Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Author Interview - Tara Altebrando!

Tara Altebrando, author of DREAMLAND SOCIAL CLUB, agreed to do an interview!  Did you see the book review yesterday?  Go look, we'll wait.  Did you love it?  Me too!!!!! Isn't Tara just the cutest thing ever?!

Here we go!

Can you tell us a little bit about DREAMLAND SOCIAL CLUB and the characters?
It's about a girl named Jane that inherits a house on Coney Island from a grandfather she never met.  As she explores the attic, which is full of old books and film reels about Coney, she's set on sort of an emotional journey having to do with her late mother's family.  At school, she curious about this mysterious club that it turns out her mother founded years before and which seems to consist entirely of "freaks", and it is these freaks who become her new friends and draw her out of herself.  There is a boy, of course.  A boy with a deep passion for Coney Island who Jane befriends and then starts to fall in love with.

What drew you to Coney Island?  After reading your book, I wanted to know more about Coney Island myself.  It's a fascinating place!  Did you get to have input on the cover - it's amazingly beautiful!
The history of the old amusement parks was what drew me to Coney as a setting for a book.  I couldn't believe that Luna Park and Dreamland ever existed, with attractions like "Midget City" and a place where premature babies  in incubators were put on display.  It felt to me like a real case of "you can't make this stuff up."  So what I set about doing was building a story around that history, about a girl whose own path to self-discovery leads her to old Coney Island.

I had no input on the entirely fantastic cover.  It was the first time that I ever saw a book cover of mine and had nothing to say about it except "I love it!"  I felt like the designers at Dutton just nailed it.

You write about 'freaks' in a very realistic, honest way - I love that sometimes the real 'freak' is the girl that looks the most 'normal'.  Is that how you meant it to come across?
Since I was writing about Coney Island--where freaks have been exploited and celebrated historically--I thought it was something I needed to explore through the character of Jane, who is, in her appearance anyway, entirely un-freakish.  Which is sort of the point, yes.  We're all freaks in our own way and I think we feel that most as teenagers, when we're just really starting to come into ourselves.

 You've written a lot of different things, what's your favorite so far?
Well, Dreamland Social Club is my favorite so far.  It's new and shiny and I worked hard and long on it, harder and longer than on any of my other books, so it currently holds a very special place in my heart.

I understand that you worked at a historical village as a teen, do you bring any of your experiences from there to your writing?  I'm sure you saw a lot of interesting things with all of the tourists!
My job at the historical village was basically the inspiration for my novel The Pursuit of Happiness, which is about a girl with a summer job at...a historical village!  You should check it out!  I honestly barely remember the tourists.  I just remember being paid to kick around with my coworkers, baking and sweeping and feeding chickens while wearing hideously heavy colonial garb in the height of summer.

When fans found out you collect spoons from all over the world, did you start getting them in the mail?
Not yet! But that would be awesome!

You've had some interesting jobs, can you tell us about them?

I was a music journalist for a while, which was awesome, though the one time I interviewed Duran Duran I ended up with "the new guy" so that was sort of disappointing.  I worked at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York as a "cataloger," which meant watching TV and writing summaries and inputting details about cast and such into their massive database.  I think I've seen every episode of "Hullabaloo" ever.

What books are you reading right now?
I'm packing up for a week at the beach and I am bringing:  Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.  We all share the same editor, which is pretty incredible when you think about it!

What are your top 5 favorite things of all time?
The Wonder Wheel on Coney Island, the city of Venice, stuffed grape leaves, the ocean and the song "Anchor" by my husband's old band, Dutch Kills.

What books do you have in the works right now?
 I am revising another YA novel that takes place during a senior week scavenger hunt.  I am also working on a top secret project with a fellow YA author who shall not be named!

Thanks so much, Ms. Altebrando for the interview!

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