Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Christopher Grant revisits TEENIE

You know that you've read a great book when the character's voices echo in your head long after you've finished. This is the case with Christopher Grant's debut novel, Teenie. The sound of Martine (Teenie's) parents yelling out, "Mar-tine," in thier thick carribean dialect, passes through my mind as clear as the sound of my mother's voice when she used to call out my name during my teen years. 
Teenie is a cool and comfortable story that you won't be able to put down. It tells the story of a fourteen year old girl, Martine (Teenie) who is book smart and curious about the world. Raised in Brooklyn, Teenie wants to experience love from her high school crush, visit distant places through a study abroad program to Spain and make good grades as her parents have instructed her. But of course life couldn't be so simple. As the story unfolds, Teenie is faced with challenging situations that test her beliefs about her self and what it means to be a real friend. Like so many teen girls growing into womanhood, Teenie's story is familiar with situations so easy to relate to, you would think you were reading through your friend's diary. 
Writing from a young girl's perspective, Grant amazingly address mature situations girls will encounter. Situations like peer pressure, sexual temptations and emotional/physical abuse are covered with a clear message about standing strong in the face of difficult situations. Teenie's story mirrors every girls journey to discover exactly who they are and what they will stand for as young ladies. It is a story of transformation with the beauty unfolding being as captivating as the beautiful brown face on the cover. Please enjoy my interview with Mr. Christopher Grant below.

1. What inspired you to write Teenie?
I had written an adult novel, but was unable to get it published.  However, that novel opened doors for me.  A senior editor at a young adult publishing house read my first novel and asked me if I could write YA.  TEENIE popped into my head.  I read an article around the same time which talked about publishing houses looking for men writing as women.  I grew up in a household dominated by strong female personalities (my mother and her three sisters), and felt I was uniquely equipped to tell a story from the perspective of the opposite sex.

2. How did you prepare and/or transition to write from a young girl's point-of-view?
As I mentioned in the above answer, my upbringing helped a great deal.  In addition to that, I do the majority of my writing on the NYC subway.  You can't ask for a better place to get raw, unfiltered dialogue.  When things needed fine-tuning, my niece was a big help also.

3. What is the central message(s) you would like girls to walk away with?
There a few themes in the story.  In my mind, one of the most important is improving the lines of communication between parents and their children. There should never be a topic that's off limits.  A lot of times, kids get in over their heads and don't feel comfortable talking to their parents.  I hope that by reading this book, and seeing some of the things that TEENIE goes through, kids and parents will realize the importance of fostering a healthy, communicative environment.  

4. Will there be a part two to this book?
I have a sequel mapped out in my head.  When I finish my sci-fi project, I will get back to work on the next installment of TEENIE.

5. Your book covers REAL issues that girls encounter in relationships and in becoming comfortable in their own skin. Were you at all hesitant to write about these issues?
I wasn't hesitant at all.  I did want them to be accurate, and based on the input I got during the process (and the feedback afterwards), I think I did as well as I possibly could have.  When people read this story, I want them to experience the full gamut of emotion, from laughter to genuine concern.  Weaving real life issues into the story was one tool I used to try to keep the reader engaged.

6. The novel centers around school and achieving academic goals.What is your view on education in the lives of teens?
We live in a very competitive world so making the most of an education is of the utmost importance.  Education was something that was stressed in my household.  Though I may have been resentful at the time, I would not be where I am today without my mother pushing as hard as she did.  Growing up, some of my friends used to make fun of me for doing well in school.  I hope kids realize that doing well in school is a good thing.  One of my teachers in high school said it best.  "The person you call nerd in school is the one you call boss at work."

7.What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to read, watch movies, hang out with my friends and family, and play basketball.  That life experience gives me stuff to write about.

8. What are your current writing projects? Anything new coming soon?
I'm working on a sci-fi/fantasy novel.  It should be out late 2013, early 2014.  It's actually more difficult writing sci-fi than it was writing as a girl.

9. What are your favorite books/music/TV shows?
I read all kinds of books and listen to all types of music.  I love YA (Hunger Games, Harry Potter), Junot Diaz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tom Clancy.  I always have a book in my bag.  Music-wise I love Sade, Bob Marley, Kem, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G.,  Kenny G, Adele, Esperanza Spalding, Foo Fighters... and so many more.

10. Are you connected with any social media sites? How can readers interact with you?
twitter: @nycsubwaywriter
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teenie/367409432702 If the link doesn't work, just search for TEENIE.

And there you have it. Told in a simply dialect young adult girls can relate to, Teenie is one of those books you must have and probably will never forget. Be sure to stay tuned for the sequel. I know I will.

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