Friday, August 07, 2009

FREEBIE FRIDAY with Stephanie Kuehnert

Freebie Fridays are back!

For our kick-off post, please welcome Stephanie Kuehnert, who is kindly offering up her new book, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. Stephanie is also the author of the critically acclaimed I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE and is one woman who really rocks!

Here's the back cover blurb for BALLADS OF SUBURBIA:

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park. . . .

Amidst the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives.

Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

Here's what people are saying about BALLADS OF SUBURBIA:

" intensely real and painfully honest novel of high-school anxiety." and "....Kuehnert nails the raw vulnerability of teendom and delivers a hard-hitting and mesmerizing read." - Booklist

"Like an American Beauty for the teen set." - NewCity

"With her first two novels, Kuehnert has created vivid pictures of teenage lives that lie in that borderland that abuts adulthood. It is a fertile, confusing and intense place, and Kuehnert never holds back. But like a good ballad, she keeps the stories taut and precise, with a touch of heart thrown in for good measure." - Chicago Sun-Times

"This book is powerful. It's been haunting me for days. Yes, haunting me." - The Story Siren, 5 star review, Recipient of the Luminous Pearl Award

And, the interview:

What inspired you to write BALLADS OF SUBURBIA?

Because Kara’s story has been gnawing at my brain in some form or other since I was a teenager. I say that Ballads is the book I’ve been searching for since I was 13. Back then it was the book I wanted to read and slowly it became the book I wanted to write. I grew up in suburbia, I experienced and witnessed a lot of truly difficult situations that often times me and my friends were too young to be dealing with. But it was real life. I wanted to bring those darker subjects of self-injury, addiction, and depression to light. This was a book I needed and I hope it’s something that can help a lot of teens and open the eyes of a lot of people in general. But mostly, I just wrote it because it felt like a story that needed to be told.

Are any of your characters based on real people that you know?
No. I never do that. Sometimes there are subconscious influences and I can’t help that. The story of how I met my best friend (while shoplifting at a local mall) snuck in there, but the details of the story are totally different in Ballads. Sometimes emotional truths (how I’ve felt emotionally at one time or another) from my life find their way into a story or little characteristics of people I love or relationships I have, but generally it all comes from my imagination.

What excites you?
Good music, good books, good conversation. Honesty and Truth. I love songs and stories that really nail some aspect of the human experience. I love seeing life reflected in art. I don’t know, part of the best thing about being a writer is that you are constantly observing and finding exciting moments in even the most average experience. Riding the train and people watching is exciting. Any kind of travel is exciting.

What turns you off?
I hate it when people won’t cop to their mistakes or pretend to be something they are not. If everyone would just be themselves and take responsibility for their actions I think the world would be a better place. Oh and any kind of hate or snap judgment. Racism, sexism, homophobia, all of that stuff disgusts me. And people being cruel to others for no reason other than their own insecurity, especially when I see women and girls do this to other girls it drives me nuts!

What's the biggest lie you ever told, and what happened as a result of the telling?
The biggest lie I ever told was actual a series of lies that spanned over most of high school. I don’t really talk about it and won’t go super in depth, but since I just spoke about taking responsibility for my actions… I was on and off dating a heroin addict and I knew he was really bad for me and if any of my friends ever met him, they would see this. So I told a bunch of different lies to different people about him. Not all of the lies added up and when different friends talked to each other, my lies were exposed. It seriously damaged some friendships including my friendship with my best friend for awhile, but fortunately she and I worked through it.

What's the most suspenseful thing that's happened to you in real life?
This is when I look back over my life and think, man, it’s been pretty boring! Honestly the most suspenseful thing was waiting for my first book to sell. It took over a year. There was one almost sale and I had jury duty that day so I couldn't have my cell phone on while I was waiting to be called to go on a trial (which I never was, ugh!), so I kept running to the bathroom and turning my phone on to see if my agent called. That deal fell through. Talk about anti-climatic. But then a couple months later I got the call out of the blue! Seriously though, that wait, to see if my lifelong dream would come true, was hugely suspenseful for me!

If you could invite anyone you wanted - living or dead - to hang out with you at a weekend retreat, who would you invite and why?
Kurt Cobain. He was my hero. I discovered his music when I was 12 and it helped me gain confidence to use my voice, to write, to speak out about what mattered to me. It’s so sad that he felt his life wasn’t worth living, but I’d still like to talk to him about art, music and words.

What's one thing most people don't know about you?
Hmm, I’m pretty much an open book (no pun intended), so I feel like I’ve spilled most of my secrets. But here’s an odd quirk, I’m pretty superstitious and for some reason I feel like if I’m not wearing certain jewelry (all 13 of my earrings, a bracelet from my favorite city Seattle, a ring I wear on a necklace that belonged to a friend of mine who passed away a year ago, and of course my engagement ring) then bad things are going to happen. I have no idea why I feel this way!

What's your favorite quote?
“If you made a book of what really happened, it would be a really upsetting book”- Angela Chase on My So-Called Life

I opened Ballads of Suburbia with this quote because it inspired the book and it inspires my writing in general. I want to write about real life. Even if it is upsetting at times.

Milk Chocolate or Dark?

Dark because I’m vegan so I don’t do milk.

You can read more about Stephanie and her books at, find her on her (very cool) blog at and follow her on twitter at

For your chance to win a signed copy of BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, leave a message below. Since Stephanie's books are music themed, tell me what song/musician has touched your life and why. This drawing will remain open until Tuesday, August 11.