The wonderful Keris Stainton joins us today, author of the awesome Della Says OMG, Jessie Hearts NYC, and Emma Hearts LA! Jessie was one of my favourite reads of this year, so it's a huge pleasure to have the chance to interview Keris! :D Thank you for taking part!
QA With Keris Stainton
Hi Keris! It's a huge pleasure to have you here today! Could you maybe tell us a little about yourself and your amazing books?
Thank you! It's lovely to be here. I'm Keris Stainton. My third book, Emma Hearts LA, is out now. I'm addicted to tea, Twirls and Twitter. How's that? :)
Where did you get the idea of Della Says OMG - a girl in love who had all her deepest thoughts posted online?
It was inspired by something that happened to me. When I was a teenager, my sister had a party and the following day I couldn't find my diary. Back then, the worst I expected was people reading it out at school and laughing at me, but I started to think about how much worse it would be today – it could have gone viral! (Not my diary, though, it was too boring.) And so Della was born.
I love your "New York Top Fives" from the back if Jessie Hearts NYC! Did you want to put them in the book it did the publisher ask you to do it? (Sorry for the random question everyone, but I just really wanted to know!)
Thank you! I can't actually remember. I think the publishers asked me to do it, but I'd been planning to ask them. Serendipity (which is another lovely New York film!).
Thank you again! No. I wish. New York is my favourite place. I've been there five times, but the last time was in 2007. I was SO desperate to go while I was writing Jessie Hearts NYC, it was almost physically painful, but I just couldn't afford it. So all additional research was done via Google.
What's your favourite thing about New York? What inspired you to set the book there?
I just find the whole place so inspiring. There's an atmosphere there – you feel like anything is possible.
You're latest book, Emma Hearts LA, has literally just come out - could you tell us a little about it? (BTW, SO excited about it!)
Thank you! The main character is Emma, Jessie's best friend in Jessie Hearts NYC. She has to move to LA because of her mum's job and she really doesn't want to go. An old friend is there – Oscar, who she lost touch with after he moved – and then she meets a film star... and things start looking up.
I always make a soundtrack to inspire me to start working and the first track on the Emma soundtrack was California by Phantom Planet, better known as the theme from The O.C. Love it.
You write such believable and lovable characters - how do you go about creating them?
You say such lovely things! Um. I don't know. Sometimes I start with an image – Finn appeared hailing a cab, wearing a tux, holding flowers. Sometimes I actually have a photo – Emma sister Bex came out of a picture I ripped from a magazine. But mainly, they just appear as I write. I don't usually begin a book with much of an idea at all.
Of all the characters you've written about, who is your favourite?
I've got a soft spot for Della's dad, but I really love Oscar from Emma Hearts LA. I miss him, since I finished the book!
Why did you become a writer? Is it something you've always wanted to do, or did it just kind of hit you one day?
Both, I think! It didn't actually occur to me until I was in my mid-twenties, but as soon as I thought of it, I thought “Of course! That's exactly what I'm supposed to do!” Couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it sooner, because I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember.
Your Voice is so totally teen - does it come naturally or do you listen to lots of teen-talk?
It must be my inner teen trying to burst out! I'm not averse to earwigging on teens on public transport, but I don't seek them out. So I'm glad it seems natural. Thank you.
Do you have any specific writing habits?
I have a couple and I'm trying to make more because I find they work. The playlist I mentioned above, that really works. I was at a concert recently and they played Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys, which was the first song on my Jessie Hearts NYC playlist. As soon as I heard it, I felt physically compelled to write. It was like I'd been hypnotised! So there are more playlists in my future. I also find I work much MUCH better out of the house – so I need to try to get out more. But it's hard. Cos then I have to get dressed.
How much do your books change from the first draft to the finished copy?
From the very first draft, they change enormously, because I use the first draft for noodling about and getting to know the characters. Della Says: OMG! was originally written from three separate points of view: Della's, Maddy's and Jamie's. Jessie Hearts NYC started out with a different character in each chapter, so Jessie and Finn were going to be two characters out of maybe twenty. But they wouldn't shut up. Unlike the other two, Emma Hearts LA has the same structure it started with, but I had to rewrite about half of it, because one of the characters just didn't work at all. That was hard.
From a book it would be the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. I just love those characters so much and San Francisco in the seventies sounds pretty cool. From TV, I think it would have to be The West Wing. Because me and Josh Lyman are made for each other.
What's your all-time favourite book(s)?
The Tales of the City series would definitely be up there. Also The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, which just devastated me. Young adult-wise, I loved Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. And there's a memoir called Waiting for Birdy (by Catherine Newman) that I can't stop re-reading and it makes me laugh and cry every single time.
How do you think the social media (blogging, twitter, Facebook, etc) has changed book-writing and selling?
Oh my goodness, that's a big question. Can I cheat and say it's changed it in every possible way you can imagine and will continue to? It's so incredible to be able to have that direct contact with authors and readers and pretty much anyone in the industry.
I know you probably get asked this all the time, but do you have any advice for us aspiring authors?
I do. But it's very simple. Read. Write. Repeat. (And don't worry about “the market”!)
What's next for you? Are you working on anything new?
I'm working on a couple of things, but I can't say much about either. One is connected to Emma Hearts LA and the other is something completely different. I'm really excited about them both, so I hope you'll get to read them at some point!
Quick question to finish off: NY or LA?
Ha! Well, if you'd asked me a year ago it would have been New York, absolutely no contest. But I went to LA to research Emma and I absolutely adored it. If I was forced to choose, I think I'd go with New York, but it's definitely a close run thing!
Thank you so much, Keris! It's been a huge pleasure having you here today, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Emma Hearts LA! :D
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Keris Stainton was born in Canada, and brought up on the Wirral. She now lives in the Ribble Valley with her husband and two young sons, who make her laugh every day. Sometimes intentionally.
As a freelance journalist, Keris has written for publications as diverse as Practical Parenting, Scarlet and The Daily Express, and edited the women’s book site, Trashionista, for two years.
In 2005 she gave up her job as an administrator in Corporate Recovery and Personal Insolvency (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds) to write full time.
Her first novel, Della Says: OMG! was published by Orchard Books in 2010 and her second, Jessie Hearts NYC was published in 2011. Emma Hearts LA will come out in summer 2012.