Sunday, 9 March 2014

Interview with Aurora Zahni, author of Ellie Stanton

Ellie Stanton (Heller Park #1) 
Behind 166 Pages
Released: 14 January 2014
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Beau Coup Publishing
Buy Me: Amazon  
At the Other End:
An imperfect, unremarkable girl makes a hero’s journey. Ellie Stanton needed to have a good day. The universe had something else in store. Getting caught shoplifting. Check. Dumping her lame boyfriend. Check. Expulsion from school. Check. Getting kicked out of her house and then stealing her mother’s car, while she’s in a New Jersey turnpike rest stop Cinnabon? Check. The only sensible option is to run as fast as she can and never look back. Now Ellie is running, going cross country to raise a little hell and maybe along the way learn everything she needs to know about life.

Shhh... Take a Sneak Peek
"Why, oh why do you have to turn every confrontation with an authority figure into World War Four?" "Wait, you want to know, essentially, why I can't deal?" Hilary nodded emphatically, and Ellie continued. "Oh, that's easy peezy. We can all thank Mrs. Richards." "Who the hell is Mrs. Richards?" Hilary asked. "My kindergarten teacher. I will never forgive or forget that bitch." "Why? What did she do?" "I'm glad you asked. See, the first day of school, Mrs. Richards gave us a note to give to our parents, letting them know that parents were responsible for their own kid's snacks and drinks." A security guard and two Chickentown employees joined the audience. "So, Tammy, that's my mom's name for those who are new to the show here, she reads the first part of the note but not the second. That would be the part which gives examples of what appropriate healthy snacks and drinks are recommended. The word 'healthy' was underlined and in bold print. You can see where this is going, right?" She motioned toward Hilary, who smiled and nodded. "So Mommy Dearest stops off at Quick Chek on the way to school and grabs me a Mountain Dew and Twinkies." There was a collective groan from the peanut gallery. Hilary used the pause in the story to take some orders before allowing Ellie to go on. "Anyway, snack time rolls around, I open my Lion King lunch box and start digging in. Bitch Richards sees my Twinkies and comes flying at me like a hawk. She screams at me, throws away my Twinkies, and then walks me around the room pointing out examples of healthy snacks." "You're kidding me." Hilary laughed, picturing little Ellie being tortured by this teacher. "I would not kid you about snacks. It was like five full minutes of 'See, Ellie, that's a banana. Bananas are an example of a healthy snack.' Finally I snapped." "What did you do?" "I cried and smashed my lunch box against the chalkboard. When Mrs. Richards said she was calling my mom, I called her a big green bitch." The entire congregation in the restaurant giggled at once. "Why is that so funny? What the hell does that even mean?" "I dunno. She was standing next to a Statue of Liberty poster. It didn't make sense, but it was very effective as an insult. That was the first class I was ever kicked out of, and I've been a pain in the collective ass of the world ever since.”
Author Bio:
Aurora Zahni is a former rebel who’s trying to bring a little bit of Judy Blume and Sylvia Plath to the Twilight Generation. Over the years she has given half-assed / full throttle contributions to numerous zines and blogs, written a web movie and done significantly well in countless competitive eating events. When she was in the 8th grade, she was on the local evening news. A dead body was being lifted out of the water at a marina by the Meadowlands and you could clearly see her standing in the background watching, looking a bit excited for the camera. Looking back it may have been the highlight of her entire childhood.
Find Aurora:
1. Where have we seen you before? (previous projects/works)
You may recognize me from such films as Spoiled By The Spoils and The Half Enchilada and I had a walk on role in The Birdcage. Not really. Ellie Stanton is actually my debut novel. Before this I mostly wrote poetry and lyrics.

2. What goes through your mind after your novel has been on sale for the first week?

I didn’t really think too much. I was happy that it was out into the universe but my attitude remained the same. I just want the story to find it’s audience.

3. What inspired you to write this novel?

It started with a note on a piece of paper. I was bored and I wrote “Juno meets Bender” and started writing right after. I’ve always wanted to write a young adult story about a normal girl. I just thought that the genre was filled with too many “gifted” or “chosen” girls. Even when a girl is supposed to be “average” she still is often a secret super genius and magically attracts the hottest guy in the universe. I assure you, my Ellie it a truly “average” girl who just happens to be awesome as well.

4. What do you think about when getting/seeing negative reviews?

I have been lucky and haven’t received a negative review yet, knock on wood. I know my story isn’t for everyone. I’ll be happy if anyone is moved enough by the book to write a review, wether it be positive or negative.

5. How long was the writing/planning process?

Ellie is the first novel that I wrote that I was happy with, so I really took my time. I think beginning to end it took two years to write. The first draft only took a few weeks but the book went through numerous drafts. I’d finish a draft and then step away from it to work on another project so I could always go back to it with fresh eyes. 

6. What was your reaction to the cover art when you saw it for the first time? Did you have any ideas from the days of writing/inspiration?

I saw it, smiled and instantly said, “Good job. Now let’s get book two out too!”

7. Any plans for future writing projects? Any being worked on now?

I just turned in the second book in the Heller Park series to my publisher and am working on book three. Both will be taking the readers in a new direction. The second book is an existential sci fi romance novel about time travel and love, and the third revolves around a girl who misses the last bus home and has to walk around New York City all night while a serial killer is on the loose.

8. Top 5 books
          To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee

          Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson
          100 Years of Solitude / Gabriel Garcia Marquez
          Every Judy Blume book
          Every Kurt Vonnegut book.

9. What book/s from other authors do you wish 
you had written?

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. That book haunted me when I first read it! It was so brilliant and emotionally satisfying that I literally deleted the novel I was workign on and started over. All of a sudden I had a new standard for what a young adult book could be. 

10. Why read your novel?

 Who wouldn’t want to see an imperfect, unremarkable girl make a hero’s journey! Ellie is a short fun comedy that will remind of the day you “figured it out” or help you look forward to the day when you do.

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