|This section features interviews with authors. Questions are from reviewers Thanks to authors and publishers for their support.
back to interview page
|Julie Anne Peters|
|She Loves You, She Loves You Not|
What inspired you to write She Loves You, She Loves You Not?
Hi Kenyah. I’m not always sure where inspiration comes from. Often, I’ll look back on a book years later and think, Oh. Now I see what I was remembering, or trying to forget. Writing is a great way to purge all the demons that might be haunting you. For She Loves You, She Loves You Not…., I believe the inspiration came from three sources:
1. I vividly recall the pain of my first breakup—the actual physical ache, as if someone was crushing my heart in their fist. Heartache is more than a word; it’s a sensation you never want to relive.
2. I was desperate to recapture that love and, I realize now, how my actions might’ve verged on stalking behavior.
3. (This is a slim connection.) There’s a Kenny Chesney song, “Dancing for the Music,” about a mom who is an exotic dancer, but only because she has to make enough money to pay the rent and keep her kids in clothes and braces, etc. I thought it’d be fun to have an exotic dancer in a book. Not my main character. That’d be pushing the limits for a YA novel. But a mom, a peripheral character, who dances for the music. You know by now that Carly’s not exactly dancing to put food on the table.
In addition, there were four things I wanted to accomplish with She Loves You, She Loves You Not…:
1. My first book for an LGBTQ audience, Keeping You a Secret, is a lesbian love story and readers seem to love it so much (according to the fan mail I receive), that I wanted to give them another book with a similar theme.
2. In Keeping You a Secret, Cece is such a cherished character for being an out and proud lesbian that I wanted Alyssa, in She Loves You, She Loves You Not…, to be secure in her sexuality.
3. Setting was vital to the story and character arc in Far from Xanadu (recently reissued as Pretend You Love Me), so I wanted to recreate that kind of “family” bond in this new book. Majestic, Colorado, where Alyssa is sent to live with her estranged mother, would end up to be a significant influence in Alyssa's story arc.
4. With every book, I try to stretch my artistic wings, and in this one, I wanted to use second person point of view. If you’re not familiar with second person POV, think of it as a character who’s suspended above herself, looking in and listening to her life. It’s a detached point of view that I felt worked well in the flashbacks as Alyssa is reflecting on her recent past, trying to figure out how she ended up with no one to love and no place to call home. (I promise that by the end of the book she’ll have more—much more than she started with.)
Did you enjoy writing it?
I always enjoy writing the first draft of a book. I’m living inside the characters’ heads and hearts, and participating in their lives. By the time I have to revise a book for the 25th or 100th time, my enthusiasm begins to wane.
How long did it take you to write?
It usually takes a year to 18 months for me to crank out a first draft. I do a lot of my own revisions before I’m ready to hand the manuscript to my critique group and receive blunt, reader reactions. After I revise using their feedback, I work with my editor to revise for about another year. In total, I’d say a book takes anywhere from three to ten years from start to finish.
What were some of the difficulties you experienced when writing it?
Since I’d never used second person point of view, it was a challenge to slip back and forth seamlessly in the story. I knew Alyssa would be a sympathetic character after all she’d been through, but I didn’t want to vilify Carly. Carly wasn’t a bad person in my mind—only selfish and self-centered. I did believe she loved Alyssa in her own way, so I hope that came across.
Are the characters based upon people that you know in real life or did you just make them up?
I never set out to make my characters resemble real people. I think there’s more of me in them than anyone else.
|Pretend You Love Me / Far From Zanadu|
Kira (qns 1-4) and Maddy (qn 5-6) ask..
How did you create tension, emotion and raw feelings when creating the character of Mike?
Hi Kira and Maddy, Mike is probably my most favorite character from all the books I’ve written. She carries so much internal pain, with her father’s suicide and her need to find her place in the world. She pushes herself to extreme limits, both physically and emotionally. My partner, Sherri, believes that Mike was based on her. And maybe that’s why she feels so real on the page.
What did you envision Jamie being to Mike? How did you hope his character added to the storyline, themes and other characters?
I felt Mike needed an ally. Since she was never going to find love in this small town in Kansas, he was the closest thing she had to a real friend—even a close girlfriend with whom she could relate. I wanted Jamie to provide some comic relief as well, since the issues explored in the book were so heavy.
Was there a special moral or message that you wished to convey to society via your story or characters?
No. I try never to send a message through my work. Readers should take away what they need and want from literature.
