Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Enchanting Interview: YA Author Taylor Materne

1. How did the idea for writing a book together come about?

First off, let me thank you all for taking the time to read and review the book. We always love to get new opinions of what is working and what is not. It's greatly appreciated!

Hobson and I were living in Atlanta at the time and he mentioned how there had never been a proper depiction of boarding school life done on TV (this was around the time of The O.C.) and his words really stuck with me. I began contacting alumni from Hotchkiss that worked in the film and TV world and asked around about the process of developing/pitching a TV show. It was certainly a long shot, but the one thing I did learn is that if you put in the effort inevitably someone will take notice.

After about two months of developing the TV treatment Hobson and I came to a roadblock. We discovered that it was difficult for us to capture an authentic voice of a teenage girl. I had just read Caroline's first novel, HERE KITTY KITTY (where she goes by Jardine Libaire) and on a whim I contacted her. At that time I was living back in NY and she was in Brooklyn. We had drinks and reminisced on our experiences at Hotchkiss (we all went to the same boarding school, but at separate times). Caroline jumped on board and over the next few months we developed a sixty-page treatment!

I now work a lot in TV and I can tell you that no one wants to read a sixty-page treatment, but it was thorough. Caroline sent it to her literary agent who then linked us up with a TV and Film agent in LA. While he was shopping the property our literary agent felt that the document we had was rich enough to pitch as a novel. About two weeks later we had pitch meetings and offers from publishing houses. It was a very exciting time to say the least!

2. Why YA?

We did receive offers in both the adult and YA market, but the adult market meant we were probably going to end up doing an expose rather than a pure work of fiction. YA also allowed us the ability to develop characters over the course of multiple books and I think we were able to find our own stride as writers as we got further along into writing the novels. My favorite characters are Parker and Chase who aren't major focal points till our second novel, MISS EDUCATED. They return as the main focus of our final book, CRASH TEST, which comes out in September. YA give authors and readers an opportunity to see characters grow over time as you might in a television show.

3. What's your writing process like?

I think of it in the same way as one might think of a band, like a Destiny's Child or The Supremes. You have three artists who each have a distinct voice and through repetition it becomes apparent where a certain person shines. I am stronger with dialogue and the whole scope of the story. My partner's strengths with detail and tone only compliment me. That isn't to say that everyone wasn't extremely adept at all facets, but certain characters and certain scenes or chapters sometimes resonate with a different writer.

Sometimes you end up writing scenes that aren't as exciting as others so we tried to let one another take on moments that spoke to them which is the most fun for any writer...when your mind is racing faster than your fingers can type.

4. What have you learned about writing together, three books in to the series?

That's it's a challenge. There is a reason that most writers work alone or in team of two. Most writers are very stubborn in their ways and beliefs. I certainly am. You also find that you may not work at the same pace as another writer and that becomes extremely difficult.

It can also be extremely rewarding to read someone's work that so perfectly compliments your own, but it takes time to get to that point.

5. Best thing about co-writing? Worst thing about co-writing?

The exchange of ideas prior to actually writing is very rewarding. You get different perspectives that can help broaden your story and characters. Writing is also a very lonely occupation so it is nice to have constant contact with people.

The negatives are the same as the positives unfortunately. Sometimes you want to work at your own pace, you don't want your work manipulated, and you simply get frustrated.

The positives in our experience certainly outweighed the negatives, but it was a learning experience. You try to remember that you are blessed to do something that you love and be patient, but not all writers are as open--we had to work at it.

6. How much of 'The Upper Class' mirrors your own experiences?

Because we are all boarding school alums, much of the description of the exclusive society mirrors our own experiences. The international student body, the classes, the dorms, and the campus are all very similar to our alma mater and New England boarding schools in general.

The story itself has hints of our backgrounds and experiences. Chase, for instance, had an older brother who went to Hotchkiss and so did I. However, because Hobson, Caroline and I were not at Hotchkiss during the same period our characters were just amalgamations of a lot of people we knew. The themes we dealt with were themes familiar to us, but we also worked hard at trying not to date our stories too much. There is nothing worse as a teen or young adult than listening to an adult tell you what your life is like or use outdated lingo.

I graduated from Hotchkiss in '99 and much had changed in the six or so years when we began writing. We spoke with teachers, students, and visited campuses to familiarize ourselves with boarding school again. I think getting the world right is important because we wanted our audience to realize that just because these kids are living together in dorms without their parents doesn't mean they aren't dealing with the same problems as other teens. In fact, because they are coming of age in such a strange place their issues tend to be that much more heightened.

7. Can you describe 'The Upper Class' in three words?

Honest, Authentic, Stylish

8 What are your favorite qualities about Laine and Nicki?

I think they both grew a great deal throughout the story. Both of them were from such different, but equally insular worlds that it was interesting to see them adapting to boarding school where no one really cares who you were at home.

Nikki is certainly the more outgoing of the two, but she also carries many insecurities. They are alike in that regard. Both have scars.

Laine is a tougher girl to crack because she is so guarded. She is easily manipulated, but I think she begins to understand friendship by the end of the book. Boarding school is interesting in that way because, unlike regular high school, you need to be able to rely on your friends since you don't have a family to return to at the end of day. It's a very difficult environment for shy individuals at first. They are forced to branch out quickly and I'm sure many boarding school alums will tell you that they were glad to learn how to adapt at age 15 rather than 18 when they are leaving for college.

9. What was your favorite moment in the book?

I think my favorite moment in the book was when Laine went to the Long Island party with Nikki. I thought it was a moment when Laine finally began to realize who Nikki was and where she came from and how they weren't very different. I also thought it was great to see her interact with guys that were so dissimilar from the normal preppy crowd she was used to.

10. What would readers be surprised to know about you?

That my entire family works in the banking world in New York. I now live in Venice Beach, California, which is much more my speed. I think it just goes to show you that when you are young you feel as though you are destined for a certain life because that is all you know, but it's okay to go another way. I never even told my family I was writing until I got the book deal. They were shocked and scared and proud all at the same time. Sometimes it is important to break the mold.

11. What's next for you?

I'm now working mostly in TV and Film. I have two scripted shows in development right now. I'm hoping that in time we will be able to see the boarding school world on TV or in film. It is inevitable and I think our books would transition well, so I'll keep you posted. I'd love to show audiences how boarding school compares to a show like GOSSIP GIRL, for instance. I think people would find the world very intriguing because of the widely different backgrounds of students and all the chaos that exists behind those gates.

We also have our fourth and final novel, CRASH TEST, coming out in August. I really hope audiences like how we ended the series.

Thank you all so much for the support! Please be sure to visit us or email us at our myspace or facebook pages! We are always available to chat!



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