Thursday, February 09, 2012

Author Interview with Melissa Jensen (The Fine Art of Truth or Dare)

Today we have Melissa Jensen here for an interview! Her debut, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, is coming out on February 16th.

1. I read you love throwing dinner parties. If you were to throw one exclusively for YA authors, whom would you invite?
Sherman Alexie. He's not exclusively YA, but True Diary is one of my fave books and I think he's a little bit brilliant in general. Sara Zarr, for having one of the most appealing and compelling voices out there. Libba Bray, who is patently smart and a little snarky and quirky, all at the same time. John Green, who is the fab voice of fab geeky kids everywhere. Chris Crutcher, for being the very best with Big Messages. And...tough one...maybe Maureen Johnson, who just seems like someone who would complete a dinner party brilliantly and a little oddly.

2. What was your favorite scene to write in The Fine Art of Truth or Dare?
Alex takes Ella to a pretty unusual spot to face some of her fears. I can't be more specific without giving more away than I want to, but "Jaws" figures in. And I loved writing any scene involving Daniel Hobbes. He's a bit player, but a big presence. I have a little crush on Daniel Hobbes. 

3. Inspired by the title of your book, what's one interesting experience you've had with the game of truth or dare, either really good or really bad?

One summer, I was working as a camp counselor, and anyone who's had any sort of camp experience knows ToD is a staple. So, when it was...well, I would have to call her a frenemy's...turn to challenge me, I went for dare. She was way too good at asking questions guaranteed to humiliate you into adulthood. Her dare: Whisper something I didn't want anyone to know about me into the ear of the boy counselor I had a serious crush on. She knew; he didn't. No way I'm gonna share what I told him, but I will say that we ended up dating more-or-less happily for the rest of the summer. As for the frenemy, last I heard, she was running a Fortune 500 company.

4. I've read both of your parents are artists - how did that inspire you to write about art in The Fine Art of Truth or Dare?
My father used to take me to the de Young museum in San Francisco every few weekends. In that macabre small-child way, I think I really wanted to see the mummy and Ancient Egyptian stuff, but eventually other things--most notably the Post-Impressionists--made their impression and made me conversant. My mother always encouraged us to follow our passions, artistic or not (only one of us showed much artistic talent--wasn't me), and didn't complain about seriously messy craft projects, even when we accidentally glued tissue paper, pipe cleaners, or ourselves to the furniture.

5. Ella's idol is the 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Why did you chose him as Ella's favorite artist?
I wanted to create a talented but second-tier painter with strong ties to Philadelphia and a story that could complement Ella's. Edward's art is actually less important than his life, but it's a good backdrop for that life. I was also able to connect him to other interesting people of the time like Cezanne and Edith Wharton, which is one of those great perks of writing fiction. I use real people. Best to use people who can't object, of course. The one time I tried to put a local politician in a gorilla suit, it ended badly...

6. I read one of your favorite books is Pride and Prejudice. How did it influence and inspire you?
I think P&P is a virtually perfect novel. Austen is the absolute unequaled master of clever-snarky-romantic, an irresistible combo for me. I think it was my adoration of her writing (books and letters) that put me on my writing path. I write hearts-and-flowers because I love a good love story, but I want mine to be a little deeper than just boy-meets-girl, and I want them to have a balance of clever-snarky-romantic that, while only a pale shadow of Austen's, is clearly mine.

7. If you could pair your main character Ella up with any character from any book, who would it be and why?
Neville Longbottom. Each time I ponder this question, I debate pairing her with a literary artist (Stephen Deadalus, Philip Carey...), but they're so heavy. Neville remains one of my fave teenage book boys. He would bring really cool flowers, listen when you talk, and put himself between you and an attacking Death Eater without a second thought.

8. Which is easier for you to write, dialogue or description?
Dialogue. Dialogue dialogue dialogue. Ask anyone who knows me. I'm a talker (with occasional tendencies toward insufferable-know-it-all-ism). Giving my characters' words lets me talk even more without actually opening my mouth.

Thanks for the great interview answers, Melissa!

Keep your eye out for The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, which will be released on February 16th!

The Fine Art of Truth and Dare by Melissa Jensen
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that’s just fine by her. She’s got her friends— the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She’s got her art— and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it’s hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they’re dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?


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