Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interview with Nova Ren Suma and Contest!!

Sorry, contest is now closed!!!

Here it is, peeps! The DANI NOIR interview, with the Most Fabulous Nova Ren Suma!!

Nova is the author of DANI NOIR, a tween novel about noir-movie-obsessed Dani and the lies she uncovers in her small nothing-ever-happens town, out now in hardcover and ebook from Simon & Schuster / Aladdin. IMAGINARY GIRLS, Nova’s YA debut, is the story of two sisters and their bond that can’t be broken. It is due out in hardcover tentatively in Summer 2011 from Penguin / Dutton.

Also, Nova is immensely cool. Just so you know.

Susan: Tell me your summary of Dani's story.

Nova: Speaking of fabulous, first off, thank you so much, Susan, for having me on your fabulous blog!

DANI NOIR is about liars, cheaters, and all things Rita Hayworth. It follows 13-year-old Dani the summer her best friend has moved away, her brother's away at camp, and her dad's left her mom for another woman. Classic black-and-white film noir movies and the stunning femmes fatales that star in them are Dani's only escape from her boring small town where nothing ever happens, or so she thinks. But when she realizes that someone's been lying, and not in the movies but in real life, she sets out to uncover the truth, no matter who gets hurt on the way...

Susan: I was so impressed with Dani's authentic voice, the authentic headspace of a 13-year-old. Tell me about how you slipped into Dani's skin.

Nova: Oh, thank you! You know, the whole time I was writing the book I felt like I was channeling Dani herself, like she was a real girl. She's a very dramatic character, so it turned out to be a very dramatic summer and fall for me while I was writing this novel. I may have acted out a little, so anyone who knows me, please forgive me! To get inside her head and slip into her skin I sent myself back in time to age 13. I remember the summer before eighth grade so clearly—too clearly—so it felt natural to speak from that voice. And when I felt myself feeling distant from Dani, I'd turn off the lights and watch a scene from a noir movie. Also, copious amounts of ice cream helped.

Susan: There is such a fabulous interplay between two different pieces in the book: Dani's troubles, including her parent's divorce, and her love of film noir movies. How did you come up with that combo?

Nova: I can't separate Dani from her love of film noir movies. I can't imagine a story about her without that interplay, it's so much of how she sees the world. I guess this is why, when I look back at the start of the writing before I decided to write about noir movies specifically, the story was completely flat. She was flat. Sure, Dani existed, but she was nobody special. She could barely carry a scene. Then I had one of those click-worthy moments watching a particular scene in a certain classic noir movie called Gilda. It's the scene where you first see Rita Hayworth.

I saw it through Dani's eyes, imagined her watching it from her lonely seat in the Little Art movie theater, looking up and meeting eyes with Rita Hayworth, and it all sort of fell into place. Once I knew where I was going, I went crazy with it. The "if this were a movie" diversions were my favorite parts of this book to write... could you tell?

Susan: Do you have favorite film noir bits? Are they the same as those in the book? Why?

Nova: If you asked Dani, she'd say her favorite thing about noir films are the femmes fatales, such as her hands-down favorite Rita Hayworth, but she'd also give props to Barbara Stanwyck, Lauren Bacall, and Lana Turner. And if you asked me the same question, I'd have to agree with Dani. Maybe that's why it was so easy to write her: We connect to the same things. So I think you could say that the scenes mentioned in the book are scenes that resonated with me personally, and that's why I shared them with my character.

Here's another scene that stuck with me from Gilda and that Dani also mentions loving:

In one point of the book, the projectionist, Jackson, insists on showing Dani the opening shot of Touch of Evil, which he says is genius because it's one camera moving through the streets without cuts, one of the first times that was done in movies. (View the Touch of Evil opening scene here) In real life it was my husband, an NYU film school grad, who insisted I watch that scene. I remember how excited he was by how skillfully it was done, not a cut until the car blows up at the end—and it sure was pretty impressive—but when I was watching I had the kind of reaction Dani might have had. The whole time I'm going, Yeah, yeah, that's great, but where's the femme fatale?

Susan: I understand you'd ghostwritten some projects before writing DANI NOIR. How many books did you complete before this sale?

Nova: For a few years, I did write a lot of books for kids and tweens under different pseudonyms and house pseudonyms—I lost count at seventeen. That amount probably sounds ridiculous, but only four were novels; the rest were shorter. Before DANI, I also wrote two adult novels of my own that were never published. At one point I remember counting up the pages I wrote in the span of two years—and it was more than a thousand. Let me tell you something about those years: I was tired. Very, very tired.

