Monday, August 3, 2009

GCC Tours Stephanie Kuehnert's BALLADS OF SUBURBIA

GCC Tours Stephanie Kuehnert's BALLADS OF SUBURBIA.

I'm kicking off my new set of GCC questions with an interview with Stephanie Kuehnert. I was superpsyched to hear all about her new book and the answers to my brand new GCC questions. First off, here's what you need to know about the book, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. Then read my interview and then GO OUT AND BUY HER BOOK TODAY! What are you waiting for?

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

The critically acclaimed author, Stephanie Kuehnert, returns with another gripping and incisive novel. In BALLADS OF SUBURBIA (MTV/Pocket, July 2009, $13.00) Kara McNaughton reveals the darker side of suburbia.

In high school, Kara McNaughton helped maintain the “Stories of Suburbia” notebook, which contained newspaper articles about bizarre and often tragic events from suburbs all over, as well as personal vignettes written by her friends,which Kara dubbed “ballads”. Ballads are the kind of songs that Kara likes best.

Not the clichéd ones but the truly genuine, gut-wrenching songs that convey love, loss and an individual’s story. Those “stories of Suburbia” were heartbreakingly honest tales of the moments when life changes and a kid is forced to grow up too soon. But Kara never wrote her own ballad. Before she could figure out what her song was about, she was leaving town after a series of disastrous events at the end of her junior year of high school.

Four years later, Kara returns to face the music, and tells the tale of her first three years of high school with her friends’ “ballads” interspersed throughout. Among them are her best friend Stacey, who dates guy after guy trying to find the one who will take care of her the way her parents never did; Cass, who copes with her mother’s mental illness and her older brother’s abandonment by doing copious amounts of acid; Adrian the creator of the “Stories of Suburbia”, who has “Thrown Away” tattooed on his forearms to express how he feels about his adoptive parents and his birth parents; Christian, who seems like the nice guy type that Kara belongs with, but has a violent streak; Kara’s little brother Liam, who idolized Johnny Cash as a preschooler and has idolized Kara all his life though she lets him down again and again; and Maya, an eccentric but beautiful redhead who refuses to talk about her mother’s suicide.

Then of course, there’s Kara. She begins high school as a loner, who copes with her lack of friends and her rapidly unraveling home life by going to concerts with Liam, smoking the occasional joint, and cutting herself when things get really bad. She’s reluctant at first when she tags along with Maya to Scoville Park, where the "misfit" kids hang out, but she really wants “a life.” The summer after junior year that life nearly ends with a heroin overdose, the event that triggers Kara’s exit from Oak Park.

All the things that happen in between make up the ballads of suburbia.

Early praise for Ballads of Suburbia:

" intensely real and painfully honest novel of high-school anxiety." "....Kuehnert nails the raw vulnerability of teendom and delivers a hard-hitting and mesmerizing read." Booklist

"Like an American Beauty for the teen set." - NewCity "With her first two novels, Kuehnert has created vivid pictures of teenage lives that lie in that borderland that abuts adulthood. It is a fertile, confusing and intense place, and Kuehnert never holds back. But like a good ballad, she keeps the stories taut and precise, with a touch of heart thrown in for good measure." - Chicago Sun-Times

"This book is powerful. It's been haunting me for days. Yes, haunting me." - The Story Siren, 5 star review, Recipient of the Luminous Pearl Award

"BALLADS OF SUBURBIA is a remarkable achievement that hits you right where it counts (your heart) and lingers where it matters (the brain). I’m truly looking forward to seeing what Stephanie Kuehnert will do next." - Steph Su Reads, 5 out of 5 rating

"This novel was addicting. It was harsh, raw, cruel, sad, and painful, but the scariest of all is that this is real. In one powerful novel, whole worlds are exposed. I recommend this novel to anyone ready to see the truth." - Reading Is Bliss

"All that really needs to be said about Ballads of Suburbia is that it's spectacular, and that I can't recommend it enough." - Frenetic Reader

Additional praise for Stephanie Kuehnert:

"Acidly incisive and full-out entertaining...Kuehnert’s smart gal, punk rock narrator is irresistible."—Booklist

“Kuehnert’s language is slick. The punk references bite with genuine angst and hunger, and Emily’s tough, sardonic attitude, as revealed through chunky, poetic language, is feverishly tempting.”

—Kirkus Reviews


Stephanie Kuehnert got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she discovered punk rock and produced several D.I.Y. feminist ‘zines. She received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and lives in Forest Park, Illinois. Her first novel, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, was released by MTV Books in July of 2008. BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, also published by MTV Books, is her latest release.

Here's my GCC interview with Stephanie....ENJOY!!

My second novel, THE LOST SISTER, deals with revenge and the repercussions of what happens when a hazing incident goes too far.

1. First topic: Revenge. What is your experience with it? Have you ever sought revenge? As the old adage goes, do you think that living well is the best revenge?

