Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interview with Julie Prestsater, author of So I'm A Double Threat

Julie Prestsater,


Do you have another job besides writing?

My full-time career is teaching. I teach high school reading during the regular term and freshmen science during the summers. When I'm needed, I also teach as an adjunct in a graduate reading program at a local university. I stay busy, but I love it.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

This is going to sound weird now, but I HATED reading as a kid. In fact, my friends would tease me in high school and tell me I better hurry up and check out whatever book we were reading at the time, because it was due the next day. I never had any connections with the books we were required to read, so I never felt the urge to pick up a book for fun. It never occurred to me there were other books out there.

It wasn't until I became an adult that I discovered my love for reading. A project assigned for my master's degree was to present a BIOBAG to the class. So basically, I had to present a timeline of my life using books or written materials that had a significant impact on me throughout the years. This was an absolute nightmare for me because I didn't read at the time. The only books I read were textbooks. So I bought tons of books and tried to find different authors and genres I liked so I could do my project. While my classmates presented tattered books from their childhood, I took brand new books out of a Barnes & Noble bag. But something happened during this project. I fell in love with reading. And I fell HARD! I haven't been able to stop since.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

It's kind of funny. I wrote the last paragraph of the novel first. I had this idea in my head where I wanted Meg to end up. I knew exactly what I wanted her to say and feel at the end. I had no idea how I was going to get there, but I just knew how I wanted it to end. LOL! How naive of me. As soon as I started typing, my plan fizzled. It was more stream-of-consciousness writing, and I couldn't stop. It sounds so cliché but really, the characters just took on a life of their own. It was like a movie playing in my head, and I would react. One of the boy characters did some not-so-nice things, and I got angry with him. It was pretty funny. Here I am getting angry with a fictional character I created. What a dork I am. The process is nuts. The emotions are not limited. It's crazy. LOL.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

I get my best ideas when I'm driving. It's because of the music. I blast the radio, and sing and dance while I drive. It seems like there is a memory for every song that comes on. Those memories can translate into some pretty good storylines.

Describe your working environment.

LOL. Sitting on the sofa, with my laptop in my lap, with the TV on, or headphones in my ears. I really should get a desk with a nice chair. I don't know how long my hands can take it like this.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

English teachers! LOL. I know I'm a teacher and I have no idea why, but it just scared the crap out of me to think that English teachers at my school might read my book and want to critique every word choice and sentence with a red pen. LOL. But seriously, they have been mostly supportive. Although one experience was particularly entertaining. A colleague asked to look at a copy of my book during lunch one day. She browsed the pages, stopping to read here and there, but her facial expressions were pretty telling. She didn't like it at all. She looked disgusted, in fact. She didn't say anything, but she didn't need to. When she left, a few of the other teachers just shrugged and smiled at me. They noticed too. I just laughed. I can't expect everyone to like my book. There have been plenty of books that I haven't liked. LOL.

How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

Since I work during the day and the kids are at school, the time we have together is limited. So when we get home, it's mostly about homework, eating dinner, and getting ready for bed. Once I say goodnight, I hit the laptop.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Well, I'm going to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Thanks for telling me about it. I'm so excited. I have all these ideas floating around in my head. I don't want to cheat, so I haven't written anything down. But I'm ready! This novel is going to be about a young girl's struggle to find her place in a world where she's not Mexican enough and she's not American enough. As a teen, it drove me nuts when someone would tell me I acted "White". What the heck does that mean? I knew what they were trying to say and it bugged me. I still hear kids being told that same thing today and it's doesn't irritate me any less. So I'm anxious to see where this one takes me.

As an author, what is your greatest reward?

When I hear a story about a teen finishing my book. It feels amazing! I work with many kids who do not read for pleasure. It's heartbreaking. I wrote this for them in hopes that this might be the one book that changes that for them. I feel so strongly that if a person reads just one book and likes it, he or she will want to read another one, and another one, and another one. It's a terrible cycle to create, isn't it. LOL.

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