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Authors at the Decatur Book Festival 2012: Interview with Kristen-Paige Madonia and Giveaway!

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Through the Looking Glass: Authors at the Decatur Book Festival 2012: Interview with Kristen-Paige Madonia and Giveaway!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Authors at the Decatur Book Festival 2012: Interview with Kristen-Paige Madonia and Giveaway!

I have the immense pleasure of having Kristen-Paige Madonia on the blog today! She is the author of the much anticipated book, Fingerprints of You, which released yesterday! She will be attending the Decatur Book Festival in September, so I thought I would let you all get to know her and her book a bit better! She was also generous enough to provide a signed copy of the book to one lucky winner! Below is some more info about the book and Kristen.

Fingerprints Front Cover

Fingerprints of You by: Kristen-Paige Madonia
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Simon and Schuster BFYR
Genre: Contemporary, Road Trip
Page Count: 272
Author Website: Kristen-Paige Madonia
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary from Goodreads:

Lemon grew up with Stella, a single mom who wasn’t exactly maternal. Stella always had a drink in her hand and a new boyfriend every few months, and when things got out of hand, she would whisk Lemon off to a new town for a fresh beginning. Now, just as they are moving yet again, Lemon discovers that she is pregnant from a reckless encounter—with a guy Stella had been flirting with.
On the verge of revisiting her mother’s mistakes, Lemon struggles to cope with the idea of herself as a young unmarried mother, as well as the fact that she’s never met her own father. Determined to have at least one big adventure before she has the baby, Lemon sets off on a cross-country road trip, intending not only to meet her father, but to figure out who she wants to be.

Author Bio (From her website):

Author Photo Credit - Christopher Gordon

Kristen-Paige Madonia is the author of Fingerprints of You, a young adult literary novel that will be published in August by Simon & Schuster. Her short fiction has appeared in various publications including Upstreet, New Orleans Review, American Fiction: Best Previously Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, and Sycamore Review; she has received awards or fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Vermont Studio Center, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Key West Literary Seminar, and The Studios of Key West. She was a finalist for the 2011 Virginia Commission for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and in 2010 she was awarded the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach and a BA in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University. Kristen-Paige currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia where she teaches creative writing and is at work on her second novel.


Here’s my interview with Kristen:

Describe Fingerprints of You in one sentence.
A pregnant teenager embarks on a cross-country road trip to San Francisco in search of her father, a man she has never met, as she tries to unravel the secrets of her family.

What inspired you to write Fingerprints of You?
Fingerprints of You began with the central characters, and I first imagined Lemon and Stella when I was living in San Francisco just after finishing my MFA. I liked to work in coffee shops in the city, and one afternoon I spotted a woman and a teenager crossing Fillmore Street in front of the cafe where I was writing. They immediately became Lemon and Stella: a feisty mother-daughter duo in the mist of that strange period of time when the child is becoming an adult and the parent is becoming, in the eyes of the child, an individual or person outside of their parent role. A good portion of the book is about Lemon's realization that her mother has a complicated past, a history that has informed every decision she has made for the two of them, and the novel, in part, began with that idea. I was inspired by the mother-daughter relationship, but particularly by the relationship between a child and a single-parent. Stella became pregnant when she was still very young and, as expected, not prepared for that sort of situation. And Lemon has never met her father, Stella managed to keep any information about him a secret, so the consequences of that decision was intriguing to me. Exploring that void and the affects of it on Lemon's relationship with her mother was one of the primary seeds of the book. San Francisco was always a central source of inspiration - I lived there for over three years, and I wanted to pay tribute to the rich art and music culture there. In a way, Fingerprints of You is a love letter to San Francisco, it's a thank-you note for the ways it shaped and changed me.

Is there a message in Fingerprints of You that you want your readers to grasp?
I hope readers leave the book with a greater awareness of the impact we can make on one another. We don’t always know that we’re doing it, but we leave marks on one another all the time. The interaction may seem small or insignificant when it happens, but we often affect one another in ways we’re not always aware of. It may be a quick conversation on a bus or a handful of weeks working together, a shared concert experience or a brief moment in a restaurant… we don’t always know that we’re doing it, but we can affect one another in monumental ways. I hope readers leave the book inspired by that idea: we’re constantly impacting the people around us – the people that pass in and out of our lives – we’re all connected. The exchanges we have may seem small, but can often be more powerful than we know. 

Who are your top three favorite authors and why?
Oh I could never pick a top three! I read all kinds of things depending on my mood, so my favorites change all the time. Tom Robbins, Jhumpa Lahiri, T.C. Boyle, Milan Kundera, and Zadie Smith… the list is endless and absolutely wide-ranging. Charles Dickens comes to mind because I tend to read Great Expectations every few years, and it always feels familiar but simultaneously changed each time I return to it. It seems to me that a book is a different book for every reader, and that once it is published, it doesn’t belong to the author at all. Once it exists in the world, it becomes the readers’ as they bring their own experiences, emotions, and viewpoints into the novel. Great Expectations changes each time I read it depending on what I’m facing in my own life. Raymond Carver and John Updike have also been a large influence on my work, and I often reread their work when I'm looking for inspiration. Same goes for Chekhov, Irving, and Vonnegut.

