Aw, the last day of the celebration has arrived (well, not counting the actual blogoversary day tomorrow, which is a celebration in itself). Luckily, I have for you another interview, this time with Stephanie Kuehn, author of CHARM & STRANGE. If you follow me on Goodreads or Twitter you'll know how much I love this book (my first five star read of the year, believe it or not), so I'm beyond happy to have had the opportunity to interview Stephanie Kuehn, who is just as awesome as her novel. Enjoy!
Interview with Stephanie Kuehn
1. How would you describe CHARM & STRANGE in tweet format? (140 characters or less)
While stuck at a remote Vermont boarding school, a 16-year-old boy struggles to keep a dark past from defining his future.
2. Which (non-spoilery) scene in CHARM & STRANGE would you say is your favorite?
I think my favorite scene is the one where young Drew and his older brother Keith walk through the woods in New Hampshire, outside their family’s summer home. Keith is trying to talk to him about their family and a lot is revealed in this scene: about the boys, about their lives, and it was difficult to write because it was a hard line to walk between what needed to be said and what needed to be left to the imagination of the reader. My editor helped a lot with this scene and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
3. Speaking of other favorites, which aspect of CHARM & STRANGE would you say was your favorite to write?
I very much enjoyed developing the relationship between Lex and Win. When the story starts, they’re two guys at boarding school who really don’t like each other. At all. However, as the story unfolds, you learn more about their history and how complicated it is. I loved making those connections between them and showing the shifts in their attitudes and perceptions of each other.
4. You manage to do something in CHARM & STRANGE that not many authors are able to do as fantastically as you, and that is having the novel told in alternating chapters of past and present, while having each perspective weave seamlessly into each other as the novel progresses. Was writing CHARM & STRANGE in this particular fashion difficult for you? Was it your first time writing a novel with alternating past-and-present perspectives?
Thank you! This was my first time writing a story structured like this. It wasn’t difficult to write in the sense that I envisioned the book as being told this way from the start. This means that when I drafted it, I wrote it in alternating chapters straight through and it felt natural for the two story arcs to parallel one another.
However, when it came to revising and editing, that’s when timeline thing became a real beast to work with. The way each chapter flows into the next made it very difficult to add or remove scenes without setting off this huge snowball effect that influenced the structure of the entire novel. And I never found any great method for revising besides brute force trial-and-error. It was a very slow and humbling process.
5. As well as the wonderful CHARM & STRANGE, we also have another novel to look forward to by you--COMPLICIT. What, if anything, can you tell us about COMPLICIT? Are there any other novels in addition to COMPLICIT that you are working on?
I can’t say too much about Complicit yet, but it’s about the relationship between a brother and a sister, and how events from long ago can impact people in very different ways. And yes, I have a few other stories that I’m working on!
6. Among other things (such as freaking brilliant), CHARM & STRANGE is a very psychologically-focused novel. Do you have any background in psychology that helped you in writing CHARM & STRANGE?
Thank you, that’s kind of you to say. I do have a background in psychology. Mental health advocacy is something near and dear to my heart and it inspires everything I do. Education-wise, I have a MA in sport psychology and I’m a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology. It’s interesting, though, while writing Charm & Strange, I found I had to let go of some of that background. I didn’t want anything about the story come across as clinical. I wanted it to be human.
7. CHARM & STRANGE deals with some pretty heavy topics, of which I am unable to list for obvious spoilerific reasons. Were you afraid that the heavy topics presented to us in CHARM & STRANGE would be a bit too much/overwhelming as you were writing the novel?
It is heavy and it definitely isn’t a book for everyone, but no, I wasn’t afraid of it being too much. I guess I wrote it for all the boys and girls who, like Winston, have been made to feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Who can’t bear to be who they are, but are terrified of what they might become. Their lives, their realities, aren’t too much or too overwhelming, and I want them to know that. I want them to know there’s nothing wrong with them.
8. CHARM & STRANGE had me a bit teary eyed at certain moments throughout the novel. Were you teary eyed at any moment while writing CHARM & STRANGE?
Yes! Very teary. Parts of it were very difficult to write. Parts of it are still difficult to read.
9. What do you like to do when you're not writing? (Besides watch Celebrity Apprentice, of course.) ;)
This past year has been so busy, it’s been hard to find time for the things I need to do, much less the fun, joy-making things. But I love spending time with my family and I also love running, particularly trail running, and working in the garden. And yes, I have an awful weakness for bad reality television…
10. This question may be a bit unfair, considering I'd assume you have at least a slight bias, but… vampires or werewolves?
Werewolves, for sure! Although I think most supernatural creatures can be fun in the right setting. Real monsters, however, scare me.
Thanks so much for the interview, Stephanie!
Thank you so much for having me be a part of your blogoversary celebration, Blythe! Congratulations on reaching this milestone!
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.
CHARM & STRANGE Giveaway
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I'm a YA writer who grew up in Berkeley, California, which is a quirky sort of a place with a ton of wonderful bookstores. My very first job was working in one of those bookstores, and I’ve been a freakishly avid reader for as long as I can remember.
Other passions of mine include mental health advocacy, social justice, and sports of all kinds. I currently live in Northern California with my family and our wild menagerie of pets. CHARM & STRANGE is my debut novel. It will be published in 2013 by St. Martin's Press and Egmont UK.