Jun 10, 2013

Blog Tour: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn Interview

Stephanie Kuehn is a YA writer who grew up in Berkeley, California, which is a quirky sort of a place with a ton of wonderful bookstores. Her very first job was working in one of those bookstores, and she's been a freakishly avid reader for as long as she can remember.

Stephanie's other passions include mental health advocacy, social justice, and sports of all kinds. She's currently living in Northern California with her family and their wild menagerie of pets.

www.stephaniekuehn.com | twitter.com/stephkuehn

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .
Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.
Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

Was it difficult writing this story from a male’s POV and making sure it remained as realistic as possible?

It wasn’t difficult, but it did have its own challenges. Win’s voice came to me pretty naturally. I knew who he was before I started writing. I knew how he viewed the world, how he viewed himself, and how he viewed others. However, there are points in the story that really deal with Win’s masculine identity, and this was more challenging. He’s a boy who’s grown up with all of our society’s messages about what it means to be male, but his life experiences have also uniquely shaped his sense of his gender and of his body. To write this realistically and with the nuance I wanted, I had to deconstruct my own personal thoughts and values on gender/sexuality. Then I had to get inside Win’s head and try to understand the concept of maleness from his perspective, given all the various forces at play in his world.

You have each chapter for at least the first half of the book going from current day to the past with his family; was this difficult to do without accidentally writing it from the current setting? I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that had that much back & forth in it and I, personally, really enjoyed it.

Thank you! Writing the book this way (switching between the past and the present) was surprisingly un-confusing, because I always envisioned the story being told that way. So as I was writing one chapter, I was thinking ahead to the next section and figuring out how they could play off one another. However, the alternating timelines became a very difficult structure to work with in revisions. Moving scenes and chapters around threw everything off and this was where I struggled.

You had the reader questioning everything throughout the entire book, how much thrill do you get out of it seeing the reader trying to guess the outcome?

That is difficult to answer. I realize that the book unfolds in way where events and reality sometime feel uncertain, but that is because this is how Win experiences himself. And like Win, I expect that readers might find the truth difficult to face and will try to hold on to different options for as long as they can. It’s not really a thrill, but I do think having that experience of denial creates empathy for Win, which is something I find meaningful.

You begin this story thinking it’s going to be something but it turns out to be something much darker than I anticipated; did that take a lot out of you, emotionally, to write?

Yes. It was very difficult and painful to write this story. When I read it, it’s always the early scenes that make me the saddest, not the later ones.

While writing, how difficult is it to make sure that not only is your main character relatable but so are all the supporting characters in a story?

I’m not sure Win is relatable, at least, not at first. He’s difficult. He’s cold. He’s strange. I didn’t feel like I could change any of that and still be true to his story, so instead I focused on making his voice interesting enough that someone might be willing to go on his journey with him, not knowing whether he is trustworthy or a good person.

As for the other characters, I strived to make them real, first and foremost. This means that they’re flawed and have their own issues. But I wanted them all to have their own stories, even if those stories weren’t part of Win’s journey.

While writing, do you outline your story or do you just wing it and go where the characters tell you to go?

I have done both. Although even when I wing it, I know what I’m doing in my head (I swear!), I just haven’t written it down in outline form.

The cover changed from when the tour sign ups had begun to now, where the book is almost released; are you happy with the new cover? Did you have a say over the cover change?

I love the new cover. I love that it’s different and odd, and I think it captures the ominous tone of the story. I liked the first cover, too, but I think the new one (the actual one) is such a great fit. And it’s beautiful in person.

If you could go to lunch with one living author and one deceased author who would it be & why?

John Barth and John Fowles. Their books have left a lasting impression on me, as a writer and as a human, for many, many years.

What are you currently reading (if anything)? If you’re not reading anything at the moment, what’s the most recent book you read?

I have a huge pile of books I want to read this summer! My current read is Evan Roskos’ Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming books we should keep an eye out for?

At the moment, I am working on Complicit, which is my second YA novel. It will be published by St. Martin’s in 2014.

Thank you sooooo much to the author, Stephanie Kuehn for taking the time to answer my questions (and for writing such an amazing book) and Shane from Itching for Books for hosting, yet again, another amazing tour! Always a pleasure being a part of your tours!

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1 comment:

  1. Great interview. Thank you for participating :)


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