I’m thrilled to be touring I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert.
Sid Vicious isn’t exactly a role model in the wholesome, small town Midwest. Neither is Louisa Carson-Black, who has earned the position of the proverbial black sheep of Carlisle, Wisconsin by hightailing it out of town to pursue the punk rock scene. After all, what go better together than the restlessness of youth and punk rock? The only problem is that in her exodus, Louisa leaves behind her four-month-year-old daughter Emily…
As Emily is raised by her father, the only way she gets to know Louisa is through her abandoned records. It’s no CBGB’s, but Emily witnesses the evolution of punk in an old warehouse called River’s Edge, and she even develops some fist-pumping, anarchist mannerisms of her own. Although Emily would like to pretend that it is, her life is certainly no carefree “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Deep down inside, she has a burning need to find her mother. Emily sets out to follow the musical trail that Louisa leaves behind, which ends up leading her to fame and glory that she never imagined!
If Louisa wants to live on the cutting edge of punk rock, then what better way to attract her than to be the next best thing in punk? Emily realizes that she has to become Sleater-Kinney’s “queen of rock and roll” to bring her mother back to her. Emily transforms into punk royalty as she starts up her own widely acclaimed band She Laughs. The last thing that she wants is be taken for granted by her mother, but when the music does eventually guide Louisa to Emily, Emily discovers that there is whole lot more to Louisa’s flight than just youthful impulsivity!
What inspired the plot for your book?
My love for punk rock and female musicians in particular. I created the character of Emily Black to pay tribute to all the women in music who got me through my teen years. Her mother, Louisa, was from a separate short story, but I soon realized that having a complicated mother like her would give Emily more depth as a character and real motivation, so I combined the two.
Why did you decide to write in this genre?
The genre chose me, really. My agent shopped my book as an adult book for a year and then decided to try selling it as a YA. It sold to MTV Books, which really has a lot of books that are on that cusp between YA and adult, which I guess is the audience for my book, late teens, twenties and thirty-somethings. I just set out to write the kind of book I’d been seeking since I was a teenager. It’s exciting that today’s teens and adults are still interested in that kind of book.
What is your writing process like?
It’s probably a little different than most. I went to Columbia College Chicago for my BA and MFA in Creative Writing and there they have a certain method of teaching writing called the Story Workshop Method where you play word games, see images of the words and then start to see the place where your story takes place. You go to the moment that is taking your attention and then write. To this day I still do these activities with my writing group once a week. I find it really helps me get started on my story. So I do that for awhile to get a sense of the overall story. Then I start to put the pieces together. I usually don’t outline a story until I’m halfway through writing it and know my characters well enough to know where they are going to go. I mean, I thought Emily was going to go to college at some point in I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. That is so totally not her and I had to get to know her well enough to figure that out. So I suppose I plunge, then plot. Also I’m a binge writer. I do my best work when I have a full day to write.
What are you working on now?
Right now I am waiting for my revision notes for BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, which will be out in Summer 2009 from MTV Books. That one is about a teenage girl who finally finds her place among a bunch of misfit kids who hang out at a suburban park, but as they all grapple with their various problems, life spiral out of control.
While I’m waiting, I’m working on a couple other book ideas. The main one right now is about a girl who runs away with a friend of hers who unbeknownst to her at first has schizophrenia. And since I like to shift POVs, it also focuses on their mothers, who are dealing with this in different ways.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Right now I work my day job and I sleep. Occasionally my boyfriend and I veg out to TV together (Rock of Love and Degrassi marathons being our favorite). But soon I’m quitting the day job, so I hope to read more books and see my friends more often! Oh and of course I am always listening to music.
Who do you like to read?
A wide variety. I like the classics like John Steinbeck, I like edgier, modern literature like Irvine Welsh, I like stuff with fantastical elements like Francesca Lia Block and Melissa Marr. And I like gritty, real, honest stories like Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess and Almost Home by Jessica Blank. I read a lot of YA because I feel it is some of the most honest stuff out there right now.
Stephanie Kuehnert works at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing, but is a writer through and through. She has published short stories, interviews, and essays in Hair Trigger and No Touching magazines, as well as for websites such as inkstains.org, freshyarn.com, and Virginia Quarterly Review. She was recently named to the Lit 50, the list of Chicago’s hottest writers by NewCity, the renowned list also includes Studs Terkel, Elizabeth Berg, Scott Turrow, Aleksandar Hemon, and Audrey Niffenegger. Stephanie received her Bachelor’s in Fiction Writing at Columbia College in Chicago, and went on to earn her master’s degree there in 2006. She was awarded Third Place in Traditional Fiction by the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association for “Fairytale”, an excerpt from her novel I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. Stephanie currently lives in Forest Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, with her boyfriend and three cats. Stephanie’s heart and soul will always reside in Chicago, and her up-and-coming work Ballads of Suburbia has been divinely inspired by the Windy City.
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
by Stephanie Kuehnert
Publisher: MTV/Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 2008