Anyway, I guess DANI NOIR is technically my seventh novel, but it feels like my first. It's the first original tween novel I ever wrote, and it's the first time someone actually gave me a real shot to publish my own story under my own name. Thank you, Simon & Schuster! Now that the book is out, it's also the first time people are actually reading what I wrote, reading and responding, and that's all new to me. It's a wonderful, exciting, frightening feeling. It took a while, and a lot of pages, to get to this place, but I'm glad it waited to happen with DANI NOIR.

Susan: Talk a bit about your writing process. Outliner or seat of the pants? Quick draft or revise as you go?

Nova: Outside my various day jobs, I am at heart a very disorganized person: scattered, messy, easily overwhelmed and terribly forgetful. This is why I need an outline to write a novel. It's important that I know what I'm in for, that I plan out my story in order to reach the end. Now, what I call an "outline" may look more like a rough or quick draft to another writer, but I like calling it an outline because I don't consider it real writing. I'd prefer not to show these "outlines" to anyone except my husband, who reads everything I write at every stage and helps me make it better (I'm so lucky to have him). No one else should see the outline though. I'm afraid it would make someone who didn't know me not want to read the book!

As for revising as I go, this is exactly how I write a first draft. What I consider a first draft has already been gone over multiple times—so it's maybe a third draft, technically. I do this chapter by chapter, so after writing to the end of one chapter, I spend days (sometimes weeks) rewriting it before hitting the next chapter.

I know that wise writers and writing teachers say that, for a first draft, you should just let your words flow and not get hung up on shaping your sentences at such an early stage, but I can't work that way. I do realize this is a waste of time when big chunks are cut later, or big plotlines changed, but I can't help it. I write in layers: I go over it and over it and over it and the story and the characters come clearer the longer I've spent carving them out. The first words I spit onto the page are never the ones you'll find by the end.

This method may sound painful, but I love it. The rewriting process between my private first draft and the official first draft I'll show readers is the most thrilling, delicious part of writing a book for me. 

Susan: You were one of the leaders of the "twitter-break" last week. Can you talk a bit about your love/hate with social media? Do you think it's valuable to you, or too much of a time-suck?

Nova: I'm so very conflicted about Twitter, mainly because I like it so much. Too much. I'm a very easily distracted person, so I tend to misuse it. I tell myself it's perfectly okay to tweet (or check Facebook) while writing, and then I spend much of my writing time clicking back and forth between windows, reading people's updates, commenting... and there I've lost an hour and my scene feels dead on the page. I have no self-control.

Last fall, while I was writing DANI NOIR, I forced myself to give up Twitter for about two months. And that was before so many people were using Twitter; I followed maybe 20 people. So imagine how much worse it is now to follow hundreds!

Fact is, Twitter is a wonderful tool for authors and, through it, I've connected with so many people in the industry: writers, editors, agents, librarians, reviewers, not to mention it's a great way to keep up with my faraway friends. In fact, Susan, I'm pretty sure that Twitter is how I first connected to YOU! I just need a way to find balance—to write when I'm writing and not let Twitter call me away. That's how this week off Twitter came to be. For me, abstaining like this has been cleansing. I hope to come back to Twitter refreshed and focused, and not let my bad habits hold me back from writing the best novel I can. Fingers crossed.

Susan: What are you working on now? Is there any more to Dani's story?

Nova: I'd love to write another book about Dani—in my mind, her story certainly continues, but there are currently no plans for a sequel. However, as we speak, I am in the midst of developing some new tween novels and there's one especially insistent 13-year-old who's making herself known in my head. I'm excited to try to find her story.

But that's for the future. Because the novel I'm writing under deadline now—the one that's so important to me, I even gave up Twitter for a week!—is due this winter. It's my debut YA novel, and it's called IMAGINARY GIRLS. It's the story of two sisters, their strong bond, and the dead body that threatens to break it. Even though it's for an older audience, you'll find some echoes of DANI NOIR in there: the first-person voice, since I always write in first person, and the place, as IMAGINARY GIRLS is also set in the Hudson Valley, where I'm from. I'm at the point in writing this novel where it's completely taken over all my senses. It feels more real to me than the real life I'm walking around in. This is dangerous, like when I'm outside crossing the street and don't pay attention to oncoming taxicabs, but it's been great for the novel so far. Assuming I make my deadline, look out for IMAGINARY GIRLS from Dutton in, tentatively, Summer 2011.

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Susan! I appreciate the chance to connect with your readers. And if anyone wants to find me elsewhere, my main website is http://novaren.com, and all things DANI NOIR can be found on http://daninoir.com. And... guess what? I'm on Twitter. Feel free to follow me and distract me, within reason!, at twitter.com/novaren.

And now....CONTEST!!

