Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interview with Melissa Walker!

Today's interview is extra fun for me because I know how fabulous Melissa Walker is in person. We got to do an event and then hang out for an evening earlier this month and I can tell you, she is beyond cool! Melissa is a former editor at ELLEgirl and Seventeen magazines, so she knows first-hand the ins and outs of the fashion world. Plus she's truly a very nice person.

I just finished reading her latest release, VIOLET IN PRIVATE this weekend. In case you are unfamiliar with the books (gasp!) the Violet series is about an average teenage girl, Violet Greefield who goes from wallflower to star in the world of runways and high fashion. Melissa manages to balance the lighter fare like fashion and boys with meatier issues such as body image and loyalty without skipping a beat. Here's the official press release blurb:

Is there life off the runway?
VIOLET IN PRIVATE is the third novel in the series by former magazine editor Melissa Walker about Violet— the wallflower who blooms into an international modeling star—until she realizes there may be more to life than the runway…

Everyone knows her as Violet Greenfield, the supposedly cultured and worldly nineteen-year-old with sky-high confidence because she’s done fashion weeks internationally. But the truth is, modeling has done little for Violet’s self-esteem. And now that she’s finally headed to college, she’s terrified that she’ll turn back into that girl who blended into the walls all throughout high school…

Violet’s friends in fashion are only a two-hour train ride away in New York City, and they all think she’s crazy to stop modeling. But her best friend Roger hopes she’ll go back to being the girl next door. Of course, things have been weird between them ever since they kissed—and now he’s got a girlfriend. So the question is: if she’s not “Violet on the Runway” anymore, who exactly is she?

Melissa Walker has created a character that teens as well as adults can embrace and relate to. Readers have followed Violet through her highest highs and lowest lows in the modeling industry, and are eager to see how she fares as a regular teenager in college. This wonderful series is a fresh take on the real voice of one girl in the designer spotlight.

Very cool, right? I loved these books because Violet is such a relatable character - even if she is an internationally-famous fashion model. And I'm not alone. Check out the praise Melissa's gotten for the VIOLET series:

“It’s a hard sell, asking readers to muster sympathy for the congenitally gorgeous whose job it is to wear designer clothes and walk. In ‘Violet on the Runway,’ Melissa Walker pulls it off.”
—Holly Brubach, The New York Times

“Part Cinderella, part girl next door, VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY is a story for any girl who ever
wondered what it would be like to have her wildest dream come true.”
--New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen

“Violet is a hero for all of us wallflowers out there. A fun, fashion-filled, fast-paced read!”
--Carolyn Mackler, award-winning author of Guyaholic

“On the runway or off, Violet shines.”
--Ally Carter, bestselling author of I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

“Violet is wonderfully witty and sweetly sensitive. She’s not your typical top model; she’s more like your best friend—only prettier.”
--Kirsten Kemp, author of Breakfast at Bloomingdale’s

"Violet on the Runway is a novel about fashion, but it's also a sensitive portrait of adolescence--simultaneously funny and painful. Walker excels at characterizing those moments that we've all experienced, from bumbling in front of the cute boy to being misunderstood by ones
--NYLON Magazine

"This novel is a perfect read for teens who want to see what lies beneath the glossy veneer of what seems to be a picture-perfect life."

--Family Circle

"Teens will love this fun fashion read."
--OK! Magazine

"Take a peek into a model's life with this hip novel!"

--Teen Magazine

"I couldn't put it down! You're kind of rooting for her to make it big, and kind of rooting for her to just go home before the biz ruins her."

"Funny, engaging, and eye-opening, Violet on the Runway is an addictive read full of all the juicy insights about the fashion industry one could hope for, as well as meaningful layers and observations about the importance of knowing one's self."
--Venus Zine

And now, talking with Melissa herself:

LG: You've tackled some serious topics such as body image in the Violet books. How has your magazine work and behind-the-scenes perspective of the fashion industry shaped the themes in your fiction writing?
MW: Honestly, peeking behind the curtain of the fashion industry was both a glorious and a worrisome thing for me. I LOVED some of the glamorous aspects of the industry (the walk, the talk, the STYLE!) but the darker parts really scared me (the eating disorders, the drugs, the flippant superficiality of it all). So I wanted to put a real girl amidst all that, and have her react in a real way. I couldn't leave out the more negative parts, because they are there along with the fabulousness.

LG: In an article you worked on for ELLEgirl, 10,000 girls were surveyed regarding their own body image. Did any of the results surprise you?
MW: I wasn't completely surprised by anything, but I was saddened. The biggest stat that hit me was one we found saying that the #1 wish of American girls from ages 11-17 was to be thinner. How insane is that?

LG: What was your inspiration for writing about Violet? What called to you most in telling her story?
MW: Lots of people in the fashion world act like they've lived there forever, like they were born into knowing their personal style and always being uber-confident. But I know everyone walks in with wide eyes and missteps--I wanted to show that first entry into the crazy fashion/modeling universe.

LG: When you originally pitched Violet on the Runway to Berkley Jam, you were thinking one book. They wanted three. How did that change your approach to telling Violet's story? How did it evolve from the original concept?
MW: At first, I thought it would be a girl who tried modeling and found out that she needed to stay true to her friends at home and who she really was deep down inside, all in one book. But when they asked for 3 books, I realized that it was a natural extension. Any girl would be torn about quitting a world with so much excitement and glamour, so Violet had some back-and-forth to do in books 2 and 3.

LG: Can you describe your typical work/writing day?
MW: When I'm on deadline for a book, I write in the morning until about 1pm or so, and I make sure I have at least 1000 words written. Then I have lunch and switch gears to magazine writing, where I finish stories or pitch new ideas in the afternoon. At lunch, I usually watch a show that my boyfriend won't watch with me, like Oprah.

LG: What are you working on now?
MW: I just finished a draft of LOVESTRUCK SUMMER, a teen romance novel I have coming out with HarperCollins next summer. So I'm waiting on edits for that and also doing magazine work and letting my next book idea... um... marinate. Meaning it isn't nearly ready yet. But one day soon it will be!

You can find out more about Melissa by checking out her blog and myspace.