Author Debbie Reed Fischer worked for many years as a model booker in Miami, where the daily dramas of the weird and the beautiful inspired her to write Braless in Wonderland. Other job adventures from her past include hosting a cable TV show for teens, picking melons on a kibbutz, teaching middle and high school English, and singing in a USO troupe. She grew up in a sleepy Florida town and has also lived in England, Greece, and Israel. A graduate of the University of Miami’s screenwriting program, Debbie currently lives in Boynton Beach, Florida, with her husband and two kids, where she feeds them a steady diet of take-out. Her second teen novel, Swimming with the Sharks, will be released in September. Visit her at her website, blog, and MySpace page.
“Blubber for the 21st century. Debbie Reed Fischer’s sizzling take on girl hazing and cheer pressure mixes the perfect ratio of humor to anger for a compelling, un-put-downable read.” – Alex Flinn, award winning author of Beastly
Meet Peyton Grady: self-declared president of The Neverhadaboyfriend Club, six feet tall, “freckled and flat as a skateboard,” on financial aid, with only her best friend Maya to rely on. Until now, she hasn’t exactly been the poster child for popularity at her posh private high school, Beachwood Prep. But everything is about to change, because this year, Peyton has a coveted spot on the varsity cheerleading squad. Now she’ll finally have a shot at the life she’s always wanted, complete with membership in the Alpha Clique, the boyfriend of her dreams, and “no more standing on the social sidelines.”
But treasured goals never come easy. When the principal, Dr. Johnson, appoints new student Ellika Grosset, a “squatty stump of a girl” with zero athletic ability as the squad’s newest member, things get complicated. Peyton and the rest of the squad are outraged that this girl has been forced upon them, simply because her parents donated millions for a new athletic facility.
None are more furious than the queen fly girl herself, charismatic and powerful squad captain, Lexie Court. Ordering Peyton and her team mates to “take initiation rituals to the next level,” Lexie hatches Operation Smellika, a bullying campaign to drive Ellika out. “Do whatever it takes,” she tells them. “It’s for the good of the squad.”
Peyton knows it’s wrong. Horrible, even. She feels sorry for Ellika. But in the end, Peyton participates along with the others. Torn by her conscience, yet seduced by the chance to have everything she wants, she gets further and further involved in Lexie’s sick hazing plan.
Until it goes too far.
Peyton knows she has to stop Lexie.
Allee Rosen is a lot of things: high school senior, overachiever, brain. The one thing Allee is not is supermodel material—at least that’s what she thinks until modeling scouts spot her and she moves to Miami to work with an elite modeling agency. Suddenly Allee is swept up?p in a whirlwind of designer labels, photo shoots, go-sees and some seriously backstabbing models. Will this fabulous new life go to her head? New author Debbie Reed Fischer offers readers a fresh, fun, and honest peek into the crazy and glamorous world of professional modeling.
Fill in the blank: “I wrote SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS BECAUSE a few years ago, I was watching this news story about a powder puff football incident in a wealthy suburb of Chicago. Privileged girls ganged up on each other in a brutal melee, while 200 high school spectators cheered them on. They strangled each other with pig intestines, threw buckets of animal waste on each other and wound up in the hospital with broken bones. I thought to myself, ‘Why are these young women so angry that they have to inflict that kind of humiliation and brutality on each other? These are wealthy kids from beautiful homes; what is bubbling under the surface?” The next thought that occurred to me after watching the footage was, “Which one is the ring leader? And why did the others go along with it? There must have been kids that knew it was wrong but went along with it anyway.” And that’s how my character Peyton was born. I started researching other hazing incidents and I was shocked by how widespread it is, and how private schools often manage to keep it under wraps. The whole idea of someone being a hateful bully has always baffled me. Mob mentality has always baffled me.”
Peyton Grady, the main character of SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS, is a girl we all know and sympathize and empathize. Shoot, some of us can admit to even BEING a Peyton in the past. How invested did you find yourself in developing Peyton and telling her story?
Very invested. Her guilt became my guilt. Writing is a lot like acting. You really go into character sometimes.
What themes, topics will readers find within the pages of SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS?
Appearance versus reality. No one is ever really what they seem. People always surprise me. The idea of keeping secrets is a theme as well; the fact that there really aren’t any secrets; they’re like money, for trading. Self-acceptance is something I hope readers will think about after they read the book too. I love that Christina Aguilera song, Beautiful, with the lyric, “I am beautiful in every, single way.” We’re all imperfect, and imperfection is what makes us beautiful. Love yourself. Love your friends. And my favorite theme is inner-strength. It takes courage to stand up to bullies. Sometimes there is a price to pay, and it’s not easy. Those are all themes I thought about while writing SHARKS.
There are a lot of YA novels that have the same basic premise: unpopular and/or unattractive girl gets an in to the “in” crowd and then must decide if it’s worth being in the “in” crowd. How do you combat the basic premise in SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS and make it unique?
Well, for one thing, my book has a lot of humor, so hopefully, just when you’re wincing in horror as the hazing unfolds, you’ll laugh too. I’ve been told by some readers that what surprised them the most was that it’s as funny as it is dark. The book also focuses on cyber hazing as well as traditional hazing, not to mention the allowances schools make for their athletes. I’d say SHARKS is pretty timely, because there have been quite a few reported incidents involving cyber hazing, brutal beatings and cheerleaders in the media lately. What is going on with girls’ athletics? With teen angst and anger? With cyber abuse? I hope SHARKS gets people to think about it, talk about it, take a look at what’s going on.
What are THREE adjectives that best describe SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS?
One review recently called it “scintillating.” I’d add powerful, fast-paced and funny.
What are THREE adjectives that best describe YOU?
Silly, serious, grateful
INSIDE YOUR MP3: What THREE TRACKS are you loving right now and why?
”Touched” by Vast, “The World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies and that Britney song “Piece of Me.” Except I keep thinking she’s singing, “You want a piece of meat?” And then I get hungry and go make a sandwich. Check out my playlists on my website at www.debbiereedfischer.com.
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 SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS?
Interviews for awesome blogs like this one. I also have a blog, a MySpace page, and a Facebook page where I love to exchange messages from readers. I also run contests and will be running a contest soon, so please stop by my blog or myspace. The best thing I’ve done publicity-wise is join the author class of 2k8. Come stop by our site at www.classof2k8.com. I’m also setting up signings locally that will involve cheerleaders performing an anti-bullying cheer and door prizes. Plus I’m ordering cool promotional stuff to give away.
Many people believe that good writers are also voracious readers. What are three of your favorite books, and why do they make the list?
Jane Eyre – I love her self-confidence. No matter what life throws at her, she believes in herself and demands respect from others.
Anything by Judy Blume. She’s the original chick lit girl for teens.
The Adrian Mole Diaries. British humor and teen angst combined. It doesn’t get any better than that.
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?
My husband. He believed in me from day one and gave the most inspirational pep talks to help me stay focused on my goal of getting published. Meeting other authors at conferences and online was really inspiring too. I thought, ‘If they could do it, I can too.’
SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS: The Movie. Who would play Peyton Grady and Lexie Court?
Dakota Fanning would play Lexie and Ashley Tisdale would play Peyton. And I would have to have a cameo as the gym teacher or the vice principal or something.
What’s currently going on in your WRITING LIFE?
I’m promoting my other book that came out in April, BRALESS IN WONDERLAND, gearing up for the launch of SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS, and working on book number 3, currently titled BORN FUNNY. Oh, and answering letters from readers! Write to me at www.debbiereedfischer.com! I promise I’ll write you back!