Author Chat with Melanie Weiss (Spoken), Plus Giveaway!
Today we're excited to chat with Melanie Weiss author of Spoken.
Read on for more about Melanie, plus an interview and an giveaway!
Meet Melanie Weiss!
Melanie Weiss is a debut Young Adult novelist excited to introduce Spoken to readers of all ages (13 and up). She worked as a journalist for more than 20 years, writing for both newspapers and magazines, and currently manages a high school scholarship foundation. Melanie began writing Spoken after her daughter left for college in 2015 and she became an “empty nester.” She is available for school visits in the Chicagoland area. You can contact Melanie at www.melanie-weiss.com
High school freshman Roman Santi has everything -- good looks, great friends, a mansion with an infinity swimming pool -- except the one thing he really wants. A relationship with his father.
When Roman’s life gets turned upside down, (thanks, Mom!?), he is forced to leave his pampered Hollywood lifestyle and move into his grandparents’ Midwestern home. Sleeping on a lumpy pullout sofa and starting at a new high school is the worst, but Roman’s life starts to look up when his pink-haired friend, Zuzu, and his crush, a classmate named Claire, introduce him to performance poetry through the high school's Spoken Word Club. While his mom is flying back and forth to L.A., trying to return them to the life they had, Roman becomes part of a diverse group of characters who challenge his rather privileged view of the world. Through Spoken Word, Roman recognizes the hole in his own life he needs to fill and discovers his voice. Spoken Word leads Roman on a journey of new friendships, first love, and finding the dad he never knew.
“Spoken” is an uplifting, funny, and heartfelt coming-of-age story that captures how the honesty of performance poetry binds together students from all different walks of life and forever changes Roman’s life.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I had wanted to write a novel for a really long time. I experimented with different genres and found that my voice and storylines fell easily into the young adult world. I love writing about teenagers as they discover their passions and begin to find their places in the world. My husband's cousins grew up just outside Hollywood in Calabasas and went to school with a bunch of celebrities’ kids. They had a McLaren in their garage and many of their neighbors had barns with horses they rode on trails in the neighborhood. I started to think about a story about a boy who lives that life during his formative tween years. Then suddenly he loses it all and has to move into his grandparent's Midwestern home with his mom at the same time he begins high school. The rest of the story flowed from there.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
The protagonist, Roman, is my favorite. I loved writing about his journey from sitting on the couch with a pint of Chunky Monkey on his lap in a mansion in Calabasas in Chapter One and then weeks later, walking up to Randall and asking him to become his lab partner in the biology class at his new school, to eventually standing up on stage and reciting Spoken Word poetry. I loved writing the scenes with the women in his world, including his mom, his grandma, his friend Zuzu, and his crush Claire.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
I tried out a few titles and eventually landed on The Spoken Word Club. About a month before I was set to publish my novel, my son said, "Mom, why don't you just call it Spoken." Smart kid! I think Spoken reflects the message of this book so well as while Spoken Word Club is a big part of the book, there is more to Roman's journey than that.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
The main character, Roman, is a pretty great Spoken Word poet and a very mediocre high school basketball player. When I started this book, I knew even less about basketball than I did about Spoken Word poetry. With Spoken Word, I immersed myself in the club meetings. I hung out with the students, the Spoken Word teacher, Peter Kahn, and attended the showcases. Learning the language of basketball was challenging at first, but it became a lot of fun to use the phrases in my book that convey the action on the court like “take it coast to coast" and "bullet passes."
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Trust my gut! As a new author not sure if the story I had to tell was one people wanted to read, I hired a few editors to review my book. I got lots of advice. One editor suggested I combine Roman's friend, Zuzu, and his girlfriend, Claire, into one character. Another suggested that his dad should not want to meet him and Roman should have to fight harder to connect with his French father than he did. But that was not the story I wanted to, or felt I could, effectively tell.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The cover of my book is truly reflective of the story inside as the microphone that is front and center is a Spoken Word poem. The poem was written by a Spoken Word poet, Isaiah Makar, who I became friends with during the process of researching this book. When I read his poem, I knew I had to include it in one of the scenes and I love that the same words also welcome readers into the story.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I am writing a new Young Adult novel about two protagonists who are high school seniors. They are dating but come from different sides of the political spectrum and I want to explore how that impacts their relationship during a specific tragedy and its aftermath.
I want to continue to write YA books that speak to tweens and teens and adults because YA issues are family issues. I want to capture those times in young people's lives where they navigate family dynamics alongside the rough terrain of fitting in, dating and finding their place in the world.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
I thought writing the spoken word poetry would be really hard for me as I had to convey the complicated emotions of 15-year-old Roman. I just dug down deep and decided not to be intimidated by anything that would stand in the way of me finishing my novel. One day, I took a walk in a forest preserve and sat on a picnic table to take in the quiet around me. That serenity inspired me to write. I pulled out my cell phone and started composing some thoughts in the notes section. That became the poem Roman performs on stage at his high school during the competition to be chosen for the London Poetry Slam team.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I was most challenged while developing the cast of personalities that make up the Spoken Word Club. I wanted to authentically portray every student who would get up on stage to recite a poem in a way that reflected the diverse group of students I interacted with at Spoken Word events. Once readers formed a picture in their mind of what the students in my story looked and dressed like, and how they commanded the stage (or failed to do so), I knew that each student needed to recite a poem that would represent an emotion, experience and an attitude that aligned with that image.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I am a volunteer with the One Earth Film Festival, which takes place over ten days every March in the Chicagoland area. Each fall, I also help to review films for the festival. I believe and revel in the power of storytelling in all its forms.
By: Melanie Weiss
Publisher: Rosehip Publishing
Release Date: March 13th, 2019
Ten winnerrs will each receive a signed copy of Spoken (Melanie Weiss) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
I cant wait to read this book! I love the cover design... like a mic on a stage. The blurb sounds great... I cant wait to see how Roman grows throughout the book.
The cover design is clever and fits this book well. I'm excited to get to know this character as the synopsis sounds emotional.