As you all know, to celebrate the release of her new novel, Return to Paradise, we’re celebrating all things Simone Elkeles this month. Everyone here at yaReads has Elkeles Fever and were stoked when she sat down for an interview with us. If you’ve been following any of Simone’s stories, chances are you’re going to love this interview! Strap yourselves in, folks. This one is too awesome for words.
Return to Paradise gives readers a bit of closure. Is this it for Maggie and Caleb, or will we be treated to another novel?
The story is finished after Return to Paradise. However, I want to tell my fans that they will feel much better about the ending I have in store for Maggie and Caleb this time!
I know what my favorite moment is, but I’m dying to know what your fave Caleb and Maggie moment in Return to Paradise is…
I would have to say when Maggie and Caleb are kissing in the lake. Things really heat up and I think my fans are going to be surprised by what Maggie does next. I’m just so proud of her! She’s so much stronger than she was in Leaving Paradise.
Will we ever learn what Maggie and Caleb got up to during the year they spent apart?
I think the most important thing that happened while they were apart is that they learned what’s most important in life: being with the ones you love. I know many of my fans were upset with the ending of Leaving Paradise, but I didn’t think Maggie and Caleb were ready to be with each other yet. However, after a year apart. . .
I’m curious to learn what happens to Leah next – will we ever find out?
Everyone has a lot of healing to do, but Leah more than anyone. I think Leah has a rough road ahead of her, but I have no doubt that she will prevail.
Of all the characters you’ve created, Caleb is definitely my fave. Who is your fave?
I get asked that question a lot, but there’s no way to pick! (It would be like having to choose my favorite out of my children.) I love Caleb because he is so strong in most areas of his life, but he needs Maggie to be complete. I love Maggie for the way she forgives Caleb and Leah even though she’ll have scars forever. Of course, I love Alex and Carlos for pushing the envelope, but still being very caring. I respect Brittany and Kiara for not giving up on the guys they love, even when the boys make things very challenging! See what I mean? I could never pick!
Of all the characters you’ve created, which did you find the most challenging to write, and why?
All of my characters were challenging in different ways. I had to do quite a bit of research to write about Alex and Carlos and their gang affiliations as well as Hispanic culture. I talked to kids in Juvenile Detention facilities, met with police officers who work in tough neighborhoods, and even went on a “ride-along” and got to wear a bullet-proof vest!
You seem to have quite an affiliation with bad boys being reformed by good, wholesome girls. Why is that?
I love bad boys. They’re my weakness. Find me a hot and sexy bad boy and I melt. I think it’s my “female gene” that makes me want to fix those bad boys. If I can fix a bad boy, I can fix anything! (females are natural people-fixers, in my opinion) Alex and Carlos and Caleb are a mixture of a bunch of boys I know or did know throughout my life… I’m totally sarcastic and “get” guys like that. And just like behind a good man you’ll find a good woman, behind most bad boys you’ll find a good heart. (Not all bad boys are redeemable in real life, but I write fiction and my bad boys are ‘curable!’)
How do you go about choosing your character’s names?
I get asked that question all the time. Listen, if you were obnoxious in high school your name is somehow connected to the rude girls in my books, ha ha. My friends laugh when I say to beware of pissing me off because you just might find yourself in one of my books (although Darlene was a great friend of mine in school and she’s the mean girl in Perfect Chemistry and Madison is the daughter of my best friend and the mean girl in Rules of Attraction). I’m a girl scout leader, so I use a lot of my girls’ names in my books. I use last names of people I know most of the time or I make them up. I will also go to baby name websites and find names that I like. Sometimes I even use names from my fan mail. My fans have some very cool names!
What’s in your TBR pile at the moment?
My “to read” pile is enormous because I can’t remember the last time I felt like I had enough time to read! But, I definitely want to make time to read Mockingjay when it comes out. I loved The Hunger Games!
For you, what are the best and worse things about being a writer?
There are so many things I love about being a writer! I love the satisfying feeling of writing “The End” when I finish a book. I love my RITA award I just won at the Romance Writers of America conference! (seriously, she’s so pretty. . . I can’t stop looking at her!) But, most of all, I LOVE MY FANS! The wonderful comments I get on my Facebook, myspace, and twitter really keep me going when I’m feeling down or frustrated.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
I’m currently working on Chain Reaction, the third book in the Perfect Chemistry series. This one is about Luis, the youngest Fuentes brother. He’s such a good guy who doesn’t live with the angst that his big brothers have always lived with. Luis is smart, funny, and has big dreams. When he falls for the wrong girl, Luis enters a dark world he’s never known to try and save her from herself. Just when he thinks he’s got life all figured out, Luis learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life. Will that Fuentes bad boy streak come out with a vengeance and lure Luis to live on the edge like his new girlfriend and his own father?