Prom Dates to Die For: An Interview with Jenny Peterson

Prom Dates to Die ForToday I’m thrilled to welcome my YA writing friend and fellow Lighthouse Writers workshopper Jenny Peterson. Jenny’s short story, “Tonight, You’re Mine,” has just released in PROM DATES TO DIE FOR, a new paranormal anthology from Buzz Books, and she’s here to dish about the new collection, writing for teens, and of course… prom!

Describe your real-life prom experience (or lack thereof) with seven random words:

Minivan. Masquerade. Late-night. Dare. Skinny dipping. Secret kissing. Friends.

What inspired you and your fellow YA authors Lena Brown, Heather Dearly, Kelly Para, and Aaron Smith to write this particular collection of stories?

Prom is already kind of abnormal to begin with, right? Teenage guys trying to pretend they’re comfortable in a suit, dates picking through fancy dinners when all they really want is Taco Bell. (Actually, all I ever really want is Taco Bell.) It’s a whole bunch of people trying to create this fantasy that doesn’t really exist. So we went ahead and *really* added that fantasy.

For my story, I played around with the idea of a perfect prom. My main character, Rachel, has decided that prom night is the ideal time to also lose her virginity. She’s the type that would have charts and graphs to back this up. Even when some seriously weird stuff starts going down, she charges ahead with her plans. It’s not until she comes face to kind-of face with a hideous pink slug-like thing does she realize prom night isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Apparently, “adult proms” are a thing now. Seriously. Self-proclaimed grown-ups get all dressed up, rent a limo with their friends, go to a dance with a horrible band, and then get totally wasted and bust out the air guitar and I love you mans and someone always ends up crying in the bathroom, all in some vain attempt to redefine this teen rite-of-passage-gone-awry. Any thoughts on this trend? Healing group therapy for post-prom traumatic stress, or just another case of grown-ups behaving badly?

Okay, so my friends once threw me a “half-birthday”–as in we celebrated like I was turning 13, not 26. We played laser tag and made mix tapes of early ’90s music. It was awesome. (It was also a lesson in stamina. Pre-pubescent boys have a hell of a lot more energy in the laser tag arena than a bunch of adults.)

So adult prom? IN. As long as the updo-sporting adults aren’t, like, flipping tables at Olive Garden, I think it’s a fun way to embrace your inner teen.

Um… will you go to Adult Prom with me?

You bring the Aqua Net, I’ll bring the Zima.

You’re working on at least two other full-length YA projects. What drew you to YA in the first place? Do you write it to cope with the tragic emotional aftermath of your own teen years? Or is it just me? Can I get an amen? Or a drink? Or an adult prom date? Anyone?

I’m mixing you a gin and tonic right now.

Like most annoyingly pretentious teens, I pulled away from YA when I was actually, you know, the demographic. I devoured the classics, but my favorites (like “Pride & Prejudice”) all had young(ish) adult protagonists. Then I discovered Harry Potter at age 17, and it was all over. I don’t think anyone can meet Ron Weasley and *not* want to spend the rest of their life with him. (Ron+Hermione 4eva)

I turned back to YA and realized it was just perfect for me. Being a teen or young adult is all about first experiences–first kiss, first heartbreak, first “real” decisions without Mom and Dad. You’re trying out new skins and discovering who you want to be. It’s such a fascinating, poignant, fun time of life to write about.

If you could give one piece of advice to your teen self on the night before prom, what would it be?

Jennifer Renee Coon, do NOT spend the entire dance hawk-eyeing your oh-so-recent ex-boyfriend. And certainly do NOT position yourself near him while laughing loudly and pretending you’re having the Best. Night. Ever. You’ll have an awesome time without a Capital D Date. I promise.

For you, what is the most challenging thing about writing fiction for teens? I mean, aside from the obvious answer of being forced to relive your own horrific high school memories in the never-ending search for authentic ideas.

This isn’t so much a challenge, but something I’m always aware of: I never want to sound like a Very Old Person lecturing the Young Whippersnapper. I often find that people who don’t read YA automatically think it is simplistic and After-School Special-y, which is totally not true. I strive in my writing to never talk down to my audience.

What’s the best part?

Everything! I get this amazing excuse to read awesome YA every day (for “research”), and I get to jump into all these different worlds where there is limitless potential.

You’re the head of the prom committee, and this time, you get to plan the special super-awesome Jenny Prom with no limitations. What’s your prom theme, song, and color? Are there any other special details or plans we should know about for this amazing event? What are you wearing? And most importantly, what’s in the punch?

If this was Teen Jenny Prom, I’d probably enforce a strict “X-Files” theme and wear a pantsuit with sensible heels (to run away from the aliens, obvs. … and run into Mulder’s arms for a long-awaited make-out session). Thankfully, I’m a bit better at masking my extreme dorkiness today (says the girl who recently went to a Joss Whedon trivia event).

