Today, I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Parent on my blog.
Stephanie is the author of Defy The Stars, a story about love and heartbreak, family and friendship, passion and music, and… much, much more.
1. When did you first start writing? What made you want to be a writer?
I remember writing my first complete short story in fifth grade — it was the true story of my family’s amazing cat, Tom, whom we tried to give away because he had an unfortunate tendency to scratch and bite. We left the cat with another family a forty-five minute drive away… and he ran away from that family and made it all the way back to our house in one piece! Needless to say, we kept him after that.
I continued writing short stories when assigned in school, all the way through college and then graduate school in creative writing… but for a long time I had difficulty motivating myself to write outside of school assignments. Writing is VERY hard and not at all fun for me! For me writing is rewarding because of the result, not the process! That said, I’ve always loved to read and hoped I could one day finish a novel. When I graduated from my master’s program, the economy was in a bad place and I was unable to find a good full-time job, so I figured I should get started on that novel sooner rather than later… And now I’m on my fourth novel!
2. What inspired you to write Defy The Stars?
I had written a previous novel in verse and received feedback from editors that it wasn’t “edgy” or dramatic enough for today’s YA market, so I knew I needed to go further in my next novel. Someone in the publishing industry actually suggested the idea of a modern Romeo and Juliet story involving drug addiction. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but then I reread the play and was struck by how well the “poison” in the original play correlated with modern drug use. I was also frustrated with several recent YA books that I think portray Romeo and Juliet in an overly simple, one-sided way, and I wanted to explore Shakespeare’s work in a deeper way.
3. How long did it take for you to finish writing the book?
From conception to final sentence, about eight months, then several months of revising.
4. If you must summarize your book in one sentence, starting with “Defy The Stars is a story about…”, what would you share with your audience?
Defy the Stars is a story about love and music, passion and heartbreak, destruction and hope.
5. Which of the characters in Defy The Stars is your favorite? Why?
This is going to be a funny answer, but I actually really love Marc, Reed’s best friend and fellow student at Fairvern High. He doesn’t play a huge role in the novel, and I think there’s a lot I know about him in my head that doesn’t make it onto the page. But he’s a lighter, happier character in a somewhat dark book, and I felt a sense of relief whenever I wrote about him. And I always loved Mercutio in the original play (hint, hint). 😉
6. What music was on your playlist while writing your novel?
I actually can’t listen to music while writing because I find it too distracting, but I did listen to a lot of classical piano music to prepare, because my protagonist Julia is a classical pianist. I was a fairly serious pianist myself when I was younger (I attended a performing arts high school), but I haven’t played nearly as much since then, so I needed to re-familiarize myself with it. I listened to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata a lot because it plays an important role in the book, and I needed to be able to describe it in detail. I was also particularly inspired by Alice in Chains while creating Reed’s character, and their song “Your Decision” encapsulates the mood of the last third or so of the novel.
7. Tell us one thing about Defy The Stars that kind of surprised you as you were writing it.
It was a lot longer than I expected it to be! Not that it’s a super-long book, but at 66000 words, it is long for a free verse book (most of them average 20 to 35000 words, although Ellen Hopkins’ novels are longer). I was planning to write a much shorter, simpler story, but it kind of ran away from me!
8. Was there a special reason behind why you wrote Defy The Stars in a free-verse style? If so, could you share that with us?
I’ve always really loved free verse novels and had already written one, so I was familiar with and at least somewhat comfortable with the form. I also hoped it would help my work stand out in a very crowded YA market. And the verse seemed especially appropriate for a retelling of Shakespeare, since he writes in blank verse and is so poetic himself. Obviously I can only aspire to and not match Shakespeare’s transcendent language… but I can’t imagine my book written any other way.
9. What’s next for you?
I’m working on a very different YA novel, in prose rather than verse, that retells a famous story from the distant past, but from a new perspective. I can’t say much more about it yet, but I’m really excited about it — I think it’s my favorite project I’ve worked on so far!
Stephanie, thank you so much for stopping by. It’s great to have you here today!
About the Author
Stephanie Parent is a YA author repped by Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major.
About the Book
Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories.
Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.
Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other… until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd — and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes — but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart… and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.
Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a plot, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.
Please note that this novel contains mature language and themes, including drug use.