Romance Banditas and BBs, we've got a huge treat for you today: the fabulous Holly Cupala, a brilliant writer and all-round wonderful person is visiting to tell us about her newly-released young adult novel, Tell Me a Secret. I got a chance to read it this weekend and I poured through it in a matter of hours. Couldn't put it down (except to grab a hankie, of course). It's no stretch to say that this is not just a book for teens -- this is a story anyone can love.
After you read our interview, please visit Holly's website at: www.hollycupala.com. She's got lots of great things going on there, including giveaways, video trailer, and more!
TELL ME A SECRET is a little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and a little bit family story. Can you tell us about it?
It’s been five years since Miranda’s bad-girl sister disappeared into the night and died in a mysterious crash. Five years of holding her family together – her drama-obsessed mother, her disappearing father. In just one year, she will escape to college on the arm of her boyfriend, Kamran, and disappear herself. Until then, she has a new best friend with the keys to unlock her sister’s secret world. But now Miranda has a secret of her own…two lines on the pregnancy test that will shatter everything she hopes for—and may even show a way into her own future.
Miranda, the main character, is a seventeen year-old pregnant teen. Are there elements to the story that you think will appeal to adult readers as well as teens?
Many of my readers seem to be adults—or at least, those are the ones who tend to contact me—and I’ve been amazed and grateful at the response. A number have said: “I haven’t stayed up until 2am for years, but I couldn’t put it down!” (I love that one, because I haven’t stayed up until 2am for years, either…at least not on purpose!)
The story has so many layers—the pregnancy, the loss of a sister, a difficult mother relationship, first love, perilous friendships—that I think it resonates on many levels. Every review and blogger response has honed in on something different, which makes me think readers bring so much to this story. I’ve heard it’s an intense emotional roller coaster!
What about your journey to publication? You originally wrote for children, isn't that right? How did you end up writing YA?
I’ve been all over the map, beginning with two teen romances…this, of course, was in eighth grade, before I actually experienced teen romance, but I had every girl in my class reading them page by page! Then there were tragic poems, and short stories, and I intended to write the Great American Novel—all the while working on an epic (ok, yes, you can laugh now) 1,600-word rhyming picture book text. When I got serious about making a career out of writing, I thought I wanted to write for kids. So I joined SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), took classes, attended conferences, wrote a fair amount of dreadful stuff and even started to write some publishable stuff for magazines and anthologies. But none of it really plumbed any depths. Later I realized I was mostly writing for other people’s approval.
All of that changed when a tragedy struck our family—we lost our first daughter at birth. I almost quit writing, but some very good friends wouldn’t let me. A few months later, the idea for TELL ME A SECRET came out of nowhere. It compelled and terrified me. I knew it was something I was meant to write.
I'm so sorry for your loss, Holly. I must say, when I was reading the book it definitely felt like some of Miranda's journey came from somewhere very personal and profound. I'm sure it was emotionally grueling to write, not to mention sending it out for the world to see. After this, it must be hard to start something new -- or perhaps a huge relief. What's next for you?
Speaking of romance…the next YA, tentatively titled STREET CREED (HarperCollins, Fall 2011), is very racy—at least for me! It’s about Joy, a teen girl who runs away from home for secret reasons in the hopes of meeting up with a boy called Creed, who lives on the streets of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. She falls in with a band of homeless teens…including the mysterious Creed. Every one of them has secret reasons for being on the streets, and Joy is forced to make a terrible choice. It’s gritty and tender, about what it means to love. And there’s this one scene…as I was writing it, I sort of panicked. My agent (a guy) is going to read this. Wait a sec, my *husband* is going to read this! But they took it rather well—they both really liked the book, actually! I’m excited to be working on edits now.
So, in the spirit of the Romance Bandits, I will share a little passage from TELL ME A SECRET…Kamran and Miranda’s first date:
“I have a surprise for you. Hop on.” Before I had a chance to ask where we were going, he fitted the helmet onto my head and slung on his own, then strapped our bags to the back. He mounted the bike and I wrapped myself around him, drinking in a musky smell with the faintest hint of sour-sweet.
As we wound our way through the streets, I couldn’t stop thinking about the feel of my body against his or the warmth I felt through every layer. We crested Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where the past met the present in a violent tumble of brownstones and mansions, transients and transplants, infinite varieties of colors and art and self-expression. We nearly collided with pedestrians, odors exotic and taboo, and a thousand visual feasts.
“That’s my parents’ restaurant,” he shouted, pointing to Café Shiraz, a hole-in-the-wall place with cinnamon and garlic scents emanating from the open door.
“Is that where we’re going?”
He grasped my hand with his nimble and smooth one. “Ask no questions, I tell no lies.”
Commercial buildings blurred into brownstone apartments then towering evergreens near Cornish College of the Arts. He turned into the campus parking lot and led me through the heavy doors and stained glass to the current art exhibit: Travels through Space and Time.
Later, over kebabs and hummus and his mom’s famous stuffed figs, we talked about light sources and vanishing points, MIT and Baird. He told me about his parents leaving everything to come here and start a restaurant, I told him about my parents disappearing into their work. I asked about physics. He asked about art. I stopped short of telling him about Xanda.
The office and basement were lit when we pulled up to my house—each of my parents in separate domains. Kamran and I sat on the curb under the rhododendrons, exactly the place where Andre parked his green Impala and Xanda disappeared into the night. We watched the sky turn from gray-gold to gray-plum, an echo of the paintings we’d seen at Cornish as we wandered the corridors, hand in hand. He was so close, I could feel the roughness of his jacket brushing up against my skin.
“So you never told me about your poetry.”
“Ah, right.” He grinned. “You mean when I was copying your artwork.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. So where is this so-called poem, inspired by my labyrinths?”
“Oh, that.” He ran his fingers through rumpled hair, olive eyes squinting through dark, dark lashes. “You don’t really want to see that.”
“Oh, but I do.” I felt out of my depth. Xanda would have pulled him close, felt the skin under his T-shirt, his waistband . . . for me, it was enough to be touching his sleeve.
He rummaged through a folder in his pack for a sheet of graph paper swirled over with that same tight handwriting. Sentences began in one corner and spread out like branches in a tree.
He held it aloft. “I don’t know if I want you to see this—it’s not actually a poem. Well, sort of. It’s more like . . . strings of possibility.” He sat down next to me, tracing his finger over the lines. “It’s all the things that could bring a person to this point—”
“W-well, two people.” Leaning over his shoulder, I caught only fragments: She follows a path, a labyrinth . . . A landscape of mystery beneath her lines . . . A girl seeking shadows, past and future . . . What secret she seeks, answers or lies . . .
The sentences curled away from each other until I reached the top, the one that nearly stretched off the page: . . . paths cross, time stops . . . then she and I would meet.
Those sentences uncloaked me, the same way I felt when he lost himself in my mazes—like he already knew me. The thought both excited and terrified.
“To what point?” I asked, my voice unsteady. I could almost taste the figs lingering on his breath.
Then our lips met in our own mad, messy kiss, tender and fruity, pomegranate fireworks, his hands cupping my face and mine warm under his jacket, noses bumping and chins tilting until he pulled away, the two of us existing in a moment of perfection.
It was then that I knew I could tell him anything—about Xanda, the labyrinths. Someday I might even tell him about Andre.
Thank you, Kirsten and all of the RB ladies, for inviting me to Romance Bandits!
And thank YOU, Holly, for visiting! I'll be mailing a copy of Tell Me A Secret to one lucky commentor today, and Holly's got lots of other giveaways at her blog. So stop in and say hello!