When my friend Trisha went wild over Perfect Chemistry around about a year and a half ago, it didn't take me long at all to track down a copy and immerse myself in the teen drama/love/angst fest that is that awesome book. I fell in all kinds of deep and gooey love with it and recommended it right and left to friends in need of the kind of sweet and addicting read that leaves you feeling like your craving was sated in the most satisfying of ways. When I found out Simone Elkeles was writing a sequel, I joined the rest of the PC fandom in a collective, "Squee!" Rules of Attraction was released almost a week ago (my review here) and, to celebrate the event, Simone was so good as to answer a few of my most burning questions.
First things first: Were you at all surprised by what a hit Perfect Chemistry was?
First things first: Were you at all surprised by what a hit Perfect Chemistry was?
Honestly, no. I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved that book from page one, and knew Alex and Brittany’s story was something special. I don’t know if this is politically correct to say, but I actually parted with my previous literary agent because she didn’t want to go out and pitch Perfect Chemistry to editors…she wanted me to work on a different book and I couldn’t let that happen. Thankfully my current agent Kristin Nelson loved the story and sold it to my wonderful editor Emily Easton at Walker Books for Young Readers who also loved it!
Did you always plan to write a sequel? How did the opportunity to write Rules of Attraction come about?
Ever since I wrote Perfect Chemistry, I thought it would be amazing to write about all three Fuentes brothers. When I sold Perfect Chemistry, though, I wasn’t sure I’d get to write a trilogy or even a sequel. When my editor Emily Easton at Walker said that fans definitely wanted a sequel to Perfect Chemistry, I was so excited. I didn’t want to have Brittany and Alex be the main characters because their story was already written – I wanted to let Carlos and Luis have their own stories.
I love Kiara, with her determination to master her speech impediment and her relatively “normal” family life. How did her character develop over the course of writing the book?
I think we all have insecurities and want to overcome them. I love how Kiara is not afraid to be herself. She doesn’t succumb to peer pressure – she doesn’t care to have the most expensive or stylish clothes or drink/do drugs like some of the other kids at her school. I’m also a little sick of all teens having dysfunctional families and awful parents in young adult books. What about the normal, geeky but somehow cool parents who we all know and love? I loved writing Mr. and Mrs. Westford – they’re awesome parents who I would have loved to have. Actually my parents in real life were pretty cool (but please don’t tell my mom that or her she’ll go brag about it).
I love that Kiara challenges Carlos even though she’s a little afraid of him. I’m like Kiara in that way – I love challenging people and making them think I’m one step ahead of them. I would have totally pulled the cookie magnet prank in school if I’d thought of it back in high school. I did other stupid things as a teenager, though. And no, I’m not elaborating.
How do you go about naming your characters?
I get asked that question all the time. Listen, if you were obnoxious in high school your name is somehow connected to the rude girls in my books, ha ha. My friends laugh when I say to beware of pissing me off because you just might find yourself in one of my books (although Darlene was a great friend of mine in school and she’s the mean girl in Perfect Chemistry and Madison is the daughter of my best friend and the mean girl in Rules of Attraction). I’m a girl scout leader, so I use a lot of my girls’ names in my books. I use last names of people I know most of the time or I make them up. I will also go to baby name websites and find names that I like. Sometimes I even use names off of my fan mail. My fans have some very cool names!
If you know of someone who has been rude to you, email me their name and I might use it! (I’m kidding…sort of.) I’m going to make the rude bus scheduling lady in my school district a nose-picker in one of my books at some point – not her exact name but a combination of her name. It’s rude and immature, I know. Does any other author do this? I’m curious…
I’m particularly fond of bad boys—the kind with a certain world-weary bleakness, but with a good heart lurking underneath the edgy exterior. You’ve produced a couple of my favorites. What were your inspirations (if any) for Alex and Carlos? And do you have any favorite bad boys yourself?
I love bad boys. They’re my weakness. Find me a hot and sexy bad boy and I melt. I think it’s my “female gene” that makes me want to fix those bad boys. If I can fix a bad boy, I can fix anything! (females are natural people-fixers, in my opinion) What were my inspirations for Alex or Carlos? They really are a mixture of a bunch of boys I know or did know throughout my life… I’m totally sarcastic and “get” guys like that. And just like behind a good man you’ll find a good woman, behind most bad boys you’ll find a good heart. (Not all bad boys are redeemable in real life, but I write fiction and my bad boys are ‘curable!’)
Is there a Rules of Attraction soundtrack? Do you regularly listen to music while writing and/or plotting?
