Now, watching an episode of The Hills or Zoey 101 is “research.” At least that’s what she tells her husband and daughter.
Mina Mooney is about to discover that when you’re at the top, the only place to go is down…
It’s springtime in Del Rio Bay, and everyone’s heading to the O.C. to catch the varsity cheer squad compete at the Extreme Nationals. Everyone’s pumped, especially Mina Mooney, because making the elite squad has finally gained her entrance into the Upper Circle. Mina’s psyched for the big show—and some unsupervised cuddle time with Brian. Best of all, her number-one enemy, Jessica, has shocked everyone by calling a truce. But little does she know that Jessica’s peace offer is nothing more than a disguise for what she really has in store for Mina…
Spring break means all sorts of trouble for Mina’s friends, too. Lizzie, whose focus has never strayed from the books, is boy crazy for the first time in her life. Kelly’s decision to give ex-hustler Angel another chance just might backfire. And Jacinta is having a hard time breaking things off with Raheem—even when he does something utterly unforgivable.
Fun, fast-paced, and impossible to put down, That’s What’s Up! proves that when it comes to popularity, you better watch your back.
Mina Mooney has a new worst enemy—her best friend…
Summer is just around the corner, but things are already too hot to handle in Del Rio Bay. For the first time ever, Mina doesn’t have a master plan to keep her popularity roller-coaster on track. She’s so sprung over Brian that she’s having a hard time just thinking straight. So, she’s not at all ready when her best friend Lizzie makes their clique swear to a year-long virginity pact…
Now Mina and her crew are feeling way too much heat. Kelly is glad to take things slow with cute jock Greg—but ex-hustler Angel isn’t about to let her go drama-free. For Jacinta, a missed period and Raheem planning “their” future together is promising nothing but trouble. And when Lizzie finds out Mina has “betrayed” the pact, it’s a head-to-head, no-holds-barred showdown that could say hasta la vista to the clique for good.
Fresh, funny, and always on-point, Who You Wit’? is all about trying to keep it popular when things get all too real.
I see the title of your latest book – THAT’S WHAT’S UP! – and instantly I feel attitude, like something’s about to pop off – is that the idea behind the title?
Yes, exactly. My titles are all about evoking some sort of emotional response. I love making them pop-culture oriented and having people think – Now what does that mean? Does it mean this? Does it mean that? That’s What’s Up! to me, is all about putting someone in their place or letting someone know the deal. And the character Jessica Johnson makes an appearance in this book and for those who have been reading the series, you know when Jess is around there’s always lots of attitude.
Fill in the blank: “I wrote THAT’S WHAT’S UP because I love giving my readers a peek into what’s happening with the Del Rio characters. Each book is like peering through a looking glass into their world at that moment. Although the books follow a chronological pattern, following them as they mature, each book covers only a small segment of their lives. This book remains their freshman year, but during spring break.”
What themes, topics will readers find within the pages of THAT’S WHAT’S UP?
That’s What’s Up! is all about frenemy’s, forbidden relationships and making choices about who we call friend.
There are a lot of YA novels out – and a slew of series; what makes your series unique?
When I wrote So Not The Drama in 2003 there were no books out there like it. “like it” as in having an African American lead character from the suburbs with a multi-racial cast surrounding them. Even now, I’m hard pressed to name a book that offers those elements. You have teen lit where the characters are predominately white and rich or African American and poor and now you’re starting to see a few where the characters are African American and rich but those type of books keep the casts primarily homogeneous and place them on “extreme” ends of the economic spectrum – i.e. rich or poor. Where are the kids “in the middle?” My casts are diverse because the suburbs tend to be diverse and I focus on the ‘burbs because too often literature ignores that African Americans are middle class and suburban as well as our white counterparts. I’m a ‘burb girl and my books reflect the sort of environment I grew up in and the one my daughters are now being raised in. I needed to represent for the ‘burbs and my books tend to do that.
What are THREE adjectives that best describe THAT’S WHAT’S UP?
Fun, juicy, wild ride (okay, technically that’s four but…)
What are THREE adjectives that best describe YOU?
Passionate, focused, driven
THAT’S WHAT’S UP is book three in your Del Rio Bay Clique series; are more in the works?
Yes. I’m under contract for a total of five books in the series with an option for a sixth. Who You Wit’? will hit stores late October and Flipping The Script, May ’09. Right now, both have been written and submitted. So technically, right now I’m not working on any Del Rio Bay books, but that may change by year’s end.
INSIDE YOUR MP3: What THREE TRACKS are you loving right now and why?
Ooh tough because when it comes to faves it’s all about my mood. But the three songs I love right now, this very moment are:
Whatever You Like by T.I. – I love this jam. It’s the softer side of T.I. but still with his southern edge. I can’t listen to it without moving. It’s infectious like that.
