Twenty Questions w/ Courtney Summers

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ya days
the projects

It’s Day 3 of our Day’s YA Extravaganza, and today we’re joined by bestselling author, Courtney Summers, as she answers all of our burning questions (well, 20 of them..).

Courtney’s next book, THE PROJECT, publishes February 2, 2021.

1. Hi! How are you doing?
Hello! I am holding on for dear life, like I think we all are these days but maybe when this interview goes live, things will be a little less intense for us all, and if not . . . we’ll all just have to keep holding on!

2. What is something that has made you smile today / recently?
This TikTok by Brad Milison entitled, “when you’re paranoid about leaving the zoom.” C’est moi.

3. Are you reading anything good right now?
I just finished Angeline Boulley’s FIREKEEPERS DAUGHTER and it was stunning. A lot of young adult thrillers and mysteries claim a Veronica Mars protagonist, but I think Daunis Fontaine is the closest the category has gotten, while still being a character wholly her own. It was so wonderfully gritty.

4. What is the last book you read that made you cry?
MY STORY by Marilyn Monroe (with Ben Hecht). It’s a collection of her writing–which is very thoughtful and oftentimes heartbreaking–and the book seems to have barely just begun when you reach this sentence: “This is where Marilyn’s manuscript ended when she gave it to me. Milton H. Greene.” I teared up.

5. And what was the last book you read that made you happy?
Casey McQuiston’s ONE LAST STOP was a delight, start to finish. I loved the ensemble cast and it was literally impossible to get through a page without feeling happy about everything you’d just read on it. Truly the definition of a feel-good read and a lovely love letter to Pride, New York and found family.

6. Has your writing process changed at all between your first book and the most recent?
Each book I write teaches me something new about craft and everything I learn makes me more ambitious in terms of what I write and how I write it. I think my process has gotten more challenging over the years because of this. I have bigger ideas and they demand more of my skill and talent to employ.

7. What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
That can change from book to book. Lately, getting started. But once I’m in, I’m in!

8. What are your go-to writing snacks?
I never write without three drinks: water, Diet Pepsi and coffee. Always in excess of the last two, and not enough of the first. I am currently obsessed with popcorn coated in cheddar cheese powder but I don’t know if I can call it a writing snack because the powder gets everywhere and I literally cannot write while I’m eating it!

9. Is there a specific time of day when you write?
The night hours belong to me!

10. Is there any world in which the characters in your books exist in the same universe?
Maybe they run parallel . . . I’d love to see them all occupy the zombie apocalypse in THIS IS NOT A TEST just because I’m assuming that’s inevitable in every world.

11. How do you decide on the names for your characters? Do they ever change as you get to know them more?
I cycle through names on a website called Nymbler, and then when I feel a ‘click’ I know that’s the character’s name and I’m helpless to change it, whether or not I personally like it. That’s for main characters though–secondary characters have less rigid rules. They just have to complement the main’s.

12. What is a book from your childhood that shaped who you are now?
Books! The Baby-sitters Club series was such a defining part of my childhood and made me the reader that I am. It was actually Super Mystery #2, BABY-SITTERS BEWARE! That got me hooked on suspense and horror. Someone’s stalking the BSC! It’s legit terrifying.

13. Did you ever have to hide a book from your parents when you were a kid?
I started reading THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN when I was way too young I seem to recall an opening full of dead bodies? It might have been another Crichton book. It was too much for me and I gave it up before I got in any trouble for reading it.

14. Who was your first book character crush?
I can’t remember! What a disappointing answer. I think I ended up having a crush on the actor who played Logan in The Baby-sitters Club movie.

15. What tv show / movie / book has been your saving grace during the pandemic? (I think I know the answer to this… haha)
Hehe, to the shock of NO ONE! 🙂 Supernatural. It actually was supposed to end (for good!) in May, but the pandemic held up filming and I think the knowledge that it would return in the fall got me through so much of the summer. But now it’s fall, and I’m on the final episodes and I don’t know what I’ll do next!

16. What’s one podcast everyone should listen to?
I love Sarah Enni’s First Draft and Track Changes podcasts First Draft is a great collection of author interviews and Track Changes did a deep dive on the industry side of publishing. Sarah’s a fantastic and engaging host.

17. What are the next book(s) at the top of your TBR?
I am HOPING to procure early copies of HURRICANE SUMMER by Asha Bromfield and COOL FOR THE SUMMER by Dahlia Adler, so assuming I do . . . those would be next. This is absolutely a hint at anyone who is reading this and can hook me up. Wednesday Books. Ahem.

18. What upcoming debut book are you excited about?
FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER, which I mentioned above and also Mercedes Helnwein’s SLINGSHOT which I got to read earlier this year. It’s one of those books that has that iconic vibe like Blake Nelson’s GIRL, which felt like THE YA book for a lot of young women in the early aughts. You just know a lot of readers are going to pick it up and carry it around like a Bible and I can’t wait to see everyone love it as much as I do.

19. Who is someone you admire? Why?
Okay, so this is a fictional character, but I’m finding a lot to admire in Amanda Ripley, the protagonist of the video game Alien: Isolation, which is like a sequel to the original Alien but as mentioned, a video game. Through the entire game, your objective is to survive the Xenomorph and get back to your spaceship, to safety. Amanda loses everything and everyone she has along the way, and yet–she still keeps going. I am certainly not clinging to this as a metaphor for staying strong in 2020. Not at all. BUT IF I WAS. It would be helping.

20. Do you have any advice for your fellow writers? Especially those trying to write during the pandemic?
Your best really is good enough, and what your ‘best’ is, is going to vary day to day, sometimes hour to hour. Just keep showing up for yourself and know that’s not a small thing.

Click here to view to see what the rest of the week has in store!

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