Bev Katz Rosenbaum studied journalism in Carleton University in Ottawa. After completing an Honors English degree at the University of Toronto, she landed a job as an editorial assistant at Harlequin Books, where she eventually became an Associate Editor, and won a Romance Writers of America award for excellence in editing. While working at Harlequin, she published her own romance novel, What Friends Are For and decided to leave full-time editing to write and freelance critique. She also published a popular literary ‘zine’ called Slush. In April, 2004, she wrote another Harlequin novel, Wanted: An Interesting Life and then later, the Young Adult novels, I Was a Teenage Popsicle and Beyond Cool. Bev is married and has two children.
Q. The concept of putting the hero or heroine in a different time period than he or she is used to is a tried and true literary conceit that your book, I Was a Teenage Popsicle, uses to create a lot of laughs. How did you decide on cryonics as the method by which this time switch occurs?
You know, you really have no choice in today’s super competitive young adult fiction market but to come up with a really fresh plot, or a fresh twist on an old plot (time travel). I very consciously tried to come up with an idea I hadn’t seen explored in young adult fiction. At the time I was killing myself trying to come up with an original idea, the whole Ted Williams brouhaha was happening. As soon as I heard about it, I thought, That’s it. That’s my premise. Sometimes you just get a gift like that–inspiration can come from anywhere.
Q. Did you know you wanted to write a book about a girl in a different time period and then decide on cryonics as the means to make it happen or was the idea of cryonics so intriguing that you wrote that kind of “time switching” book?
The cryonics idea definitely came first. (See above!)
Q. The change in time period in your book is ten years. How did you decide on that time period as opposed to more or less?
Good question! Again, choosing to put the heroine ten years into the future was a very deliberate choice. I didn’t want things to have changed so much that teens wouldn’t be able to relate, but of course, it had to be far enough into the future that Floe would be lost with all the new technology. Ten years seemed like just the right amount of time.
Q. Since even in your book the narrator, Floe, says “I’ve read about a million books with girls in comas who wake up after, like, fifteen years,” you were obviously concerned about keeping your book original and fresh. You certainly accomplished that task. Can you point to any decisions you made and/or techniques that you used while writing the book to keep it fresh and original?
Right–that line was kind of a wink to readers–glad you caught that! In terms of keeping things fresh, aside from the cryonics twist, I tried really hard to keep the writing itself fresh–really snappy and smart and sly. And I tried to make Floe super smart and funny. Basically, readers look for a) an original plot, b) quality of writing c) a unique voice and d) a main character to root for. And when publishers’ budgets have been cut to the bone, they don’t have time to do several rewrites with authors–the book has to be pretty much perfect when it comes in, so you need to make sure each of those elements are there in a standout way.
Q. The main character is charming and witty. How did you create her personality? Was it hard getting into her skin or is she a lot like you?
On behalf of Floe, thank you! I like to tell people Floe is me, but a version of me who can come up with great retorts instantly (mine don’t usually come to me until four o’clock in the morning). Floe is the me I want to be!
Q. I Was a Teenage Popsicle has quite a few well-developed characters. Did you sketch them out before you started writing or did they just come into being as you wrote?
Thank you! This may sound weird, but I usually ‘cast’ my characters before I start writing. I have to be able to visualize them and hear them in my head before I can write their scenes. On occasion, my characters are inspired by real people or actors, but when they’re not (and that’s usually), I ‘cast’ them once I’ve written a bit of the book. I keep pictures of the cast members on the wall above my computer the whole rest of the time I’m writing. I’m not one of these people who writes pages about my characters before I start writing. I do outline, but in a pretty skeletal way. If I did too much written prep, I think I’d be sick of the book before I started writing it!
Q. Did any of your characters grow or change in ways that surprised?
Nah. I know people say this all the time, that their characters end up surprising them, but because I can’t write until I can see and hear them, I pretty much always know how they’re going to react to stuff. (Not a sexy answer, but the truth!)
Q. How carefully did you plot the book out before you started writing?
I always do an outline, but a pretty skeletal one. I find that I have to know where the story is going, but like I said earlier, if I prep too much, I get sick of the book before I start! I usually just jot down a point or two for each chapter, just so I know what I want to accomplish in that chapter. You have to keep the story moving. If I don’t outline, the story tends to meander. Plus, you sometimes get paralyzed. I have a theory that writer’s block happens more to people who don’t outline.
Q. One of the characters in the book is a congressman. Did you enjoy giving a political angle to the book, even though it’s a small one? Are you deeply involved in politics yourself? What were your concerns putting a political element in a teen novel?
I did enjoy the politics. I don’t tend to be super active politically, but I do enjoy getting my views out in my fiction. Funny, I didn’t really think about whether teens would like or dislike that element. My editor told me she really liked that element at an early point in the process. She saw a parallel to the stem cell discussion that was going on at the time, and she welcomed the metaphor (even though I hadn’t written the book with that in mind). After she pointed that out I thought, Well, that could have gone either way with an editor, and I’m pretty lucky she liked that aspect of the book!
Q. You’re Canadian but the book is set in Los Angeles. Have you lived in LA and why did you choose an LA setting as opposed to somewhere in Canada?
I’ve never lived in L.A. but I’ve been there a few times and I have relatives there. I chose Venice Beach, specifically, because I thought it would be exactly the kind of place to have a cryonics facility (even though in real life it doesn’t). I do tend to use settings I know pretty well.
Q. Many teen novels include a romance and yours does as well—and once one starts a romance in a book, it’s inevitable that the reader wishes that the couple “lives happily ever after.” Yet in reality the romances of 16 year olds have a life expectancy of about three months. How do you deal with that contradiction?
Ha! You’re absolutely right about teen romances, but since they almost always end with the couple finally getting together, we don’t have to worry too much about that other stuff! And inevitably, the sequels reveal trouble in paradise! P.S. some people (like me!) do end up marrying people they dated as teens.
Q. Did you have teen readers for your book as you were writing?
My two kids were tweens at the time and they both gave me great input. My daughter tended to tell me what kids would *never* say, and my son gave me some great ideas for inventions.
Q. How many drafts did you do?
I think it was five drafts in the end. I did three on my own, and two with my editor.
Q. How long did it take to write the book?
I wrote it in dribs and drabs, but if I’d written it full days, one after another, it would have taken four months.
Q. How much research did you do on cryonics?
I did do some research on cryonics–just enough to understand the process.
Q. “Beyond Cool,” your next book, continues the adventures of Floe. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
In Beyond Cool, there’s trouble in paradise with Taz, and even her beloved Venice Beach high school. Worse yet, Dr. Dixon tells Floe that people who were frozen are more susceptible to illnesses and the one doctor who can cure this immune system weakness has gone AWOL. It’s up to Floe and her brainy new friend to find him…
Q. Why did you decide to write a sequel rather than a book with another cast of characters? Did you have the idea of a sequel from the beginning of the first book?
I actually had no plans to write a sequel, but Penguin/Berkley gave me a two-book contract when I sold I Was a Teenage Popsicle, and at some point, my editor said she wanted to see a sequel. I loved the idea of revisiting the characters. And I really wanted to do the immune system plot, as I’d been doing all this reading about immune system deficiencies in cloned animals. It just seemed a natural thing to explore with my thawed kids.
Q. What’s some good writing advice you’ve gotten?
The best writing advice I’ve gotten is, ‘Don’t wait for inspiration. Plant your butt in a chair every single day and stay there till you’ve written at least five pages.’
Q. What new projects are you working on?
My agent is currently shopping a middle grade series, and while I’m waiting for word on that, I’m working on a new YA. Fingers crossed!
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