Jennifer Banash wrote THE ELITE series. THE ELITE is currently available, IN TOO DEEP releases the sixth (so some stores might have it on shelves now), and SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE will be out in several months. And if IN TOO DEEP sells well enough, the series could be extended. I know I would be happy if that happened!
You can read my review of IN TOO DEEP (and enter the contest), my review of THE ELITE, and an earlier guest blog by Jennifer.
As you attended high school in the Upper East Side, how much of your own experience did you use to write THE ELITE series?
I put in a fair amount of my own experience--but in ways that wouldn't be obvious to the casual reader. For instance, I felt much like Casey in high school--never really sure if I was doing or saying the right thing, and very much wanting to fit in. Basically, I was an awkward, nervous, hot mess!
IN TOO DEEP focuses some on the characters' relationship with their parents - most of them rocky. What is your relationship with your parents like? How did they react when you first told them you wanted to be a writer?
My relationship with my parents is pretty estranged at the moment. We were never really close to begin with, and our relationship has just gotten more intense and more difficult to negotiate as I've gotten older, unfortunately. My mother was a real perfectionist when I was growing up, and not particularly forgiving of mistakes of any kind. She's actually pretty similar to Phoebe's mom in a many ways . . . When I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer they were horrified. I think my mother's biggest hope for me was that I'd grow up, marry a wealthy man, and basically spend my life as a rich, idle housewife, which wasn't exactly the route I was interested in taking.
How did you decide on the characters' names? I particularly love the ring of Drew Van Allen.
Good question! Drew's name really just came out of nowhere! There was a Van Allen Hall in the town I lived in when I was writing the series, but I wasn't thinking about it when I constructed his character--maybe it seeped in through my subconscious! Madison was named after Darryl Hannah in Splash--I always loved the movie, and the name--I thought Madison was the coolest name when I was growing up, and it has that icy diva-bitch quality I was going for with her character. I wanted Casey to have a name that was a bit unisex--not too girly or feminine--and it just felt right once I wrote it down on paper. Sophie was actually named Jenny when I completed the first draft of THE ELITE, but my editor wanted me to change it because GOSSIP GIRL had just premiered on the CW and was a huge hit, and, of course Jenny is one of the main characters in that series. I didn't think it made a difference--it's not like GG has exclusive rights to the name Jenny or anything--but it was an easy change to Sophie, which I like better now anyway as it doesn't sound as generic. I named Phoebe after Holden Caulfield's little sister in The Catcher in the Rye--one of my favorite books of all time.
Why should people read THE ELITE and IN TOO DEEP? What do you think makes them a good story? (No cheating and using the back blurb!)
I think people should read THE ELITE series because not only is it a glamorous and drama-packed ride that will (hopefully!) keep you up all night turning pages, but because the series also deals with "real" issues that don't get resolved at each chapter's end such as divorce, infidelity, cutting, and peer pressure.
You've been blessed with two eye-catching covers. Which do you like better? (Or should we wait for the cover of SIMPLY IRRESISTABLE to be unveiled?)
Actually, I am currently in LOVE with the cover of the third book in the series SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE! But if I had to choose between the covers of THE ELITE or IN TOO DEEP, I would have to say I prefer the cover for THE ELITE--I'm just sentimental that way since it was my first baby LOL! Most people, however, tell me that they really prefer the cover for IN TOO DEEP--which I absolutely love as well. The cover for THE ELITE also has a special place in my heart because it was such a struggle to get a good design for that book--I was very lucky that I have a great editor who made it a priority, and asked for a complete redesign after I broke down sobbing and threatening to stick my head in the oven after I saw the mock up of the first cover design. It was truly horrific.
In addition to writing THE ELITE series, you're the co-founder and co-publisher of Impetus Press. What's it like to run a small press?
Unfortunately, Impetus Press has closed due to the current financial landscape of publishing-which has become absolutely dire as of late. We were clobbered so hard and fast by returns that there was no way we could recover financially and continue to put out books. We had four amazing years though, and I'm eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such talented authors. It's a very sad situation though, and one that doesn't give me much hope about the book business as a whole at the present time.
What did you do before you got involved with publishing? How do those skills help you now?
Before I was a publisher, I taught Literature at a large university while I was getting my Ph.D in English--I just graduated in September. Teaching definitely has had a huge impact on my career as a writer--basically I read, wrote, and talked about books all day long! What could be better for a writer? Before that, I held a variety of jobs from waitress to bartender, to camera operator for ABC-TV. I even had a job selling gravestones, which was quite possibly the worst job I've ever had the misfortune to acquire. Right now I teach English at a small private school in Palos Verdes, California.
Finally, in your July guest blog, you wrote about your acquisition of both a blue and a white Marc Jacobs Pan-Am bag. If your home were on fire and you could only save one, which would it be?
Neither! I'm about to be horribly unfaithful to Marc, but one of my students bought me a brand new, absolutely GORGEOUS Fendi bag as a Christmas gift, so I'd definitely grab the Fendi! Sorry Marc!