Today I'm talking to Jen Calonita about SUMMER STATE OF MINE. I'm a big fan of Jen's earlier books like Secrets of my Hollywood Life and SLEEPAWAY GIRLS. I loved SUMMER STATE OF MIND and actually read it in about two days when I should have been doing homework. Review coming soon!
Where did the inspiration for SUMMER STATE OF MIND come from?
I always thought the character people would want more of was Kaitlin Burke (from Secrets of My Hollywood Life), but it was actually not a character, but a camp that people would write me about! I got so many emails about Whispering Pines —is it a real camp? How do I apply to be a CIT? Would you recommend going away to sleepaway camp? I couldn’t believe how much readers enjoyed Whispering Pines and all its activities. Whispering Pines is a camp I made up for the book, but it’s based on a number of camps I visited as well as a day camp I worked at as a teen. I didn’t get to go to sleepaway camp as a teen, but when I was researching SLEEPAWAY GIRLS, all I could think was “why didn’t I go to camp?” It seemed so fun. Being away from family and friends, getting to be a whole new person and meet new friends, going to campfires, doing camp pranks, spending my days swimming or doing camp activities—what a way to spend the summer! I couldn’t wait to get back to camp so I was thrilled when Poppy said I could have another spin at Whispering Pines. We decided on a companion rather than a sequel so that we could meet all campers and still hang with some of the older ones readers remembered.
Can we agree that being 15 is hard enough? Now Harper goes from normal girl to being wealthy and starting a whole new life. What are some of her methods for coping?
I KNOW, RIGHT? Harper is actually based on a family I know that this happened to. To go from a regular home and a normal life to a mansion in a wealthy neighborhood and a new private school seems amazing, but also difficult--especially when you’re 15! I kept wondering how the girl I knew survived. I watched her change from this sweet, good-natured person to someone who cared more about labels and money than her friends and I kept thinking, if I were one of her old friends, how would I talk some sense into her? That’s how Harper was born. Shipping a girl like Harper off to sleepaway camp without any luxuries from home seemed both fitting and hilarious!
In YA we always hear about the stereotypical bad parents. What are Harper’s parents like?
I love Harper’s parents. I’ve written about a momager (Kaitlin’s mom from SECRETS), a girl who was raised by her grandmother (Izzie in BELLES) and a single mom (Sam’s in SLEEPAWAY GIRLS). What’s so funny about that is my parents have been happily married for over 35 years! It seemed time to have a character who has two very involved parents and what I love about Harper’s dad is that he’s been in Harper’s shoes—he came from no money and then came into money and he didn’t change. So when he sees Harper becoming someone she shouldn’t be, he immediately wants to help her with that. He’s a camp guy himself so he loves the idea of her going and Harper’s mom is pretty cool too so she’s on board with it as well. I like them being a united front!
I love that there is always a bit of fashion in your book. Tell me what are some of Harper’s favorite looks or designers?
I can picture Harper tearing pages out of Harper’s Bazaar and Teen Vogue and hanging them up in her room! She is a fashion plate so she loves all designers and is always up for trying new ones. I see her in a lot of Stella McCartney and Chloe.
What are Harper’s thoughts when a boy pretty much sees her as superficial?
That really bothers her because it’s the first time that she realizes her life has become this bubble of money, fashion, and friends who, well, only care about money too! She was not that person in the past and in her own mind she’s still not. Him seeing her differently makes her realize she might have changed…not that she’s ready to admit that yet!
Harper has a twin brother. What were some of the funniest moments between the two?
I always wanted a twin brother! Always! I thought it would be so fun to have a guy’s point of view on things and to have my back. There’s a lot of teasing that goes on to, I assume, and that’s what I do to Harper and her twin—let them constantly
Favorite genre that you like read?
Realistic, contemporary YA. Chick lit for adult. These are the genres I gravitate towards the most.
What is the one fashion item you could not live without?
I’m not sure it’s a fashion item, but I live in ballet flats. I tend to write about my characters wearing them too!
Since your book is called SUMMER STATE OF MIND I want to know if you have any fun summer plans?
This summer, for the first summer ever, we are joining friends in getting a cabana at a beach on Long Island. We’re so excited because it means we can leave our gear at the beach and we also have a pool there, our own shower and area for a fridge and a table. I’ve always wanted to live at the beach—this may be the closest I get to doing that!
A few things caught my attention. First I think Little Brown did an amazing job with the cover. Second the Dedication is really sweet. When you are writing do you think “My family is going to read this” someday?
Thank you! I LOVE the cover too. I think they really captured the beauty of summer and camp in that shot. I love the designer too—it’s the same designer who has done Jen E. Smith’s covers (a fellow Poppy girl). I love doing dedications and always think a lot about who they are going to be for. I look forward to the day I can read my books with my nieces and my boys (if they’ll read anything this girly!)
To learn more about Jen Calonita visit: http://jencalonitaonline.com/
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