March 25, 2009
Interview with Jonathan Bernstein
Jonathan Bernstein is a screenwriter (Just My Luck, Max Keeble's Big Move) and the author of April release HOTTIE. Apparently, if you want to write you should be named Jonathan Bernstein because there's a bunch of them out there. But I did know which one I was interviewing . . . or did I?
1. HOTTIE changes POV, but one of the main narrators is the eponymous supergirl. What were some details in developing an authentic voice?
It's always a tricky situation when you've got a not-teenage not-female author writing in the voice of a teenage girl. You can usually sense when the writer is working out his own adolescent issues. It's hard to avoid stereotyping when your lead character is both the most popular girl in school AND a superhero who can burn down buildings with her fingertips, but I tried to keep her as sympathetic and flawed and real as possible.
2. The ARC featured a cartoon girl, but the final is a photo. Do you know why the change was made? Which cover do you prefer?
I'm not going to lie, I ENORMOUSLY preferred the former cover. When I saw the replacement, I felt like someone had squeezed lemon juice in my eye. My understanding is that the big book chains were reluctant to order copies of the original version. As a debuting author, you want to be a team player but, at the same time EVERY YA blogger in the universe-- and this is a pretty uncritical community-- has heaped derision on it. My standard reply is that if you hate the cover, hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised by the contents. But the phrase `don't judge a book by it's cover' exists because everybody judges book by their covers all the time!
3. Why a superhero novel? Do you read comics/graphic novels? Any favorites?
It was more of a reaction to the spate of terrible humorless female superhero movies that came out a few years ago: Catwoman, Elektra, Aeon Flux, plus the Birds of Prey TV series. I'm not a huge comic book geek but I'd definitely class myself as a fan of "Love & Rockets" and "Heartbreak Soup" by the Hernandez Brothers, Ai Yazawa's "Nana" manga and some of Adrian Tomine's stuff.
4. You're a screenwriter and journalist as well as an author. What are some differences among the mediums? Which is your favorite to work within?
Whichever one I'm currently doing, I wish I was doing the other one. If I get to a scene in a book that requires me to describe a character's house, I have to describe the house. If I'm writing a screenplay, all I have to do is write the word house. Which is very appealing to a lazy guy. However, a screenplay is more than likely only going to be read by a handful of people all of whom will have strong opinions on how to mangle it. A book is all you and will ultimately reach some kind of audience.
5. Several authors in this event live in LA. Any theories on why LA attracts YA novelists?
Some were born here. Some moved for the climate and the lifestyle. The other 95% came here to work in movies and TV. Then they made the move into fiction. YA is attractive because the market is so vast but it's also challenging because the audience is discerning.
6. When I googled you to write these questions, I discovered the other Jonathan Bernstein. How do you feel about another writer running around with your name?
There's more than just one. There's another screenwriter (he wrote the Jerry Springer movie `Ringmaster'), there's one that writes military books, one who authors books on public relations, specifically crisis management. If we get together and pool our resources, we could take over the world!
7. It must be asked: what superpower would you like to have and why?
You know how they say you only have one chance to make a first impression? What if you had more than one? What if it didn't matter that you cracked bad jokes or walked into the furniture or had pieces of broccoli stuck to your teeth because you could erase the horrible first impression you'd made and get a do over? That would be my power. Maybe I'd be called The Imp. Or just Imp.
8. HOTTIE features a mix of the popular and unpopular kids. Which group did you belong to in high school?
Like you have to ask. I wasn't horribly unpopular but you don't go grow up as the only Jew in a Scottish school without earning a few scars along the way.
9. What are some of your favorite books? Which authors do you think influenced your style?
"The Rachel Papers" by Martin Amis. "Good As Gold" by Joseph Heller. "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. "The Crimson Petal And The White" by Michael Faber. In terms of my own influences, I'd say it was very clearly John Hughes and Joss Whedon.
10. You're clearly somewhat pop-culture obsessed. How would you describe your taste?
Like that of a demented, schizophrenic 12 year -old girl.. Favorite album: The Lexicon Of Love by ABC. Favorite Movies: The Apartment,The Breakfast Club. Favorite TV Shows: Chuck,Peep Show. Favorite Group: Girls Aloud.
I like his superhero name. Personally, I'd got for omnipotence. (It's cheating, I know.) Be sure to watch out for my review of HOTTIE, coming in April.
(Also, just look at the covers. Maybe the bookstore buyers were high, because what teen wouldn't pick up the cute cartoon over the girl wearing polyester?)
And be sure to return for the announcement of the first batch o' winners.