Into YA with Shana Youngdahl
I'm so excited to announce this interview with Shana today. Her book blew me away and kept me prisoner on the couch while I raced to finish it. I loved how she took such a complex format and ambitious story and made it feel so easy. I really admire that as a writer and enjoy it as a reader. If you haven't had the chance to read As Many Nows As I Can Get, check out my review for some context on what we talk about.
Anyway, I'll let you get to the interview, but I want to thank Shana for doing this interview and chatting with me cause she really is the sweetest.
1. The book is told out of sequence covering a broad span of time from senior year, the summer after, and through the entire freshman year of college. Did you write the book out of order or did you piece it together later? Was that your original plan? Did it take very intricate plotting to piece together a very specific way?
Yes, it’s non-linear to reflect Scarlett’s understanding of time. It mostly covers her Senior year and first year of college, but there are even some scenes that go back to her Sophomore year. In terms of writing it, my process was very messy. I don’t as a rule write anything in order which is one way I fend of getting stuck. Each day when drafting I wrote scenes that I knew would be part of Scarlett’s story, and eventually I put it in a linear order but that was only to figure out how to take it out again. When I did that I figured out I needed the “now” timeline. So I guess I always knew the story wasn’t going to be linear, it did take a lot of intricate scrambling. Even once I wrote the “now” timeline things moved around for many more drafts.
2. The book takes place mostly after high school and during college. I would love to see this more in YA! Was this your original time frame for the story? Did you get any pushback on having the characters be mostly 18 and over?
I’m a huge fan of YA goes to College in general. I work with mostly first-year college students and I think literature that reflects all the transitions that happen during this time is critically important. This was absolutely my original time frame for the story. I didn’t ever get any pushback. This story couldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the college story line. It would just be a completely different book. I’m so happy there is room for YA in college now. We need it.
3. The book deals with a lot of intense subject matter. Was the entire concept of the book clear to you from the start, or did you add plot points as you wrote and discovered?
Ok I’m going to try and answer this without spoilers—for the most part I knew that the major issues in the book would be there but exactly how they would play out was something that I discovered along the way. My writing education is in poetry and, I think partly for this reason, I’m not a plotter. I am much more interested in feeling my way through a story and listening to what it needs. Sometimes I looked at everything that happens in my book and thought—wow, Shana that is high drama, how are you going to pull that off? But you know what, life is high drama. The time around going off to college often sees young people dealing with lots of pretty intense subject matter, and unfortunately often without the support they need to process it all. Scarlett’s family probably would help her out, but the narrative of being adult and dealing with things on your own is another way in which young people don’t always get the assistance they need at this time in their lives. But you know what that is a lie too because being an adult means figuring out how to get the help you need when you need it. This is a lesson I want all my students and readers to learn, if you need help, please seek it out. There are people to support you even if it doesn’t feel like it.
4. You weave a beautiful tapestry with the book, and all the characters feel so vivid. Did you do anything special to get to know your characters better? Do you have any tips for writers looking to get into the voice of a variety of characters?
Thank you. I did a lot of writing and rewriting and reading aloud. I also observed people as much as I could. And I learned this great trick from my then ten-year old daughter which is to take personality quizzes as your character. She was doing NANOWRIMO in school and when she told me she did this I was blown away. So because of her I took quizzes as all the side characters and it really helped me to think about how they would react in different situations (even just being asked tacos or pizza is helpful when you are building character). I never had to do this for Scarlett though, she came to me through a lot of drafting.
5. I’m a huge fan of your writing style, and I can’t wait to see what your next books will hold. Do you have any new projects planned or at a point where you can share anything about them?
Thanks for asking. I’m working on a new novel for young adults right now about what family, home and the objects for our lives really mean especially when they are destroyed or redefined through ecological disaster. The main character is skilled with computers and has some really hip Totoro sneakers, but it’s early so maybe everything will still change. . .
Books By This Author...
As Many Nows As I Can Get: Review Here
Links of Interest:
Permanent Record: Review Here
She's The Worst: Review Here
The Sun Is Also A Star Movie: Here
Into YA with Sonia Hartl: Here