Thursday, July 29, 2010

Author Uncovered: Holly Cupala (Author Interview)

Hi guys! Holly Cupala is here with us for a tour stop! She's an amazing writer and an even more amazing person! I reviewed her debut novel Tell Me A Secret here!

The premise of Tell Me A Secret is quite unique. How did the idea bloom?
The story quite literally fell out of the sky, though it was inspired by a very difficult year personally. I was at a writing conference in 2004, and a friend very gently asked if I was thinking of writing about it. Shortly afterward, the entire book flashed in my mind like a movie trailer, and I started writing it down as fast as I could! I’d never written anything like this before, so I didn’t even know where to begin. Then a friend, not a writing friend, called and said he’d had a dream I was supposed to be working on something and I’d better get started! So I worked, little by little, as if by candlelight. The details bloomed along the way—as did many of the secrets.

Miranda is a very unique character in Tell Me A Secret. Is she based on any real-life person?
Her voice kind of came out of nowhere—one night, when I’d just been up with our brand new baby, she just started talking to me: It’s tough, living in the shadow of a dead girl. Being a new mom, I was incredibly sleep deprived (and possibly a little cranky), but I knew if I didn’t get out of bed and write it down, she might never talk to me again! At the time, I had an idea of the events and characters, but this was the first time she told it to me from her own point of view. The rest of the story poured out from there.

The cover is really very well done. Did you have any input in it?
On behalf of the amazing team at Harper, thank you! I had very little to do with it. My editor asked me what I thought the characters looked like, some key visual elements of the novel (dark/light, labyrinths, a safety pin dress), and I sent some pictures—including a Sassy cover, circa 1991, with Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain on the cover (there’s a hint of Courtney in Miranda’s sister, Xanda). Then they worked their own magic. My parents and my 15 year-old niece were visiting when my editor sent me the first cover draft. I gasped! Shouted, “Everyone, come look!” My niece had glued herself to the couch the day before to read the entire manuscript. When she saw it, she said, “It’s perfect.” I think so, too!

Personally, what's your opinion or teen pregnancy?
I didn’t really set out to write a “teen pregnancy” book—I wanted to tell a truthful story about a girl dealing with her past and memories and secrets, her own and others’. When she makes the decision she does, it has nothing to do with politics or extremes, it has to do with what Miranda believes about her sister’s death and how that ties in with a pregnancy. I wanted any girl to be able to picture herself in that situation, making that decision and dealing with positive and negative consequences. Life is made up of choices—whatever the path, there is no easy button. And I believe it is possible to bring good out of bad.

Which character do you resonate most with, in Tell Me A Secret?
For a long time I thought it was Miranda—her voice is in first person, so as I was writing her, I was very much in her head and emotions. And I love Essence. And Kamran. It wasn’t until after I finished that I realized the “me” character is probably Nik, despite the superficial details. Nik’s heart is my heart. Though there’s a little piece of me in every character!

What was the message that you tried to get across to your readers with Tell Me A Secret?
Every time you try to convey a message in writing, it’s probably a bad idea! Nobody wants to read a morality tale—we want to read good stories that get messy and gritty and to the heart of things in a truthful way. When I was writing, I’d get to another layer and think, This is what I’m writing about! But then there was always something a little deeper. In the end, I think I wrote about a girl trying to find herself in other people, and in the past. I personally think meaning is in the present and the future, in the decisions we make and how we choose to live life and the difference we can make because of our experiences.

What's the most interesting thing a reader has ever said to you?
This is the most incredible part to me. Readers continue to surprise me with ways the story resonates with them and how emotionally involved they become with the characters despite—maybe even because of— their many flaws. The coolest thing might be the reader who said she spontaneously wrote a song from the point of view of Xanda—I’m hoping she’ll share it!

What’s up next for you book-wise?
My next YA novel, tentatively titled STREET CREED, will hit the shelves in Fall 2011! It’s about a suburban girl who runs away from home and meets up with a group of homeless teens on the streets of Seattle. It’s dark and romantic, and there are secret reasons why she has left home. Plus there is a beautiful boy with secrets of his own. I’m working with my editor on it now!

Book you've faked reading:
I would never do that! Um, maybe I would. I know I skimmed a few in college… The
problem with faking is that inevitably, I get caught! I’m terrible at keeping my own secrets.

Book you've bought for the cover:
Hmm, I can’t think of any! I usually buy books based on friends’ recommendations. But here are a few covers I think are gorgeous:
Before You Reach Me (original cover) by Rachel Cohn
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
Need by Carrie Jones
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (original cover) by Carrie Ryan
Stolen by Lucy Christopher (a UK author just published here in the States)
I love designs with layers and depth.

Book you're an evangelist for:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson—beautifully written, and a powerful story.

What’s up next?
As the blog tour finishes this week, I will be the featured author at readergirlz ( for the month of August. I hope you’ll stop by, and thank you so much for having me!

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Kate July 29, 2010 at 10:36 PM  

Great interview! And I also really like the sound of Street Creed!

Mary not so Contrary August 3, 2010 at 9:44 PM  

Great interview! I still haven't read this book but after reading your interview I think its the next one I pick up and read.

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