My first introduction to Courtney Summers occurred inside my local Barnes & Noble bookstore. I saw the cover of her debut novel, CRACKED UP TO BE, which featured a headless teen girl stretched out on a bench with a soccer field behind her. I was curious. Why is that girl missing her head? Does she play soccer? Is she thinking about playing soccer? Does she dream about a world without soccer?
Curious, I picked up a copy and read the first chapter. I was then introduced to Parker Fadley, a girl who was smart, sarcastically hilarious, and didn’t take crap from anybody. But what really got me was the writing. As a reader, I clicked with the no-marshmallow, to-the-point, no-apologies way Ms. Summers writes. It was refreshing and made me a fan right then and there. Although, I did find out that CRACKED UP TO BE has nothing to do with soccer.
Here’s a description from Ms. Summers’ website:
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.
As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
I’ve already had the pleasure of reading this book and you can read that review here. (without spoilers) But basically…I LOVED IT!
I asked Courtney if she would stop by my website and answer a few questions about her writing, her books, and about THIS IS NOT A TEST. I was floored when she said yes. And I was humbled when she offered to send a free copy of THIS IS NOT A TEST to one lucky person for a giveaway! So keep reading for your chance to win!
Let’s get started…
Instead of going for the standard, survivalist-type horror heroine, you went the opposite way with Sloane. In the book, she starts off as a character who really wants to die. How did you come up with that choice? Was it the way you always envisioned Sloane or did her character change as you were writing the book?
I thought about how I’d (honestly) react during a zombie apocalypse. I like to think I’d be totally awesome at it but if I lost everyone that mattered to me, I’m not so sure I’d want to keep going. I always envisioned Sloane as girl who didn’t want to survive. How much she wanted to die became more pronounced from the first to second draft, but the core of her character, her motivations, remained the same.
One central element of this book is how the characters relate to each other and how that shifts throughout the story. My favorite relationship is between the twins Trace and Grace. Why did you pick a set of twins?
Thank you! I think of Trace and Grace as the characters the other characters want to be. Everyone in THIS IS NOT A TEST is aching for their family and those two represent what the others have lost. I thought having siblings would emphasize this void and I chose twins because I felt that would also intensify it.
What is your favorite horror film? And why?
I love Kairo (Pulse). It’s J-horror and it’s brilliant. I didn’t like it the first time I saw it but I made myself watch it again and it blew me away. The pacing is very slow, but it’s incredibly atmospheric and so lonely. It’s about ghosts and they’re taking over the living world through technology, forcing those who come in contact with them to commit suicide. It’s chilling.
Why do you like to write young adult fiction? What is it about the genre that appeals to you?
I love writing YA fiction because the stories demand an immediacy and intensity that is so fun to explore. I also love writing YA because I love reading it. So many YA books out today are fresh and exciting. I also adore the community–it’s so supportive and enthusiastic.
When faced with a new book, what’s your writing process?
My process is all over the place, to be honest! It really depends on the book. I could outline, I could just dive right in. I never know. THIS IS NOT A TEST was outlined extensively twice, for example. The book I’m working on now has been outlined more than that. Right now it looks like I settle into a new book with outlining, but Book 6 could change that up!
Who is your favorite fictional heroine and why?
That’s so hard to pick! I adore Luna Lovegood. She operates on this whole other level and nothing seems to touch her. I love every female protagonist Melina Marchetta has written because they’re always so honest and realistic. Andrea from Blake Nelson’s Girl has an incredible voice and is so likeable and wonderfully flawed. I’d read any book she narrated.
You write very compelling female heroines. Sloane in THIS IS NOT A TEST. Eddie in FALL FOR ANYTHING. Regina in SOME GIRLS ARE. Parker in CRACKED UP TO BE. Of these four fictional characters, which one is the closest to the real Courtney Summers?
Thank you! I don’t think any of them are by the time I’m finished a book, to be honest! I relate to some of my female leads more than others, but all of them are pretty far away from the type of person I am… I think.
You can tell this next question is a bit…leading. But, if you were given a choice between an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas or one to Volcano National Park in Hawaii…which one would you choose and why?
Hah! WELL. Volcano National Park all the way! Best ever.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m wrapping up the first draft of my fifth book, ALL THE RAGE, which is due out in 2013. It’s about a girl who blackmails a rich classmate and then wakes up on a dirt road with no memory of the night before.
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
And we will leave on that noisy note. Courtney, thank you so much for stopping by!
Thanks for having me on your blog, Doug!
Courtney has allowed me the honor of giving away one copy of THIS IS NOT A TEST to one lucky reader!
To enter, all you need to do is leave one comment on this post by Midnight (CST) on June 16, 2012. I will announce the winner on June 19, 2012. Please list your e-mail on your comment so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I will not use your e-mail for any other purpose.
You can only enter once. UNLESS…you mention this interview on Twitter or your blog and I’ll give you one extra entry! BUT please let me know you did this by either adding my twitter name (@DougSolter) to your tweet. Or put a link to your blog post inside your comment to get credit.
This giveaway is for US/Canada entries only. Sorry.