Okay, so Super Awesome Jenny Prom would take place on a boat, because why not. Not a cruise, those are lame. Like a European Lesser Prince’s yacht. (European Lesser Prince included.) The prom theme would be Yachts Are Awesome, Yo. The music would be yacht rock, so brush up on your Kenny Loggins and Toto. The colors would be blue (for the ocean!) and hints of gold to keep the European Lesser Princes in attendance comfortable. Most importantly, there is a lot (a LOT) of champagne in the punch.

Special details? Bring a swimsuit and Italian phrasebook. And try not to be the popular girl. She’ll probably be the first to fall overboard and get eaten by sharks.

Um… will you go to Jenny Prom with me?

I’m swinging the boat around and will pick you up in an hour.

Congratulations on the new release, Jenny! And thanks for making me feel marginally better about myself by accepting both of my prom date invitations. 🙂

Readers, want to learn more? Check PROM DATES TO DIE FOR or visit Jenny on the web.

Holly Schindler on Censorship, Missouri, & Stereotypes

Holly Schindler is the author of novels A BLUE SO DARK and the soon-to-be released PLAYING HURT. As a lifelong resident of Springfield, Missouri (she’s totally legit because she pronounces it like “Ma-zur-ah” instead of “Misery”), she had quite a lot to say during that whole Wesley Crazypants Filthy Book Banning thing last fall (considering Mr. Crazypants was sooo inaccurately representing the good people of her homeland) (which crazypants people often do) (because they are crazy).

I’m not sure whatever happened to Mr. Scroggins, but Holly’s gearing up for the launch of her second YA novel, PLAYING HURT, which hits the shelves on March 8 (and is definitely not something Mr. Scroggins will enjoy, because there’s smoochin’ in it and stuff!). She stopped by on her virtual tour this week to share her thoughts on book banning in the Show-Me State and to tell us a bit about her latest book.

She’s also giving away a signed copy of PLAYING HURT — read on to find out how!

Barefoot in the Bible Belt
By Holly Schindler

Holly SchindlerWull, gaaaw-lee, shore is a might cold ‘round these here parts. It’s Feb’rary, after all. Where’m I gon’ get a little heat? Think I’ll jes’ burn these here books. Ain’t nothin’ but a bunch ‘a smut in ‘em, anyhowse.

Come on—that’s the picture you get, isn’t it? All I have to say is “Midwest” or “Ozarks,” and you get that image: a barefoot hillbilly who’s never used a be-verb correctly in his entire life.

And as soon as I think of that stereotype, I get a full-body cringe.

I’m a lifer myself—born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. And when the Scroggins debacle ensued in the fall of 2010, and the works of Sarah Ockler and Laurie Halse Anderson were unfairly targeted in one man’s narrow-minded banning attempt, all I could think was, “Here we go again.”

But I’m not talking about banning—not entirely. I’m also talking about that ridiculous, awful, barefoot hillbilly stereotype. Because in addition to attacking the work of two incredible young adult authors, I feared Scroggins’s complaint was also about to add to the unfair stereotyping of Missouri .

In the months since the story broke, the headline continues to pop up here and there in the blogosphere. And just as I feared, instead of identifying Scroggins as the source of the banning attempt… Yep, you guessed it—the headlines or quotes or discussions that pop up indicate MISSOURI wants to ban books. MISSOURI stands for censorship.

Actually, the majority of us don’t.

I could go blue in the face pointing to a myriad of dry facts proving my point. I could talk about the slew of local bloggers who put up posts expressing disdain for Scroggins’ attempt. I could talk about the fact that MSU students convened to protest book banning.

But more important than these overt, published examples of fellow Ozarkers’ disgust over book banning is that which can’t be quoted or measured or recorded. It’s the open-mindedness that has lived in the blood of so many Ozarkers for generations. A traits that stands in direct opposition to the goals of Wesley Scroggins.

Just as much as I feel the work of my fellow YA authors was completely miscategorized, I also feel that much of my own Missouri’s opinions have been unfairly categorized. And just as an author’s work can’t be judged by lifting a stray line out of context, neither should an entire region be judged by one man—or even one school district—that attempts to pull a book from library shelves.

To me, Missouri has always been a place of strength—and, yes, of open-mindedness. A place that I’m proud to call my home—and to showcase in my writing.

–Holly Schindler

About Playing Hurt

Playing HurtStar basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea ’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

Holly’s giving away a signed copy of PLAYING HURT to one lucky reader! Check out all the details here!

