Friday, June 08, 2007

Author Follow-up: Tanya Lee Stone on A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl

Author Tanya Lee Stone last spoke to Cynsations about her debut novel in February 2006. She updates us on the latest news of the book.

Congratulations on the release of the paperback edition of A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2007)! What's new for your readers in the soft cover?

The first thing you will notice is its hot and sexy new cover! With the boy's eyes open and the girl's eyes closed, it kind of says it all about our resident predator Bad Boy, don't you think?

There is also a bonus Reading Guide in the back, with questions from the fabulous Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. I'm excited about that, as a lot of the feedback I get is how the book is serving as a way to jump-start what can sometimes be hard discussions about love and sex. The reading guide should also appeal to book clubs, and I'm planning on making myself available (virtually) to some book club discussions. Some high schools are already looking ahead to do this for next year. Anyone who has a book club (school or otherwise) and is interested in that option should just email me!

Since we last talked, what kind of response has the book generated among readers?

You know, the book is really about how the choices we make affect who we are and who we want to be. And that we learn from every experience we have, good or bad. The response I've gotten in relation to this has been incredibly touching. I've had girls write and tell me the book helped them avoid a bad situation, or that they gave it to a friend they were worried about. I've also had teens write and tell me they wish they had read the book earlier, but that it really helped them understand some of the emotions they were feeling. I've even had parents say it gave them a concrete way to reach out to their kids and communicate with them better about these issues of teen sex.

Some people have expressed surprise that the book hasn't generated any challenges (that I'm aware of), and I'm hoping it's because people understand that although I didn't shy away from the sex scenes (after all, the book is about love and sex!) readers agreed that there was nothing gratuitous in there, and that I take my responsibility to my readers very seriously.

Also, I often get wind of a school where the book is making its rounds and the girls are passing it to each other. There's nothing better than finding out teens are saying "you've got to read this" to their friends. And I've been told by librarians that some of their copies are mysteriously "disappearing." Always a promising sign (grin).

What have been the highlights of your journey with the book to date?

I'd have to say one of the major highlights was getting to know Judy Blume a little bit. Random House sent her a copy of the book, which, I must admit, initially freaked me out. I mean, it had never occurred to me that she might read it. And since I had threaded her book Forever as a theme in my book, I had a moment of panic. What if she hated that I did that?

Thankfully, she didn't. She loved the book and even mentioned it in an interview. We were put in touch with each other and met for breakfast, where we had a long talk about life and books, books and life. And she was every bit as fabulous as the image I had of her in my head.

The other big highlight has been all the positive personal responses I've been sent from teenagers, parents, and even grandparents. There was also the amazing news I got one day telling me that girls were writing in the back of their library copy of my book (a la, the trend I had Josie start in the back of Forever). That copy is now filled with the same kind of support messages I fictionalized! How cool is that?

I blogged about it in a letter to librarians, asking them to please forgive me and consider it a good exception to the rule of never writing in library books!

Also, although I've been publishing books for awhile, Bad Boy was my foray into YA fiction and I've been thrilled with the welcome I've gotten from that community. I've made a lot of new writer friends.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I have a few more books that feature strong girls on the horizon; this time nonfiction. Elizabeth Leads the Way is a picture book about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was the person who started the whole suffrage movement to get women the right to vote. That book has fantastic, quirky illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon.

Also out next spring is a Young Adult biography of Ella Fitzgerald. If you don't know much about how she went from being a homeless teenager to being one of the most well-known singers on the planet, you'll have to check that out. An incredibly inspiring story.

The third in this theme of amazing women is a book called Almost Astronauts, about the women who began astronaut testing in 1961 but were not allowed to continue. It was another 20 years before the first women were let into the space program. And I am almost finished with the next novel, but I'm not giving any teasers about that! My website is being redesigned as we speak, so look for new things there, too.

Cynsational Notes

So far, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl has been named to the following state lists: Texas Tayshas, Kentucky Bluegrass Master Award List, and Maryland's Great Books for Teens 2006. It also has been listed among New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, ALA Quick Picks, and nominated for ALA Best Books for Young Adults and Popular Paperbacks.

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