Friday, January 14, 2011

Paul McCartney, Prancing Poodles, and Girls Who Play Football: Miranda Kenneally in a blogshell


Possible covers, just to tease us. (from Teen Fire)

I'm not yelling SCORE only because Miranda Kenneally agreed to do an interview with me on Operation Awesome! I'm also yelling SCORE because Miranda's debut YA novel, SCORE, is due to come out this year!

Here is Le Blurb from her website:

What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though—she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there’s a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team…and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.
SCORE, my debut YA novel, will be released by Sourcebooks Fire in December 2011!
Add SCORE on Goodreads  

Read an excerpt from SCORE
Meet Miranda Kenneally
Le Interview: 

Katrina: Brushing shoulders with President George W. Bush?! A thumbs up from Paul McCartney?! I was absolutely floored by your list of 25 things about you. 

Do you seek out these crazy experiences or are they the result of chance?

Miranda: These days, I’m about as introverted as it gets. I prefer sitting in my green chair with a book, and anytime I’m out of the house, I can’t wait to get home and back into my green chair.

I work for the government, planning high level events and conferences and summits and whatnot, so I often find myself in strange situations.  Like having to show Newt Gingrich where the bathroom is.  Or having to test every single pen that will be used by a world leader the next day. 

But when I was a teenager and a college goer, oh yeah, I totally got myself into trouble.  I was the idiot who tried to blow up a tree someone planted in my tanning spot on the grassy knoll I liked.  One time I got into a fight with Sister Souljah (don’t ask).  That is something I regret.  A lot. 

I also regret not speaking to John Green when I had the chance.  I saw him, and I just stood there straight as stale licorice. 

Katrina: What inspired a story about a girl playing high school football? Do you play?

Miranda:  In elementary school, I was awesome at baseball (always got chosen first!) and volleyball, so the boys let me play football, even though I wasn’t very good at it.  Okay, I’m terrible at football.  I can’t catch anything without a glove. 

In junior high, I asked to be on the team, but the coach said no.  So I wrote an essay entitled, “Why I should be allowed on the football team.” My only supporting argument was that I’d beaten a scrawny wide receiver at arm wrestling in the cafeteria one day.  It didn’t work.

Growing up, I mostly hung out with guys, and in high school, I was the manager of the boys’ soccer team, so I really understand the strange creature that is the teenage athletic boy.  So writing SCORE was pretty natural for me.  What’s not natural for me is writing about your standard cookie-cutter girl.  Now that would be a challenge!

What inspired SCORE? I really have no idea. I was bored one day at jury duty and just started free writing.

Katrina: Jury duty?! Best first-draft story ever! Okay, so SCORE is a romance, but our main girl is far from the stereo-typical romantic lead. What was the hardest thing about writing from Jordan’s perspective as a girl whose priority isn’t romance?

Miranda:  This actually wasn’t very hard. I mean, we’ve all been there.  We’ve all seen that guy who just makes our stomach curl up like a slug doused with salt.  We’ve all longed for somebody. 

That being said, it was definitely hard to show why seventeen-year-old Jordan had never gone after a guy, and why none of the guys had ever pursued her (you’ll have to read the book to find out more!). 

Katrina: Any news on the SCORE cover? The ones we’ve seen on Teen Fire and your website look amazing! Has a decision been reached?

Miranda:  YES! And I’m really thrilled with the final choice, but I’m not allowed to show it to anyone yet.  I’ll give you an update as soon as the handcuffs have been unlocked.

Katrina: You’ve got excerpts on your site for a romance (SCORE) and a comedy (BEST.DAY.EVER), and you mentioned working on a romantic thriller! Love the sound of that. Is there a particular genre where you feel more at home? What do you think would be the hardest genre to write? (Personally, I think it’s the acrobatic poodles genre.)

Miranda: Those poodles = My worst. Work. Ever.

The hardest genre? Literary adult fiction. I would never even attempt this. My dad writes literary adultish stuff, so when he reads my stuff, he’s all like, “Well this doesn’t totally suck.”  Snob.  :D

I feel most at home writing your standard YA contemporary transformative/character development novel a la Sarah Dessen.  BEST. DAY. EVER. is a quest novel about a girl from poverty who gets to shadow a famous disgruntled country star for a day, and it changes both their lives in positive and negative ways.  It’s like Before Sunrise meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets Pretty Woman meets American Idol. 

I also love writing crappy free verse and haikus and stuff.  SCORE is partially written in verse. 

AWESOME POEM TO FOLLOW the end of this interview.

Katrina: What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter, panster, or a mix?

Miranda:  These days it goes like this:  I tell my agent what I’m thinking and she says either, “OOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOHHHHHHHH” or “Eh, it’s been done.”  If it’s the former, I write a crappy first draft over a few weeks.  I send it to my dad.  He tells me why it’s crappy.  I get back to work on it.  Then I send it to other people to read.  They tell me what is good and what is bad.  I play up the good, kill the bad.  This continues for several months until it turns into a book. 

To me, writing is a team effort, and that’s not a bad thing.

Sometimes I start writing first drafts and then quit after a day or two, because it feels forced. 
I figure if I haven’t sold the book yet, no harm, no foul.

