Thursday, July 29, 2010

Author Interview: Simone Elkeles

These last few weeks have been packed with interviews from some of our favorite authors and Simone Elkeles is no exception to that. In fact, Simone was the very first author to agree to an interview with us but due to both of our schedules we have just now been able to post it. We are so excited to finally share this interview with you all.

To say that we are in love with her Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise series is a massive understatement, and we are anxiously waiting for Return to Paradise that will be available in September.

So without further ado, enjoy!

BCM: Are the characters in any of your books based on people you know in real life?

SE: Some of them are, but not all. I came up with the name Alex from a guy who worked at the printer I used to go to. Alex the guy is based off of this guy who works at my bagel store. He's really charismatic and definitely has "swagger" like Alex in my book. His name, interestingly, is Luis. Sometimes I just come up with names off the top of my head, and other times I look at baby name books for inspiration.

BCM: What gave you the idea to write the Perfect Chemistry trilogy? Had you planned to write about each brother from the beginning or was it something that just came about after PC was written?

SE: Ever since I wrote Perfect Chemistry, I thought it would be amazing to write about all three Fuentes brothers. When I sold Perfect Chemistry, though, I wasn’t sure I’d get to write a trilogy or even a sequel/companion novel. When my editor Emily Easton at Walker said that fans definitely wanted another Perfect Chemistry novel and weren’t ready to let my characters go, I was so excited. I didn’t want to have Brittany and Alex be the main characters because their story was already written – I wanted to let Carlos and Luis have their own stories. I’m so happy that I get to write a trilogy, so all three brothers can have their own story!

BCM: In the PC trilogy, you have a lot of details about gang activities. How did you research for this?

SE: I heard that suburban gangs were on the rise, and wanted to explore how a gang member in the suburbs would deal with being interested in someone from “the other side of the tracks.” I interviewed suburban gang members as well as police officers who work in the tough neighborhoods in Chicago. When I have book discussions at juvenile detention centers, the boys always share tidbits of information with me that I’ve used in my books. Other stuff I just make up on my own. Since I don’t know Spanish I had to rely on other people to help me with it. That was really tough for me. What surprised me is that some Latino boys who live in tough neighborhoods have to sprint home for fear of getting beaten up by rival gang members. They have to stick together in numbers for protection, which is so sad. This isn’t everywhere and I hope it’s not common, but it did disturb me. I don’t want any teen to feel threatened because of their race.

BCM: Have you gotten feedback from actual gang members that have read your books? If so, what were their thoughts?

SE: Yes! And it is so surreal. I've actually had gang members contact me and tell me that they wanted to change their lives because of my book. They want to be more like Alex. There are few things that have ever made me feel as good as hearing that!

BCM: Do you have a favorite character in the series? If so, who?

SE: There is no way I could choose. That would be like choosing between my children; it would be impossible. I love them all!

BCM: Which couple do you connect with most?

SE: I love all of them for many different reasons. My life kind of mirrors Amy and Avi’s relationship. I love Alex and Brittany’s relationship so much, because they have such a strong bond that is unbreakable. I love that Maggie and Caleb can’t be fully “healed” without the other and Carlos and Kiara entertain me because they challenge each other all the time. I can’t pick just one.

BCM: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

SE: Unlike most authors I know, I hated reading as a teen and hated English class. I got B’s and C’s in English class most of the time. I have a master’s degree in Industrial Relations from Loyola University-Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Psychology. I’ve never taken a creative writing class in my life. I fell in love with reading as an adult – specifically romance novels. I was so in love with them, I started writing them. Once I started writing for “myself” and not a teacher or for a grade, I realized that I loved writing and never wanted to stop. I pretty much taught myself how to write, because they didn’t teach me how to write a book in my regular English classes. Writing is the best profession and now I can’t imagine doing anything else! I know I still have a ton to learn about writing and when I read books I love I think “I wish I could write like that!” I’m always working on my craft and hope I can get better and better with each book.

BCM: Do you have a designated amount of time each day set aside so you can write? How do you fit it in?

SE: I write whenever I feel inspired. I rent an office so I can get away and not deal with the phones or laundry or dogs, etc. I write when my kids are in school and when they’re sleeping when I’m not on deadline. When I’m on deadline, I write when my eyes are open.

BCM: Is there any advice you can give to those of us who are aspiring authors?

SE: Keep writing and never give up. Shock the reader and shock yourself. Make yourself uncomfortable by putting your characters in impossible situations. It’ll make your book a better book, and you’ll tap into that creativity!

Everyone here at BCM would like to extend a huge thank you to Simone for this interview. Thank you!

If you haven't yet read our reviews of Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction, just click on their names and you can see why we love them so much.

Learn more about Simone and her books by checking out her Facebook / Website

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