Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Interview with Stephanie Parent, author of Defy the Stars

Today I have Stephanie Parent, debut author of Defy the Stars on for an interview. Defy the Stars is a contemporary retelling of Romeo & Juliet written in verse. Read the interview below to find out more!

 Tell us a little about yourself and the book(s) you've written...

I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland and grew up and went to college on the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles to attend grad school.  I’ve always absolutely loved reading, and any skill I have as a writer comes from the huge amount of books I flew though growing up!  However, I resisted the idea of becoming a writer, particularly a novelist, for a long time because I find the actual writing process extremely difficult.  I dabbled in a bunch of different things, including dance, piano, and working with kids, but eventually I had to accept that writing is what I’m most talented at.  I attended the University of Southern California Master of Professional Writing program as a fiction major, but no matter what I had to read for class, I always maintained my lifelong loyalty to children’s and young adult literature!  Since graduating from USC, I’ve been freelancing as an editor for several fiction companies while also working on my own writing.  Outside of writing and reading, I love playing with my dogs going to the beach, and shopping (when I’m not broke!).
As for the books I’ve written, I’ve completed several but am most proud of Defy the Stars, my modern Romeo and Juliet retelling in verse.  My main character, Julia, is a dedicated classical pianist who falls for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks and learns she doesn’t have as much control over her emotions and passions as she’s always believed.  I really enjoyed experimenting with a variety of poetic forms while writing this novel, and it was especially fun to describe Julia’s love for classical piano music, since I studied piano myself as a teenager.  I hope readers enjoy it as well!

How do you choose the names for your characters?

Naming the characters in Defy the Stars was really fun because so many of the names were inspired by characters in Shakespeare’s play.  I’m not going to explain every single correlation, because I think it’s fun for the reader to figure out for him or herself—if you really can’t remember the play, you can always look at the Sparknotes!  However, the one character I do want to mention, since I’m not sure all readers will catch this, is Reed’s brother Cary.  His name actually came from the apothecary in Shakespeare’s play—I was inspired by a few lines, which are quoted in my book, that make the apothecary seem super creepy, almost like a modern drug dealer.  It’s a small detail that most people probably wouldn’t remember from the play, but Shakespeare’s description really helped me develop one of my novel’s villains!

Do you have an acknowledgement section at the end of your book? If yes, can you tell us a little bit more about ONE of the people you mention?

My acknowledgments are actually at the beginning of the book, and I thanked a lot of really amazing people, but one person who’s particularly worth mentioning is Nancy Lara.  I began volunteering with the organization WriteGirl a few years ago, and I was lucky enough to be paired with a Los Angeles high-schooler I meet with once a week to work on our writing and discuss books.  I met Nancy when she was thirteen, and over our two years of working together, I’ve been totally blown away by her enthusiasm for writing and reading.  In fact, it was our weekly writing sessions that really encouraged me to attempt novel-length works.  I can truly say that if it wasn’t for Nancy, I would never have had the motivation to finish a book, much less publish one!

3 books to help you wait out a zombie apocalypse are...
1.       Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy—I’ve always wanted to read this, but since it’s so long and I’m a slow reader, I’ve never gotten around to it. But assuming I’m spending the apocalypse hiding and not actually fighting zombies, I think it would be the perfect time to immerse myself in nineteenth-century Russia! 

2.       Great Expectations by Charles Dickens—another really long, immersive reading experience I’ve always wanted to lose myself in but haven’t gotten around to yet.  I have read parts of this one, though, and I just love the gothic atmosphere and Miss Havisham. 

3.       Les Miserables by Victor Hugo—Yup, another doorstop classic I haven’t read yet.  I chose this one in particular because I hope it would remind me that, no matter how awful the zombie apocalypse is, it just might be preferable to being poor during the French Revolution!

Do you have a book crush? Who is it?

I have a huge crush on Nick from Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon trilogy.  It’s hard to say too much about Nick without giving away a major spoiler for those who haven’t read the series, so I’ll just say that for me, he’s the perfect bad boy with a vulnerable side and a surprising, completely unexpected heart.

You are invited to a masquerade/halloween party. Who (or what) do you dress as?

Definitely a fairy!  I have been OBSESSED with fairies my entire life, and as a child I would have done almost anything to become one—or just find one in my backyard flower garden!  Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a pair of gossamer wings!

What advice would you give your teen readers about life?

I’d tell teens to be willing to slow down, allow themselves to take chances and make mistakes, and be gentle and forgiving with themselves.  There’s so much pressure on today’s teens to constantly be doing and achieving, whether it be in academics, social situations, sports, or any number of other areas.  Add to that the distractions of the Internet, Facebook, texting, movies, TV and pop culture, and it can be very easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of what’s really important.  In our fast-paced culture, it’s hard to remember that we can’t do everything, and we certainly can’t do everything perfectly.  It’s easy to burn yourself out in the race to achieve and do do do, and I hope teens will remember to take time for themselves—it will make them happier, more self-aware and more successful in the long run.

Thank you for sharing with us today, Stephanie! You can read more about Stephanie’s and her new book below:

 Book Summary:

Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories. 

Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.

Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.

Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a story, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.

You can find it on:

Author Bio:

Stephanie Parent is a YA author repped by Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major.

You can find her on:
Twitter: @BookCrazySteph

A note from Erika: Be sure to read my upcoming review and enter the giveaway for a copy of Defy the Stars, coming this Friday!


  1. Christina K. in the rafflecopter

    It's great how she picked names! Very original and thank you for pointing out a less than glaring correlation - although I'm sure there's a role for the new apothecary:)

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