aka YA Literature

Monday, July 2, 2007

Daria Snadowsky

I "interviewed" Daria Snadowsky, author of Anatomy of a Boyfriend. I really liked how the book captured so many of the realities of dating and dealing with your first love and loss, and Daria seems extremely cool. She recently started working as a lawyer, and I found her comments about how law school influenced her writing of this book to be very interesting.

I love the cover! Did you have any input in that? How did you feel about its outcome?

I love the cover, too! Angela Carlino of Random House designed it, and I think she struck the perfect balance—it's funny and provocative, but the color scheme and font keep it understated and even dignified. And of course, it's totally illustrative of the title and story. I suggested just a couple of small tweaks—the original doll photographed for the cover has brown hair and brown eyes, but Angela gave him contacts and a dye job after I reminded her that the character of Wes, the main love interest, has blonde hair and blue eyes.

When I read the first e-mail from Wes, I noticed right away that it didn't look like most e-mails that teenagers send (ie. it was properly capitalized with correct punctuation, etc.). Although it definitely had the voice of a teenager, did you consider making it "look" like a typical teen e-mail?

Earlier drafts did have emails and IM chats that appeared more authentic, but I changed them since they just didn't feel true to these particular characters.

Wes didn't have many friends to IM or email until college, so he didn't have much opportunity to hone his textspeak and get used to writing ROTFLOL, IMHO, CYA or . Furthermore, he loved books and reading, so I just couldn't see him choosing to express himself with abbreviations or conveniently misspelled words.

As for Dom, the main character, she was constantly fearful of saying the wrong thing that might drive Wes away. Since a major part of\ntheir relationship existed solely over the computer, their emails took on (at\nleast to Dom) the same kind of significance and depth as the Beauvoir-Sartre\ncorrespondence; consequently, she was hyper-conscious about appearing smart and\nmaking sure that every word and comma was perfect.

I was reading previous interviews you did where you talked about growing up in the 80s, and we've had some discussions on A True Reality about generational differences between authors and teens. What do you think are some of the major differences between being a teen now compared to when you were a teen? (How) do you think that affects writing for a teen audience?

Certainly, one of the biggest differences between being a teen now and being a teen back when I had the (dis)pleasure is the communications technology available to us. I didn't have email or a cell phone until I was a senior in high school, I never used the internet or text-messaged until college, I never listened to MP3s until after I had graduated, and I hadn't heard of MySpace or YouTube until law school when I saw these sites on everyone's laptop screens during our lectures. But now that most everyone gets online well before their teens, YA writers, if they don't want to sound dated, have to constantly familiarize themselves with how young adults are communicating with each other and then weave that ever-evolving cyber-reality into their hopefully timeless storylines. But the nice thing is that *feelings* never become obsolete. Being dumped by the one you love hurts no matter if it's done over IM or a letter written with quills and ink.

When you were writing, did you worry that you would encounter objections or censorship because of the frank sexuality? What do you think is the value in this type of literature for teenagers?

I never worried too much about censorship. Over thirty years have passed since Judy Blume's Forever made its indelible mark, and it continues to be one of the most popular and celebrated YA books ever, so I knew Anatomy would have a solid foundation in the market to stand on. Luckily, the major reviewers recognized that Anatomy's love scenes are similarly meant to be realistic and informative rather than\nsensationalized and erotic. What's bewildering, though, is that over the last year I've seen other YA books face intense criticism for love scenes that are far, far tamer than anything in Anatomy.

This type of literature is valuable for teens because it presents much-needed unromanticized accounts of the highs and lows of love and sex. When we grow up on fairytales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, it's perfectly natural for us to expect that our first loves will last forever and that we'll know exactly what to do when the lights dim. YA books like Forever demonstrate to young adults that that's not necessarily the case, and they show all the humiliation and disappointment and awkwardness (as well as the magic and wonder and peace) that's part and parcel of falling in love and being intimate. This is a subject that is often embarrassing for young adults to talk about with their parents and even with each other, so it's important they have access to books that demystify love's emotional and physical roller coaster in a frank and nonjudgmental way.

I have to ask about living in Las Vegas. I know most people probably think it's really great and glamorous and imagine a Paris Hilton lifestyle. How do you like it? What do you like to do?

I love living in Las Vegas! Outside of The Strip, the city is a very typical, American, strip-malled suburb, and it's totally possible to live here and avoid The Strip and all the other tourist-traps if you want. I'm not into gambling or Vegas's infamous nightlife, but you can still find me cruising Las Vegas Boulevard every so often because the casinos simply offer up the best restaurants, shopping, spas, and shows in the city. Also, friends and relatives are always flying into Vegas for their vacations, so I'm on personal tour-guide duty quite a lot.

How do you like being a lawyer?

I've been practicing a few weeks now, but in many ways every day still feels like the first day since I'm constantly learning new things that we were never taught in law school. But that's part of what keeps the job exciting and challenging.

Going to law school turned out to be a huge help to the editing process for Anatomy. My legal writing classes stressed brevity and taught us how to trim fat, so that skill came in very handy when I found myself editing Anatomy down from 599 pages to 284 pages after every publisher in New York rejected the longer version.

My criminal procedure class was\nespecially helpful when I edited the scene where a cop catches Dom and Wes making out in the back of his car. In an\nearlier draft, the cop, upon finding Dom and Wes, immediately searches the car for alcohol and drugs. But criminal procedure taught us about unreasonable searches and seizures, and I realized that my search scene was unconstitutional because the cop didn't have enough probable cause. To fix it, I added a line where the cop asks Wes's permission to go through the car, so now the search fits safely into the "consent" exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.

It was also law school that helped me come up with Dominique's last name, Baylor. In property class, we learned about bailors and bailees--the classic example of a bailor is someone who brings his watch to a pawn shop, and the shop owner (the bailee) becomes responsible for its safekeeping. I thought how when we love someone, we become "bailors" of our hearts and hope that the person we're entrusting them with won't break them.


Sheryl said...

I thought Daria's explanation of how she came up with Dom's last name was really interesting. It reminded me of being in high school English where the teacher is explaining some symbolism, and you're thinking, "Did the writer really intend all this?" Why, yes s/he did! It was kind of like when I read Toni Morrison's explanation of how she wrote and revised the opening paragraphs of The Bluest Eye. There's even more meaning, thought, and symbolism behind things we haven't even thought of!

elizabeth said...

i really fell in love with your book. its my favorite book, and the reason why is because it can relate to the things teenagers face this days!!! lol i loved it and so did my boyfriend i got him to read it!!! do you have another that might be similar?