What books have you read lately and loved?
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is a new favorite, and I was thrilled to hear the news when he won the William C. Morris Debut Award and the Michael L. Printz Award. It's a super smart book, and I've been recommending it to everyone I know.  I also recently read Model Home by Eric Puchner, which I loved, and Eleanor Henderson's Ten Thousand Saints, a brilliant book and fascinating study of point of view. This summer I taught a creative writing class at the University of Virginia, and I reread Flannery O'Connor's collection A Good Man is Hard to Find, a book I think all writers should read at some point.

What books have most influenced your life?
I can’t remember exactly when I received my copy of the Giving Tree, but that slick green cover is the first book I think of when I try to retrace my steps as a reader, as the kind of person that curls up with a set of characters for hours with no recognition or care that the “real world” continues to spin outside the pages. The book follows the life stages of a young boy and a tree as the boy ages and the tree provides any and everything the boy asks for: branches to swing from as a child, apples to sell and lumber to build a home with as an adult, and, eventually, a stump to sit and rest on as an old man. Shel Silverstein is a brilliant writer, the first I remember being truly moved by as a child, and I owned all his books. But The Giving Tree is the one I returned to most. And now, I wonder if it’s also the book I should credit in terms of my first interest in writing coming-of-age stories. Because isn’t that what’s it’s about? A child gradually loses his innocence and makes his way into that eyes-wide-open phase of life when he realizes things aren’t always what they seem, that life can be devastating and demanding just as often as it can be delightful. And if we believe the tree serves as metaphor for a parent, which I do, the boy, like most children, doesn’t recognize the sacrifices the parent has made; he doesn’t understand how much the tree gives up to take care of him. The parent-child relationship, the loss of innocence, that strange but brilliant time in life when you realize the world is much larger than you thought, those are the ideas that continue to fascinate me as a reader and motivate me as an author.

As a college student, like many college students do, I fell in the love with the Beats, and part of my literary heart will always belong to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. It was published in 1957, but there’s something timeless about the spontaneous cross-country road trip, the jazz and the booze, the poetry, and the indulgent sex and drug binges. It’s a journey book, a genre I tend to favor, and the characters are on a quest for faith and love and friendship, as they hunt for a sense of an authentic and meaningful life. At the time Kerouac wrote the novel, it was a proclamation for a stripped and nonconformist existent, a reaction against the 1950s culture and social “norms”, but I think the book resonates with young readers across generations regardless of the current national climate.

It's typically the voice I remember most about a good book, so inevitably, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close falls at the top of my list in terms of books I have read often and studied for my own work; I’m fairly certain I’ve bought at lease five copies. When I think of the book, it’s Oskar Schell I hear, that raw and frantic nine-year-old that carries the reader through the streets of New York in the wake of 9/11. It’s his humor, his heartache, his honesty, and his grief that haunts me -- not just the feel of the emotions, but the SOUND of them. He floats through an adult world as a child fighting the struggle between self-destruction and self-preservation, another coming-of-age novel, I suppose, but the voice is strictly his, Oskar unfiltered and up close, and that’s what stays with you after you close the book. As a writer and a reader, it’s always the voice that leaves me breathless; it’s the voice of the work that serves as my barometer for amazing fiction.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer - for as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a writer, no questions asked.

What did you consider most challenging about writing Fingerprints of You, or writing in general?
In general, I don’t work well with outlines and tend to find them restricting… for me the process is messy and unpredictable and without rules, which one of the things I enjoy most about writing first drafts, so I don’t usually know where a book is beginning when I first start. It’s a process of discovery and I like to allow the work to surprise me and to go places I hadn’t predicted or planned for. Because of that approach, I spend an incredible amount of time revising my work and often write dozens of drafts before I'm satisfied. With Fingerprints of You, I struggled with the ending during my first round of rewrites and again after we sold the book to Simon & Schuster while I was working on the final version. I always knew something was off but never could quite get it right in terms of the sequence of events that followed the climactic scenes. Endings are always so challenging. I'm fortunate because I have the most amazing agent, one of the few that still makes time to work with her authors editorially, so we talked a lot about those final chapters, and I wrote a variety of versions before we began submitting the manuscript to publishing houses. And then I went through the same process all over again once I started working with editor! It was worth it though, and in the end I was absolutely satisfied with the way the book concludes.

What did you enjoy most about writing Fingerprints of You?
One of the most enjoyable sections to write were the scenes that explored the live music setting in San Francisco. There's such a rich historical music culture in San Francisco, and it was important to me to portray that in the novel. When the book opens, Lemon has never been to a concert, but seeing live music and going to concerts and festivals is a huge part of my own life, so I wanted to give that to her. I revisited some of my favorite shows and memories from my time in San Francisco and tried to merge the most interesting moments and people from my experiences at the Fillmore, the Warfield, free concerts in Golden Gate Park, Great American Music Hall… I sent Lemon to the Haight to watch the street musicians and to a New Year’s festival where she’s introduced to the underground music scene and jamtronica, a Burning Man kind of vibe. I loved writing those sections and showing her how impactful live music can be, how it can change your perspective and create a sense of community.

Thanks so much for having me on Through the Looking Glass, Sara!

And now here’s the wonderful giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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At August 8, 2012 at 12:01 PM , Blogger Randi M said...

Great interview! "Once it exists in the world, it becomes the readers’ as they bring their own experiences, emotions, and viewpoints into the novel" is my favorite line. This is exactly why I'm getting my Master's to become an English language arts teacher. I LOVE that about books - there's no "right" answer. Perfectly said! I can't wait to read Fingerprints of You.


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