Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Interview: Neesha S. Meminger
Neesha S. Meminger is the debut author of Shine, Coconut Moon, which is released today! Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Samar -- a.k.a. Sam -- has never known much about her Indian heritage. Her mom has deliberately kept Sam away from her old-fashioned family. It's never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a really cute but demanding boyfriend.
But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam's house, and he turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam isn't sure what to do, until a girl at school calls her a coconut -- brown on the outside, white on the inside. That decides it: Why shouldn't Sam get to know her family? What is her mom so afraid of? Then some boys attack her uncle, shouting, "Go back home, Osama!" and Sam realizes she could be in danger -- and also discovers how dangerous ignorance can be. Sam will need all her smarts and savvy to try to bridge two worlds and make them both her own.
Where did your inspiration for Shine, Coconut Moon come from?
SHINE originally began as a story about the relationships between mothers and daughters. It quickly morphed into a story about mothers and daughters and the whole rest of the family! :)
The other pieces, like the 9/11 thread, came in during later drafts and everything sort of came together really well . . . like it should've been there from the very beginning.
Who has been the most inspiring person in your writing career?
I really got a lot of inspiration from authors all throughout my life. I loved Tuck, Everlasting and almost all of Judy Blume's and Paula Danziger's books. They inspired me to tell my funny, painful, beautiful and ugly stories and those of the people around me, too.
How did Shine, Coconut Moon change from the first draft to the final draft?
It changed quite a bit. It originally had a main character who was bi-racial, but that theme was tough to work through completely for me. It may be something I need to tackle at a later point. So I made things a bit simpler by keeping Samar Indian-American, and then I had to listen to her story so I could tell it :).
What kind of music is your favorite? Do you have a certain playlist for when you're writing?
I listen to just about anything. My playlist for SHINE was varied -- I listened to Indian music (bhangra, Bollywood tunes), eighties music (mostly pop and rock), and some nineties dance tracks.
For my current novel, I've been listening to a lot of tribal fusion music, African artists and some Arabic, worldbeat tunes.
What are your favorite YA books/authors?
Well, above I mentioned a couple of the classics that I love. I also love Deb Caletti, Sarah Dessen and Carolyn Mackler. In terms of books, some of my faves are Elsewhere (Gabrielle Zevin), Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli), All Rivers Flow to the Sea (Alison McGhee), Born Confused (Tanuja Desai Hidier). And there are tons of new authors coming out whose books I adore: Heather Duffy Stone, Danielle Joseph, Sydney Salter, Jon Skovron, J.E. MacLeod, Sarah MacLean... I could go on and on, but I'll leave you room for other blog posts ;).
Do you agree with the saying that your high school years are the best of your life? Why or why not?
I don't agree with that, actually. I think the best years are yet to come. In high school, I was just beginning to figure things out. I had just begun exploring who I was and where I wanted to be headed. I think we all move at different speeds and, for some of us, high school might very well be the best years of our lives. But it wasn't for me. College was where things began to rev up for me, and they haven't stopped yet :).
Are you currently working on another book? If yes, are you allowed to tell us anything about it?
I am, indeed, working on a new book. I won't say much about it except that it's a paranormal set, in part, in the ancient world. I've been having so much fun with it!
Were you a big reader when you were in high school? Did you like reading the classics you had to read for school or did you like to read the kind of stuff you liked more?
I was definitely a big reader. I did not like reading the classics, though I am glad that someone made me read a few of them, at least :). There were books I read in high school because I "had to" that I've never forgotten. One was The Chrysalids. That book has stayed with me ever since tenth grade.
But mostly, I read what I enjoyed -- and at that time it was almost exclusively romance novels ;).
What is your advice to aspiring teen authors?
Read a lot and write a lot. In the beginning it's less about who else thinks it's good, and more about you learning who you are as a writer -- finding your style and voice as a writer. Also check out some books *about* writing. One good one is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She stresses the fact that writing is like a muscle that you have to keep toned, so it's a good idea to make like a "practice."
Ask yourself a question and answer it. :D
Okay, Neesha, what's your favorite food, EVER?
Well, Neesha, that would have to be key lime pie with a butter cookie crust!
Thanks, Hope :).
Thank YOU, Neesha!
Neesha has kindly donated some bookmarks and bookplates to give away! These will be given to random commenters, so if you comment make sure you leave your e-mail address with it!