Friday, September 18, 2009

FREEBIE FRIDAY with Paula Chase!

Happy Friday! Today I'm pleased to welcome Paula Chase Hyman to the blog. I met Paula about four years ago at an SCBWI conference. She was just about to get rolling with the Del Rio Bay series at that time. Now, five books later, she's a ground-breaker in African American teen fiction and hard at work on her next novel.

Here's the official bio:
Paula Chase Hyman, writing as Paula Chase, is the author of the five-book, Del Rio Bay series, which includes So Not The Drama, Don’t Get It Twisted, That’s What’s Up!, Who You Wit’? and Flipping The Script.

Her series helped launch Kensington Books YA line in March 2007. Dedicated to working with teens, she co-founded the Committed Black Women in 1993, a high school mentoring group and coached a competitive squad for five years.

She recently co-founded The Brown Bookshelf with five author friends. The site is dedicated to honoring vanguard authors and showcasing the myriad of talented African American children’s lit authors and illustrators flying under-the-radar of librarians, parents and teachers.

Praise for The Del Rio Bay series:

"Contemporary friendship story, which revels in rich diversity of race, color, and class."—Booklist

“Genuine dialogue…there is plenty here for readers to ponder about race, class and popularity.” – Publishers Weekly

"...a fresh contemporary friendship story and worth the read." – Kirkus Reviews

And now for the interview:

What inspired you to write the Del Rio Bay Books?
I think I’ll explain this one using food (because I’m a foodie). I love pepperoni pizza and, truth be told, could eat it several times a week if I didn’t have kids I had to be nutritionally responsible for. However, if one day all I had to choose from was pepperoni I’d be pissed because now and
then I also like a good slice of white pizza, sometimes I crave a load of veggies on my ‘za and sometimes sausage. When I wrote the first book in my series in 2003 the literary landscape was akin to only having pepperoni pizza available to young readers. The books were primarily targeted to what we all politely call the “mainstream” audience – in this case, White, female readers. However, publishing assumed these readers had no interest in reading about characters who, while sharing similar problems as they did, were from a different racial background. Who are we to say these readers wouldn’t want a piping hot slice of pizza with zucchini and pineapple? Okay, that doesn’t sound real appetizing, but you get my drift. The literary world needed some diversity where YA pop fiction was concerned, so I served them up something different than what was typically offered.

Are any of your characters based on real people that you know?
Yeah, me as a teen and my daughter and her friendships. But more heavily towards me, because like my main character Mina, I grew up in a predominately Black neighborhood while going to a school that was predominately White. I have always lived the duality of being a Black suburbanite. It’s what I know. So it’s easy to write.

If you did an infomercial for your book, who would be the perfect celeb to serve as the pitch guy or gal? And why?
KeKe Palmer of Akeelah And The Bee and now True Jackson, VP fame. She is so my idea of what my main character Mina would look like. And she has the right level of range to pull off both innocence and burgeoning maturity.

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?
This is probably supposed to be a writing retreat, right? But if an opportunity like that ever came up I’d have a family reunion with my dad, who passed earlier this year, my grandparents and two aunts. The older you get and the more family you lose, the more you crave the simplicity of your past and/or childhood. I’d love to spend a weekend with them just talking about “old” times. A retreat like that would be good for my soul and likely fuel me creatively for years!

What's one thing most people don't know about you?
I’m a Type A mental strategist. You would think most writers would be more laid back, but I’m like a General in the Army when it comes to strategic planning and everything having its place and time. That doesn’t mean I can’t be spontaneous. I embrace the side of me that can be footloose and fancy free. But my days are hectic and they require a good deal of control just to get through them.

What are you working on now?
A standalone novel about a teen girl who has a fragile relationship with her mom. In my head, it’s about the struggle some kids endure when they have wayward parents. They love them, but they don’t want to and yet they’re unable or feel too guilty not to.

What is an interesting writing quirk of yours?
My quirks are different with each book. For That’s What’s Up, I had to write in the morning. No other time of day worked well. For Who You Wit’? it had to be at night. For this current novel, it’s I have to write in total silence. I’ve tried writing when my entire family is home and nada. If the house isn’t totally empty and silent I hit a creative wall.

Milk Chocolate or Dark?
Milk. Yummmmm.

You can read more about Paula and the Del Rio Bay books at and

For this week's freebie, Paula is giving away the entire Del Rio Bay series! For your chance to win, leave a comment below. This week, it's anything goes. The drawing will remain open until Wednesday, September 23.