Mike is easy to relate to, but maybe not in the ways people would first think. Why have you kept her character honest and relatable?
I think that’s just the way she is. She absorbs all the pain in her life and doesn’t release it by lashing out. It might actually be healthier for her if she did.
Will the story continue?
No. I never write sequels to any of my books.
What inspired you to write this story?
It’s hard to know the precise moment when an idea implants onto your subconscious and begins to grow. Like sand in an oyster, layer after layer of ochre may produce a pearl, but in the beginning it’s only a mass of guts and goo.
After my young adult lesbian love story, Keeping You a Secret, was published, I was overwhelmed with the passionate response from readers. At the heart of a number of coming out stories, one particular theme began to emerge. Two excerpts from letters are poignant examples:
Oh, but I do know. We have a term in our community: Lesbian baiting. Baiters are straight women who lead lesbians on, who play with our emotions and allow us to believe there’s the possibility of a romantic relationship. They have no intention of pursuing or sustaining a relationship, of course. They’re curious. They’re confused. In the extreme, they’re sexual predators. I have a lesbian friend who’s been obsessed with a straight woman for twenty years. This woman is flattered by my friend’s attention, I’m sure. Who doesn’t want to feel attractive and desirous? The straight woman finally got married and I thought, Great. This is fantastic. Now she’ll free my friend from her self-imposed bondage of unrequited love. But no, this straight woman still calls and says, “I miss you. I think I made a mistake marrying a man.” Oh brother. Could someone please take her out?
Naturally, the phenomenon of preying on a person’s vulnerability and need isn’t confined to our community. I did think it’d be an interesting topic to explore in YA literature—loving someone who can’t love you back. Manipulation versus obsession. The distance between people, psychological and biological, that never can, and never should, be crossed.
Theme, in this case, was the genesis for Far from Xanadu/Pretend You Love Me. The main character, Mike, had been growing inside me for a while, augmented by the ochre of irritation, frustration, and anger.
Why has the story title changed?
Good question. My publisher felt a fresh title and cover would give this book new shelf life. I was worried that readers might buy it, thinking it was a book they hadn’t read. Hopefully, no one’s wasted her money. It’s one of the marketing mysteries in the publishing industry that eludes me. And there are many.
Thank you all for your great questions, and for your thoughtful, wonderful reviews.
June 2011 $28.99
She Loves You, She Loves You Not
Julie Anne Peters
The young adult fiction novel She Loves You, She Loves You Not, is written by Julie Anne Peters. It is about a seventeen year old girl named Alyssa, who has her whole life changed when her father (an extreme homophobe) finds out she’s a lesbian. Within those few weeks she loses her best friend, Ben, her girlfriend, Sarah and is kicked out by her father. Alyssa is forced to live with her birth mother, Carly, despite the fact that she barely knows or likes her, because none of her other family members will take her. Here, Alyssa is forced to live in a new town, with new people, and a new future. But with such a grief-filled past, will she ever be able to fit in? And more importantly, will she ever love again?
She Loves You, She Loves You Not is a really interesting book that puts into perspective just how hard it is be to be different. It was also very realistic, as it did not present a perfect life in which it was easy to be a lesbian. Instead, it shows you what it would really be like, and just how much it could affect your life. The problems that Alyssa faced were a mixture of both unique and easy to relate to, and I would recommend it to mature 14 to 18 year olds, who are interested in topics of independence or sexuality.
Kenyah, age 13, Canberra, Australia
JAugust 2011 $17.99
originally published as Far From Xanadu in May 2005
Pretend You Love Me
Julie Anne Peters
Genre/s: Teen fiction, Romance, Friendship
Pretend You Love Me is a skilfully written novel which follows Mike (Mary-Elizabeth) Szabo, a sixteen year old gay teen living in Coalton, Kansas through several different struggles.
The first battle that she faces is love, and in particular, her love for Xanadu, the most ‘bee-oo-tiful’ girl in school. They soon become friends, but while Mike wants a deeper relationship with her, Xanadu just needs a friend, and cannot love Mike back. Mike is so honest and innocent throughout the novel and I wanted her to succeed in her pursuit of Xanadu. But is there something dark about Xanadu? And will Mike’s severe case of La Vie En Rose cloud her judgement of this girl, and will it be too late?