Holly Schindler dove headfirst into her writing pursuits after obtaining her MA from Missouri (“Ma-zur-AH”) State University in 2001. Having penned a pile of drafts that literally stretches to the ceiling of her office, she was thrilled to release her debut novel, A Blue So Dark, with Flux in 2010. A Blue So Dark received a starred review in Booklist, and was named one of Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth. Her second novel, Playing Hurt, will be released March 8, 2011. Visit her online at

Kristin Walker’s Character Debut Party

[tweetmeme source=”@sarahockler”]Kristin Walker's A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOLKristin Walker’s A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL was one of my favorite, laugh-out-loud books of 2010. I mean, high school is bad enough without having the added pressure of maintaining a fake marriage with some super-jock in a school-administrators-gone-horribly-awry project.

Of course, the best kind of hijinks ensue, and with lovable prankster Fiona’s help, Kristin Walker sneaks some great, unpredictable realizations about life and relationships in between all the funny stuff. Check it out!


When a mandatory marriage education course forces Fiona to “try the knot” with super-jock Todd Harding, she’s convinced life could not possibly get any worse. Until moments later, when her long-time crush is paired with her arch-enemy (otherwise known as Todd’s obscenely hot, slightly sadistic girlfriend). But that’s nothing compared to her best friend’s fate – a year with the very shy, very goofy, very big Johnny Mercer.

A series of hilarious pranks and misunderstandings leave Fiona wondering: is there something her supposed “best friend” hasn’t told her? Could there be more to Johnny Mercer than a deep voice and an awesome music collection? And perhaps most intriguing of all, is it possible that Todd Harding could actually have a heart – and a brain – beneath his pretty-boy exterior?

Fiona’s Debut Party

The Guest List

Jane from THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, Callie from PRADA & PREJUDICE, Audrey from AUDREY WAIT, Tessa from THE NAUGHTY LIST, Felicity from STUPID CUPID, Bea and Jonah from HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT, Nick and Norah from N&N’S INFINITE PLAYLIST…and many more. They’re all strong, independent characters, whom Fiona would really dig.

The Party

For Fiona’s debut bash, we’re heading to an out-of-the-way bar/restaurant where only locals hang out, where themes and favors are banned. Stay tuned for great music. Low lights. Edgy band. Sweaty dancing.

Yes! I don’t have to wear heels. Or a dress. And those local places are usually pretty dark, so no one will see my dance moves. A win for everyone involved!

The Guest of Honor: Fiona

Fiona’s decked out in jeans and a cute top she borrowed from her best friend. Her theme song tonight? “Fell in Love With a Girl” by The White Stripes.

Oh, how I love that song. Check it out — I think it’s perfect for Fiona:

Kristin’s Advice for Fiona on Her Big Debut

Have all the fun there is to have and regret nothing.

Good advice for debut parties, high school, and real marriage!

Congratulations to Kristin Walker and Fiona on their adorably hilarious debut! A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.

Kristin Walker grew up roaming the Pennsylvania countryside. She finally landed at Penn State, where she earned a BA in Theatre Arts. In addition to being actor, Kristin was many things on her way to becoming an author, such as a lifeguard, a nanny, a beginning ballroom dance instructor, a library circulation clerk, and very nearly a nurse. A Match Made in High School (Razorbill/Penguin Group) is her first novel. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ladybug, Wee Ones, and two Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Kristin lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband and three sons. Visit her online!

Author Interview: Stacey Jay

Undead Much?This is the week for undead love! I just watched both The Crazies and Zombieland with my husband (yeah, that’s the kind of wife I am), so today’s the perfect day to tell you about Stacey Jay’s new zombie tale, UNDEAD MUCH?. You may remember our friend Stacey from such zombie lore as YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME, her January 2009 YA debut and book one in this fun-dead series.

(Hey, it’s early, people. Please laugh at my bad zombie jokes and kindly shamble along…)

Anyway… today we’re chatting with Stacey about her new book and some of her early writing influences. Welcome, Stacey!

Tell us about UNDEAD MUCH? from the perspective of Megan Berry, the series’ kickass main character.

Even Zombie Settlers with Super Hot Boyfriends get the Blues…

A few months ago I was a normal girl with a normal life. But that was before my power to Settle the Undead returned and someone tried to kill me with zombies. Now I work magic and practice kicking butt while trying to find time for pom squad and my boyfriend, Ethan, and trying NOT to think about how freaky my life has become. It can be tough. Still…things could be worse…

Oh yeah, right:

  1. Feral new super-strong zombies. Check.
  2. Undead psychic hottie predicting a zombie apocalypse. Check.
  3. Earth-shattering secrets that could land me in Settler prison for life. Check.
  4. Cheerleader vs. pom squad turf war threatening the end of the half time as we know it. Check.

