26 February 2012

Author Interview, Review, and Giveaway: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Meredith Zeitlin's debut novel FRESHMAN YEAR & OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS comes out on March 1st! Check out my interview with Meredith below and my review afterwards (of the book, not the interview. If you want a review of that, well, it went quite smashing!).

Meredith Zeitlin is a writer and voiceover artist who lives in Brooklyn with two adorable feline roommates. She also writes a column for Ladygunn Magazine, changes her hair color every few months, and has many fancy pairs of spectacles.

If you want to know more about Meredith's voiceover work, check out www.mzspeaks.com.

What is your favorite 9th grade memory? 
Getting cast as Young Iphigenia in the fall play, "Iphigenia at Aulis." I'd started at a new school that year - a very competitive all girls' school - and wasn't sure exactly where I'd fit in, especially that early in the school year when I was still making friends. Seeing my name on the bulletin board, and being congratulated by my classmates, felt incredible.

What is your least favorite?
That would be later the same day, when I made the very large mistake of walking up to a junior (who had also been cast in the show) and living out the Julie Nelson cafeteria scene that is now in my book. She tortured me for the next two years. I kept my big mouth shut after that. Well, I tried to, anyway...

Want to share an embarrassing high school story?
Isn't the book enough for you people?!!? Yep - about 90% of the stuff that happens to Kelsey is based on things that actually happened to me. Seriously.

In your bio you mention you work as a voice-over artist. What inspired you to write a book?
When I first got out of college, I used to babysit for an awesome little girl named Zoe (I also brought her to auditions with me when I first start doing v/o! She was - and is - a great sport). Sometimes when she did her homework, I'd read her books, and for the most part I found them really disappointing. They weren't at all like the YA novels I'd grown up with, which were about girls I could relate to; these were all about rich, sophisticated girls with unlimited spending accounts and wild sex lives. I decided to try my hand at writing about a REAL girl in NYC, based on my memories of high school and my observations of Zoe and her friends.

Will there be any other books in your future? 
I wrote a children's picture book that I'm hoping will find a home soon, and a friend and I wrote a super-creepy horror feature. (So, some pretty different stuff!) I'm also working on another YA novel. It's not a sequel to Freshman Year...,but it takes place in the same world, so you'll see some of the characters again. 

From idea to printing, how long did it take for Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters to be published? 
About 6 years, which is almost unheard of for this kind of book. I wrote it in about 6 months, working whenever I felt inspired, and then got an agent, who sold the book in about a year. Then the troublesome editing process began... my original editor took ages to get anything back to me, and it was really frustrating because we never seemed to be on the same page about what I was supposed to be doing. He was let go around the time the book was originally slated to come out, so I had to wait and see if a new editor would pick up the project. I was very lucky that one did, but then the whole ride started over. I think it was worth the wait, though.

Any advice for budding writers?
Write. Don’t sit around worrying that you don’t know what your ending is or what kind of book or story it should be or that you don’t know how to get an agent. Just write – even if it’s terrible. Just keep going. You’ll be amazed by what you come up with.

What is the very first job you remember wanting to have as a child?
I wish I had a more interesting one to share, but I wanted to be... a prima ballerina. I used to dance around my room with a scarf pretending to be a cloud, as per the instructions on this ballet record I had. Unfortunately, I was petrified of my ballet teacher and convinced she was actually a wicked witch. Also, I have no dancing talent whatsoever. I can't even touch my toes!

If you could have dinner with any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and at what restaurant?
When I was going into ninth grade, we had this summer reading list. One of the books was Richard Feynman's autobiography, which is called "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman." I'd never heard of him at the time - if you don't know, he won the Nobel Prize for Physics among other huge science-y achievements - but I LOVED the book. Besides being a genius physicist, he was also a huge prankster and taught himself to crack safes and snuck into college dances in the '50s and turned everything in a little adventure. His book is still one of my favorites (I have the original, very dogeared copy on my shelf!) and he's one of my favorite characters... and he's real! I think dinner with Dick Feynman would be CRAZY AWESOME. I'm not much of a foodie, so I don't really have a favorite restaurant... maybe we could go get huge, fabulous ice cream sundaes somewhere. Yum.

Do you have a fictional crush? 
Oh, I don't even know where to begin to answer that question! I have about a thousand of them. Peter Pan was the first, I think... but I get crushes on almost every snarky (or sweet) guy in every book I read and show I watch. I'm a mess. At the moment I'm in love with both the vampire and the werewolf on "Being Human." Think they'd fight over me?

What is your favorite thing to do on a day off? 
I'm pretty lucky because with my "real" job, I have a lot of days off. (I usually don't take advantage of them the way I should and end up being lazy and doing nothing productive at all. Especially if it's cold out!) But when I actually gear up to use my time wisely, I love being outside. Prospect Park is gorgeous in the spring - I could read under a nice shady tree on the big lawn all day long. Even better if I have a picnic and a couple of friends to toss a ball around with. I also love to check out gallery shows - especially photography.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? 
I think most people would say I'm an extrovert because I'm generally pretty outspoken and not at all shy... but the friends who know me best know that I definitely have my introverted moments. Maybe I'm an extroverted introvert?

Are you a movie or a TV watcher? 
I am a total TV addict. I enjoy a trip to the movies, but if I didn't have TV?! I don't even want to think about what would happen...

Publication date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Let's say you're fourteen and live in New York City. You'd think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don't have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You've never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag. In other words? You're Kelsey Finkelstein - fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness . . . it doesn't mean the rest of the world is in on it.
--synopsis from Amazon

This book is so freaking cute! I hope Meredith doesn't take offense to that because it's not an insult, it's a big compliment. With all the paranormal/supernatural/heavy YA books I've been reading, it's a nice change to read about a regular old fourteen-year-old girl doing fourteen-year-old things and making the mistakes of a fourteen-year-old. Kelsey and her friends are very believable characters right off the bat. While reading, I remembered myself hanging out with my friends talking about the same exact things Kelsey and her friends do; having the same worries. Sans the alcohol though. I was freaking straight-laced, yo (until I turned sixteen, haha!).

Meredith's writing is entertaining, witty and natural. Freshman Year had moments where I was cracking up. I'll specifically refer to a certain scene involving a beard, but that's all you'll get. It's a scene you don't want to be spoiled for, believe me. It doesn't just deal out the funny, though. The book also deals with issues like bullying, friendship, crushes, and betrayal (or what feels like betrayal to someone who's fourteen. See? This is why I like it so much!).

A warning for anyone concerned: there is a lot of under-age drinking in the book and some sexual talk. This was not my fourteen year old experience, but a friend of mine assures me I may be in a minority, haha. I guess at twenty-seven I have already, embarrassingly, become an old fuddy-duddy who wanted to parent and take the alcohol out of their hands. ;) So if this makes you uncomfortable, I would stay away for a bit.

Be sure to check out the fantastic trailer below and to enter my giveaway to win an ARC of Meredith's book!

PRIZE: an ARC of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Please read my contest policy before entering!
This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.

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