Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Author Interview: Jennifer Banash

Hey everyone! Yesterday, I started off my May reviews with none other than Jennifer Banash's The Elite, which will be debuting in June '08. Today, we get to find out a little bit more about Jennifer herself! Enjoy! :)

About the Author: Jennifer Banash attended high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and currently divides her time between Paris and the Midwest—where she lives with her Beagle, Sigmund, and her vast designer shoe collection. She is the co-founder and co-publisher of Impetus Press, an independent publishing house that champions serious literary fiction with a pop edge. You can visit her website at http://www.theelitebooks.com/.

Could you describe what your road to publication was like?

It was pretty tough. I’ve been writing for most of my life, and I always wanted to be an author. After the publication of my first novel, HOLLYWOODLAND: AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE in 2006 (no connection to the movie), things began to get a bit easier. I had the opportunity to work as a ghost writer for a bestselling YA series a while ago, and I had such an amazing time doing it that when the job was finished, I immediately starting writing THE ELITE not knowing what, if anything, would ever come of it. As luck would have it, I had a friend who knew an editor over at Penguin, and I ended up pitching her the series, which she loved, and bought almost immediately. So it all worked out. But it took many, many years of struggling, working really hard, eating Ramen noodles for dinner, and crying over pints of Hagen Daz, chocolate-chocolate-chip, that’s for sure.

How's it like, being a pre-published author? Is the anticipation of your launch getting to you?

I’m a giant bundle of nerves, fear, and anticipation these days! The greatest thing about sending ARC’s out is getting to hear directly from readers. If I’m being honest, that’s the best part of the entire process for me as a writer—I absolutely LOVE to hear what readers think—both good and bad. Though I can’t help but hope that the reception THE ELITE gets is mostly good! What’s really impressed me though, is how astute the reviewers have been in their pre-publication comments—and I’m really glad that—at least so far—people seem to be connecting to the material. That’s immensely gratifying to me as an author, because I care so very much about this little world I’ve created—and the characters in it. Drew, Madison, Casey, Phoebe, and Sophie are all very important to me . . . kind of like a surrogate family.

What's your vision for The Elite series? How many more books are currently in the works?

As Madonna said on American Bandstand in the eighties, “I want to rule the world,” LOL! But, seriously, I’d love to see the series continue indefinitely, and if anyone wants to make THE ELITE into a major motion picture, that would be just fine by me—as long as I get to help with the casting, of course. There are currently three ELITE books planned, but if you guys like them, I’ll be more than happy to write as many as you want!

I see you co-founded a publishing company! Could you tell us more about that?

In 2005 I co-founded Impetus Press, a small, independent publishing house that takes pop culture as its muse. Basically, Impetus publishes serious literary fiction with a pop or urban edge, that falls in-between the experimental and the commercial. There are so many writers out there whose work is too commercial for the experimental presses, and too experimental for the mainstream. Publishing in general is getting so completely polarized, that the result is that many amazing authors are getting left by the wayside, simply because their work can’t be neatly pigeonholed. These are the writers that Impetus looks for and champions. We’ve published five titles so far, and hope to do at least two titles a year from now on. In the fall, we’re publishing Nick Antosca’s novel MIDNIGHT PICNIC—we also published his first novel FIRES, which has become a bit of a cult hit.

What's your biggest advice to aspiring writers?

I think workshopping your fiction can be extremely valuable. However, there comes a time where you need to shut off all the noise around you and just follow your own strong voice. Writing every day and learning to work on a deadline is often helpful as well—although I’m not the always the best at taking my own advice! The best advice I can give aspiring writers is simply this: write. And keep writing, even when you are doubting yourself—especially when you are doubting yourself. Just find some way to keep going. Persistence and dedication always pay off in the end. And networking is very important, unfortunately—I wish I was better at it, LOL! Getting published these days is all about who you know—and writing a kick-ass story, of course!

