I was lucky enough to get to interview Jennifer Banash, the author of the upcoming Elite series. She's a great author and I was super excited to be able to interview her. The first book in the series will be released in June and you can find my review of it beneath this post. I hope you guys enjoy my first author interview! I sure had fun doing it!
First of all, what made you want to write a series for teens?
I had worked briefly as a ghostwriter for a bestselling YA series, and I’d really enjoyed doing it. I had already published an adult novel, but I was really intrigued with this world of Young Adult fiction, how passionate the readers were, how invested and vocal they seemed. After the ghostwriting gig ended, I really wanted to write my own series, and I already had the idea for THE ELITE. So, when I was introduced to Kate Seaver, my editor at Berkley Jam, through a friend, I pitched her the idea. The rest, as they say, is history.
Did you draw influence from anything or anyone to create the characters or the plot in The Elite?
Much of it comes from my own childhood—I grew up in New York, and went to high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so I really know that world well. Some of the personality traits of my characters definitely come from real life—I’m kind of a vampire in that way—I take the best traits from the people close to me and steal them for my characters. And many of the girls have aspects of my own personality—Madison Macallister is definitely me on a bad day . . .
The Elite takes place among drama of New York City. Do you think you would enjoy being involved in the world of your book? Why or why not?
Well, I kind of have! That being said, would I enjoy it now? Decidedly not. Its fun and very glamorous, but I lived in Manhattan for most of my life, and by the time I left for college, I really just wanted to be anywhere else but home. But I love Manhattan and always will—the energy, the people, the constant sense that something better is happening right around the corner, and if we just leave this party right now, we just might find it . . .
Do you yourself feel as if you relate to any of your characters? If so, in what way?
I find myself relating to Casey a lot. I went through that whole awkward stage in high school where my body really hadn’t caught up to my age. I remember looking at the most beautiful girls in school and wanting to be just like them, dying to fit in. Then, a year later when I finally got what I wanted, I realized that it wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. The pressure in that world can be very, very intense.
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who are some of your favorite artists?
Its kind of a joke in my house, because I need music blasting through my earbuds in order to write, and I usually have to be somewhere like a coffee house—a place with as much visual stimulation as possible. I don’t know why that is—I think it’s because I have to somehow drown everything out in order to think clearly, and overstimulating my senses makes that possible. I usually listen to the same songs over and over again when I’m working heavily—it just becomes noise after a while. But I find that the music itself seems to make it into the pages of the book that way too—I think of every chapter as having its own soundtrack . . .
Right now I’m listening to The Kills, The Teenagers, The Blakes, the new Portishead CD, Daft Punk, Duffy, Common, Elliot Smith, Sufjan Stevens—and Goldfrapp’s new CD Seventh Tree is amazing,
What was one of the most memorable or funny experiences you had as a teen?
I was at the big opening night of this very posh club downtown, and Cher was there. I’d been feeling kind of queasy/lousy all day, and I probably should’ve just stayed home. Anyway, a friend of mine knew her and took me over to be introduced, and just as I was holding out my hand to shake hers, I threw up all over her elaborately beaded shoes! She screeched like I’d doused her in battery acid and ran off. It was a complete and total nightmare—but it makes a good story.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
The power to be invisible—so I could stare at people as much as I wanted, and eavesdrop on their secret, most private conversations without getting caught.
What is something funny or interesting that people would enjoy learning about you?
I’m addicted to reality television. I know its bad for me, I know its mindless, but I love it. I don’t know—something in me really needs to know why Daisy didn’t become Bret Michael’s Rock of Love, and who will win Tila Tequila’s heart this time around. I also have perfect pitch and can sing practically anything—but it’s a talent I rarely, if ever, use.
What are some of your favorite books that you'd recommend for teens?
I like titles that are on the edgy side—R.A. Nelson’s books Teach Me and Breathe My Name are quite good. Also Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. In terms of series’ I love The A-List, and Melissa Walker’s Violet series—I adored Violet on the Runway, and look forward to reading the other two books in the series. I also have Anna Godberson’s The Luxe in a pile on my nightstand, and am dying to have an opportunity to curl up with it. I actually love well-done historical fiction, and I’m hoping it will be good. It has a gorgeous cover anyway . . . I also love the classics—Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of my favorites and a guilty pleasure to boot, and anything by Virginia Woolf—particularly Mrs. Dalloway, or To The Lighthouse—her writing is just so strong and gorgeous.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m working on a new series right now, entitled BITTEN. It’s about two identical twins from Manhattan, Lucy and Mina Vanderbilt, whose parents buy Dracula’s castle in Romania in the midst of a mid-life crisis, forcing the family to move to Eastern Europe and live in a dilapidated, musty, stone castle. But before both girls begin attendance at a posh boarding school in Geneva, Switzerland, they have to spend the summer at their new home sweet home—a castle situated in the heart of Romania, just off of Highway 73—better known as the intersection of creepy and get-me-the-hell-out-of-here—worlds away from their sophisticated Manhattan lifestyle. Upon their arrival, Mina quickly falls in with Jonathan Marlowe—the town’s resident hottie, who’s left London to visit his grandfather for the summer and spends his days attempting to pen the next great British novel at the local café. But after Lucy suffers a “bite” from a mysterious apparition one evening while trolling the grounds of the castle, her love life will never be the same again. Expressions like “can I have a bite of that?” take on a WHOLE new meaning, and suddenly, the most notorious, identical, and inseparable twins in all of Manhattan have never been quite so different . . .
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love hearing from readers—its one of the things I love best about being a writer. If you read THE ELITE and want to ask questions or just chat, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I promise I’ll answer every email. And be on the lookout for the second book in THE ELITE series IN TOO DEEP, coming January 2009.
Thank you so much Jennifer!