Interview with Emily Howse

Emily Howse is the author of the YA/MG 2011 debut, Zitface. Mrs. Howse has been so amazing as to answer questions about herself and her novel, and so without further delay, roll in the questions!
What music do you like listening to?  Alt/indie rock, mainly (ieWeezer and Green Day), but I like songs in all genres, and I love the GLEE CDs.

What are your favorite books? Which book(s) are you currently reading/finished recently? I enjoy reading memoirs most--interesting stories about 'ordinary' people. I just finished "This Is Not the Story You Think It Is," about an aspiring female writer enduring a difficult life phase.What'syour dream vacation spot? No one particular spot, but I relish visiting different areas. I hung out in Maine last summer, and I'm headed to Asheville , North Carolina soon. Abroad, Ireland is my 'happy place,' but I love traipsing around the globe!
What's your favorite Movie/TV Show? Actor/Actress? TV shows, it's a toss-up: 'Glee,' 'Breaking Bad,' and 'Mad Men.' Actresses: Naomi Watts and Julianne Moore, for their versatility. Actors: I love me some Jon Hamm! He's so serious as Don Draper on 'Mad Men,' but is a big comic goof when he hosts Saturday Night Live. I like people who don't take themselves too seriously.

What's your secret talent? Wish I had one! I'm good at yoga; I do a mean downward dog. Does that count?

Favorite Food? Weirdest thing you've eaten? Sushi...sometimes I really crave it. Can't think of any really weird food I've eaten. When I was in Kazakhstan (former Soviet Union country) adopting my daughter, I ate many unfamiliar meals, but they were tasty.

Pick this or that:
  • Rain or Shine? I need both, but nothing beats a gray, rainy day as an excuse to burrow on the couch and read a good book.
  • Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt? Low-sugar frozen yogurt topped with fruit, nuts, and chocolate sauce. Whipped cream if I'm living dangerously.
  • Indoors or Outdoors? Outdoors. My husband and I are considering moving to Colorado . Texas summers (I live in Dallas ) are hot and miserable.
  • Dog or Cat person? I grew up with cats, but now I love dogs, thanks to our sweet family rescue mutt, Lady.

What gave you the inspiration for ZITFACE?
As a young teen, I wanted to be an actress. I signed with an agency, and did a little acting (emphasis on 'little'). When I started high school, I became more interested in my social life than auditioning. Later, in my early twenties, I got adult acne--it lasted off and on, for years. So I combined my knowledge of acting and acne in ZITFACE.  

You touch upon quite a few problems with children and teens today with acne (of course!), popularity, peer pressure, divorce etc. What do you want readers to take from your novel?
That everyone suffers, in their own way...and has to figure out how to get through it. Olivia struggles, but she gradually accepts some tough changes, and realizes she's better off, as a result. Also, while people sometimes feel alone, they don't have to be--it's okay to lean on family and friends, when you're hurting. 

How did you come up with your characters? Do you see yourself in any of them?
Though I relate most to Olivia, there's a part of myself in every character: Olivia's mom's job dissatisfaction (been there!), Wendy's brashness (I've been known to 'mouth off'), and Theo's medical condition (I was diagnosed with arthritis in my thirties, though it's well-controlled). I'm least like Jenna...I've never been a brainiac Type A over-achiever!

If ZITFACE were to become a movie, what's your dream cast?
Great question. Only I can't come up with young teen actors...just older ones. Olivia (Emma Roberts), Jenna (Selena Gomez), Wendy (Taylor Swift), J.W. (Zac Efron), Theo (Kendall Schmidt of 'Big Time Rush'). 

Is there a certain song which you think fits the novel?
The Sum 41 pop song "In Too Deep." It's about a romantic break-up, but some lyrics are pretty apt: 'Cause I'm in too deep, and I'm trying to keep, all the thoughts in my head, instead of going under...' It fits because Olivia's dealing with many emotions: she's stressed about her acting career, is worried J.W. might stop liking her, has a strained relationship with her dad, etc. It's interesting to me that Olivia's acne has a ripple effect: it impacts so many areas of her life. 

Did you always want to be an author?
Yep, ever since I was ten and reading Judy Blume books...and the Laura Ingalls Wilder 'Little House' books...and Nancy Drew, among many others. I liked playing with friends, but whenever I wasn't, I was reading. 

Do you have any writing tips for those aspiring writers out there?
Accept that writing is a requires patience and time. While working on ZITFACE, I tried to write/edit at least two hours every weekday. Some weeks I was more productive than others, and I'd keep going after the two hours were up. Other times I couldn't wait to stop! Small breaks are okay, but if too many days pass without writing, it's hard to get back into it. So determine a realistic writing schedule, and try to stick to it. Also, before writing a book, I wrote some articles and short stories for magazines...seeing my name in print gave me the confidence to write more.

Are there any future projects which MG and YA lovers should look out for?
I'm writing a sequel featuring Olivia's frenemy, Wendy. I get that she's not totally likable in ZITFACE, but there's truly more substance to Wendy, and I wanted her to have her own story, in which she grows...and she'll grow on you, I promise!

Find Emily Howse:

Thank you so much to Emily Howse for taking the time to answer all these questions. I LOVED Zitface and can't wait for the sounds very promising! (and I've got "In Too Deep" by Sum 41 stuck in my head!)

Zitface by Emily Howse

Thirteen-year-old Olivia Hughes knows what she wants to do with her life—be an actress. And she’s already on her way. She just landed a national ad campaign that should get her noticed.

But then her luck runs out. A little pimple turns into a full-blown case of acne, with serious side effects for her career, relationships, and budding romance with J.W., the new guy at school.
Now all Olivia wants to do is hide, but she can’t. She goes from being the girl at school everyone wants to be…to Zitface, a girl who is teased, dumped, and even fired.
What do you do when you’ve lost control of everything in your life? Olivia has to find out the hard way. And maybe, what she finds isn’t so bad after all.

1 comment:

  1. Fun interview! I like reading authors answers. I've got this one down to read but who knows when I'll get to it. Sigh!


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