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Waxing Literary: Hot literary mess

Posted Tuesday, May 27th, 2008 at 2:00 pm by Kat in Cultural Bees. More in 10011

It’s the ultimate beach read: Hot Mess, a Sex & the City-style romp through summertime New York, replete with late-night partying, dreary office jobs, shopping extravaganzas and cute boys!

The book has a lot in common with other contemporary fiction aimed at women (here at Waxing Literary, we do not use the word “chick-lit”), but for one essential difference: it’s actually not aimed at women.

Instead, it’s this summer’s YA must-read, which means it’s more likely to appeal to the younger siblings of this site’s readership… or those who, like me, have somehow reached adulthood with an interest in all things teen-y still intact. (Hey, it’s not my fault that Delia’s won’t stop sending me their catalog.)

After getting such a kick out of Hot Mess, I was excited last week to interview Julie Kraut, one of its co-authors. Read on for her insights about teen angst, writing for a younger audience, and the secret inspiration for the character known as “The Dorf”.

Kat: Before we start the interview, I just want to double-check — are you sure that this book has absolutely nothing to do with Christian Siriano?
Julie: (laughing) No, no! But he was great, he got “hot mess” into the popular lexicon. We were excited, it was like free advertising.

Thanks for clearing that up! Onto the book itself: I really liked Hot Mess, but I’m probably ten years older than its target audience. What made you decide to do a YA novel?
That age group is so important– my late high school years are a time I think back on a lot. It’s a really defining time in a young woman’s life, and it’s such a rough time for a lot of people, so we were focused on making it funny. We wanted to show the importance of being able to laugh at yourself, because at that time of your life… well, if you’re not laughing, then you’re crying.

There was actually a lot of hilarity centered around “ugly crying” in the book — snot blowing, putting Preparation H on under-eye swelling, that sort of thing.
Exactly – learning to laugh at yourself during times like that is a whole lot cheaper than therapy.

Did you use other books, like the Gossip Girl series, as a sort of jumping-off point?

There wasn’t any one book in particular. I actually work in publishing, and I started out working with kids’ books. I got really into YA fiction; I found that these books were speaking to me even though I was ten years older than the target audience.

Was it ever embarrassing to be sitting on the subway, reading a book that’s clearly aimed at fifteen year-old girls?
Ha ha, not for me. But, I did get a complaint from one of my guy friends along the lines of, “Did you have to make the back cover hot pink? How I am I supposed to read this in public?!”

So when you were writing Hot Mess, did you use your own life as inspiration at all?
Well, my parents would never have let me live alone in New York at that age — and they certainly wouldn’t have given me their credit card! But there’s a lot of me in Emma [the protagonist]. And I did have an internship when I came to New York at age 20. I spent a lot of time under fluorescent lights, fighting with a Xerox.

So are any of your bosses from the past represented in the book as Emma’s evil, Dockers-wearing boss, The Dorf?
OOH.
(pauses)
I… um, don’t want to say.

Ok, we’ll leave it at that.
Julie Kraut and her co-author, Shallon Lester, will read from Hot Mess tonight at Barnes & Noble, 396 Avenue of the Americas (at 8th Street), at 7:30pm. For more about the book, visit http://www.randomhouse.com/teens , or buy it here ! (If anyone asks, it’s for your little sister.)

 
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