Carley Moore is basically why I live in Brooklyn. I mean, where else does your daughter befriend an adorable little child, only to find out that this child’s parents are both poets, and that this child’s mother is also a novelist? We can share so many complaints that no one else cares about! And Harper and her beloved Malka can entertain each other while we do! I feel so lucky to know Carley, and extra-lucky that she wrote the excellent YA novel The Stalker Chronicles. But who cares what I think of this book (which is a total page-turner, by the way, starring a complex, unique teen female protagonist — when does that happen?) — I’m not a YA. That’s why I asked my friend and neighbor, a smart 11-year-old aspiring writer named Lena, to read the book and interview Carley. Lena reports that she liked the book, found the subject matter interesting, and most of all liked the end — and this, after she had just been talking about how she never likes books’ endings.
And now…The Lena/Carley Interview.
What gave you the idea to write about this?
I wrote my dissertation on Seventeen magazine, and I devoted a chapter to a very popular column (which still runs both in print and on the website) called “Trauma-rama!” Maybe you know about “Trauma-rama!”, but basically the editors ask readers to submit embarrassing or humiliating stories; real life stuff that happened to them. I found this column fascinating—all of the shame and cringing around boys and having a body and just being a normal girl. I think this column was probably lurking somewhere in my brain when I dreamed up Cammie. But honestly, I think we all do embarrassing, stalker-esque things all the time when we try to find love (I know I have!) and I wanted to write a book about that shows us a character who is very real and who also goes too far.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Hmmm…maybe about eight months to write the first draft. I didn’t write every day of those eight months, but a couple of hours every other day or every third day. I revised it later for both my agent and then my editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Janine O-Malley, but that was a much shorter process (probably about three weeks worth of intense work for both of those revisions).
Are there going to be more of these books?
I’m not sure. It depends on what readers want. I haven’t written a sequel to The Stalker Chronicles, but I’m open. I have a new young adult manuscript called Cemetery Gates, which I hope to have out soon. It involves ghosts and a spunky, confused girl who in some ways resembles Cammie. I’ll have to keep you posted.
From the beginning did you already know how it was going to end, or did you think of ideas as you were writing?
I started by writing the flashbacks—the stories of past boys and girls who Cammie has stalked and then as I got those down, I started to come up with ideas for the contemporary story line with Cammie, Rosie, Toby, Henry, Tara, and Cammie’s parents. But I was figuring out a lot of it as I wrote it. Many writers say this, but it’s fun to see what your characters end up wanting to do or figuring out about themselves as you write them. So, it some places it was very intuitive. But I did know a couple of later plot points early on, like the garbage scene and what Toby had done in Pittsburgh.
While you were writing the book did you know what age you wanted children to read this at?
Cammie is 15, so when I was writing I thought the average reader would be 14 or 15. But now that I have a little experience with my readers and with publishing, I see that she’s interesting for younger girls too. There’s something very innocent and child-like about Cammie’s way of seeing things, and also she’s a teenage girl with urges and a major crush and a danger streak, so maybe that’s a bit older of a thing.
How did you decide on the characters’ names?
Cammie Bliss, Carley Moore (we both have three syllables, the same first initial, and similar sounding last names). Everybody else’s name was very random, although I did know a guy named Toby in high school, but he was very different than the Toby in the book.
How did you begin writing it? Did you organize before your drafts?
I’m not a very organized writer. I can’t really begin with outlines or plot summaries. They make me nervous. I just move from scene to scene and try to make each of those as good and interesting as possible. Once I have about 40 pages, then I start to have a more long-term sense of where I’m going.
How many pages would you say you wrote each day?
One to five depending on the day.
At any point in the book did you not know what to write next or how the characters would respond to certain things?
Writing the garbage scene creeped me out and I made my husband and a couple of friends read it to make sure it was working. I got stuck writing the ending too. I think there are a couple of different versions of the last chapters.
If you keep writing about Cammie who would your next book be about? Would you write about another child who was a stalker and wanted to stop?
Cammie is probably the only stalker girl I will write about, but if she were to have a sequel I would want to explore her relationship with Toby and see how she handles being a girlfriend and actually having that “normal” relationship she so craves.
How do you imagine Cammie’s house?
It’s very much like some of the houses in the small upstate town where I grew up—Jamestown, NY. Two stories. The living room, kitchen, and dining room are downstairs and all of the bedrooms and the bathroom are upstairs. I added a back staircase off the kitchen in Cammie’s house in the book because I needed a convenient place for her to spy on her family members. Also, these houses are kind of old and have radiator vents that carry sound from one room to another—another great way for Cammie to eavesdrop. The house itself is kind of a mess and the refrigerator is full of foods past their expiration date because Cammie’s parents are not fully present or able to deal with family life.
Thank you Lena for your wonderful and thoughtful questions!!! I had a great time responding!!