I definitely think living well is the best revenge. In fact it's something I say often. I've never really done anything to get revenge on anyone though there was this one girl in high school that I was terrible to because I'd heard she'd spread rumors about me and a friend of mine. Who knows if she actually did spread the rumors. Certainly just talking to her would have been a better way to address the issue. Eventually we did talk things out, but our relationship always was weird because of how things began for us. In high school, I had an emotionally abusive boyfriend. I called him out on all the things he did in a zine I wrote, so maybe that was kind of like revenge, but it was an important part on my path to healing. I used to plot other things I could do to him, like break up his bands or tell his new friends exactly what a creep he was, but this gets back to the living well is the best revenge thing. Ultimately I just focused on myself and my own healing and I started writing from my wounded places. I get way more pleasure thinking about him flipping through a local newspaper and seeing an article about me and my books and realizing that I *survived* him than I probably ever would have by slashing his tires or something.

2. Cliques and mean girls are everywhere. At book signings I've had everyone from 12 year old girls to 45 year old women tell me they still encounter them. Do you? How has it changed since you were a teen?

I dealt with mean girls mainly from age 8 to 15. After that age I made it a point to avoid mean girls and cliquey people and do my best not to let their attitudes get to me. Also because I dealt with it at such a young age, I do my best to be open and accepting of everyone and not be judgmental. But yeah, I still see and hear about women and girls dealing with that mean girl mentality and I wonder when women will finally realize that cutting down another woman will NOT raise them up.

3. I have a "Writing Music" playlist on my iPod. What would be on yours? What one song or artist captures the essence of your book?

I actually create a playlist for each book. You can see all 36 songs that inspired Ballads of Suburbia here: It's really hard to pick just one song or artist to sum up the book. I was listening to a lot of PJ Harvey, Screaming Trees, and Johnny Cash while writing it. I guess if I had to use one song to sum it up though, it would be "The Kids Aren't Alright" by the Offspring.

4. What do you tell people is your favorite book/author? Now what is your "real" favorite book/author. (i.e. I tell people Pale Fire by Nabokov is my fave, but right now I'm really into Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea.)

I tell people that it's Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and that honestly is my all time favorite book. But I read a lot of different stuff, mainly YA like Francesca Lia Block, Melissa Marr, and Cecil Castellucci. And I have enjoyed some "trashy" books. Like Pamela Anderson's books. I gobbled those up when I was living in LA, something about reading them poolside in my apartment complex just seemed right ;)

5. If you could swap lives with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?

Liza Graves from Civet. I'd love to be the front woman of a punk band. Instead I live vicariously through her adventures on her blog: Dude, right now she is on tour with Social Distortion! And she just came back from Europe? Yeah, that would be sweet.

6. Who would be in your dream cast if your book was made into a movie or television series? (And multimillion dollar salaries were no issue--they'd all do it for free!)

What's funny is I can totally cast my first book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, but I really can't cast Ballads. I either don't know enough teen actors or I would just really imagine it as a new, fresh cast. The only thing I can sort of see is Silver from the new 90210 as Maya and maybe Adriana from the new 90210 as my main character, Kara. See the new 90210 is the main teen drama I watch :)

7. As a publicist, I know that it's important for every novel to have journalistic hook. For The Lost Sister, it's mean girls, bullies and hazing. What's yours?

It's teen addiction and self injury. Self injury in particular is an issue close to my heart since it is something I coped with as a teen, so I do hope this book brings light to it.

8. Just because it hasn't been asked yet, favorite 1980's movie?

Oh man, this is a really, really hard one because I love 80s movies! I think I'm gonna go with the classic Breakfast Club though.

9. Why should I choose your book for my book club?

Because it's the kind of book that will generate a lot of discussion. It brings to light some hard issues and I really hope it will get more people talking about them. Also there are so many different characters with different experiences that it would be interesting to see which character each person in your book club relates too. You could also do fun activities with my book like write your own ballad.

10. I'm a huge and fabulously powerful movie producer and you have 30 seconds (an elevator pitch) to sell me on why your book is great and should be made into a movie. Go!

It deals with issues real teens deal with like divorce, depression, addiction, and self-injury. It's got all the drama of a show like 90210, but with more realistic every day characters that teens will relate to. I joke that it's Weeds (for the suburbia angle, but with heroin instead of pot) meets 90210. And it's itching for a killer soundtrack!

Cool Links:


Blog: A cyber launch party for Ballads of Suburbia is running there through August 14 with lots of guest bloggers and daily prizes!

Link to Epilogue (ie the very first chapter of the book) on my site:

Link to Chapter 1 on Simon & Schuster’s site:

Book Trailer for Ballads of Suburbia:

Video Invite for Cyber Launch Party:


By Stephanie Kuehnert

ISBN: 1-439-1-0282-1

Release Date: July 2009

Price: $13.00