NiFtY Author: Erica Perl AND Contest!

Erica Perl and employees of The Garment District, the store that inspired the Clothing Bonanza

Exciting times, amigas, amigos, y rivales! This is the second week in a row I’ve had the privilege of interviewing an author whose book I randomly plucked from the shelf AND WAS SO GLAD I DID. Erica Perl wrote Vintage Veronica, (you can click here to read my review), and now she’s agreed to answer some questions about her book and her writing. She’s also agreed to give away a signed copy of her book!

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for Vintage Veronica?

EP:  Veronica Walsh is 15, fashion-minded, fat, and friendless so her summer job at a vintage clothing mecca is a dream come true. There Veronica can spend her days separating the one-of-a-kind gem garments from the Dollar-a-Pound duds without having to deal with people. But when two outrageous yet charismatic salesgirls befriend her and urge her to spy on and follow a mysterious and awkward stock boy, Veronica’s summer takes a turn for the weird. Suddenly, what began as a prank turns into something else entirely. Which means Veronica may have to come out of hiding and follow something even riskier for the first time: her heart.

I also think you can get the flavor of the book via my book trailer.  Here’s the link:

and here it is on youtube:

BH: Veronica has a wonderful voice. Can you share with us some of the joys (and challenges) of writing such an engaging character?

EP:  Thanks!  The joys were many, since Veronica has a lot of attitude, so I had fun letting her give voice to many things that I wouldn’t necessarily say.  For example, she’s snarky to Bill, her co-worker at The Clothing Bonanza, at a point where he’s pretty much her only friend.  I think the challenge was making it clear that she’s pushing people away because she’s scared of being rejected (again) herself.

BH: Where did you get the inspiration for the Clothing Bonanza? Have you been to a place like it? If so, where is this magical store?

EP:  The store that inspired the Clothing Bonanza is The Garment District, which is located just outside of Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I researched the book there and many aspects of the store and its long history made it into the book (the Yellow Brick road, at one time, existed as did the store cats, including Rags).  Here’s the store’s website, which also contains some fabulous archival photos as well as current store info.  It is very much worth a trip.  And the store was phenomenally supportive of the book, welcoming me while I researched and wrote it, and then hosting a launch party for it when it came out!

Erica Perl (on left) at The Garment District for the Vintage Veronica book launch

BH: So, Veronica does some things that a conservative readership might find offensive. (I’ve been thinking about this a lot since October’s Banned Book Week.) Have you had any negative experiences because of this?

EP:  So far so good.  I occasionally wonder if I should have toned down the language, since I feel like the younger segment of my readership (11-13 year olds) might not get their hands on the book in more conservative areas.  But I really wanted the dialog to feel real so I tried to reflect the way 15-19 year olds actually talk.

I also wanted to use Zoe and Ginger’s coarser commentary as a means of showing that they are older and more confident than Veronica.  She’s a little shocked by them, but also enthralled.  I feel like there’s room for good adult/teen conversations in this, since it is a common situation for younger girls to find themselves in.  So I’m glad to hear that many librarians have been championing Vintage Veronica as a book that battles bullying (and offers a positive depiction of a plus-size girl who doesn’t have to lose weight to find happiness) rather than getting stuck on the fact that the language is a little edgy.

BH: Tell us about your path to publication.

EP:  If it was an ice cream flavor, it would have been rocky road.  I actually sold the book twice – along with my second novel, WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J., which is a middle grade novel that will come out in June, 2011 – because of publishing industry ups and downs.  However, after a long and bumpy journey, the happy ending was landing at Knopf with my wonderful editor, Erin Clarke.

BH: What does your workspace look like?

EP:  Well, it is clean and well-lit and there’s great – if somewhat expensive – coffee.  In addition to Starbucks, I write in a room the size of a postage stamp that has not one but three desks in it.  Yes, I share my office with my two daughters.  We call it The Drawing Room, which sounds very sophisticated but really it’s just because we all like to draw.  And write.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

EP:  I love Leonard Marcus’ Ways of Telling, which I think is out of print.  It is interviews with picture book creators about craft (I write picture books in addition to novels.  My most recent is DOTTY, illustrated by Julia Denos.  I am also the author of CHICKEN BUTT!, illustrated by Henry Cole.  There’s now a CHICKEN BUTT! doll and the sequel, CHICKEN BUTT’S BACK!, comes out in April, 2011).  I also like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, even though the birds in question are not chickens.

BH: There is a lot to like about putting the word “butt” into the title of a story. What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

EP:  I think the best writing advice is that of Jane Yolen:  it all boils down to BIC (butt in chair).  In other words, put in the time writing and then figure out later whether you have anything to work with.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

EP:  It’s a corollary to write what you know: write what you love.  In other words, don’t write a book because you think it is the kind of book you “should” write.  Write about what you are passionate about, and work on it until it is as good as it can possibly be.  Vintage Veronica took eight years start to finish.  I hope that is inspirational and not discouraging!

BH: Erica, thank you for taking the time to visit and answer some questions for us. It was delightful!

You can visit Erica’s website by clicking here, or click here to buy her book on Amazon.

And didn’t I say something about a contest? It’s my first ever, and a big thank you to Erica for making it possible. So, the rules are simple. The giveaway is limited to the continental United States (sorry, overseas people…unless you have an address here you’d like the book shipped to!). To enter, leave a comment and do two things:

1) respond to something Erica says/writes in the interview, and

2) share who your favorite strong heroine is in YA literature (if you pick Bella Swan you better be prepared to explain your reasoning).

If you tweet about the contest & share this link, you can get an extra entry (limit one extra). Just comment with the link to your tweet so I can verify that everything’s on the up & up.

The winner will be picked out of a hat at random. Well, his or her name will be picked out of a hat…not the winner in person, which would be too strange.

Deadline: Sunday night, 11/14/2010, 11:59 p.m. PST. Winner announced sometime on Monday.


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  2. Randi · November 13, 2010

    I like the advice that Erica Perl shares from Jane Yolen, BIC! Good advice, I think, because it is simple and not a long formulaic regimen. I guess in YA lit my favorite strong heroine would Hermoine from Harry Potter.

  3. Dana · November 13, 2010

    Yay for librarians championing not banning books! And good for the author for sticking true to herself (and her character) and not toning down the books.

    I think my favorite strong YA female character would have to be Remy from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. I just love her attitude, and how she adjusts when things don’t quite fit her expectations anymore.

  4. Megan (Running Foodie) · November 14, 2010

    As a 7th grade English teacher, I love that this book addresses bullying and self-confidence issues in a REAL way, using REAL language that our kids use daily. Way to go!

    Currently, my favorite YA heroine is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. 🙂

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