Today Danielle Joseph is here to talk to us about her debut novel, Shrinking Violet. From the book:
"You're listening to Sweet T on 92.7 WEMD SLAM FM. It's after dark now, so don't change that dial because here's where killer tunes explode through your speakers, leaving you wanting more. I'll take you through the night and feed your soul. Call me at 1-800-555-SLAM and let me know what's up, Miami. Now check out the new Juice Box track I've been promising you."
High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class. But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out—doing mock broadcasts for Miami’s hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T—and to everyone’s shock, she’s a hit! Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ’s awesome taste in music. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest—and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize—Sweet T’s dream could turn into Tere’s worst nightmare....
Hey Danielle! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer - do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?
I try and write at least five days a week. However, since I have a three month old baby and two young boys, writing time is pretty unpredictable. I try and snag the time whenever I can. I usually try and get the first few chapters down of a book before I start outlining. After that I might outline half of the book and then continue writing. So you could say I’m a half-liner!
When – and why - did you begin writing?
I have loved to write since my first grade teacher helped us make a book in class. Back then I was an illustrator too and my teacher laminated the whole thing. I still have that book today. There was something so magical about being able to write whatever I wanted. It’s that magic that has kept me going over the years. The imagination is a very powerful tool that I cherish.
What was it liked getting published? What was your publishing journey?
It was pretty surreal getting published. I definitely worked my way up the ladder. I joined a critique group, attended conferences, then signed with an agent and finally got a contract for my book. Nothing happened over night and I definitely went through a lot of rejections. But since I got the offer for Shrinking Violet, I have enjoyed every step of the way.
Tell us about your process writing Shrinking Violet. What inspired you, and what did you struggle with?
I wanted to write about something that I had passion for and I love music. From there the character of Tere was born. I chose to write about a teen that wanted to go for her dreams, despite her personal obstacles. I stuck her behind the mic because radio does serve as a mask but at the same time is very empowering. I was shy growing up, although not as she as Tere, so I felt like that was something I was very comfortable writing about. The biggest struggle would have to be just finding the time to sit down and write. But once I got my butt in the chair, I didn’t want to get up. I really enjoyed going along for the ride on Tere’s journey.
What's something I wouldn't know about Shrinking Violet just by reading the blurb?
You wouldn’t know that the original title of the book was Dead Air. I chose that title because when Tere can’t find the words, she feels like she’s broadcasting dead air. It’s taken from the radio term of the same meaning, complete silence. That is a DJs worst nightmare—to broadcast dead air. When I was a DJ I used to have nightmares that a song would end and I wouldn’t get back to the console in time to play another song. We decided to change the title because Dead Air sounds more like a murder mystery and that’s how the title Shrinking Violet was chosen by my editor.
What drew you to write YA? Do you think you'll continue writing YA in the future?
I started writing YA when I was a senior in high school. I didn’t know it was YA then but I really loved writing about teens, my peers. Then later on in college, I took a children’s writing class and chose to write in a teen’s voice again. I really didn’t think about it but that’s where I was drawn too. Yes, I will continue writing YA, I’m working on another teen novel right now and have my second YA coming out next year.
Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?
I hate using the same words over and over again so I try and go through my novel and make sure this is not happening too much. So I guess you could say that I like the thesaurus a lot! And I’m trying to get better with commas!
Indigo Blues is your second novel, also centered around music, set for summer 2010. Anything else in the pipeline?
I am finishing up revisions on a novel about a teen that’s obsessed with movies. I had a lot of fun with this one because I got to revisit some of my old 80’s favorites like Say Anything and the Breakfast Club.
If you knew a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?
I know it’s cliché but I’d tell them to read—a lot! I would also tell them to observe everything around them and write it down. I used to keep an observation notebook in high school and write down funny things that people did or said. And of course I was totally paranoid that I’d lose the notebook, so I gave everyone code names.
How do you hope to see yourself growing as a writer?
I learn from every book that I write so I want to continue learning from myself and from others. I will continue to share my work with my critique group and to attend conferences, all of which helps expand my skills. Most importantly, I will continue to be a good listener because really that is how we learn, by taking the time to really listen.
Wonderful answers. Thanks Danielle, and best of luck!
Danielle Joseph was a college DJ for five years on the Gyroscope, a world music show. She also interned at several top Boston radio stations while earning her BFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Marketing Communications and Advertising from Emerson College. She has taught Creative Writing and English to Middle school students.Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Danielle now lives in Miami, Florida with her husband and kids. These days you can find her cruising around with the tunes blaring and her internal DJ hard at work. Check out Danielle's website to listen to her Shrinking Violet playlist, and follow her blog.