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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Q&A: Second Chance Summer Author Morgan Matson

Thanks everyone who participated in the August YA Book Club. If you missed the get-together, you can still post your review here. And if you haven’t read the book, Second Chance Summer, check out all of the great reviews!

So, like many of you I loved Second Chance Summer, and because she is nice and sweet, author Morgan Matson agreed to my interrogation interview. Here’s what she had to say about her writing process, Second Chance Summer, and her summer favorites:

The book touches on the importance of second chances, with which I couldn’t agree more. (I, for instance, am pretty thankful I gave calamari another go despite the fact that it looks like battered and fried sea monsters.) Is there a time when you took another chance on a person, thing, event, etc. to find you were glad you did?

Oh man, this makes me want to rethink my stance on calamari and give it a shot! I find that I tend to make immediate, snap judgments about people and they are almost ALWAYS wrong. But I know that about myself, so I’m aware that I’m doing it. I’ve had to learn not to trust my first impressions, since I’m apparently really bad at them. But one of the biggest examples was a girl I met in school. I just didn’t like her, no idea why, something about her just bothered me. One day, she e-mailed and asked if we could go to lunch. We had a great time, and she’s now one of my best friends. That revelation was really one of the things that made me rethink a lot of my first impressions. 

I hear you returned to the lake that you vacationed at when you were young before writing this book. Any ex-boyfriends show up? Kidding. Why did you decide to immerse yourself in that real-life setting versus creating the world from memory and research? Is this your typical method?

My friend Jessi Kirby (an amazing writer) calls me a “method writer” and it’s really true. I especially find it hard to write about places I haven’t been to. For my first book, which is a cross-country road trip, I traced the whole path across the country that the characters visited. And I just find it really helpful to go to the place I’m writing about and soak up all those sensory details it’s hard to get otherwise. And even though I’d grown up spending summers in the Pocono Mountains, I needed to go back—to remember how it felt, the visceral sense of it.  (I should note my mother thinks this is just an excuse to take vacations, and she might be right.)

Did you write the book there, or just visit for research purposes?

I had written the first draft already, mostly in Los Angeles, where I live, in the winter, which wasn’t helpful. I rented a house in the Poconos for two weeks, intending to revise there. But my notes were late, and I only got them the day I left. But it was actually perfect, because it meant I had two weeks to just live up there and soak it all in. I spent a lot of time by the lake and ate a lot of s’mores and ice cream, and I actually think it was more helpful than if I’d been trying to work while I’d been there. 

Obviously family is a huge part of this book. If you could adopt any of the Second Chance Summer characters into your own family, who’d it be and why?

Oh wow, I love this question! It might have to be Murphy the dog, only because I am desperate to get one right now! Puppy fever, big time. But in all seriousness, I had a soft spot for Warren. I could have written a whole book about him. I loved writing the guy who thought he had all the answers realizing he didn’t actually know much after all—but rather than running from that revelation, or shutting down (like his sister) embracing it and being willing to change. 

What was your favorite scene to write?

I loved writing the slumber party scene. It was a later addition—it came in the second revision, I think—but it was a blast to write. I liked being able to write an homage to the years of sleepovers I had growing up.

Which scene was the most difficult to write?

I found the last flashback scene—when you find out what Taylor did, and runs away—really hard. Those flashbacks were also getting tweaked late (originally there had been a whole different thing Taylor did) and by the time I was writing them, Taylor in the present story had grown so much—it was hard to write her making all these terrible mistakes.

Are you the heir to the Kleenex empire?

Ha! No, I swear! But I was talking with my editor about shrink-wrapping a mini pack to each book.  Let people know what they’re in for, right? J

I love the romances in your books, this as well as Amy & Rodger’s Epic Detour. How do you create believable chemistry?

Thank you so much! I’m glad you think I have! With A&R, it was very helpful to have two strangers trapped together in a confined space. I feel like so much of writing is getting people in rooms together—and with that, half my job was done. With them, I was also consciously thinking about opposites—about who would be the best person to put with Amy in that car. And who would be the best person for Roger, and his ex-girlfriend turmoil.

With SCS, the fact that there was a built-in (and contentious) history made Taylor and Henry really fun to write. It was almost like you could go from zero to 60, because when they first meet on the dock, they’re not meeting for the first time, and neither of them are happy about it. That scene was a lot of fun to write because of that.

What’s your writing process like?

I’ve found that it changes with every book! I used to proudly say I was an author who eschewed outlines, and figured it out as I went, but the book I’m finishing now ended up going through an outline process—so I’m not sure how to answer that any more! I tend to write pretty quickly, and I don’t go back and revise when I’m writing the first draft. I just power through to the end, and then see what I’ve got—and it’s usually a waaaaay too long draft that doesn’t entirely know where it’s going. But I always know at least some of the characters, the vague shape of the story, and one or two scenes I just can’t wait to write. If I have all that, I dive in, because I might just have a book (and sometimes I’m wrong about that).

What are you working on now?

My new book, Since You’ve Been Gone, is coming out in May 2014. It’s about friends, which was something I hadn’t really written about yet, and wanted to tackle.

What’s your best summer memory?

SO hard to pick! Most of them seemed to make their way into SCS in one form or another—so many of my best summer memories happened in the Poconos (which was probably the reason I wrote about it).

What are your favorite summer reads?

I always like to read Sarah Dessen books in the summer—and if she doesn’t have a new one, I’ll re-read an old favorite. I also love my friend Jenny Han’s books, and I always love reading a funny chick-lit like Sophie Kinsella.

Keep up with Morgan via her website, Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter. And I promise she didn’t ask me to write this, but if you haven’t read her books yet, go buy them! They’re seriously good.

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