Katrina: How much time do you spend on revision versus writing the first draft?

Miranda:  My (crappy) first drafts take me less than a month.  Revisions can take anywhere from three months to six.  I haven’t gone over six yet.  Knock on wood.

Katrina: Are there any snacks, rituals, music tracks you simply must have to get into your writing zone? Paint a picture for us of what it’s like in your writing space.

Miranda:  Green chair, Diet Coke, Twitter, notes scratched on napkins and on my hands, husband constantly interrupting me and me ignoring said husband. J 

Katrina: I think we’re all a little envious of you for your agent, Sara Megibow. What’s she like to work with and what’s the most important thing you’ve learned since you started working with her?

Miranda:  Sara’s great.  I’m really honored she took me on as a client.  First, she always answers my emails in a timely fashion, and she always tells it like it is.  She’s not a big sugarcoater.  She carefully reads everything I write and offers LOADS of suggestions on how to make it better.

The most important thing I’ve learned from her is to relax and not try so hard. Forcing anything is BAD.  

Katrina: You’ve got an agent and a book deal, so that puts you on the other side of a Cat’s Claw fence from those of us still searching. Is there any advice you can offer to those of us in the querying stage of our careers?

Miranda:  Just keeping searching for the right story that fits your voice.  That’s the key, I think.  For so long I tried to write stories that just weren’t “me.”  The minute I started writing like myself (and not trying to be the next Orson Scott Card or Terry Pratchett or Phillip Pullman) was when I started getting attention.

Katrina: Thank you so much for answering my questions!

Miranda: THANK YOU!!! :D

And now, in Miranda's own words (channeling her character, Jordan)...

Silly poem from SCORE:

Evolution (a.k.a. Second Attempt at Tackling a Poem)

I’ll admit it
When I first saw Jake Reynolds
     I thought I’d died and gone to the Super Bowl
                   (as starting QB)
That blonde surfer-boy hair
That tan body that won’t stop
That bottom lip: upturned, a sexy invite 
And then he spoke
“Damn, Jordan. You should play tight end
     because your ass is wound tighter than a baseball.”
Now every time I see a hot guy
     my first reaction is to brace myself
       Wait for the sewage to seep out of his mouth
       I thought Henry was the last of his kind
       I thought hot nice guys had gone extinct
       Be still, my hormones
       Ty is here to repopulate the species

Give Miranda a shout-out in the comments. She's kindly agreed to answer some questions today from the comments, as well! Woot! 
Follow her on twitter for cover news pending


Magan said...

I had actually brushed past these books in the book store but didn't know the heroine was a girl who played high school football! Now I may have to break my "no book buying" rule and go check them out...don't tell my husband.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Hey Magan! I'm excited for this book, too! Unfortunately, we have to wait until December for SCORE to come out. But you never know. Sometimes books come out earlier than planned. I'm hoping for that.

Kell Andrews said...

Thanks for answering Katrina's questions, Miranda! I'm trying to think of something else, but Katrina is pretty thorough!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Oh no! I stole all the good questions! Sorry, guys. ;)

Unknown said...

Great interview! I'm amazed at the life the author lives and speaks of so matter-of-factly. I haven't read her books, but now I'm intrigued.

Miranda Kenneally said...

Thanks, everyone! And yes, Katrina's very thorough. I feel *naked*. :D

erica and christy said...

Great interview. I voted on the cover over at Teen Fire and my fingers are crossed it's the one I like (loved the double meaning behind "Score" in the third one posted above) (it's not my book, so why I'm so enthralled with that cover is unknown.)

Congrats on such a big success (already and it isn't out) Miranda and for a great interview Katrina.

Miranda Kenneally said...

Thanks, Erica and Christy! Yeah, I'm actually still surprised (and ecstatic) that I was allowed to keep the title SCORE. No one has ever even suggested I change it. Who knew people liked naughty double entendres so much? :D

Michelle McLean said...

Awesome interview ladies! :D Miranda, I love that you wrote part of SCORE in verse. Did you find it harder to sell or come across any negative reactions because verse was included?

Miranda Kenneally said...

Hey Michelle! When I was first drafting SCORE, a friend of mine who has an MFA in poetry from a very fancy university didn't like my verse very much, but then I told her about a bunch of YA novels written in verse. She looked at them and said, "Ooohhhh. I get it now."

But in terms of my agent/editor - it wasn't an issue at all. My agent didn't touch a single line of my verse, and my editor hasn't mentioned it so far.

The hardest part of selling SCORE was my main character's voice. I've found that readers either adore the voice, or hate it. There's not much in between. :D

Kell Andrews said...

Miranda, if you get that love it/hate it reaction, you are clearly doing something creative.

Miranda Kenneally said...

Kelly - that's a neat way of looking at it. It was definitely interesting/upsetting when I'd get rejections like, "Well, Miranda, you can definitely write, but I'm not connecting with the main character's voice at all."

I mean, there's nothing you can do with that. Except continue to be yourself.

I just had to take comfort in all the people who truly loved my MC and the voice and the story, etc.

Roni Loren said...

Great interview! Love the snippet at the end, Miranda. :) Can't wait for the book!

Miranda Kenneally said...

Thanks, Roni! I'm glad you like my nonsense. :D