Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Canadian Author Yvonne Prinz Talks about Clare

Our special guest today is Yvonne Prinz, author of the Clare series, which includes: Still There, Clare, Not Fair, Clare and Double-Dare Clare, all of which we reviewed here. We’ll talk to Yvonne about this wonderful series and find out what Clare and friends will be up to next.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Yvonne. It’s a thrill to have you with us!

Thrilled to be here!

I have to tell you that I loved all three books in the Clare series. I’m going to hold onto them for when my girls get a bit older.

Before we talk about Clare and her friends, let’s find out more about you. How long have you been a writer?

I’ve always written but I started writing seriously after our record store, Amoeba, was up and running. That was about ‘94

The Young Adult market is extremely competitive. Why did you decide to focus on writing for young adults?

I really had no idea what I was doing. I was very idealistic about the whole thing. I just created a character and started writing. Since then I‘ve explored the market a lot and I’ve become more savvy, although I still shy away from workshops and writing groups and big gatherings of YA writers. Not because I don’t think they’re effective but because I’ve developed a voice and I’m running with it, lone wolf style.

Other than the competition, what are some of the other challenges you face in the YA market?

Publisher issues. My first publisher, Raincoast, has shut down it’s publishing arm and that makes it tough. Fortunately, I found a new agent and she sold two of my new books to Harper Collins so I feel more secure. Things are really tight in the market now and you have to be doing something really unique to get noticed. I’m personally not a big fan of fantasy writing and there seems to be a glut of it in the YA market right now. If I were starting out I think I’d stay away from that genre.

Let’s turn our attention to Clare. Where did the inspiration come from that made you sit down and write that very first book?

I based Clare on myself at that age but I made her a little more plucky and clever than I was ever allowed to be. Much of STC is based on real events that happened in my own life. The second and third books veer away from my real experiences but by the time I wrote those I knew Clare through and through and I could do anything with her.

In Still There, Clare, your main character will soon turn thirteen and she’s decided she’s too old for her imaginary friend, Elsa. Because Clare has an imaginary friend, can the reader assume she doesn’t have a lot of real friends and that this is going to be a huge challenge for her this year?

Yes, Clare’s not great at making friends, she’s quirky and a bit awkward and nothing really comes easy to her, but she evolves over the three books. By the third book she’s really quite confident and self-possessed. All kids have their challenges. I find that kids who have to work hard to find their niche generally grow up into very interesting adults, where popular kids face the challenge of finding that in the real world things may not come quite as easy as they did in grade school.

What is it about imaginary friends that makes them so special?

They’re created by us and they’re our alter-ego’s. An imaginary friend is you, only prettier, smarter, a different sex, older, more popular, whatever. In Clare’s case, Elsa’s got great fashion sense and loads of confidence and BIG opinions.

What other challenges does Clare have to deal with this year?

Tons. Her eccentric aunt starts dating her gym teacher whom Clare happens to have a crush on. Her only real friend, Paul, is leaving for private school and she’s finally figured out that he actually means something to her, she has to figure out a way to grow some breasts before school is back in, and her mom has given up a law career to become Clare’s new best friend.

When readers catch up with Clare in the next book, Not Fair, Clare, things have changed a bit for her. She’s got a new “real” friend in Allison and the two have a lot in common. What do you like best about their friendship?

Well, I adore Allison. I wish I’d found a friend like her when I was twelve. Clare and Allison are both physical in that they both like to run but neither of them takes it too seriously. They both have a dark sense of humor, although Allison is slightly naïve where Clare is deeply cynical. Allison is very matter-of-fact about boys and she could take them or leave them where Clare would give her left arm for some boy action. Allison’s influence on Clare is interesting. She boosts Clare’s confidence without even knowing it.

One thing that stayed the same for Clare is how she is treated by her rival, the ever popular Ginny Germain. You did an excellent job of creating the tension between them. How did you tap into the intimate workings of a relationship between a girl who is not in the “in" crowd and the girl who runs the “in" crowd?

