Saturday, August 02, 2008

Interview with RITA Finalist Simone Elkeles

Simone Elkeles is an author of several young adult titles, including How to Ruin a Summer vacation, How to Ruin My Teenage Life, and this year's RITA finalist title Leaving Paradise.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name Simone comes from being named after my uncle who died in a war in Israel...his name was Shimon (pronounced Shee-moan) I was born and raised in a suburb of Chicago. I love my home state so much I graduated from the University of Illinois and got my Master’s Degree at Loyola University-Chicago. (can you tell I don’t get out much) I am a huge sports fan, and especially like watching the Chicago Bears play football. I love writing teen novels because I think the teenage years are the most fun. I have three young adult novels in print (How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin my Teenage Life, and Leaving Paradise) and Perfect Chemistry coming out in December. I talk to middle schools and high schools all the time, and really love hearing feedback from my fans, who are very dedicated. I love the fans!

2. How did you get the inspiration for your Rita-Nominated book?

A girl at the junior high school near my house stabbed a boy and went to the juvenile detention center. It just got me thinking about kids in jail and how it is for them when they’re released and have to go back to school with the person who was their victim. My story is totally different: Leaving Paradise is about a boy (not a girl) who was incarcerated and in the first chapter is being released and having to start senior year of high school and face the girl who he went to jail for hitting with a car in a hit-and-run drunk driving accident. He eventually falls in love with her, too. I went to the juvenile justice complex where I did research and the boys there read Leaving Paradise. I talked to them about the book for hours, and they had endless questions. They loved the book, too, and could definitely relate to my hero Caleb.

3. What authors do you read?

I read everything from Stephenie Meyer, David Levithan, Wendelyn Van Draanen, and of course my blog sisters books where I blog at For adult authors, I’m a huge fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie and Julia Quinn.

4. Who is your favorite character?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I love Amy Nelson-Barak in my How to Ruin series, because she’s so funny and does the most outrageous things. For my RITA nominated book, I’d say Mrs. Reynolds. She’s a cantankerous old lady who I love, and let me tell you that I have definitely known my share of cantankerous old ladies. (I plan to be one, one day.) I also love Maggie for her ability to never give up and Caleb for his sensitivity to Maggie and for falling in love with her despite her physical limitations.

5. What five things are always in your purse?

Credit cards, old receipts I have to throw away, my cell phone, lipstick, and a gun. Okay, so I don’t have a gun but I used to have mace until it got confiscated at an airport twenty years ago. Am I boring?

6. What music are you currently listening to?

Higher by Creed. Pretty much anything 80’s or alternative.

7. Tell us about your pets?

Oh, don’t make me start to cry. I had two dogs up until two months ago when my 17 year old German Shepherd passed away in my arms. I thought I was ready for her to go, because she was so old, but I was SOOOO not ready. I was a total mess, and remembered when I saved her at the shelter over 13 years ago. She was my first “baby.” When she took her last breath, she took a piece of me with her. I still have to bury her ashes, but am afraid my puppy will dig her up. (I’ve heard horror stories). I do have an adorable Labradoodle who is very sweet except to dogs with shmushed noses like Boxers and Pugs. I have no clue why, so don’t ask. I used to have fish, but they died. One committed “fishicide” and jumped out of the tank. One piece of advice: scan the area around a fish tank before you walk near it barefoot.

8. One item of makeup you can't live without.

Liquid eyeliner by L’oreal.

9. First thing you drink in the morning.

Milk. I know, some people hate it. I love milk. The colder, the better. Warm milk grosses me out.

10. Best/worst prom/high school memory.

Best high school memory: Senior prom with my boyfriend Andy. And let me tell you I’m not falling for it when my daughter says “a bunch of us are renting a hotel room for prom” I’ll chaperone the entire night!

Worst high school memory: Getting yelled at by Coach Adams for talking in Driver’s Ed when I didn’t even say anything. (my friend said he rubbed her neck when he sat beside her in the car on the school driving range- thank goodness I had the other coach as my range instructor!)

11. If you could go back in time and talk to the teenage you, what would you tell her?

Big hair is not attractive. And don’t have Chrissy Broderick pretend she’s you on the phone and break up with Ron. Be a big girl and break up with Ron yourself. And Andrew Fitz will be the cutest guy at the 20 year high school reunion, even if his goal in high school is to be Frodo from Lord of the Rings.

12. What are you working on next?

I am totally excited that my book PERFECT CHEMISTRY is coming out in December. It’s about a gang member who makes a bet to sleep with the rich cheerleader at school, but the bet turns into so much more. It’s very edgy, so it’s definitely for older teens who don’t mind reading a book filled with profanity, sex, and drugs. I’m also working on a four book series about high school football players. And I have a bunch of other ideas for books, and can’t wait to write them. The next few years will be very busy for me!

Visit Simone:

Fictionistas would like to thank Simone and all of our RITA finalists for joining us this week and giving us their time.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book.

    My dog died recently, and I still can't believe it sometimes. I can't remember my life before we got her.

  2. I think you just made it onto my author-scan list with your descriptions of Leaving Paradise and your upcoming gang/cheerleader book.

  3. Great interview! I have yet to read any of Simone's books, but I definitely want to! :)

  4. Anonymous5:42 PM

    Hey Rhonda! Good stuff. =))

  5. Simone, Thanks for being here! Good luck tonight!!

  6. What a wonderful interview! Your books sound fascinating, Simone.

  7. Simone was hilarious at one of the workshops I went to this weekend.

    Good luck to all the finalists and a special shout out to our own Amanda Brice for finaling in the Golden Heart! I can't wait to cheer for you tonight.

  8. Hi Simone~

    Your book sounds very interesting and the upcoming also sounds great!

    I am sorry about your dog...that is so sad.

    Wishing you the best of luck at RWA!!

  9. AWESOME interview!!

  10. First of all, hugs for the loss of your dog. :( I don't even want to think about that because I know probably soon than later, I'll be in your position. *sniffle*

    And what you'd tell the younger you? OMG, you totally cracked me up! LOL

    You nominated book sounds great! I love that you went in and talked with the boys. Not only did you get what you needed, but I bet you made quite a positive impression on them as well. :)