Aren’t you the lucky ones, that today, for another fab stop on the 2009 Winter Blog Blast Tour, you get to meet the lovely Nova Ren Suma, debut author of the 100% wonderful Dani Noir (which I loved, muchly: read review right now).
I’m so excited to have Nova here, because she is a cool gal and a wonderfully talented fresh new voice in kids’ books. Welcome Nova! Thanks for hanging out with me here today.
I read in another interview that your motto is “What if?” How does this motto influence you as a writer?
First, before I answer all these great questions, let me take a second to tell you how thrilled I am to be interviewed here on Shelf Elf. I’m so glad you enjoyed DANI NOIR!
Now on to the interview… When it comes to writing, I can’t help but keep the question “What if?” in the back of my mind. Even when I’ve outlined an entire novel and think I know exactly what I’m putting down in every chapter, I still can’t be sure if I’ll follow it when the time comes. My characters tend to do things I don’t expect, and I wouldn’t want to stop them. What if she says this? What if she’s hiding that in her pocket? What if he saw? What if…? There are so many ways a story could go, and it comes most alive for me when I keep my mind open to the possibilities. DANI NOIR definitely has a lot of these “What if?” moments.
I ended up asking myself this question in my writing career, too, back when I was struggling to get an agent for an adult novel. It was hard, I won’t lie, but when it wasn’t working out I thought, What if I tried something completely different? And that’s how DANI NOIR came to be. The irony is that writing for tweens and teens turns out to be the perfect fit for me, so maybe I should ask myself the “What if?” question way sooner and far more often.
At the outset of your book, film is an escape for Dani. Later it helps to inform how she sees people and the world and leads her to recognize what is interesting about her own life. Then she is able to step back into real life and in a way, start fresh. How do you experience film – as an escape, as a window to the world, a mirror to your own life…?
Watching a good film is one of my only true escapes. When a movie is on, you usually stay put and watch it all the way through—everything else falls away and you see and hear only what’s up there on screen. When I’m stressed, I want to slip into a movie for a while and forget what’s bothering me. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I’ve been known to procrastinate up to the very edges of a deadline by taking a break to watch a movie.
I guess that’s why the movie theater is an escape route for Dani at the start of the story—it seemed so natural to send her there. Where else could she be so completely transported out of her boring small town where nothing ever happens (or so she thinks…) if not at the movies?
Name 3 films that have changed your life (and tell us why!)
Heathers: So in this cult classic, there’s a clique of three girls named Heather plus one lone Veronica who ends up taking them down. In school—I am not kidding—I did have three friends named Heather, and of course my name is Nova, so I didn’t really fit, but that was just a simple coincidence; “Heather” was a very popular name back then. Really, this movie taught me some meaningful lessons about being a misfit. I’ve learned that I’d rather NOT fit in than turn evil just to be part of the in-crowd. Actually, I don’t even want to be part of a perfectly sweet and non-evil in-crowd. I’d much rather be a Veronica.
Edward Scissorhands: (OK, someone really likes Winona Ryder.) I’ve always loved fairy tales—my favorites, as a kid, were “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Snow Queen”—and this movie brought to life a fantastical modern-day fairy tale in the midst of the suburbs. I love that kind of contrast. It’s movies like this that change me as a writer and inspire me to push boundaries, which is just what I’m doing in my next book.
Gilda: Clearly this movie changed my life because it’s what inspired DANI NOIR. I was floundering with the first chapter, not sure which direction the story should go in, when I saw Gilda, really saw it, for the first time. There was something about the moment when Gilda, played by the fabulous Rita Hayworth, first appears on screen that stopped me in my tracks—I remember standing in the middle of my living room, staring at the TV. All these emotions play across her face—an entire story in a few seconds. I was completely energized. Here’s that moment if you’re curious: http://www.youtube.com/user/novarensuma#p/a/f/0/tgdKgV9Y62w.
Describe Dani. What kind of girl is she?
Dani is thirteen. She’s got a little bit of an obsession with old black-and-white noir movies, and if she could be anyone in the universe she’d be a mysterious and glamorous femme fatale, like her favorite movie star Rita Hayworth. Only thing is… in real life, Dani’s no femme fatale. Not even close. She gets herself into messes and makes mistakes, says a whole lot of things she shouldn’t, and ends up grounded so she can’t even go out at night like any self-respecting femme fatale should. Dani’s trying hard to be someone she’s not, but in doing so she starts to figure out who she maybe really is. Continue reading