That part is all me. I was an outsider and a girl named Jenny I went to school with traveled with a posse of pretty girls and basically ran the school. Her ladies-in-waiting dated only the boys that Jenny wasn’t interested in and she made life hell for shy girls like me who didn’t have a clue about hard core grade school politics.

Elsa also appears in No Fair, Clare. Has her relationship with Clare changed at all?

Yes, you’ll notice that as the series goes forward, Elsa is only called upon in dire circumstances where Clare needs an ear or when she suddenly finds herself alone or out of ideas. Clare is slowly developing her own way of dealing with the world and needs Elsa less and less.

Now, in your latest release, Double-Dare Clare, Allison and Clare are in Eighth Grade and looking forward to winter break. Clare’s only other friend from the first book—Paul—comes home for a visit during break. Does Clare get a chance to see Paul in a different light? How does she feel about it?

She’s a little jealous, the way that you can be when you see someone through someone else’s eyes. Allison sees Paul as boyfriend material but Clare has never seen that side of him. She’s always treated him as a geek, a secondary friend that she would see if she didn’t have anything better to do. Clare also feels threatened when Allison starts spending time with Paul and becomes less available to her.

There’s also that little thing with Clare where she decides to do something that her friends warn her not to do. Does Clare’s decision in this case show how she has matured throughout the books?

I wanted to create an encounter where Clare has to make a big moral decision on her own. Most young girls are faced with their first irresistible “Bad Boy” at some point, the guy who asks you to do something that you know you probably shouldn’t but you want him to like you so badly that you’re willing to do anything to be with him. I think that Clare is frightened by it, but she ultimately does the right thing.

One of my favorite characters from the books is Aunt Rusty. Can you talk about her a bit?

My Aunt Rusty was my crazy Aunt Jean. She and I drove around a lot together listening to cool music, going to record stores, going on long road trips. I just had to put her in a book (or three). Rusty is the opposite of Clare’s mom, completely unfocused, bad with men, a bad example. I don’t have kids of my own so I appear to some of my friend’s kids as a sort of Aunt Rusty. I teach them all the bad stuff. I really love this character

Other than Clare, do you have a favorite character?

Other than Aunt Rusty, I adore Allison and Patience (Book 2 and 3). Ginny was the most fun to write and in my supporting cast. I love the gift wrapper from the mall and Paul’s mom.

You’ve written three Clare books now. What is it about Clare and her friends that keeps you writing more stories for them?

They’re family.

Now here’s the important question—what does the future hold for the Clare series?

There’s a TV show in development with The Family Channel in Canada and the series has received some attention lately. Not Fair Clare was nominated for a Red Maple award, an award I’m fond of because kids have to read the books and vote. All this could mean that the series gets reprinted or sold to another publisher. It could even mean a fourth Clare book.

I sure hope so!

Where can readers purchase copies of the Clare books?

At any bookstore. If you don’t see it, ask for it. Online at Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, they should all have them.

Where can readers find you online?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Turning off the computer, television, video game, is a young girl’s first step out into a world beyond her own. It’s so important to make time to quietly enjoy a good book. Support libraries, indie bookstores, and, most of all, reading.

Thank you for spending so much time with us today, Yvonne. I hope to hear more great news about Clare soon!

Thank YOU!

We reviewed all three Clare books at The Book Connection. Look for Still There, Clare, Not Fair, Clare, and Double-Dare Clare.


Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a wonderful interview, Cheryl. Your books sound so good, Yvonne. Congratulations on the TV show. That is exciting. Wish we could see them in the US. Can we?


Dorothy Thompson said...

"Not because I don’t think they’re effective but because I’ve developed a voice and I’m running with it, lone wolf style."

I simply adore this woman. How encouraging!

Katie Hines said...

The books sound great. I'll have to add them to my reading list.

Anonymous said...

Good job, Cheryl. Ms. Prinz talks about Clare as I do about Jewel. They do become real to you, don't they? I'm sure moms will read the book after their daughters are finished with them.
Jo Ann Hernandez

Gail said...

Nice interview!!
I loved these books even though my kids are both boys. As an adult, I recognized Clare in myself as a middle schooler. I've recommended these books to many friends who do have girls in their families. Well done, Yvonne.