We are giving away TWO prizes:
  1. A *signed* copy of DANI NOIR!
  2. A copy of Rita Hayworth's classic film noir, GILDA, on DVD. (In case you weren't sure you wanted this, go watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzg_1XwzG08&feature=related
Yeah. You really want that, huh? (I DO!)

  • Contest will be open until noon MST on Thursday, November 12.
  • Each point will enter you in the contest once--at the end, I'll do two random draws.
  • You get 1 point for answering the question (comment posted in this thread): What's your favorite noir movie/scene? Or favorite old movie star?
  • 1 point for retweeting my announcement of the contest or tweeting your own
  • 2 points for posting about the contest and interview on your blog (please note in the comments or on twitter the link to your blog!)
Ready? GO!!!


Sean Ferrell said...

Favorite noir: Killer's Kiss (Kubrick).
Favorite noir scene: the climatic fight scene from Killer's Kiss (two guys look like they are REALLY going to kill each other in an attic filled with mannequins; when was the last time you saw a wooden leg used as a weapon... not counting that time on the NYC subway).
Favorite movie star: Cary Grant.

Jo Treggiari said...

Very cool interview. Can't wait to read the book!
I'm a huge Rita Hayworth fan too.

Rachel Simon said...

I have actually seen a noir movie. *gasp* I know. I don't why I haven't! It'll be one of the top things to do on my Thanksgiving break, I promise. :-)

My favorite old Hollywood star is Lauren Bacall. Why? Well besides the dancing and the prettiness, we have the same type of hair. It is tres awesome.

Also I retweeted (as you know).

Have a great day!

Tiffany Schmidt said...

Does Shirley Temple count? She was a favorite when I was little. Sing it with me: "On the good ship Lollypop..."

Already ReTweeted! Great interview!

Bill Cameron said...

It's tough to pick a fave noir, though I really loved "Brick," with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The interplay of contemporary high school social dynamics against a gritty noir backdrop was just brilliant, and the performances were uniformly spot on.

My favorite noir scene is the moment in "Miller's Crossing" when the bad guys come to off Leo and he takes them all out as Danny Boy plays on the gramophone.

Bill Cameron said...

Shirley Temple definitely counts. Is there no deeper existential horror than that revealed through a deconstructive analysis of "Good Ship Lollilop"?

Word Verification: mistort — if it isn't a word, it should be.

Unknown said...

Hi Susan & Nova :)
Thank you for the excellent interview. I really enjoyed learning more about Nova and her writing and Dani Noir. I had no idea Nova had such a wealth of experience in publishing before Dani came out. I write the same way as her, but I am trying the 'just keep writing' mode on NaNo.
My favorite scene is from To Have And Have Not (1944) with Bogart & Bacall:
Bacall: Okay. You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. (She opens his door and pauses.) You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together - and blow.
Bogart: continues to remain seated in his chair, smoking a cigarette. After she has left, he makes the sound of a cat-call whistle - and then chuckles to himself.
I blogged about your excellent interview: http://rkcharron.blogspot.com/2009/11/release-day-tuesday.html
I RTd your announcement
Thank you again for the great interview & a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Dani Noir.
All the best,

Unknown said...

Favorite old movie star: Rock Hudson. :) LOVED Pillow Talk, though I'm pretty sure it's not classified as a noir movie.

Linda G. said...

Great interview! Dani Noir sounds like a fantastic book.

Kim Harrington said...

I don't know if this counts at all, but in my mind it does so here we go: Veronica Mars. Total teen noir!

I also adored BRICK.

I re-tweeted the contest, too! :)

jpetroroy said...

Great interview! I'd love to enter!

+1 My favorite old movie star is Maureen O'Hara

+1 I tweeted at https://twitter.com/jpetroroy/status/5606584481

jpetroroy (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

My favorite old movie star is Bette Davis. "Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

Dee said...

Favorite old movie star is probably Ingrid Bergman. She is just so fabulous!

Favorite film noir star has to be Humphrey Bogart. I know it's not a very original choice, but I love him.

Can you guess what one of my favorite movies of all time is? Casablanca, of course!

Deborah Small said...

Hey, Suze!

Favorite 'old' movie stars...John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn.

And read about your contest here:


Sorry, I still haven't got the Tweet thing down yet. But I posted on FaceBook - does that count?


Anonymous said...

I RT'd the announcement today via @mel_anonymously. Good luck to everyone!

Michelle said...

oh wow - great post!!

Favorite star has to be Lauren Bacall! So gorgeous and has some of the best lines ever!


mmillet at gmail dot com

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Favorite old film star: tie between Grace Kelly & Lucille Ball!