Thursday, August 21, 2008

GCC Tours Stephanie Kuehnert

Debut novelist Stephanie Kuenhart, author of the kick-ass book I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, was nice enough to tour me on her blog last week, and this week I'm featuring her on my blog as part of the GCC virtual booktour. (All the girlfriends in this network are pretty amazing and I'm so honored to be a part of their group.) Stephanie took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me about her new book, her writing influences and the unusual path from reading Laura Ingalls Wilder to creating 'zines to a writing a novel about living a punk rock life.

In my debut novel, SISTERS OF MISERY, the main group of mean girls call themselves the Sisters of Misery since they take part in orientation rituals on Misery Island. Here are some questions for you about your own cliques (hopefully they aren't as mean as the ones in my story!)

Do you (or did you ever) have a writing group? Who are the first people to read your book once it's completed?

Yes, I have a writing group that meets once a week made up of my dearest friends from my MFA program at Columbia College Chicago, Katie, Jenny, and Aaron. They are my first readers along with my long distance critique partner Vanessa, who is absolutely brilliant and so insightful. I don't know what I'd do without these people.

What writers do you consider your "sisters"? Are there any published writers that you hang out or tour with a lot? Call? Email? IM?

I'm not sure if I know all of them well enough to call them my sisters, but the female writers that have given me the best advice and I really look up to are Hillary Carlip, Alexa Young, Melissa Marr, Jeri Smith-Ready, Rebecca Woolf, Kelly Parra, and Melissa Walker. I've done events with Alexa, Rebecca and Kelly. Alexa and I set up a huge event together, so we are definitely sisters and have emailed and talked a lot. Hillary has been a role model since I was 16 and she included my 'zine in her book Zine Scene. I see her whenever she's in Chicago or I'm in LA. I have some great guy writer friends, too. Joe Meno is one of my biggest mentors. Irvine Welsh and John McNally are friends/drinking buddies of mine. I read with Frank Portman and had to stop myself from behaving like a total fangirl. I also count Sam Weller and Charley Cross among my friends and mentors. Oh, I feel ashamed, like I'm such a name dropper! But I really do love and admire these people dearly!

Who do you find yourself being compared to or are often put together with in reading lists or book clubs?

I think I'm too new to be getting comparisons quite yet. Though I have been compared to Joe Meno, which is about the hugest compliment I could get.

What writers do you wish would be in your "clique"? (It doesn't have to be in your genre….doesn't even have to be living! For example, I'd pick Alice Hoffman, Jodi Picoult, Sarah Dessen, Oscar Wilde, Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot, Stephen King and Joan Didion).

Francesca Lia Block, Melissa Marr, Irvine Welsh, John Steinbeck, Lisa Tucker, Joe Meno, and Laura Wiess. Oh and I could go on. A lot more.

If someone was going to join your book club, what would be a "must read" in order to join?

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess and the Weetzie Bat books by Francesca Lia Block.

What was your "initiation" to writing?

Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I got into those when I was five and was so obsessed I insisted that people call me Laura. As soon as I could write, I started keeping a "diary." But my life was never as interesting as Laura's so I turned to writing fiction pretty quickly!

When did you first feel that you'd officially joined the "published writers' club"?

The day that I signed my contract for my first novel. That's when I knew that it was really real and no one could take it back. Actually, no, I was pretty freaked that I'd screw up revisions and take it back. So maybe when I saw my ARCs for the first time. A real book with my name on it. My dream come true.

What was your best/worst memory of high school?

Oh I have a lot of bad high school memories, many the result of a very bad relationship sophomore year that is too depressing to talk about. And I don't know if I have one particular best memory, but I have several moments of fondness. Driving around with my best friend Katie, smoking out the window (which meant she sat on the window and smoked because I couldn't get the smell of smoke in my parents' car), drinking Slurpees and blaring either Babes In Toyland's Fontanelle or Rancid's And Out Come the Wolves. Assembling 'zines in my bedroom with Katie, Polly, and Thea. Nights at Denny's with Katie, Polly, Thea, Marcel and the little boys (Mike, Tom, Dave, and Steve who were all freshman). Cramming all of those people into my Honda Civic and driving through the dark spot (railroad tracks surrounded by a Forest Preserve, that we'd turn the headlights off and fly over. Very stupid but fun). Shows at the Fireside Bowl, moshing and skanking our little hearts out. Even though I was depressed because of the aforementioned relationship, I loved those times more than I realized.