Burnin’ Up by Jonas Brothers – Overall, I’m not loving the group and don’t entirely get the craze. But I have a 14-year-old and a four-year-old and they both love these guys. Burnin’ Up was the only track I heard and liked immediately. The guys tend to over-sing but it’s the cheesiness in the over-singing of this song that I adore. It’s what old folks would say is a catchy little ditty. LOL
Here I Stand by Usher – It’s the new and grown Usher and it’s nice. I don’t think this CD is getting the attention it deserves simply because Usher’s music has changed since he got married and became a father. But I hope he hangs in there and doesn’t do the R. Kelly thing – which is try to sing younger than he is. You can’t be 25 forever!
Now I feel bad because I didn’t give any of the female artists love. So I can sneak in a fourth and say I really like Mariah Carey’s I’ll Be Loving You Long Time? It samples an old Debarge jam, so I loved it as soon as I heard it, for that alone.
We all know that writing for an author is only part of the journey – publicity soon follows. What are some things you’re doing to promote THAT’S WHAT’S UP?
Since I write a series, the bulk of my promotion took place during the release of the first two books. Once a series is out there, it’s sort of up to word-of-mouth and the books to help one another sell. And that’s happening. But each book still gets a little individual promo love. For That’s What’s Up!
I did a few fun things I’d never done before – I was on Personal Profiles, a television show run entirely by teens from a middle school in Montgomery County, MD. I was a guest panelist at the Romantic Times Convention in Pittsburgh, talking about YA romance books. I did two teen writing workshops at libraries in Baltimore County. And That’s What’s Up! was both a summer beach read pick for Teen Reads and Teens Read Too – websites that promote teen lit.
Many people believe that good writers are also voracious readers. What are three of your favorite books, and why do they make the list?
Writers are voracious readers unfortunately in my case it’s once was. The single most disappointing thing about being a writer, for me, is losing the time I used to have for reading. I honestly don’t have that luxury anymore because writing takes up a lot of time I used for relaxing or sleeping. However, my faves are:
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor – The saga of the Logan family was one of my favorites as a Young adult reader. Ms. Taylor captured their joys and pains in a way that made me forget it was historical fiction, which typically I only read as required reading when I was younger. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for the Brown Book Shelf’s 28 Days Later campaign and I was like a fan girl crushing on one of those Jonas boys. LOL
Cujo by Stephen King – First of all, pretty much anything by Stephen King I’ll read. He’s my favorite author. But I chose Cujo because not too many authors can write a book partially from the perspective of the dog and pull it off! I’m thinking if I told my editor I wanted to write a book and it was going to be told by the dog in some parts she’d make me get some sort of counseling. That’s a tough thing to do and still have the book come off so scary you may need to sleep with the lights on afterward.
Time Line by Michael Crichton – Crichton sometimes comes off a little preachy in his books – I’m looking at you State of Fear. But when he does the thriller well, his books are page turners times ten. Time Line is about time travel, which right away you’re thinking ‘huh?!’, and these folks are transported back to Medieval times. Again, not too many writers could pull this off. But Crichton makes the concept feel believable. Seriously. After I read it I thought…okay, someone probably actually has found a way to do it.
Looking back on your writing journey, who has been one person that has inspired you the most in your literary aspirations? How has he/she inspired you?
Actually it’s three people who played a part in my literary aspirations – Mildred Taylor, Judy Blume and Francine Pascal. Mildred Taylor because she was the only African American author I recall reading on my own, without the teacher forcing it. Her imagery is so vivid you feel transported and I aspire to write that way. Judy Blume because I read her regularly – she was the author whose books I read the second they hit shelves. They were so real and honest – again, something I aspire to evoke in my books. And Francine Pascal because for me, she’s the queen of the modern day teen lit series. Her Sweet Valley High is why books like Del Rio Bay can exist.
THAT’S WHAT’S UP: The Movie. Who would play Mina Mooney, Jessica, Lizzie, Kelly, and Jacinta?
I can see KeKe Palmer playing Mina. I forget the actresses name and she’s a little old to play her now, probably, but the Latino actress in the Cheetah Girls. Not sure about Jacinta or Lizzie. On the face of it, a lot of today’s hot young white actresses like Miley Cyrus and Ellen Page seem too “big” to play Lizzie, who is a very low-key person unless she’s on stage. I think my books are a good venue to launch a career. Just like Harry Potter pretty much is Daniel Radcliffe’s career, for now, I can see my books doing that for a cast of young actors – giving them a start and the chance to mature into adult actors since there are five books.
What’s currently going on in your WRITING LIFE?
My Del Rio books are finished, so I’m noodling on a new series. I conceptualized the characters and outlined the first book, the second I finished Flipping The Script. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to write outside of the DRB series because I’ve been doing it for five years now. But it was fun and refreshing to get into a new set of young people’s heads. My hope is to get it finished and put it out there to see who might be interested in my brand of literature. I’m determined to keep writing for those readers “in the middle.”