Interview with Julie Anne Peters, Part Two
What book are you proudest of? Which is to say, which one gives you the deepest sense of satisfaction when you think of it?
To be honest by the time a book is published, I’m over it. When that first copy of a new book arrives, I open it, smell the ink, and allow myself a moment of pleasure at the accomplishment. Then closure. The book gets shoved onto my bookshelf to breed dust bunnies.
The publication process is looooooong. While this year’s book (grl2grl: short fictions) is due to be released in September, I’ve already completed two novels for the next two years, and I’m working on a third. All of my emotional investment is in the work I’m creating at the moment.
I suppose books are like children; you can’t choose favorites. I’m proud of my body of work, my longevity, my tenacity and drive to evolve. I’m proud if I write a fierce paragraph on the first try.
On the flipside, are there any books that you look back on and think could have stood a little more attention?
From me? Never. My revision process puts perfectionism to shame. I apply myself completely to each and every work. Of course I’ve grown as a writer over the years, so I’m sure I’d be horrified by my earlier books if I was ever masochistic enough to reread them.
I wish every book had received more market attention. Even after 17 years, it’s still difficult to sustain a career as a writer.
You’re an old hand at the writerly business. How has the publishing world changed in the time since you were penning books like The Stinky Sneakers Contest and B.J.’s Billion Dollar Bet ?
Since Harry Potter, the whole field of children’s literature has boomed not only in volume, but in public respectability. For writers there’s been an explosion of imprints and specialties, while at the same time a general homogenization among publishers. It used to be easier for aspiring authors to target their work toward publishing houses who were focused on particular genres or literary quality. The corporatization of children’s publishing has put more emphasis on profit and less on building an author’s career and backlist. See celebrity books, toys/gimmicks, tie-ins.
YA has expanded exponentially in recent years, along with an industry of book buyers and sellers to support it. A fantastic development for YA writers, to be sure. But it mirrors the tsunami of picture books in the 80s and 90s, and those of us who’ve been around know the tide will turn.
The business of books for young readers is as cyclical and unpredictable as the readers themselves.
You were a fan of the Beany Malone series as a kid. I just tried to find a copy of one of these books in the NYPL system and all I could come up with was The Beany Malone Cookbook circa 1972. Obviously NYPL was not a fan. What was it about Beany that hooked you?
Lenora Mattingly Weber was a Colorado author, so her Beany books were probably more popular in Dodge. There is a national Beany Malone fan club, I found out when I first mentioned the series on my Web site. I’m not a member.
I read those books today and marvel at the influence they had in my literary life. Beany Malone turned me onto reading. That series was the first contemporary realistic fiction I ever found. Real people just like me—in books? A miraculous discovery.
Being hip to world at large, you have a MySpace page. How’s that working out for you? Do you like having it?
I love having it. I resisted for several years because I didn’t want to intrude on young people’s personal space, and also, I felt if I pitched tent on MySpace without a commitment to interact with fans it’d come off as exploitation. Sell, sell, sell. Young people really need more advertising. Turn up the feed.
I’ve always kept a blog, ever since I designed my Web site back in 2000, but my blog wasn’t interactive. Fans frequently e-mailed to comment and ask me to please post my blog where they could reply, and I finally gave in. There are days when it’s a scary time sink. In additional to answering all my e-mail, I’m up ’til Lenoland messaging back to readers. But the give and take is incredibly empowering. And fun. MySpace reminds me why I love writing for teens.
Writers hate this question, but I have to ask it. What are you working on right now?
I love that question. Because I won’t answer it. I never talk about what I’m working on. Ask my agent and editor. It drives them crazy. I will tell you I recently finished a novel about bullycide titled, By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead. It’ll generate relevant debate, I hope. The book scheduled for 2009 is titled, Rage: A Love Story. It’s about two girls who get caught up in an abusive relationship. So much angst.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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