Speed of Life
1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?
I lost my beloved father when I was 25 and I knew that I wanted to write about what it takes to just keep going. As an advice columnist for teens, I have also received many letters from girls who have had terrible losses and don’t realize that grief takes time. You can’t rush it. You aren’t going to suddenly “get over it.” You will, however, survive, and perhaps be a wiser and more compassionate person. But teens sometimes get impatient with themselves just when they should be giving themselves a break. I wanted to write about first loss and first love.
2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
Sofia, 14, thinks her life is over when really it is just beginning. Speed of Life is about one year in the life of a girl who has to make that enormous leap from middle school to high school. Spoiler alert: She manages! Target reader? The publisher says “Age 11 and up,” but of course this author hopes people of all ages will enjoy this story.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
Time stretches. Sometimes you remember every second clearly—whether because of good news or bad news. Also, while there are sometimes sudden sadnesses, there can also be sudden joys too. I think Speed of Life will give readers a look at what it’s like to be 14, when a party can feel like a minefield, and kiss can open up the world. It will also amuse readers to get to know an advice columnist — we don’t really have all the answers all the time.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
Hang in there. This book took years to write. Sometimes it’s okay to put a manuscript in a drawer for a while because then when you take it out, you read it with fresh eyes and it’s easier to edit. I also love feedback, so my acknowledgments tend to go on and on. I like to have friends and relatives and fellow writers and young people look at my work before I give it to agents or editors. You have to go through not two or three drafts but dozens, scores. Write and rewrite until you get it right.
5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
I don’t think about trends. I think about what I like to write and what I like to read.
6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
I first wrote Speed of Life in third person and I had four different POVs. (Sofia, Gregg, Kate, Alexa). Then I rewrote the book in the voices only of the two teen girls. Then I wrote it only in Sofia’s voice, but still third person. Finally I rewrote the book one final time and made it first person from Sofia’s point of view. The good news: I really came to understand all my major characters. The bad news: This misbegotten method took forever.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
Wow, that statement seems a bit arrogant. But one good thing about reading Speed of Life, or any of my other books, dare I add?, is that they’re substantive but fun too. If you start Speed of Life, I think you’ll want to finish. And if you’re only going to read one book this month, it should certainly not be put-down-able.
Carol Weston has been the Dear Carol advice columnist at Girls’ Life since 1994. Her sixteen books include Ava and Pip (which the New York Times called “a love letter to language”), Ava and Taco Cat, Ava XOX, The Diary of Melanie Martin, and Girltalk, which came out in a dozen languages. Weston has been a guest on The TODAY Show, The View, and Oprah, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Parenting, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen. She has had over 45 letters to the editor in The New York Times. Carol studied literature at Yale, graduating summa cum laude, and has an MA in Spanish from Middlebury. She lives in Manhattan. For more on Weston, please visit www.carolweston.com and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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