The second challenge she ‘strikes’ is an optional softball camp which she feels she cannot attend, not only because of the cost but because of her own emotional blocks. Her coach, Kinneson is pushing her to attend, and Mike’s protests become fruitless, especially after an anonymous person raises awareness of her situation. This creates the whole tight-knit community of Coalton to help her achieve what really is, deep down, her dream.
The last major struggle underlines the tone of the book, and seems to guide Mike through her life. Mike’s dead father defines her decisions, though Mike seems to question him, and is angry about his intentional death. Will she be able to forgive him?
This book is simply excellent: It is insightful and beautifully written. Peters draws her characters with remarkable skill and tact and creates a believable and heart-warming story. I would love Peters to write more chapters of Mike’s life, to see what direction her life would take.
I recommend this book to young adults. Some of the themes explored in the novel (death, drinking, etc.) are perhaps not suitable for teenagers under fifteen.
Kira, age 15, Canberra, Australia
In this story the main character Mary Elizabeth, nicknamed Mike, has issues accepting the loss and death of her father and losing her mother. She begins to take after her father via plumbing and wearing his clothes. Once Xanadu, a new girl comes into Mike’s town, Mike falls in love even though Xanadu is straight.
In this LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) book, Mike and her best friend Jamie learn more about love and relationships including acceptance. Though this is not really my preferred genre it was well written and enjoyable. I recommend this book to anyone (13+ as it has adult themes) whether they are interested in LGBT stories or not as it is well written and overall it’s a good book.
Maddy, age 15, Canberra, Australia
November 2007 $19.99
short fictions by Julie Anne Peters
Grl2grl is a book of short stories, most of them are about young lesbians ‘coming out’, or having relationship difficulties. Julie Anne Peters seems to have captured teenage emotions really well in her stories, but I feel that some of the things would perhaps not always happen in real life the way they happen in the stories. For example, in one called Passengers, both girls just knew that the other was a lesbian and in love with her. In TIAD, Hayley, the main character, gets over her rejection incredibly quickly, after she was first convinced that she was going to commit suicide over it.
Short stories often leave you wanting to know more about the characters and Julie Ann Peter’s stories are in this category. I wanted more information from stories such as Outside/Inside. Overall, I found Julie Anne Peters is a good writer, but her subject choice might limit the number of people who would select this book. I would suggest that this book is for a mature reader, perhaps fifteen and above.
Imogen, age 13, Canberra, Australia
March 2009 $16.99
fp February 2006
Julie Anne Peters
Luna is a story about Liam, born on the outside a boy but inside a girl. The book covers his transformation from Liam to Luna. And what a book this is. It really moved me and held me from beginning to end. Told by Luna's ever loving, always there sister, Regan, we get to see how Liam/Luna's transformation affects not only herself but the whole family and friends. What begins with Luna trying on Regan's clothes in the middle of the night, to the first outing as Luna to a distant shopping centre with Regan we see the difficult steps Luna has to take. Regan is a real hero, so supportive but struggling to deal with and cope with Liam/Luna. I think what moved me so much was the beautiful, unbreakable bond between the two siblings. Liam/Luna is a brave character and the yearning to be true to herself is so strong that we are willing her to take her first steps into her new life, despite the hurdles she faces.
This story of a transgender teen is an important one and can only make people more caring and accepting. It is beautifully written, emotive and achingly moving. The power of friends and family shine out in this remarkable book. Seek this one out readers!
Bea, Adelaide, South Australia
April 2008 $17.99
fp May 2006
Between Mom And Jo
Julie Anne Peters
Between Mom and Jo is a novel by American author Julie Anne Peters, focusing on the trials and tribulations of 14 year old Nick and his parents’ separation.
However, Nick’s family isn’t the traditional model with a mother and a father; he has two mothers: Erin, his biological mother, and Jo, Erin’s partner, who has been as much a part of Nick’s life as Erin has.
The book starts before the actual break-up, but it is clear there are already strains on the relationship – Erin and Jo often argue, and Jo never attends her in-laws family dinners with Erin and Nick because of their prejudices.
Between Mom and Jo is an excellent book, not just because of the way Peters actually makes the reader understand the characters’ actions, but how it deals with divorce and the issue of homosexuality. Erin and Jo aren’t the perfect couple who have raised the perfect boy; their sexuality is merely a side note to the fact that their relationship has become as dysfunctional as many traditional relationships.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone over the age of 13, as while it deals with some mature issues it provides great insight into different lifestyles as well as allowing the reader great insight into all three main characters’ thoughts and rationalisations.
Susanna, age 14, Canberra, Australia