At the very least, catch this interview with the author of Soul Enchilada, Mr. David Macinnis Gill (whose birthday is, incidentally, Sunday the 10th).
I'm cross-posting the entire interview here, because I can:
1. I’ll start with the obvious question. On the surface, you and Bug don’t have much in common, so where did the character Bug Smoot come from?
I taught at an urban high school for several years (I graduated from the same school years earlier), and the kids there still haunt me. Kidding! There were so many 'characters' in my classroom that I can still hear their voices. Bug is an amalgamation of many students I had over the years. Her strength, her skills, her attitude were all things I picked up as teacher. Bug's smart mouth, though, that's all me.
2. Soul Enchilada is your first novel in publication, but it’s not the first book you’ve written. Tell us a little about your path to publication.
Oy, what a path! Little do you know what can of worms you just opened. I wrote my first short stories while I was in high school, and they were published a year later in the college literary magazine. And then, because I had some early success, I did the most incomprehensible thing possible: I stopped writing stories.
Flash forward seven years. I started a Masters program in education and took creative writing classes as part of my English requirements. Under the tutelage of my fiction professor, Ken Smith, I started writing stories again. Two of them were published quickly, and one drew the attention of an agent, Nat Sobel, who encouraged me to write novels. However, and I wasn't able to give the agent anything he could sell. So history repeated itself, and I stopped writing again, this time to get a doctorate.
Flash forward again, to the twenty first century, when I decided to embrace my inner teen and write for young adults. Three YA novels and a few close but not quite calls later, I came up with the idea of what would become Soul Enchilada. After joining an amazing online critique group, I got the feedback and affirmation I needed to catch an agent's attention (Rosemary Stimola). After a few more close calls and a major revision, and the novel sold in December 2007 to Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow.
3. Word on the street is that Soul Enchilada’s audio rights have already been sold. If I have my way, the movie rights are next. If that happens, who do you imagine could play Bug Smoot on the big screen? What about her boy, Pesto?
Hmm. You're making me think here. I've never imagined Bug's face. The role of Bug will take an actress with the chops to pull off outer toughness, inner marshmallow, and athletic prowess, all with comedic timing. I don't know of any actress who fits that bill. Since neither my editor nor I wanted Bug's face on the book jacket, I'll let someone else handle that decision. Pesto is a little easier. Sort of a taller, geeky Lou Diamond Phillips with longer hair and cooler clothes.
4. There’s a lot of talk of the underworld in your book, and the way the devil and his cohorts are portrayed in the book is fascinating. Can you tell us how these developments came about?
The germ of the idea for Soul Enchilada started as informal Halloween writing contest among some writer friends. Someone gave me the story seed of a 'chocolate crucifix' that had to be worked into the story. I immediately flashed on the image of a teen holding a pair of Twix bars fending off a vampire. Except a vampire was way too easy, so I tried to think of some other supernatural creature, one that would be offended by chocolate--clearly, it had to be evil because chocolate is everything that is good in the world. For years, I'd carried the phrase "repossession is 9/10ths of the law" in my head, and finally, I had a story for it. I imagined a demon possessing a car. Not possessing, but repossessing, and I wondered what kind of person would be a terrific foil for a repossession demon. After they bought the book, the good editors at Greenwillow asked me to expand the mythology of the demon world, so using a little bit of the Old Testament, Greek mythology, the US Government, and Eastern folklore, I invented the demonic bureaucracy you find in the book.
5. Bug is so strong, despite (or perhaps because of) the challenges she’s faced in her life. What was the most challenging part of writing Bug’s story?
The second act! No, really, the challenge in writing in Bug's voice is reining her in. She is so strong, and I can hear her so well, she can take the narrative away. She also has such thick armor, it's always a challenge to show that the armor is there to protect her gooey marshmallow center.
6. You’re president of The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents. You’re an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where you teach English teachers how to teach. Obviously, literature for young adults is an important part of your life. Why do you care so much about what young people are reading?
I care THAT young people are reading more than WHAT they're reading. As a teacher, I quickly learned that the traditional literary canon was useless in terms of inviting average readers into the world of reading, so I sought out books they would read. YA novels were one form of literature that they would pick up independently, so I decided to embrace what they were reading instead of constantly forcing them to read what I was reading. Over time, I began to enjoy YA literature as a reader myself.
7. Soul Enchilada debuts in April of 2009. How will you celebrate Bug’s release? I’m picturing a “Men in Black” theme party with Mariachi Bands and lots of Mexican Soul food.
You're hired! Your party sounds like a blast. I haven’t made any definite plans about a launch party because I'm a terrible planner, and large events require fiddly details that give me hives. I'll probably impose on a close friend to save me.
8. Hot Seat: Title of the book nearest to you right now?
Paper Towns by John Green
Title of the last book you read completely through?
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Title of your favorite book when you were 15-years-old?
Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson
Title of your favorite book now?
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Phenomenal novel.
The nicest author you know?
There are so many, don’t make me pick.
The smartest author you know?
How did you really get Chris Crutcher and Melissa Marr to blurb your book?
Straight cash, homey. Seriously, they are both generous, kind people who were willing to help a debut author out. I'm very lucky.
9. What can your fans expect from you after Soul Enchilada?
At this very moment, I'm revising a YA mystery called Tin City Bones. It's CSI Meets The Andy Griffith Show. I would like to get back to writing short stories, too.
10. When you’re old and gray, what do you hope your writing career’s looked like? What do you want your tombstone to say?
I have the modest hope that my books will outlive me. My tombstone will say vacancy.
Having had the opportunity to read SOUL ENCHILADA before its official publication date, I can personally vouch for the greatness of Bug Smoot and all the characters of the book. Being a friend of David Macinnis Gill's, I can personally vouch for the author too. I may be biased, but I'm also right about this one! ~JMP~