I’m going to need therapy (and a cookie) if I live through the week. Unfortunately I’m learning that’s not something Zombie Queens can take for granted.

You had me at… undead psychic hottie! Though I’d probably pay money to see that fight between the cheerleaders and the pom squad, too!

Stacey, what author or book had the greatest influence or impact on you as a teen reader?

I read “Little Women” by Louisa Mae Alcott a dozen times. The multiple “coming of age” stories really got to me, and I loved the historical context. The first two books I finished were historical. Thankfully, those manuscripts now live under my bed!

I recently picked up “Little Women” at a garage sale. I’ve actually never read it, but I always wanted to.

If you could have a dinner party with three other authors, living or dead, who would you invite and why?

Benjamin Franklin (because he was awesome, brilliant, and funny), Amy Sedaris (also awesome, brilliant, and funny), and Edgar Allan Poe (to see if he was as creepy as most people really think, lol!).

In high school, you would’ve voted yourself most likely to what? Did that prediction come true?

I think I would have been voted most likely to exhaust herself into an early grave. Lol. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet. I’ve learned to take it easy occasionally. Still, I could probably work on that whole “relaxing” thing a bit more.

I really thought you were going to say “most likely to exhaust herself into an early grave… and then rise out of it.” Ah, maybe for the next book!

Thanks for stopping by, Stacey! Zombie fans, get your shamble on and head on over to your favorite bookstore to find Stacey’s tales of high school zombie mayhem!

Stacey Jay is a workaholic with three pen names, and a sick sense of humor. She loves creepies, crawlies, and of course, romance. What would a zombie novel–or any novel–be without kisses that make your toes tingle? Stacey has been a full time writer since 2005 and can’t think of anything she’d rather be doing. Her former careers include theatre performer, professional dancer, poorly paid C-movie actress, bartender, and waiter. Visit Stacey online.

Author Interview: Shani Petroff

Bedeviled: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly DressAs an inquisitive teen, I spent many long hours contemplating the important questions of our times. Why are we here? What do I want to be when I grow up? Why are cheese fries so awesome? And… is my dad the devil? (Of course I don’t wonder that now, Dad!)

Well, in author Shani Petroff’s teen series, Angel’s dad really is the devil. The first book, BEDEVILED: DADDY’S LITTLE ANGEL, launched last summer. Shani is now celebrating the release of the second in the series, BEDEVILED: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY DRESS, and she stopped by to answer a few questions for us. Welcome, Shani!

Tell us about Bedeviled: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Dress

Angel Garrett knows two things for sure. The first is that she inherited her devil-dad’s powers. The second is that she wreaks havoc whenever she tries to use them. Especially when she’s trying to impress her crush, Cole. Angel’s only solution is to stay as far away as possible from him until she learns how to harness this new gift. But how do you avoid someone and get him to ask you to the school dance at the same time?

Shani, what author or book had the greatest influence or impact on you as a teen reader? Why?

Francine Pascal really left an impression with me. I read My First Love and Other Disasters, and Love and Betrayal & Hold the Mayo and fell in love with them. Then, of course, there was Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins. I grabbed them up like candy. Sometimes I would finish them on the ride home from the mall to my house. I remember thinking how cool it would be to have my own series.

I need to dig out the old Sweet Valley High books! Ahh, memories.

If you could have a dinner party with three other authors, living or dead, who would you invite and why?

There are so many amazing authors to choose from. Your first question inspired me to go with some people who really got me hooked on reading as a kid—Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Christopher Pike. I loved all of their books. Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume’s books seemed to speak right to me. And Christopher Pike had that supernatural element that I loved. And one of his books, Weekend, even had a main character named Shani. And I had never seen my name anywhere (not even in those little stores that sold key chains with everyone’s name on it). Even better—the character was pretty and the hot guy was interested in her—so it made me like it all the better. An evening with the three of them would bring back all the excitement I had reading their books as a kid.

In high school, you would’ve voted yourself most likely to what? Did that prediction come true?

Most likely to be on stage. I always wanted to be an actress. Growing up I was always acting in plays and looking for auditions. I even studied theater in college and went on an acting tour after graduation. There’s still a part of me that wants to perform. So who knows? Life has surprising twists. I think there’s a pretty good chance I could end up on stage again!

The trick is to write yourself a role in your next book, so when it becomes a movie, you get first dibs!

Thanks for chatting with us, Shani, and best of luck with your new book!

Shani Petroff is a writer living in New York City. In addition to tween and teen books, Shani writes for news programs and several other venues. When she’s not locked in her apartment typing away, she spends a whole lot of time on books, boys, TV, daydreaming, and shopping online. She has no devil lineage as far as she knows. Visit Shani online.