Carol: I’m an award-winning theatre director and drama teacher. My previous novel for teens, The Shadow Place, was an ALA Quick Pick, a National Council of Teachers of English’s ALAN Best Book, and a California Collection title for both middle and senior high schools. I received a Judy Blume WIP grant for that novel.
Carol: dancergirl is a contemporary YA thriller, with a bit of romance to keep it even more interesting! Alicia Ruffino loves to dance. When her friend with film-school ambitions asks to record her dancing she figures there’s no harm in saying yes. Charlie posts the videos online and they go viral. Hundreds of thousands of views later she is now “dancergirl.” At first, Ali enjoys her newfound popularity. She even thinks her unexpected fame might propel her straight to center stage and a solo in the upcoming winter show at the local dance studio. But along with some real admirers, the videos get some nasty detractors. Even her best friend, Jacy, starts acting weird. And then there’s a stranger, possibly a stalker, who may not be content to watch from afar ––putting both her love of dancing and her life in jeopardy!
The seed of the idea came from a real situation. I know a teenager who had a scary brush with a stalker. The story haunted me. The person lives in Brooklyn like my main character Ali, although she isn’t a dancer. Obviously, as I started writing, I changed many facts, but the truth is that something like this happens all too often.
Carol: I did two kinds of research. One is what I like to call location scouting. I used to live in Brooklyn (although I’m now an L.A. resident.) During the writing of dancergirl, I visited the city again and spent a couple of days taking pictures of places that I thought I might use in the book: e.g. The Brooklyn Promenade, a rooftop, the park. It’s a way to remind myself of sensory details so that when I’m writing in my home office, scenes have an authentic feel. I also do what I call fact-checking. I took dance lessons as both a child and in college to fulfill the theatre requirement for actors. Because of that, I have a sense of how modern dance classes are run. For each of those scenes and sequences, I wrote a rough draft, and then asked a professional dancer friend to go over them so that they’d be totally accurate. One reader, a former dancer, said she actually danced the sequences as she read!
Carol: Teenage life is all drama, almost all the time. As both a writer and a theatre director, I can’t help but love lives lived right on that line. The passion of teens—for things they love, hate, or wish they could change, cannot be beat. The questioning, the discoveries – everything is so important (as it should be!). As an adult, I am constantly accused of being too emotional, too excited about things, too dramatic. Too much like a teenager. I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Carol: I would love to write magical realism. I’m most in awe of writers who write in that realm. It’s incredibly hard to pull off a mixture of the two in a way that works. The prose in magical realism is always so beautiful, too.
Carol: Horror. Even though DANCERGIRL is extremely tense, the tension is of the psychological thriller type. I’m too much of a wimp to either read or watch actual horror books/movies.
Carol: That’s a hard question. I have a lot of influences since, like most writers, I love to read. When I first started writing YA, I was influenced by Chris Crutcher. He writes wonderful, realistic YA with such compassion and insight. His characters are completely believable. While he does not go for the happily ever after end, they do grow and change in real ways over the course of his books. In terms of thrillers, I was influenced by adult writers. What I’m trying to do with the HarlequinTEEN books is to take the adult thriller model and bring it to YA. Michael Connelly’s thrillers are set in the city I now live in (Los Angeles). His attention to detail (the real highways that lead to real sections in town, real restaurants on real streets.) reinforced for me how exciting it is for a contemporary reader when an author gets things right. He also keeps things moving with such tension that I always want to turn the next page!
Carol: I’m hard at work on my next novel, the second book in the linked Harlequin Teen WiHi series, Circle of Silence, which will be available in August of 2012.
Carol: Thrillers are an up and coming genre of YA. Are you familiar with the term – or is it something new to you?