Rad Reads

Author Interview: Melissa Walker

I may be geeky, but I was so excited to sit down and talk to an author. They are celebrities to me, even more so than actors or singers. (However, let it be known that if Elijah Wood approached me to ask for directions, I might just explode into confetti on the spot.) But since Melissa Walker wrote the Violet series, (which I LOVE!), I’m beyond psyched to have the opportunity to chat with her about these books.

GL Emily: The latest in the Violet books is coming out this August. What prompted you to write a series about a teen-turned model?

When I was an editor for ELLEgirl, I did profiles on new models for fashion week. There I got a glimpse into a world that was both good and glamorous, and dark and scary.  It seemed like a great plot for a young adult book.

Were the models similar to Violet?

Very few people. Although there were Veronicas.

How accurate are the books in portraying the modeling world?

There are lots of different experiences, and Violet’s situation is rare, although it does happen. Like being chauffeured and carted off to New York City right away is not very common. The Kate Moss-es do occur, but seldom. But it is based on the stuff that goes on in the modeling world and the stuff I experienced working at Fashion Weeks and fashion shoots. It’s a glamorous life, but there is also a sympathy felt for the models. They are these gorgeous creatures, but there is some sadness to them. They will always be looked at in a certain way and never more than skin deep.

Like Violet, you went to Vassar, are there any other similarities between the two of you?

I also worked at a movie theater in high school. And we have the same taste in music and her pet peeves are mine as well. We are different, but some of my personality is shown through her. My friends ask me if I based the characters on them at all. Like my best friend from high school asked, “Is Julie me?” or my boyfriend from high school asked, “Am I Roger?” Perhaps a little of them is in the characters. I write from what I know and little moments are taken from life.

Would you want to be Violet in another life?

If I was 17, I would say yes! But I am lucky to have seen this world from behind-the-scenes and know that I wouldn’t want it. I am grateful for the position I’ve been in so to better see this world as outsider. I’m grateful to be in publishing where I can watch the fashion shows from my seat in New York. I like my position better.

What message do you want readers to take from the books?

I didn’t write this book necessarily for the purpose of a moral. But what I do want to convey is that everyone has insecurities, especially in terms of their looks and body image.  No matter how perfect someone seems, all across the board we are dealing with our identity.

Especially in a world like Violet’s where the adults, her agent and those working in the fashion industry are far from strong role models. Violet has to figure out who she is and take a stand against the adults who steer her in the wrong ways and find out just what she really believes.

Will there be more Violet books?

It would be fun to write another one, but it’s still up in the air.

What are you working on now?

Next summer I have a beach read coming out called Lovestruck Summer.  I can’t reveal too much now, but it’s a boy-meets-girl story, and it’s been lots of fun to write.

What was your favorite part of working at a teen magazine? And is writing a dream job?

I love the readers! They are really open and honest. They’ll tell you if it’s good or if it sucks. Teen readers really care. Adult readers can be apathetic, but teens are enthusiastic.  My favorite audience is teens! I do think I have a dream job.  I work and complain sometimes, but ultimately, at the end of the day I ask myself, “Would my 17-year-old self be happy?” The answer is yes.

Breaking into magazines and writing is tough, how did you do it?  Any advice for our aspiring journalists and writers?

I worked on the high school yearbook and the college newspaper. I always found ways to write. Today teens have amazing opportunities to voice themselves because the media is so interested in them. People care so much about what teens think, do and feel. Teens can approach their local paper and ask about writing a column or contributing stories, and I imagine the editors would be excited about that. Or they can even do a blog for the paper’s website. The opportunities for teens to write are huge right now.

Do you have an idol?

I know it sounds cheesy, but my parents. They never told me being a writer wasn’t a real job and they always encouraged me to write. They said it would all work out. They were very supportive.

Who’s your favorite author?

Judy Blume. My teacher read a book of hers aloud to us in second grade, and I fell in love.  It was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

What three books do you think GL girls should take notice of?

Boy Meets Boy
by David Levithan. It’s an offbeat romance. I just wanted to hug the characters in the book. I felt so close to them.

Red:  The Next Generation of American Writers—Teenage Girls—On What Fires Them Up Today.
It’s a compilation of essays by teenage girls ages 13 to 19 where they voice their stories. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve read this year.

A Little Friendly Advice
by Siobhan Vivian. It’s a story about friendship and the deep issues at play in girls’ relationships. And it’s a fabulous debut.

Wanna know more about Melissa? Check out previous articles and reviews on her web site,! And if you haven’t already, get to your library or bookstore and catch Violet on the Runway and Violet by Design. Violet in Private is out August 5.

—Emily Capp

8/3/2008 4:37:00 PM