Hey all! Welcome to this year's annual Debut Authors Bash.
The Debut Authors Bash is an event that YA Reads started in 2013. This is an event to promote debut authors through reviews, guest posts, interviews, promo posts, etc. This year's Bash runs from December 1st through December 15th.
The author I will be featuring today is the lovely Sona Charaipotra!
Sona Charaipotra is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by major media from the New York Times to TeenVogue. She is the author of the Tiny Pretty Things series (with co-author Dhonielle Clayton) published via HarperTeen. The second book in the series, Shiny Broken Pieces is TBR July 2016.
Sona received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. Thanks to a Masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films), Sona is a strong believer that three-act structure can work in fiction, too. She is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent.
Want to learn more about Sona and her books? Read on for an exclusive interview...
Booknut: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview today, Sona! It truly is a pleasure to have you on the blog.
Sona: Thank you so much for chatting all about Tiny Pretty Things with me! It’s a privilege to be here!
Booknut: Tell us a little about yourself. What inspired you to be an author? What is your favourite genre(s) to write?
Sona: I’ve been writing forever – I’m a journalist (you can find my byline everywhere from the New York Times to People to TeenVogue!) and I used to write screenplays. But when I started writing fiction more seriously, I knew I needed guidance. My writer husband suggested I get my MFA, and I started writing YA while in the program at the New School.
That’s where I met Dhonielle. We were the two chatterboxes of the class, and we’d trade pages and meet up to chat about books and The Vampire Diaries over pepperoni pizza at Patsy’s. We also kept talking about how we never saw ourselves in books as kids – so we eventually teamed up to co-found CAKE Literary, a boutique book packager with a strong focus on diversity. Tiny Pretty Things was CAKE’s first project. Shiny Broken Pieces, the sequel, is due July 12. And CAKE will have more news to share soon!
I usually write contemporary, but right now, I’m working on my first fantasy – and I’m super-excited about it!
When I’m not lost in storyland, I’m cooking, reading, drinking chai, or hanging out with my two chatterboxy kids and my writer husband.
Booknut: You’re the author of the wonderful Tiny Pretty Things series. What was your inspiration for the series?
Sona: Dhonielle and I both danced when we were little – I quit when I was 11, and never got on pointe. But really, Dhonielle taught high school English at a cutthroat ballet conservatory – and when she told me about it, I was floored. We had talked about collaborating, and there’s just something about that insular world: how beautiful and delicate it looks from the outside, and how controlled and competitive it is inside. So we decided we had to write about it. And I was a big Pretty Little Liars fan, so we decided to bring the drama and mystery of that to this fishbowl world.
Booknut: The titles for your books are honestly beautiful – they capture the feel of the series and the reader’s attention all in one go! How do you come up with them?
Sona: Ha! It was a challenge and we went through many. But we kept coming back to the ballerina in the music box, this tiny pretty thing, that sort of encapsulates the dream every little girl has when she first sees it.
Booknut: I know this is probably very difficult, but if you had to pick a favourite character to write about from Tiny Pretty Things who would it be?
Sona: I love all three girls, but June is my favorite. She’s so very lost, always feeling neither here nor there. She just has such a deep wound, and so much of her is just grasping, trying to figure out how to get what she wants, whom she can trust, and especially how to trust herself.
Booknut: The girls in Tiny Pretty Things are so very different. You have Gigi the free spirit, Bette from a life of privilege, and June the perfectionist. And yet they all have a common interest: ballet. What do you think that says about the power of ballet as a means of self-expression?
Sona: It’s an artform that has this timelessness, this classic beauty. But it’s also a challenge, a sport. Not everyone can do it, and even amongst the best, not everyone will succeed. I think that while all three girls are so different, they have that one trait that is so key: determination. It defines all three of them, in their own way.
Booknut: Which of these things do you think is the hardest to do: sacrifice, manipulate, or backstab?
Sona: I think sacrifice is the hardest – especially if you’re still the space where you actually have the choice to manipulate or backstab. To make the decision to let go of something you want – especially as a teenager – isn’t an easy thing.
Booknut: Tiny Pretty Things features as its main setting an exclusive Manhattan ballet school. What made you choose Manhattan as the book’s ‘stage’?
Sona: Manhattan is the center of American modern ballet – and Lincoln Center is like its heartbeat. So it was sort of a no-brainer. Plus, Dhonielle and I are both New Yorkers, and we feel very comfortable writing that world – the way your small neighborhood of a few blocks becomes the entire city, the landmarks, the energy.
Booknut: What is your favourite line or quote from Tiny Pretty Things?
Sona: One of my favorites is one of the first few lines:
“Your toes jam into a pretty pink box, battering your feet with constellations of blisters and bruises.”
Also, this moment:
“Ballet makes you so sad. You never used to be like this.” “How was I?” I ask. “How did I used to be?” “Bright,” he says, which is a strange word. But it feels right.'
Booknut: The second book in the series Shiny Broken Pieces is to-be-released July 12th 2016! Was Shiny Broken Pieces easier or harder to write than Tiny Pretty Things
Sona: It was both! It definitely was easier in a way, because we knew these characters and we knew the major arcs going into the story. But the characters had wills of their own, and sometimes veered in unexpected directions. Also: we took nearly four years to brainstorm and write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite Tiny Beautiful Things. For Shiny Broken Pieces, our timeframe was greatly condensed – and we were writing on deadline. Lots of pressure, very little time.
Booknut: What are you most excited for readers to experience in Shiny Broken Pieces?
Sona: Well, if the emails and tweets we get are any indication, they’re really looking forward to some closure. And I promise you this: Shiny Broken Pieces is going to be a wild ride, too, but the closure is coming!
Booknut: If you could tell readers one message or moral of the story to take away from the Tiny Pretty Things series, what would it be?
Sona: In life, completion really can be killer – to the point where it affects who you are as a person. You have to make decisions: how far are you willing to go. Is it worth it? And in the end, remember, nothing is black and white.
Booknut: Thank you so much again for sitting down with me! It was wonderful having you on the blog. I wish you the best of luck with Shiny Broken Piece’s release and for all your future writing.
Sona: Thank you so much for having me!
A big thank you to Sona Charaipotra for taking the time to answer these questions!