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.

Book Cover

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.


  1. I so glad to hear that JB despises the horrible cover too. At least now I don't feel so bad for "trashing" it ;)

  2. I think this one looks good and hopefully people will look past the new cover!

  3. I have joined in many conversations about this cover and I am glad JB agrees that the new one isn't as good

  4. Yay, Jonathan! All the BEST writers live in LA, is what he really meant to say!! I gotta agree on that cover too but I also think it's such a cool story, readers won't pay any attention. Many congrats and good luck with it!

  5. I totally love the first cover so hopefully the publishers will change their mind in the future and get the first one out again.

  6. Girls Aloud the British group? I know them, but I need to listen to them.

    I think the book sounds fun, but yeah, they really should have stuck with the first cover. It just looks better all around. And what the heck bookstores?? There are tons of books with cartoon covers! Sheesh. Oh well, I just hope people DON'T judge it by its cover.


  7. Oh wow - looking at both covers together in juxtaposition, I'd definitely have to say that I prefer the original cartoon one as well. Maybe if it does well enough, re-prints will carry the original cover?!

  8. Awesome interview! I did wish they didn't change the covers - the bookstore buyers must've been high or crazy to go with the 2nd cover!

    Looking forward to reading this book!

  9. OMG: dying to read this one ever since I heard of it--so cute and interesting sounding! And I am a first cover girl all the way....): Boo hoo. It's so cool Jonathan wrote Just My Luck, I love that movie!

    Great interview! (:

  10. Wow, I love the original cover WAAAAAY more than the second one. The cartoon one is so much better! Haha and I would love to have "Imp" as a superpower, I would have saved myself from so many embarrassing moments..

  11. Awwww. The first cover was cute. :( Actually, I also quite like how it started off a yellowish orange on the bottom before...
    But nevermind.
    The book sounds fun and that was a great interview!

  12. Girls Aloud!! haha I love it... no one over here knows who they are, but they're great

    Also... 'Just My Luck'?? Awesome, because of McFly!! another British band no one over here knows, but I've loved them since their first CD

    okayyyy clearly I should be commenting on the book (which sounds great!), but I can't help my love of BritPop =)

  13. it's strange that everyone agrees about the cover and yet the bookstores liked the second one, makes one think!!

  14. Happy birthday?


  15. I love the cover on the book!!

    msboatgal at

  16. A couple years ago there was a message going out pretty strongly that the main YA buyer for B&N (i.e. one book chain, though by far the biggest) had decreed that cartoon covers were only to appear on books that contained substantial graphics (i.e. graphic novels). One of my books had a pretty cool comic cover canceled due to that (luckily replaced with an interesting photograph, rather than this abomination poor Jonathan was stuck with).


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