was boy crazy at the age of 13 and was the one who actually got "the talk" from my mom.

TinaFerraro said...

Wonderful interview! Serena, I was in a Barnes & Noble last week, and your book was on the Favorites table, right there with the Twilight books! I actually didn't buy one of the remaining copies because I wanted to keep them there for new readers to discover you, but next time I see a copy, it's mine!

Breanna said...

Great interview with Serena! I really want to read her book. It sounds great.

I've actually never had an awkard moment where my parents explained the birds and the bees to me. At least not a moment that I can remember. I think I learned everything from my older sisters and in school. So they never really had to. I'm definitely thankful for that. I can't imagine how embarassing that would be!


Sweet Book Delights said...

Sweet interview!!
Chilli x

stephhale said...

I remember the first time I read Serena's writing (when she posted her synopsis on the teenlit loop). I loved it so much! I've really enjoyed her Berkley series and can't wait to read Giving Up the V. And can I just admit that I had never heard that phrase before? :)

stephhale said...

I remember the first time I read Serena's writing (when she posted her synopsis on the teenlit loop). I loved it so much! I've really enjoyed her Berkley series and can't wait to read Giving Up the V. And can I just admit that I had never heard that phrase before? :)

Paradox said...

Have you ever had an awkward moment where your parent(s) tried to explain the birds and the bees to you?

Er... Sort of. Once when I was in 3rd grad and girls started talking about anatomy in the lunch room, I got a sort of mini-talk, and a second time on my 13th birthday.

paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com

serena said...

Most awkward was when I was going away to college and my mother was forced to talk to me about sex from my grandmother (on father's side). It was very uncomfortable and she said something along the lines of "If you decide to have sex, God forbid, then I guess we should get you something."
Too little, too late. :)

Lindsay said...

I've always had a very open and honest relationship with my parents. I have never felt awkward asking anything, but it has been sorta awkward at times when my dad has brought the topic up himself.

Thanks for the contest!


Erica said...

Great interview! I haven't read Serena's other books, but Giving Up The V is on my birthday list that I gave to my parents.. so I'm hopinng to get it. It looks soooo good!

:) Erica

Liyana said...

Was there! My mum tried to broach the subject when I was fourteen. Thank god we were having sex ed lessons, and I was able to avoid the topic. But man, was it ever so boring learning it in school!

Llehn said...

I never had the awkward sex talk with my parents. My parents are Asian, so they are in the school of denial, that the kids would somehow miraculously pick it up when the time comes!

Sydney said...

Wonderful interview! No, I haven't gotten the Talk, thank goodness. My brother gets it on a weekly basis almost though. It's embarrassing to be around for that! *shudder*

Anonymous said...

Luckily, I have never gotten a sex-talk with my parents.

Amanda Villagómez said...

I love that discovering the world of blogging has given me so many comments from authors that I can share with my students in writers workshop. I will have to start a list of quotes over the summer so that I don't forget about them by the fall. I will include the writing every day comment!

L said...

Thankfully, I haven't had that talk yet, but I will be dreading the day that it comes.