Today in the SP Library, we're talking about a Small Press published book, AU PAIR GIRL by Judy Klass. Need a bonus? We've got a book trailer, and an author interview on everything from traveling to writing YA!
Au Pair Girl
by Judy Klass
Au Pair Girl
Janine Larson is a quiet, responsible kid. But her ditzy friends keep her out past her curfew, and her parents are angry she hasn't found a summer job. They think she spends too much time hanging with her friends and her boyfriend, Dan. Her father arranges for her to spend a month as an au pair girl for Dr. Cargill and his wife; they take their two kids to an island summer vacation home, and Janine goes along. Janine slowly wins the trust of the little boy. She can't get close to his spoiled, snooty sister. But she has bigger problems to worry about, with the rude, unpleasant parents - and the fact that there is something not quite right about the way Dr. Cargill arranges adoptions for "orphan" children. Once the Cargills suspect that Janine knows too much about what is going on, Janine finds that her employers have changed from difficult to deadly . . .
Interview with Judy KlassHi Judy, thanks for stopping by! Can you start us off with the twitter pitch synopsis of AU PAIR GIRL?
Janine gets a summer job as a nanny. Her rude, scary employers on a private island turn out to be deadly when she learns too much about how they make money.
Describe Janine in three words.
Responsible, self-critical, determined.
Janine gets the experience to travel through this summer position - where have you traveled to?
I’m lucky – I’ve gotten to do a lot of traveling. I’ve studied political science in terms of Latin America, and spent time in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. I got to go to Cuba – legally! – in 2000, and that was really cool; Havana felt like this interesting forbidden city, and the Caribbean is beautiful. The whole country is kind of a in a 1950s time warp because of the embargo. The ’57 Chevrolets are amazing. I spent three years in England – got my graduate degree there. And even though I was born in New York, I live in Nashville, Tennessee now because I’m also a songwriter.
What draws you to write YA specifically?
I think I have a good memory of what it was like to be in my teens – how I saw the world. I originally wrote AU PAIR GIRL as a screenplay, and at that time I didn’t see many strong, admirable young female characters in the movies – or in books. I’m glad to say I think that’s really changing now. Anyhow, I wanted to write about a girl like that. I tutor kids in junior high and high school sometimes, and I teach college, so I think I have a sense of what teenagers now are reading, listening to and talking about.
Which young adult book has affected you the most?
I guess Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book A Little Princess is a kid book and doesn’t count, right? I’m afraid I can’t just give you just one. I was very impressed with Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Recently, the Hunger Games books have blown me away; I think they’re terrific. I like Percy Jackson books also. I liked Norma Klein books a lot when I was in school. Another favorite book when I was growing up was Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. She was a great niece of Mark Twain and she has that same amazing, irreverent sense of humor. It’s a letter novel from the p.o.v. of a young woman attending college early in the Twentieth Century. I think I’m a much better letter writer because I read it – again and again.
What's the one piece of advice that you'd like to give to YA writers?
Think about your character until you really hear the character’s voice – and then write down what the character tells you. Don’t tell the character what to say and think. Whenever possible, just be the stenographer and take down dictation, listening to your first-person narrator.
What components do you think are necessary for a successful YA thriller?
I think there has to be some mystery and some twists. And I think for a book to be a page-turner, a reader needs to care about the character. If the main character is superficial or amoral or not believable, the reader is not going to care what happens to him or her, no matter how dangerous and exciting the situation the character gets into might be.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Ideally, when writing, you fly by the seat of your pants and, whenever possible, let the character tell you what happens next, or you let the conflict and tension between the different characters dictate what should happen next. However, with a thriller, you do need to plot to the end and then work backwards. It’s important to plant a few red herrings and to have a sense yourself of where things are going and what the climactic scenes are going to feel like, long before you get there. So, with a story like this I’d have to say: a combination.
What inspired you to write AU PAIR GIRL?
Again, I wrote it originally as a screenplay. I’d heard that a good way to break into the business was with a low-budget thriller script. I had a not-so-great experience as an au pair girl the summer after my first year of college, which I drew on a lot, and I also talked to friends who had had the same kind of job, and some of them had real horror stories. It annoyed me when the film The Hand That Rocks the Cradle came out because it made me think: you know, teenagers living in the houses of adults who push them around are actually not the ones in a position of power. I wrote a fake movie trailer parody of that film (which I admit I’ve never seen) called “The Claw That Holds the Check Book.” My screenplay of AU PAIR GIRL actually got optioned a few times; I lived off the option money some years. But the people who optioned it always wanted to bring in A-list Hollywood writers to re-write it. These guys had never been au pair girls, and I thought their ideas were just cringe-worthy: having the girl in the movie have an affair with the father who employs her and so on. Finally, the company wanted to option it for no money, just offering money in the future, if it got made. I took it back and reconceived it as a novel – telling the story that I wanted to tell.
What part of the publishing process would you consider the most challenging?
It’s a changing world. There’s the whole issue of whether to self-publish or to try to find an agent and an existing press. My book is published by Itoh Press, an indie publisher, but it’s been pretty much up to me to get the word out about it, shoot the trailer, etc.
And a very important question: chocolate or vanilla?
Dark chocolate with hazelnuts.
About the Author: Judy Klass
Judy Klass wrote an original-series Star Trek novel long ago, which is published by Pocket Books. Three of her full-length plays have been produced. One of them, CELL, was nominated for an Edgar and is published by Samuel French. Over twenty of her short plays have been produced, and two of them, YA-themed plays, are published by Brooklyn Publishers. Her short stories have appeared in the Harpur Palate, Asimov's Magazine, Wind Magazine, Satire, Space & Time, Auslander and other publications. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee and teaches at Vanderbilt University and Nossi College of Art.