Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Interview with Dahlia Adler

For those who don't know, Dahlia Adler kind of does it all. From her own bio:

 I'm an Assistant Editor of mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. I've also been a Production Intern and Editorial Assistant at Simon & Schuster, a Publicity Intern at HarperCollins, and a Fashion Intern at Maxim. So, I'm kind of into that whole publishing thing. 

And by the end of the month, she will ALSO be a published author. Her first book, Behind the Scenes, releases from Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 24.

1. I know your publishing super star career started with an internship, but what even made you apply? What had you interested in publishing from a young age? How did you get started doing ALL THE THINGS? 
I actually can't take credit for any of this; there's a reason people talk about how getting into publishing often has a lot to do with privilege. I went to a private school in NYC and part of the senior year curriculum in the spring semester was doing work study (unless you were taking at least 4 AP classes, which I was not). The school itself had a whole host of internships they could hook you up with, and one of them was in Publicity at HarperCollins.By then, I already knew I was planning on majoring in Journalism (I had visions of becoming a rock journalist and working at Rolling Stone after college. Don't even ask, but no, it had nothing to do with Almost Famous.) and it was the closest thing they had, so my adviser set me up there. The truth is, it didn't occur to me at the time to do it for a living; I didn't get along well with my boss and it wasn't a great experience. It was an internship I had at Simon & Schuster, in the Production department, the summer after my junior year of college, that really cemented I wanted to go into publishing for life.


2. Can you gimme a twitter pitch for Behind the Scenes for anyone who doesn't know about it and doesn't want to click on links?
In exactly 140 characters: Ally's BFF's dating her co-star for the tabloids, but he's all Ally's behind the scenes. Too bad their secret romance is breaking her heart.

3. I've pretty much been fangirling your book since the deal was announced without having read it because your premise is amazing. Did you just scan my brain and decide to write the book of my dreams? Is that what happened?
And I love you for that, thank you! And, uhhhh, nooooo, of course that's not what happened. *tucks away secret brain scanner* The funny thing is that I'm not such a Hollywood book person, so I still think it's kind of hilarious that I wrote this book. But the truth is, I think a lot of why that's the case also has to do with why I did it. There are great Hollywood books out there, but they tend to skew younger, focus on the cuter parts of celebrity. Meanwhile, having grown up watching the downward spirals of so many legitimately talented actors, I really wanted to read more about how things get a little crazy. Obviously these stars are partying hard, and making some stupid choices, and I wanted characters who reflected that. This is even more the case in the companion, Under the Lights, which comes out next year and is from alternating celebrity perspectives, but even for Ally, being a senior in high school, I felt it was a truer reality than the other stuff I was reading.

4. How did you research what being a celebrity/celebrity's best friend is like? Are you living a double life as publishing all star AND a celebrity? (In which case, spill ALL YOUR TIME MANAGEMENT SECRETS)
If only! One of my friends who read BtS while it was still on sub actually had experience working in Hollywood, and the greatest compliment was when she asked me if I'd actually dated a celebrity, because it really read like I had. There is a storyline in the book that's based on my real life, but that's not it! Truthfully, I think a lot of it stemmed from the fact that I felt like I had this experience on a smaller scale alot. In high school, I was pretty frequently passed over, because one of my best friends was really hot, and another one was really smart, and on and on, while I just...was, and though obviously those friends weren't celebrities in the technical sense, I swear, sometimes it felt like they were. So I think it's an experience that translates.


5. Did you have a playlist that you listened to while writing? Or songs that remind you of certain scenes/characters/themes?
I didn't really have a playlist while I was writing, though I made one after the fact, because I'm a blogger with YA Misfits and we're allll about WIP playlists. But I listened to a lot of The Pretty Reckless while writing it. I only picked them up out of curiosity, because I was a devoted Gossip Girl fan and was curious to hear Taylor Momsen, but they quickly became one of my favorites. There's a scene in BtS where Ally, Liam, and Vanessa go to a party at Liam's best friend Josh's house, and "Factory Girl" is the song I imagine playing when they roll in, every time.

