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Friday, September 11, 2009

Chick Chat: Shana Norris

Shana Norris is the author of Something to Blog About and the newly released Troy High, a modern retelling of Homer's Iliad. For more information about Shana and her books, check out her website.

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Did you always want to be an author? If so why? If not what did you want to be?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since around the age of nine. I’ve always loved telling stories and as a kid I would make my own little books out of construction paper that I folded in half and stapled in the middle. Even before I started writing stories down, I was making up stories that I would make my younger brothers and sister listen to—even if they didn’t really want to listen! But before I decided I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a ballerina and an archeologist and a teacher. All at the same time! I had it figured out that I could be a teacher during the school year, a ballerina on weekends, and then an archeologist during summer vacations. As I got older, I figured out that plan probably wouldn’t work out as well as I thought, so I decided to become a writer.

Is being an author what you expected?
In some ways, yes, because I get to go to conventions and booksignings and connect with readers and hear what they think of my characters. That’s really fun and it’s a part of being an author that I was looking forward to experiencing. But in other ways, it’s not what I expected. I used to think authors were so glamorous and led such exciting lives, always jetting off from one part of the world to another, meeting celebrities and going to all these exciting places just because they’re authors. But my life as an author is still pretty much the same as my life before I got published. I still work a day job in addition to writing, I still have to do the dishes each night rather than have someone who does all of that for me. Most of my time being an author is spent alone, typing in my living room with my dogs and cats all sleeping around me. Being an author is really not as glamorous as I thought! But it is tons of fun and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

What made you decide to retell Homer’s Iliad for teens?
I’ve loved Greek mythology ever since I learned about it in seventh grade English class. I just fell completely in love with all of the gods and goddesses and the unlucky mortals that got caught up in their stories. I knew that I wanted to retell a story from Greek mythology, I just wasn’t sure which one until a few years ago when I was rereading some information about the Trojan War. The idea for a high school version of Helen of Troy hit me and as I played around with the idea and remembered my own high school experiences, football stood out as the perfect way to have the two opposing sides battle to prove their superiority. And the love triangle of the Helen of Troy story already makes a great high school conflict on its own, so the whole story was a lot of fun to write and reinvent for a modern setting.

Many teens dream of becoming authors. What advice would you give to writing teens?
I know everyone says this, but it’s true: keep writing. I wrote all the time as a teen. I have notebooks full of stories and character notes from that time. Every time I wrote a story, even if it was terrible, I still learned and grew as a writer. Writing a lot before you start focusing on getting published is very valuable practice for making a career in writing because you can explore different styles of storytelling and different kinds of characters without having to please anyone other than yourself. You can figure out what stories you like writing best and what your writing voice is. Then, when you do start trying to get published, my advice is to not let rejection get to you. Everyone gets rejected, it’s part of the process of becoming a writer. Whenever I got rejections, I kept telling myself, “If I give up now, I’ll never know if the next story I sent out would have been the one that got me published.” All it takes is one editor who likes your work enough to change you from an aspiring writer to published writer.

Would you rather see your book turned into a TV show or a movie?
I think either one would be fun, but I would probably say TV show only because there’s more chance to get invested in the characters and the story through watching a season or two of TV episodes than just one hour and a half long movie. A TV show would give a chance to explore more of the world of Troy High and introduce new problems for the characters and let them grow, which could be a lot of fun.

If you could cast anyone to play your characters what would your dream cast be?
Ooh, this is a good question! I have a weakness for Michael Cera as the nice guy who is a little goofy at times and so I would pick him for Greg. In fact, in my Troy High behind the scenes notebook that I used while writing the book to keep track of notes and things, I do have a picture of Michael Cera stapled to the info sheet about Greg. I could see Cody Linley as Perry and Ellen Page or Miranda Cosgrove would be a cute, sarcastic Cassie. Channing Tatum is who I’ve always had in mind for Hunter so he would be perfect in the part. Drew Roy would be a good Lucas because he has the right look. I’d love Corbin Bleu as Owen and Keke Palmer as Mallory. (Wow, I watch a lot of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon! I keep thinking of actors from their shows.) And I think Taylor Kitsch from “Friday Night Lights” would be a great Ackley. As for Elena, she’s always been hard for me to cast. Her picture in my Troy High notebook is just some random model from a magazine ad whose name I don’t know. But just recently I’ve thought that Meaghan Jette Martin, the actress who plays Bianca in the new “10 Things I Hate About You” TV show, might make a good Elena. Her bubbly personality on 10 Things is perfect for Elena in Troy High.

Which one of your characters do you identify with the most?
I think I’m a combination of Cassie and Greg. I definitely know what it’s like to feel like an outsider like Cassie and to feel ignored by everyone around me. But I’m not quite as sarcastic as Cassie can be. My personality probably is more similar to Greg’s. Loyal to my friends and family, afraid to just say what’s on my mind at times, and trying to keep the peace as much as I can but getting involved when I have to.

Besides writing and reading, what else are you passionate about?
I’m really addicted to scrapbooking. I have a whole scrapbook area set up where I work and lots of finished scrapbooks already. In fact, I’m running out of room to put more!

Are you working on anything new? If so, what and when can readers expect to see it in stores?
I am working on what I hope will become my third book. There’s nothing definite on it yet, so unfortunately I don’t have an estimate right now of when it will be in stores. But readers can always keep an eye on my blog and I’ll post any news that comes up over there! I’m really excited about the book I’m working on though, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will make its way into stores in the next year or so. The main character is so different from who I am as a person that it’s fun and interesting to step into her shoes and see life through her eyes.

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