In SISTERS OF MISERY, the last place new members want to go to is Misery Island. But if you had the choice, what island would you go to and what would you take with you?

I'd go to Hawaii. It doesn't matter which Hawaiian island, any will do. And I'd bring my iPod, my journal, my boyfriend, and the top three books on my to-read pile. I don't need anything else.

Finally, what can you tell me about your book? Give me a quick run-down about why I'd want to pick it for my own book club.

Well, the back cover copy of the book describes it best: "Punk rock is in Emily Black's blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn't it lead her right back to Emily?" It's a good pick for your book club because it has something for everyone. It's an obvious choice for music fans, but at the core it is a story about family and figuring out how to grow into your own person no matter what your family circumstances may be.

Here's some additional info about Stephanie and all the AMAZING press and quotes she's gotten: quite a feat for a debut YA novelist. Go Steph! Check out her site, her book, and her blog. That's what I'll be doing!

Blog: and

A raw, edgy, emotional novel about growing up punk and living to tell.

The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones.

Punk rock is in Emily Black's blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back.

Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn't it lead her right back to Emily?

Praise for I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

" empowering new twist on a girl's coming of age..." - Los Angeles Times

"...irresistible..." and "...acidly incisive and full-out entertaining..." - Booklist

"Debut author Kuehnert keeps the story raw and gritty... the intensity of the characters' emotions and experiences will beguile many teen readers." - Publisher's Weekly

"...a rich, muscular story..." - Bust Magazine

"I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone is a manifesto for defiant high school girls, as well as a refresher course for the goddesses they turn into." - Venus Zine

"Emily's coming-of-age story in I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone is allusive, real, and honest. Even I, the most non-rock oriented teen in existence, found it overwhelmingly easy to connect with and relate to Emily. It makes no difference if you're a punk-rock chick or a glam princess, I would recommend this book to any ELLE girl." - Elle Girl

"This book could be any real band's Behind the Music, but Kuehnert creates some realistic characters that drag you down past reading it on the shitter. Congrats, Steph, you got me to read a whole fucking book for once. Solid writing, Ms. Lady." - Racket Magazine

"A wonderfully written and evocative story of a mother and daughter parted by circumstance and joined by music. I heartily recommend it." - Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting

"Some books play at trying to be "edgy"; some books try to hit the right notes; but Kuehnert's prose doesn't notice labels. It just is--which is the purest kinda edge. Teeth. Punk. Combat boots. Attitude. Feminism. Family. Girls with guitars. Relationships that jack you up. Sharp things of the not-good kind. Friendships. Love... It's all here; it's all pure and real. I loved it."- Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange

"Kuehnert's love of music is apparent on every page in this powerful and moving story. Her fresh voice makes this novel stand out in the genre, and she writes as authentically about coming of age as she does punk rock. She's titled the book after a great song by Sleater-Kinney, and both that band, and the iconic Joey Ramone, would be proud of this effort." Charles R. Cross, New York Times bestselling author of Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

"I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone is intense, raw and real; a powerful and heartbreaking weave of Emily Black's public dream of making music and the intensely private one of finding her elusive, missing mother. Emily, a gutsy, passionate and vulnerable girl, knows exactly what she wants and strides straight into the gritty darkness after it, risking all and pulling no punches but leaving us with the perfect ending to a fierce and wild ride." - Laura Wiess, author of Leftovers and Such a Pretty Girl

"Stephanie Kuehnert has written a sucker-punch of a novel, raw and surprising and visceral, and like the best novelists who write about music, she'll convince you that a soul can indeed be saved by rock and roll."- John McNally, author of America's Report Card and The Book of Ralph

"Stephanie Kuehnert writes with dramatic flare and all the right beats, as she spins a story with punk rock lyrics, big dreams, and one girl not afraid to reach out to her lost mother through music, while enduring intense journeys in between. A debut like an unforgettable song, you'll want to read I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone again and again." - Kelly Parra, author of Graffiti Girl