I’ll say it loud – I love young adult books and I’m proud! Typically I gravitate toward the dark and spooky stuff, but something about this fun little coming-of-age adventure really caught my eye. Perhaps I was allured by the Mexico shenanigans, which really takes me back to my glory days when I spent my weekends drinking it up in Tijuana and Rosarito. Ahhh Pappas and Beer…how I miss thee. Yes, I was a bit of a bad girl back in the day, but if it wasn’t for Tijuana, I never would’ve met my husband!
But I digress, this is an AMAZING book, and I had a ton of fun reading it all the way through in one Saturday. Not since Flowers In the Attic have I been so enamored by a young adult book. Don’t judge, you know those smutty, incestuous books were crazy addictive back in the day!
So while I was tearing through the pages, I kept wondering how the heck the two authors found the perfect movie quotes for each chapter, which character they like the most, and whether they’ve experienced the gorgeousness of Ensenada for themselves. Luckily I was able to wrangle an interview with Stacy Kramer, one of the two lovely ladies who masterminded this rollercoaster ride of thrills, romance and teenage angst.
What made you decide to get together with Valerie Thomas and co-write a young adult adventure/romance novel?
Valerie and I are good friends. We met years ago while both working as film producers. We then both segued, around the same time, to becoming writers. Just for fun, we decided to work together on a screenplay and ended up selling it to Twentieth Century Fox. It was a great experience and while Valerie eventually decided to go back to school to pursue a graduate journalism degree at Columbia University and I went on to write film and television, we always knew we wanted to work together again. Over lunch one day, a few years later, we were discussing the possibility of writing together again when we landed on an idea that we both loved and realized it would be best suited for a young adult novel, rather than a film. That idea eventually became KARMA BITES, a middle grade novel for Houghton Mifflin.
I’m curious about how you and Valerie seamlessly wrote a page-turning story filled with complex characters and rollicking adventures. What is your secret?
Our secret is simple, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, until eventually, our voices merge and there is no distinguishable difference between what Valerie wrote and what I wrote. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to tell who wrote what since we’ve both rewritten each other so much.
What are the perks and challenges of co-authoring a book?
I feel like it’s all upside, at least right now, after having two published novels (KARMA BITES and FROM WHAT I REMEMBER) and two new novels just recently finished. Talk to us in a few years, maybe we’ll change our mind and be fighting like cats and dogs. But, so far, it’s been great to have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to break story with, someone to complain to, someone to commiserate with and someone to laugh with. I don’t think I could nor would I want to do it alone after having worked together on four books. It’s too much fun doing it this way. If it ain’t broke and all that…It’s also like having a built in editor, which is great. So by the time our books make it to our editors, they often feel like most of their work has already been done.
All of the characters in your book are endearing in their own ways – even the high school mean girl! If you could go out to lunch with one of them, who would you choose?
Hands down, Will. He’s both of our favorites. He’s funny, smart, charming, snarky and endearing, everything I look for in a lunch date. Personally, I could have lunch with him every day.
I got a big kick out of the foreshadowing movie quotes at the start of each chapter. How did you go about selecting the perfect quotes?
It was a bit of a process. We started by culling our favorite movie quotes from our favorite movies. It was a fun project and a great way to postpone actual writing (which is something every writer looks for in their day). After a week or so, we had lists and lists of fantastic quotes, too many to use. After we wrote each chapter, we’d pore through our lists and choose the quote that best matched the tone of the chapter. Once we finished the book, we changed a lot of the quotes but made sure to keep our favorites in there.
The picturesque backdrop of the Mexican coast really set the mood for romance and adventure. How did you become familiar with Ensenada?
We’ve both road tripped to Ensenada. I lived in L.A. for ten years, during which time I must have made ten or so road trips into Baja (one particularly treacherous one where my front tire blew and since it was a Mexican holiday, I couldn’t get the tire repaired and had to drive forty miles and back over the border with a flat until I could find a service station in San Diego). I always loved Ensenada for it’s quirky scenery, the fun mix of people and the delicious food. Valerie grew up in Berkeley, California and went down to Ensenada for a holiday with friends. It’s a fun town and a perfect setting for a rollicking adventure. Once we decided we wanted to have Kylie and Max taken over the border inadvertently, Ensenada was a natural destination. Toronto seemed slightly less exciting (no offense to Toronto, I actually love it there, it’s just a different scene).
If you could go back in time and have your own pre-graduation adventure with your high school crush, where would you go?
We’d both love to have Kylie’s adventure, which is, in part, why we wrote it. Sort of living vicariously and all that. I grew up in Pittsburgh so the closest border I could get to was Canada, which wasn’t very inviting. And Val, in Northern California, was quite far from any actual borders for a day trip. Ideally, I think, if I could live anywhere and go anywhere on my own hypothetical high-school adventure in the way back machine, I’d choose to live in London and then get lost in Paris with the boy of my dreams.
Could you give me a sneak peek into what you’re working on now?
We’ve just finished two new novels and can’t wait for people to see them. We’ll let you know when they’re coming out, just as soon as we know. One is called FAKER and it’s set in the world of Hollywood but that’s all we can tell you as there’s a big secret at the center of the book and if we tell you the secret, we’d have to kill you (not really, but it would be a HUGE spoiler). It’s a romantic comedy, although less of an adventure than FROM WHAT I REMEMBER and slightly more poignant. The second book is called SURFACE BURN and it’s a bit of a departure for us as it’s a thriller, set in Berlin and involving uranium smuggling. It’s about a teenager who’s forced to rescue her father when he’s kidnapped. It’s a bit of a reverse TAKEN.