by Suzanne Kamata
Publication Date: May 18th, 2014
Publisher: Merit Press
Genre: YA Contemporary
At sixteen, Trudy Baxter is tired of her debutante mom, her deadbeat dad, and her standing reservation at the juvenile detention center. Changing her name to Trudy Sin, she cranks up her major chops as a singer and starts a band, gathering around other girls ill at ease in their own lives. Cassie Haywood, would-have-been beauty queen, was scarred in an accident in which her alcoholic mom was killed. But she can still sing and play her guitar, even though she seeks way too much relief from the pain in her body and her heart through drugs, and way too much relief from loneliness through casual sex. Still, it’s Cassie who hears former child prodigy Harumi Yokoyama playing in a punk band at a party, and enlists her, outraging Harumi’s overbearing first-generation Japanese parents. The fourth member is Esther Shealy, who joins as a drummer in order to be close to Cassie–the long-time object of her unrequited love–and Harumi, her estranged childhood friend. Together, they are Screaming Divas, and they’re quickly swept up as a local sensation. Then, just as they are about to achieve their rock-girl dreams, a tragedy strikes.
1. What inspired you to write Screaming Divas?
This book started out as a writing exercise. I was struggling with a novel that was meant to be “literary,” but which was a little too quiet, too uptight. A well-known editor told me, after critiquing that novel, that she wanted to see me “loosen up a little.” So I set out to write this crazy novel about four girls who took everything to the extreme. I later trimmed about 20,000 (or 30,000?) words, and tamed it down a bit, at the request of my agent at the time.
Before that, I had long wanted to write a novel about an all girl group. I wanted to write a novel like Dreamgirls, but in a setting that I knew well.
2. Can you give our readers hint to what they should expect in Screaming Divas?
This is a novel about four very different girls -- Trudy, Harumi, Esther, and Cassie -- who are basically lonely, and dealing with different issues. For example, Trudy has had a hard time staying out of trouble ever since she landed in foster care; Harumi feels pressured by her first generation immigrant parents; Cassie lost her alcoholic mother in the car crash that left her scarred, thereby ending her career as a beauty queen; and Esther is afraid to come out to her conservative parents. They come together via this punk rock group, started by Trudy, and become friends.
3. Can you tell us what kind of research went behind Screaming Divas?
I listened to a lot of music, of course. I interviewed a Japanese violinist who went to Juilliard and sat in on the music lessons that she taught. I also read biographies of members of the Riot Grrl Movement, and musicians, and talked to musician friends.
4. If you had to pick only one favorite character in the book, who would you pick and why?
I think I feel closest to Harumi, because she is an introvert like me.
5. What/Where is your favorite place to write your manuscripts?
I have a room for writing in my house. Ideally, I would write there every day with a cup of coffee on my desk, and the cat on my lap, or sitting nearby looking out the window. I also like to write in cafes.
6. Lastly, would you like to give the young writers out there some tips on being an awesome author?
To be an awesome author, I think you need practice, persistence and patience. In other words, write a lot, don’t give up, and understand that it might take awhile to finish your book and to find a publisher. These days you can upload your story as soon as you put on a comma on the last sentence of your first draft and have the thing published, but I think it’s worthwhile to take your time. I wrote the first draft of Screaming Divas around fifteen years ago. I think it is much better now than it was back then.
You should also read a lot. Read so that you can develop an ear for great writing. Carry a notebook with you everywhere.
Thanks for these great questions and for having me as a guest on your blog!
Thanks so much for answering all these questions Suzanne. Congrats for Screaming Divas and all the best for your future ventures!
About the Author
Back in the day, Suzanne Kamata spent a lot of time hanging out in a club in Columbia, South Carolina, much like the one in Screaming Divas. (The beat goes on . . .) She later wrote about musicians for The State newspaper, The Japan Times, and other publications. Now, she mostly writes novels. In her free time, she enjoys searching for the perfect fake fur leopard-print coat and listening to the Japanese all-girl band Chatmonchy. Her YA debut, Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible was named the 2013-2014 APALA YA Honor Book and Grand Prize Winner of the Paris Book Festival. For more info, visithttp://www.suzannekamata.com or follow her on Twitter @shikokusue.
5 signed copies of Screaming Divas of Screaming Divas with five $25 gift cards. Open Internationally. Available when the book releases.