I don’t listen to music while writing, but I do have a Rules of Attraction soundtrack that will be posted on www.perfectchemistrythebook.com probably this week! Go check it out. The soundtrack for Perfect Chemistry is already posted there.
I have to ask about the book trailers. They’re both so different, yet so awesome in their own ways. How did everything come together to make them both and what were the experiences like for you as the author?
For Perfect Chemistry I wanted to do something totally different and unique. I wanted the book trailer to stand out. Then I thought about the television show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I LOVED the rap that Will Smith did in the beginning. I thought it would be hilarious to do a parody rap video as the book trailer. I hired a director and we actually held auditions with actors to do the rap. It was super fun to help write the rap (the most inappropriate parts are mostly written by me, I’m sorry to say) and to be there for the taping. I LOVED doing it. Some fans hate the rap and some think it’s hilarious and have downloaded it to their iPods. It definitely got attention!
For Rules of Attraction I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted my book trailer to look exactly like a real movie trailer – with actors acting out snippets of scenes from my book. I called Pete Jones, a friend and writer/director whose screenplay Hall Pass is currently being filmed with Owen Wilson and Bill Murray and being directed by the Farrelly Brothers. I told Pete I wanted him to direct a “movie trailer/book trailer” and he said he’d do it. Pete hooked me up with producer Pat Peach with Spotlight Films in California, who did an amazing job of auditioning actors and scouting locations (among other things – the guy seriously is amazing). Each audition was emailed to me, so I was a part of the audition process even though I live in Chicago. After hiring actor Giancarlo Vidrio to play the lead high school bad boy Carlos Fuentes (I knew my fans would LOVE him) and Catesby Bernstein to play the lead heroine Kiara Westford, I still needed to find “my Alex.” It was a cameo role for the hero to Perfect Chemistry and Carlos’s brother. I knew I couldn’t settle for anyone less than “perfect.” My fans are obsessed with my Latino hero Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes. They get tattoos with Alex’s name because they’re so obsessed. I knew I couldn’t let my fans down...I needed to give my readers an Alex Fuentes that fed the fantasy of who Alex is in the book.
As I was watching the auditions and the filming date grew closer, I told Pat Peach that nobody who’d auditioned filled the bill to play Alex. He said if I could have any actor in the world to play Alex, who would it be? That was easy – Alexander F. Rodriguez from Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold music video. Talk about perfection! Both Pete and Pat told me it was a long shot. I got Alexander’s email address and emailed him. To make a long story short, I told him I couldn’t imagine anyone else making my character Alex come alive for the book trailer.
To my complete and utter shock (yes, my jaw actually dropped) Alexander emailed me back and said it sounded like fun and he was on board for the cameo role. I flew out to California for the filming, and I felt like a teenager again seeing the heroes I created come to life. To see my characters exactly how I imagined them was surreal and wonderful and crazy and...and I got so emotional when it was over and Pete Jones called “that’s a wrap!” I started crying. Of course when Pete looked over at me and saw tears running down my cheeks, he laughed and said, “Stop it, Simone. There is no crying in Hollywood.” I couldn’t help it...it’s no accident I write romance novels!
Word is it’s going to be a trilogy! What do we have to look forward to next? And can you tell us if the next book will feature the third Fuentes brother—Luis?
The third Perfect Chemistry novel will definitely be about Luis Fuentes. He’s such a good guy who doesn’t live with the angst that his big brothers have always lived with. Luis is smart, funny, and has big dreams. When he falls for the wrong girl, Luis enters a dark world he’s never known to try and save her from herself. Just when he thinks he’s got life all figured out, Luis learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life. Will that Fuentes bad boy streak come out with a vengeance and lure Luis to live on the edge like his new girlfriend and his own father?
And just for fun, what’s the first word that comes to mind when I say:
Alex: smexy – a new term I learned from one of my fans!
Writing: my life
Sexy: Alexander F. Rodriguez (the guy who plays Alex in my book trailer for Rules of Attraction)
High School: friends
Thanks so much, Simone!
And now for the giveaway! Walker Books for Young Readers has generously offered up a copy of each book along with several brand new Perfect Chemistry bookmarks to two lucky winners. All you have to do is leave a comment here telling us which book you'd like to be entered for--Perfect Chemistry or Rules of Attraction--and who your favorite literary bad boy is. The giveaway will be open for one week and will end at midnight on Monday, April 26th. I'll announce the winner the next day. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. As always, please be sure to leave me a way to contact you.