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Interview with Karen DelleCava, author of A Closer Look, AND a chance to win a copy & a surprise gift

Today I interview Karen DelleCava, author of realistic YA A Closer Look, which deals with a teen who has alopecia–her hair falling out. If you read the interview and leave a comment on the original post on my blog, you’ll be entered to win a copy of A Closer Look PLUS a surprise gift but “Do not open it until page 153.” Open to US and Canadian residents. To gain up to two extra entries, share a link to this interview on FaceBook and/or on Twitter (one extra entry for each format), and mention that you did so in the comments (on my blog at CherylRainfield.com/blog) Contest runs for a week, starting today.

But first, we’ve got a brief excerpt from A Closer Look:

“…and there were these moments–when we laughed on the phone, or met for a kiss-and-run, when I noticed the sweet way he looked at me–well, I felt so good I could almost forget about my secret. But in the back of my mind, it was like an invisible fist was lurking, one that followed me around, just waiting for the chance to rip out more hair.”

And one of my favorite authors, Margaret Peterson Haddix (Multiple award-winning author of middle grade and young adult fiction), had this to say about Karen’s book:

“In A Closer Look, author Karen DelleCava gives readers a feisty character who deals with family secrets, boyfriend complications, a cruel teammate–and her own body turning against her. Readers will be rooting for Cassie all along, and will want to cheer for the way she proves that losing your hair doesn’t have to mean losing your spirit.”

Wow! Doesn’t that make you want to read the book?? Now, on to the interview…

Karen, can you tell us what inspired you to write A Closer Look?

Ten years ago, my nephew’s grandmother arrived at a party with much shorter hair than usual and when I commented on it, she told me she’d donated her hair to an organization that makes wigs for children with alopecia areata.

I thought, whoa. There were kids out there living without hair?

Her random act of kindness touched me deeply and I proceeded to write a middle grade novel about kids who donate their hair. I was 80 pages into the first draft when I thought my main character might meet a child with alopecia. Then it hit me. I had to write the story of the girl who is losing her hair. So I started researching and started writing all over again.

I love that you were inspired by an event–your nephew’s grandmother donating her hair!

What was your road to publication like?

I wrote the first draft over ten years ago in one semester in Margaret Gabel’s amazing course: Workshop in Writing for Children at New School University in New York. I worked on the manuscript over six (not all consecutive) semesters.

I also write short fiction and have sold a number of short stories, games and crafts to Highlights for Children magazine. My middle grade short story, Surfing Iowa (July 2002) has been used for standardized testing numerous times since then. The editors there are fantastic to work with and it’s always a thrill to be included in an issue of Highlights!

Back to A Closer Look…I landed a literary agent around 2004 and thought this is it! It’s going to happen! We got a lot of nice rejections. One editor said, “A near miss.” But when my agent couldn’t sell the manuscript fast enough for his taste and I had no other novels ready to go, we parted ways. Deeply discouraged, I let the manuscript sit for a year or two. I knew it was a great story that needed to be told so I polished it some more and sent it back out. I received a letter (two pages single spaced!) from WestSide Books publisher, Evelyn M. Fazio letting me know what worked and what didn’t. She invited me to resubmit.

Evelyn’s great, isn’t she? I’m glad you didn’t give up!

How did you find out your book had sold?

I got “the call” from Evelyn on my cell phone while I was at work. She’s so warm and friendly and she started chatting with me but my brain started racing. Editors CALL to tell you GOOD news. If my manuscript was being rejected she’d have emailed me. Then she gave me the news. I let out such a shriek of joy I think the people in the adjacent building heard me. As you know, Evelyn is an absolute joy to work with!

Yes! Evelyn Fazio is wonderful. I love that you got that call AND that you shrieked with joy!

What’s the best email or review you’ve ever received from a teen reader?

A twelve year old girl emailed me the day she started the book and had read 50 pages. She also told me she was a super picky about books and she loved it! This wonderfully picky reader has alopecia and asked if I had it too, because I described what it’s like so perfectly. That was pretty amazing! She also told me all of her friends wanted to read A Closer Look. It felt wonderful to know she enjoyed the book and wanted to share it with her friends.

That’s incredible feedback! 

If your main character, Cassie, had a theme song, what would it be?

Born This Way by Lady Gaga! Cassie has to figure out how to love herself in order to move forward. I can picture her tying her sneakers in double knots, cranking up the Ipod and running to Born This Way feeling totally empowered.

I love Born This Way by Lady Gaga, too! It seems to fit so many of us.

Do you have a critique group? How much do you rely on them?

I commute an hour from the North Jersey suburbs to NYC each week because my critique group rocks! I trust them implicitly which is key. They cheer when I nail the perfect metaphor, call me out on cheesy cliches, and always make fabulous suggestions for improvements. I couldn’t image not being connected to such a talented, generous group. I take all of their comments very seriously but ultimately it’s up to me to decide what works best for my character and her story.

Yes, it’s so important to trust your critique group!

Do you have any upcoming events you’d like to mention?

As a matter of fact, yes, Cheryl! Thanks for asking!

My first Blog Tour coordinated by The {Teen} Book Scene runs from April 2nd-April 13th.

Visit karendellecava.com for a link to the schedule and details on how to win a signed copy of A Closer Look PLUS a surprise gift but “Do not open it until page 153.”

A Closer Look Book Signing:
Friday, April 13th 6:30-8pm

Well Read (New & Used) Bookstore
425 Lafayette Ave
Hawthorne NJ 07506
973-949-3440

Teens who attend will receive a surprise gift but “Do not open it until page 153.”
(While supplies last.)

Visit karendellecava.com to read Chapter 1 of A Closer Look.

I’m having a blast being a part of a new blog GotTeenFiction with fellow WestSide authors, Selene Castrovilla (Saved by the Music & The Girl Next Door), Joe Junievicz (Open Wounds) and Shari Maurer (Change of Heart) all of whom I admire as writers and are a kick to work with! Stop by again any time!

Thank you, Cheryl, for being such a gracious host and for this lovely visit!

Thanks so much, Karen, for a fantastic interview!