What book(s) are currently on your nightstand? How are you liking it/any one of them?

I just read Janice Earlbaum’s memoir HAVE YOU FOUND HER? which I thought was pretty amazing. It reads like a thriller, and I was literally gasping out loud through the last forty pages or so . . . I also just read Phillipa Gregory’s THE OTHER BOLYEN GIRL, which was slightly trashy, but in a really good way. I love historical fiction, and particularly anything to do with the English or French courts. As for YA, I recently finished Jay Asher’s 13 REASONS WHY, which I thought was a dark, fascinating read, Melissa Walker’s VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY, which was sheer pleasure, and THE CLIQUE: BRATFEST AT TIFFANY’S, which I thought was fun, but just OK. I don’t have tons of time to read right now though because I am hard at work on my next Young Adult series, BITTEN, which is about two identical twin sisters whose parents buy Dracula’s castle in the midst of a mid-life crisis, then promptly relocate the family from Manhattan all the way to Romania!

What is the most random thing about yourself that you can think of right now?

I’m kind of obsessed with soy milk. I buy two half gallons at a time! Eating cereal is just a way to drink more soy milk as far as I’m concerned. I am incapable of starting my day without a soy latte. Am seriously addicted—it’s getting a little pathetic, actually . . .

What's the one thing most people would be shocked to find out about you?

That I’m pretty insecure and shy. I come off as really gregarious and put-together, almost over-confident—or so I’ve been told. In short, a typical New Yorker! Usually no one believes me when I tell them how shy I am—and especially with people I don’t know very well.

Say you were having a dinner party and you could invite five people, dead or alive. Who would those people be and why?

Marilyn Monroe, because I’m obsessed with both her vulnerability and absolute luminosity. Sigmund Freud, because I’m an avid reader of his case studies—which are totally fascinating. Virginia Woolf, because her prose made me want to become a writer. And just to liven up the mix, Scarlett Johansson and Britney Spears—I think Scarlett might make an excellent Madison Macallister if THE ELITE ever makes it to the big screen—although technically, I guess she’s a bit too old for the part . . . And Britney because she’s such an absolute train wreck that it would be interesting to see what she kind of madness she’d bring to the table. She’d probably bring her own supply of Frappes with her . . .

Tell us, does writing YA rock or what?

Of course! It’s the greatest job in the world! It’s seriously the most fun I’ve ever had sitting down!

Now, be creative! Please ask yourself a question and answer it.

Q: If you could attempt any profession other than a writer, what would it be?
A: Trauma Surgeon. I have rock star fantasies of working in stressful, ER-esque conditions performing complicated emergency surgeries—although I suspect I’d be terrible at it since I can’t even so much as look at blood without wanting to hurl my breakfast all over my Manolo’s . . .

Let's tackle your favorites:

Book: Too many to list! I read anything and everything, and my favorite book changes weekly—sometimes hourly.

Bret Easton Ellis, Virginia Woolf

Jean Michel Basquiat

TV show: Gossip Girl, House, America’s Next Top Model, A Shot at Love.

Vertigo (am a huge Hitchcock fan), or anything by Woody Allen.

Food: Dark chocolate

Place in the world: Paris. It’s my dream to someday have an apartment there. Sigh.

Color: White

Designer brand: Zac Posen, Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior

Magazine: In Touch or Vogue

The Kills, Chromeo, Goldfrapp, The Gossip, Kate Walsh, Duffy, Daft Punk.


Amee said...

Great interview! I was surprised when she said she was shy because her answers seemed the total opposite. She's so right about coming off more out going and confident. :P

Melissa Walker said...

Great interview! I read an early copy of THE ELITE and I hope girls love it--your review was dead-on. The characters' depth makes it rise above other books in its genre.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I loved reading this interview, thanks. Her publishing house sounds really interesting - just the kind of books I like. Will be on the lookout for it.

By the way, I'm having a contest on my site for a $20 gift certificate if you want to try your luck!

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