Simone Elkeles is the author of Perfect Chemisty, our book of the month. She sat down with us this week to talk about Alex and Brittany, the possibility of a sequel, and a few other quirky tidbits that we thought you might find interesting. Enjoy guys!
Simone Elkeles, can you tell us how you got into writing and why you chose the YA genre?
I started writing adult novels (although they were never published), but then had the idea for a young adult novel. When I started writing it, I seriously felt so comfortable writing the teen characters I immediately knew writing teen novels was “the place for me.” The characters and story just flowed out from my fingertips and onto the computer screen. To be honest, even though Perfect Chemistry is my fourth novel to come out it was actually the first young adult novel I wrote. Most people don’t know that my original title for Perfect Chemistry was ZERO TOLERANCE. I thought it was a perfect title to describe the book, because Alex has no tolerance for Brittany and her rich friends and Brittany has no tolerance for Alex and his gang life. And their chemistry teacher has a ‘zero tolerance policy’ in her class. My publisher hated the title Zero Tolerance and said I had to change it. One of my best friends Marilyn Brant, who has her first book coming out soon titled According to Jane, actually came up with the title Perfect Chemistry.
Do you have any habits or little quirks that you implement as part of your writing process?
I’m a mom, so sometimes I have to write at one of my kids’ hockey games or while watching my son play baseball. I don’t write off of an outline (I’m just not that organized) so there really is no routine for me. Sometimes I cut out magazine pictures of people who I think look like my characters, and those pictures give me inspiration. The character Alex was inspired by this Mexican guy who works at the deli by my house. When I was writing Perfect Chemistry, it’s no wonder every week I found myself at the deli stocking up on bagels.
This is not your first novel, what inspired Perfect Chemistry?
There’s a town by my house where there is a big Hispanic community on one side and people who live in big houses on Lake Michigan on the other side. They all go to the same high school. I just thought it would be interesting to explore a fictional town with that same dynamic…where a boy and girl from two sides of town have to come together in chemistry class. I loved showing readers the stereotype of each of my main characters (gang member and rich white girl) and then break down those stereotypes throughout the book.
Are you more like Alex, or Brittany?
Oh, that is such a good question! I guess my attitude is more like Alex’s, but I definitely have qualities of Brittany. I think a lot of girls have insecurities like Brittany. Sometimes it feels like we can’t be “real” because we risk showing our imperfections. In the book I’m working on now (How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation), my character observes that people who are “normal” are actually a minority.
If there was one single message that you wanted readers to take from Perfect Chemistry, what would that be?
Don’t judge people based on their appearance. But secondly, I’d love for readers to realize that nobody is perfect and everyone should have courage to show their true selves (even imperfections) to people. It’s okay to be “real.”
When Alex leaves towards the end, why did you decide to have him leave then? I thought for sure he’d try to make things right with Brittany before he did…At that point in the book, Alex felt he had to leave for Brittany’s safety. Everyone he cares about dies, and by leaving and cutting ties with her he felt he was saving her life.
(These are their flaws at the beginning of Perfect Chemistry)
Brittany’s biggest flaw is…she’s afraid to show her true self and admit her insecurities/problems to the outside world.
Alex’s biggest flaw is…he doesn’t think his life can change, so he settles for the status quo without fighting for what he believes in.
In your opinion, what makes them such a great couple?
Alex and Brittany are so different on the outside, but yet they’re so similar when you get to know who they really are. It’s those similarities that bring them together. Alex and Brittany both hide their true selves to the outside world and let very few people get past their barrier. They actually find comfort in knowing that they both put on a show to the outside world in an effort to hide their true selves. Alex tells Brittany to be real, but sometimes she doesn’t know how. By knowing each other, and truly accepting each other, they both become stronger and are able to overcome their problems.
I heard somewhere out in cyberspace that you were thinking of writing a sequel to this one, is this true, and if so, can you dish us a little dirt?
As of right now, there are no plans for a sequel. I’d love to write one someday, because I’d love to continue Alex and Brittany’s story. To be honest, I’d also love to write the stories of Carlos and Luis, Alex’s brothers.
Now for some more light-hearted questions…
What are your top five favourite books (either right now, or of all time)?
Forever by Judy Blume
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Lady be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (adult romance novel)
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot
What was the last movie you saw?
Mall Cop (although as of tonight I have to change the answer because I just saw Slumdog Millionaire)
Dogs or cats?
For me, it’s definitely DOGS! I have two of them: a Labradoodle and a Lab/Rottweiler mix that I just rescued from the shelter.
Vampires or werewolves?
Although I am a huge “dog” lover, after reading Twilight I have to say Vampires.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island for the rest of your life, what would be the five items you’d take with you from your current life?
Assuming my family and dogs are with me, I’d bring:
My bed (I can’t sleep comfortably on the ground)
My iphone (I know it’ll run out of battery, but in my fantasy it never runs out)
A deck of cards (I’d get bored, so making up solitaire games would help pass the time)
My computer (so I can write)
Flint (I’ve watched Survivor and would definitely need fire to cook and keep me warm – I hate being cold. Don’t ask me why I live in one of the coldest states in the US)
What is the best and the worst thing about being Simone Elkeles?
Best thing: I love making people laugh and always look at the positive parts of life
Worst thing: I have a hard time juggling being a writer, mom, and wife. Life gets pretty hectic at times, especially when I’m on deadline for a book
We’d just like to thank Simone for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview with us! Stay tuned for a guest review from Simone soon!