I’m thrilled to be touring Elise Allen and her book Populazzi:
WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you had the chance to erase your past and reinvent yourself as the person you’ve always wanted to be? Would you grab it? Would you stick with it, no matter what the consequences?
Cara Leonard always wished she could be one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and never at a loss for the perfect thing to say. One of the Populazzi.
It always seemed impossible… but now could be her chance.
When Cara moves to a new school just before junior year, her best friend urges her to seize the opportunity and change her life… with the help of The Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms herself into the perfect girlfriend for guys higher and higher on the Popularity Tower, she can reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi, the most popular girl in school.
The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment — a straight climb up — but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.
And now for the usual questions:
What inspired the plot for your book?
Originally, way way waaaaaay back, when the movie Ten Things I Hate About You was in movie theaters, a movie exec friend told me he was actively seeking pitches for teen movies based on classic books. I dove into my favorite classic authors, and read an Edith Wharton book I’d never picked up before: The Custom of the Country. It’s about a young woman named Undine Spragg who lives in turn-of-last-century Manhattan, and uses a ladder of men to climb her way to the top of that very stratified society. As I read, I was stunned by how vividly that stratified world resembled the equally hierarchical social realm of high school.
That was the germ of what eventually became Populazzi, but the book was a long time coming. It started as a vaguely-thought-out movie pitch for that exec, and when he didn’t go for it, I put it on the back burner until I found a new take that really got me excited, and made me want to write it as a novel.
Why did you decide to write in this genre?
Oddly enough, I kind of didn’t. After the vague movie pitch concept, my next attempt at what would eventually become Populazzi was as a chick lit novel. This was still a very very very long time ago, when Bridget Jones’ Diary was huge. For this incarnation, I didn’t set the book in high school at all; I set it in Hollywood, with a 20-something climbing her way into the entertainment industry. I wrote about ten chapters of the book, then put it aside for years, until a TV exec I’d pitched to changed careers. She was leaving network TV to become a book agent, and asked me if I had any book ideas. I gave her my ten chapters, and she was the one who said, “This is really good… but I think it would be even better set in high school. What do you think?”
What did I think? I thought it was hysterical, since that was the original plan! After so much time though, my take on the concept was very different – and frankly a lot better than what I had before. That’s the point where the idea became a YA novel, and when it really started resembling Populazzi.
What is your writing process like?
I like to outline. Character and dialogue are easy-breezy for me, while structure takes more work. I need to know I have a strong beginning, middle-with-surprising-turns, and end before I start writing. That said, I’m not married to those benchmarks. When the characters fill out and start telling me what they really think, my plot points will invariably change, and I have no problems with that.
What are you working on now?
Several projects that I’m unfortunately not allowed to talk about yet, but one that I can. I co-write Hilary Duff’s Elixir series, and we’re finishing up True, the final book in the series. It comes out in April 2013, and I’m very excited about it.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Lately I travel, which is never my answer. This summer though, it’s been all about travel. I spent three weeks in Europe: Scotland, England, France, and Italy; then a week in Santa Barbara; four days in Toronto; four days in Philadelphia… it’s been crazy!
Who do you like to read?
To avoid going on forever, I’ll just give a short list of my many, many favorites.
I love Stephen King, though I can’t hop on the Dark Tower bandwagon. Jasper Fforde and Douglas Adams make me laugh out loud. Laurie Halse Anderson, Matthew Quick, and A.S. King are my YA heroes. Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of the best novels ever written. Anne Lamott’s prose makes my jaw drop no matter what she writes. Then of course there’s J.K. Rowling, whose wizarding world is a place my daughter and I like to pretend we live.
Check out Elise’s website http://eliseallen.com to learn all about her.