Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In the Hotseat: Susane Colasanti

I  fell in love with Susane Colasanti's writing when I first read When It Happens a couple of years ago, and I've been a huge fan of hers ever since. She has a way of perfectly capturing the essence of teenagers, and her love stories are brilliant and realistic. I was lucky enough to score an interview with her, and I'm super excited to share it with you guys! So before I babble on, here it is. Hope y'all enjoy it!

You hold an undergraduate degree in Astrophysics and Earth & Space Science, which is pretty far from writing. What led you to become an author?
When I left for college, I already knew I wanted to be a physics teacher. Although writing was always a huge part of my life, I wasn’t considering it as a career. I really wanted to be in the classroom where I could connect with teens. My main purpose in life is to help teens improve their lives in some way. Eventually I realized that I could reach more teens as an author than I could as a teacher. So by the time I was revising my second book, I was ready to resign from teaching to become a full-time author. It would have been awesome to continue to be both a teacher and an author, but doing both completely exhausted me. I know I made the right decision. I love my job!

What's the best thing about YA literature?
I love how much the world of YA has expanded in the last decade and how much itcontinues to expand. Readers have a fabulous selection of books available to them. It makes me sad that some teens don’t like to read. Reading is so important – it improves your life in countless ways. The thing is, I hated most of the books we had to read for English. Going to the bookstore or library and finding books I actually loved saved me. If teens aren’t exposed to books that interest them in school, they have to find books that really speak to them elsewhere. Which is much easier to do now with the wide
variety of YA books available.

You were a high school teacher for almost ten years, so you were exposed to hundreds of teenagers on a daily basis. Have you ever based any of your characters or stories on your students?
Definitely. When It Happens and Take Me There were both written while I was still a teacher. It was inevitable that some of the characters and scenes were inspired by my experiences at school. The poem that Tatyana reads in Take Me There was written by one of my students. That rapper dude E in When It Happens was inspired by a student as well. I also wanted to include some things I found lacking with the school system, like how some students get in trouble for not dressing appropriately while others don’t. Or how there aren’t enough resources, even basic supplies like paper and chairs. The whole thing about there not being enough lab stools in Take Me There was totally based on my own teaching experience. My lab didn’t have enough stools and lab started at 7:20 (outrageous!), so you had to get there early if you wanted a seat. Ridiculous situations like that need to be addressed.

What, or who, inspires you most?
Other people’s creativity can totally inspire my own. Good books, movies, and art all spark my creative energy. They motivate me to keep improving my craft. Whenever I come home from a conference or event with other authors, I feel this surge of excitement to get back to work. I’m very fortunate to be friends with some of my favorite authors. They’re my mentors. Inspiration comes from constantly learning so much from them. Also, living in New York City is inspiration on a daily basis. The unique energy, the freedom to be exactly who you want to be, the infinite possibilities…it’s an amazing place to be an author. New York is where people come to make their dreams reality. I can’t imagine anything more inspiring than that.

Which of the protagonists from your novels are you most like?
Like most first novels, When It Happens has an autobiographical quality to it. Sara is very much like me. We’re both into archival scrapbooking, we both have a koala bear stuffed animal named Chez  (who wears a Late Night with David Letterman tee), and we both like the same music.

What's your all-time favorite book?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Although I have to give a shout-out to The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton as well. That was the book that sparked my interest in writing my own teen novel one  day.

I dream to one day live in New York, where you currently live. What's the best thing
about it?
The energy. New York just has this amazing vibe of excitement and endless possibility. It makes you believe in your dreams because you know they can totally come true. You feel like anything can happen, which is an amazing feeling to have every day. And I love the variety. There are so many incredible things to do, see, eat, visit…it’s a very emotionally satisfying place to live.

I heard you're quite the cupcake fan (like Rhiannon from Take Me There). What's
your favorite flavor?
Okay, we need to break this down. First off, Crumbs is the best cupcake place in New York. They have many delicious flavors from which to choose. Picking just one is really hard. I’ll go with the Cherry Blossom. This flavor was a Cupcake of the Week, so I don’t think it’s always available. It came out last April when the flowering trees were in bloom. I believe it was vanilla cake with cherry buttercream frosting and cherry filling. With a cherry on top, of course. Of their regular flavors, I’m a big fan of the Good Guy. It has rainbow sprinkles. Enough said.

If you were a John Mayer song, which one would you be?
Probably “Bigger Than My Body.” That song is all about wanting your real life to start so badly that you can hardly stand it. When I was in high school and college and even grad school, I remember being so impatient to become a teacher. I knew what I wanted to do so clearly. That made it really frustrating to have to wait so long. I totally relate to the lyrics: “Someday I’ll fly/Someday I’ll soar/Someday I’ll be so damn much more.” Lots of John’s songs speak about my life, though. There’s “Stop This Train.” And “Do You Know Me.” And “Daughters.” Like cupcake flavors, it’s hard to pick just one.

Anything else you'd like to add?
My readers rule. You are why I write. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do this job I love. Infinite thanks for reading my books!

Susane is the author of various YA novels, the latest one being Something Like Fate, which came out  May 4th. You can stalk- err, I mean follow- Susane through her the following sites:
Official Website:  http://www.susanecolasanti.com


  1. i adore this interview(awesome job Erika) <3 Susane's books.

  2. This is an awesome interview! It is very encouraging to read the story of how she became an author because I (as a teacher) would love to obtain that goal. I guess it lets me know it's possible. :)

  3. Awesome interview, I love the John Mayer song question. I really liked the reason of why she wanted to be an author, I'll definitely be checking out her books. I'm visiting from the CEP. =)

  4. I'm from the CEP.

    Very informative interview - I haven't read anything by Colasanti, but now I'm interested reading one of her books.

    I love the cupcake question! The world needs more cupcakes!

  5. Nice interview! That cupcake sounds delicious...

  6. What an awesome interview! It did make me hungry for cupcakes, though...
    I didn't know she was a teacher before- I guess she's always been touching young adult lives!

    Kerleisha @ Collegiate Bookworm