6. It's mentioned that Ally's actual dream is Columbia and Paris. What made you pick those? Besides the obvious of their amazing?
I went to NYU, but several of my best friends went to Barnard/Columbia, so I spent a ton of time there. I liked the idea of her going to a school that had been a huge part of my college experience, but she just didn't feel like an NYU girl to me. I imagine her somewhere with a real campus, in a little bit more of a traditional academic setting. As for Paris, it's one of my favorite cities, and French was my favorite class in high school. It's Ally's favorite class too, and she's dying to travel, so it's just a natural choice for her. Plus, you know - macarons.

7. Being a celebrity's assistant (or, frankly, a celebrity) seems very high pressure and demanding. Would you ever want to fill one of those roles?
Definitely not for me! I'm not shy, but I don't like being on camera, and I'm not great at being unnaturally people-pleasing. There's a scene in BtS where Ally's explaining to her dad that she's not jealous of Van because she'd never want to be in her shoes, in part because she just has to be so nice all the time, and that's a lot of how I feel too. I can't imagine having the public eye on me like that! 

8. I know not everyone has a dream cast for their characters, but do you have anyone in mind to play any of your characters if you get a movie deal? Or anyone that would generally fit the role, even if they don't fit perfectly?
The only actor I really mentally cast in BtS is Liam, who was really strongly based on Matt Lanter from90210. (And he's almost twice Liam's age at this point, so...) I actually really don't like getting too attached to a particular vision of a main character, so Ally's a little bit of an auburn-haired blur to me. As for Vanessa, I hadn't originally given her looks much thought, but at some point I had the thought to make her Korean-American, and when I realized there was no one mainstream to fancast her with, I actually added a lot to the book about the lack of Asian-American representation on television. (Though Jamie Chung circa her season on The Real World would definitely work.)

9. Your next book out is going to be a companion novel. Did you always know you were going to write a companion or was that your editor's idea? Want to share a little bit about it?
It was my idea to write a companion from the perspective of the character of Josh Chester, Liam's Hollywood bad boy best friend who ended up being the favorite of almost every one of my early readers, but it was really just an abstract joke. It was my editor who said, "What if it wasn't a joke?" back when we were formulating my book deal, and that's how the companion happened. By the time we finally talked about the book, though, I'd built up a lot of concerns about writing strictly from Josh's over-the-top world-class jerk POV. So we had a conversation about alternatives, and she mentioned that a couple of people in Editorial at Spencer Hill wanted to know more about Vanessa's story. I, however, felt the most confident about being able to tell Liam's. And so we agreed I would attempt a tri-POV and see how it went. I wrote 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, and sent them to my three CPs who read absolutely everything. Two of them accurately pointed out that a POV could pretty easily be stripped out, and I agreed, chopped 20K, and spent the next 3-4 months writing the last 50K. 
It's still in the earliest stages of editing, but here are five things I can tell you about Under the Lights:
1) It's dual-POV, alternating between the perspectives of two very different celebrities with a love-hate relationship: Josh Chester and Vanessa Park
2) It contains some of my favorite romantic scenes I've ever written, and crossed into some new territory for me
3) Ally and Liam do make appearances
4) Josh...does not undergo any sort of raging personality transformation, much to my family's chagrin
5) It's about as far on the upper end of YA as light contemp gets, in every way
10. After Behind the Scenes and Under the Lights, what comes next?
After those two, I have a completely independent contemporary YA standalone called My Name is Everett, which is set at a New Hampshire boarding school and releases in November 2015. It's actually the book I wrote before Behind the Scenes, and though I hope to do a lot of reworking of the story, I'm just so in love with those characters that I can't wait for everyone else to meet them!

 Isn't Dahlia amazeballs? And doesn't Behind the Scenes sound amazing? You can add it on Goodreads here and follow Dahlia on twitter here to learn everything about publishing and books.

--Julie

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