Today I have the honor of hosting the awesome Alyssa B. Sheinmel, the debut author of The Beautiful Between which, in fact, was just released yesterday! As part of her blog tour, I'll be the first one to host a mini-interview with her. :)
If high school were a fairy-tale kingdom, Connelly Sternin would be Rapunzel, locked not in a tower by a wicked witch but in a high-rise apartment building by the SATs and college applications—and by the secrets she keeps. Connelly's few friends think that her parents are divorced—but they're not. Connelly's father died when she was two, and she doesn't know how.
If Connelly is the Rapunzel of her school, Jeremy Cole is the crown prince, son of a great and rich New York City family. So when he sits down next to her at lunch one day, Connelly couldn't be more surprised. But Jeremy has a tragic secret of his own, and Connelly is the only one he can turn to for help. Together they form a council of two, helping each other with their homework and sharing secrets. As the pair's friendship grows, Connelly learns that it's the truth, not the secrets, that one must guard and protect. And that between friends, the truth, however harsh, is also beautiful.
This lovely and memorable debut by Alyssa B. Sheinmel contains many of the hallmark themes found in young adult literature—friendship, coming of age, finding a place to belong, and overcoming the death of a loved one. Emotionally moving from start to finish, The Beautiful Between introduces a strong new voice to the genre, a voice with a long future ahead of it.
1. If you had to describe The Beautiful Between in the least amount of words possible, what would you say?
If high school was a fairy tale kingdom Connelly would be Rapunzel – locked in a tower by the SATs and the papers she needs to write. Her friends all think her parents are divorced, everyone, that is, but Jeremy Cole, her high school’s crown prince. Jeremy knows that Connelly’s father is dead, and the friendship they form will help them both come to terms with the hard truths in their lives.
2. Does the story stem from any of your own dreams of a fairytale/crown prince?
That’s such an interesting question! Now that I think about it, I don’t think the story is related to my own idea of what a prince should be; the story belongs to Connelly, and I don’t think it’s about her finding her prince so much as it is about her finding herself.
3. Which were the funnest and hardest characters to write?
My favorite character in the story is actually Connelly’s mother, and my favorite relationship is the one between Connelly and her mother. Connelly’s mother wanted to protect Connelly from the truth so much that she was willing to sacrifice their once close relationship. It’s a misguided sort of protection, but I still love her for what she was willing to give up for her daughter. She was also, I think, the hardest character to write, because I wanted her to be sympathetic, and she could have easily come across as hard, edgy, and image-obsessed. But I hope that the depth behind all that comes through.
4. Looking back from writing to publication, would you have changed anything during the process? And if not, why not?
I wouldn’t have changed a thing! Well, that’s not entirely true; I always have this idea in the back of my mind that I could have made the book better in any number of ways. But I had a really good experience getting this novel published, from querying my agent to creating my website. Early on, I was given amazing notes by generous readers, and later, I was lucky to find the perfect advocates for Connelly in my agent and editor. If anything along the way had gone differently, then it wouldn’t have turned out as it did.
5. If your life was chronicled into a series of books, what would the titles of the books and series be?
If only “Remembrance of Things Past” and “The Lord of the Rings” weren’t taken! Maybe it would be a trilogy, and I would break it up into the places I have lived. So book one would be called “California,” book two would be called “North of 59th Street,” and would encompass my childhood in Riverdale (just north of Manhattan), and my adolescence on the Upper East Side and in Morningside Heights, and the more contemporary parts of it would be called “Downtown,” or something to that effect. The series name could be something along the lines of “Everywhere and the Places in Between,” or maybe “East, West, Home is Best.”
6. Finally, is there anything you're working on now?
I’m terrible about talking about what I’m working on! I even lie about it: whenever my husband sees me sitting at my desk and asks if I’m working, I lie and say I’m just playing on a favorite website. I think the truth is that I’m always at least thinking about working on something, always imagining new stories to tell, new sentences and phrases I want to write down. But I never know exactly how a story will end up; for me, there are enormous differences – and wonderful surprises – between the book that I plan to write, and the book that I end up having written. I can tell you that my second novel, The Lucky Kind, is coming out in 2011, and I’m about to get started working on the edits for that!
Thank you, Alyssa, and congrats on your debut!
I hope you're looking forward to reading The Beautiful Between as much as I am, and to see the rest of the tour stops, visit teenreads.com.