Friday, January 9, 2009

Book Review and Author Interview: Hot Mess by Julie Kraut and Shallon Lester

When soon to be HS Senior Emma’s boyfriend cheats on her, she ditches her summer lifeguarding plans and sets out for NYC with her best friend Rachel. But despite scoring a sweet sublet with spoiled daddy’s girl Jayla, things in the big city are far less glam than she planned – her unpaid internship is a bust, Rachel would rather Internet date than hang out with her, and her budget limits her to metro tickets and Chinese takeout when she’d rather be taking a taxi to Nobu. Can the summer be saved?

It’s probably beside the point to say that Emma has highly unrealistic expectations for her summer and that many of her disappointments stem from her own immaturity and lack of initiative. Her attempts to navigate an “adult’s” life in the city, including an ill-fated hook-up with 23 year old colleague, are a series of hilarious missteps that drive the narrative. As far as the supporting players, though Rachel does remain largely absent, the authors take the character of Jayla, who could have been mere window-dressing, and give her a surprisingly sweet and satisfying story arc.

It’s a fun read, but one that is also weighed down by a very liberal portion of pop culture references. Thanks to my subscription to Entertainment Weekly, I was able to keep up, but if you don’t know your Jonas Bros from your J.Lo, you may want to study up or steer clear.

And now it’s time for Author Julie Kraut to answer some of my burning questions!

You and Shallon Lester wrote Hot Mess together. How did that come about and how did you share the writing responsibilities?
Shallon and I met on the Internet. Creepfest, right? We were both writing for the same website and they suggested that we write together. It was love at first e-introduction. After a few months, she moved to New York, where I was living at the time, and eventually we started writing Hot Mess. It was totally collaborative, without much division of responsibilities. We both came up with the plot, outlined it together, and then would pass the manuscript back and forth. I’d write a few chapters and send them to Shallon. She’d edit what I wrote, write a chunk, and then send it back to me to do the same. I’m still amazed at how well we worked together.

That is amazing! You are both obviously pop culture junkies. Can you give us a brief primer on how best to stay in the know?
Um, be friends with Shallon? Seriously, she’s a tastemaker in the know. In addition to befriending Shallon, I pretty much keep up with the happs online. I read a ton of blogs and occasionally browse the tabloids in the grocery store check out line.

The part where Emma searches for an affordable apartment in Manhattan and meets all those crazy prospective landlords was one of my favorite parts of the book. Any of those real life inspired?
Ha ha! That’s one of my favorite chapters too. But, for me, no, it was not based on my apartment search. When I lived in New York, I was incredibly lucky. My roommate and I looked at one apartment, signed for it that day, and lived there for four years. It was a real estate fairy tale come true.

Any horrifying internship experiences you'd like to share?
YES! Is there a word limit here? I’ll just tell you this one story about an internship I had in college. I sat around all day doing absolutely nothing all summer. And I really mean nothing because this was in 2001 and the Internet wasn’t even all that good back then. Then one day my boss came over to my work station to give me a project. I was so excited to actually have something to do…until I found out that the project was just putting reinforcement stickers on an entire binder’s worth of three hole punched paper. Then, that afternoon when I was leaving the office, I backed my mom’s Camry into a brand new parked mini-van. Unrelated to the awful internship, but it just added to the misery of that day.

What's next for you?
I have a new book coming out in May 2009 called Slept Away . It’s a fun (and funny) summer story about a city girl who gets shipped off to a totally rustic sleep away camp. I’m really pumped for it to come out.
Thank you Julie! To find out more about Julie and her books, visit Order Hot Mess on amazon here and preorder Slept Away on amazon here. Or ask for them at your favorite independent bookseller.


Alea said...

Yay! I'm really excited about this one, loving the pop culture references! That was a great interview! Julie's upcoming book sounds great too!

Anna Claire said...

Great interview! The books looks way cute.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered how people wrote a book together. Great interview.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

Hey Lenore - just wanted to let you know I've given you a blog award here on my blog!

S. Krishna said...

I totally agree with you on the pop culture references in this book!

Shalonda said...

They seem like such fun ladies! I started reading this one awhile ago, but haven't gotten around to finishing it yet because it was going to be overdue :(

I hate to begin a book and have to stop in the middle, so I'll have to go pick it up again and start over. From what I read though, it was really good!

Thao said...

Thanks for the book review Lenore. I love the interview more tho, it's so interesting to read. It surprised me that the authors met online and then wrote a book together.

LisaMay said...

Fab interview! Sounds like a great book :)

Lisa May

Anonymous said...

I think I'll have to pass on this one. I'm not a big fan of popculture references that I just don't get.

Ladytink_534 said...

I like pop culture so I try to stay in the know but I don't obsess. This sounds like a good story!

Katie said...

I got Hot Mess in the mail awhile back and I'm really looking forward to reading it!

Senfaye said...

Awesome interview Lenore!
-Senfaye :)

Janssen said...

I'm always interested by books written by two people. It seems so impossible, but sometimes it works so very well!