Hey, everyone! I'm one of the participating bloggers in the YA Reads 2015 Debut Authors Bash. It's an annual blog tour that celebrates all of the amazing debut authors and books that come out each year.
For my first ever Debut Authors Bash, I was able to interview Kate Scelsa, who's debut novel, Fans of the Impossible Life, came out in September.
Title: Fans of the Impossible Life
Author: Kate Scelsa
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Ten months after her recurring depression landed her in the hospital, Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.
Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him.
Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him like a backlit halo. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.
As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.
A captivating and profound debut novel, Fans of the Impossible Life is a story about complicated love and the friendships that change you forever.
1. How did the idea for Fans of the Impossible Life come to you?
“Fans” came to me through a dream, through my love of the book “Brideshead Revisted” by Evelyn Waugh, and through my desire to see a really honest depiction of queer teen life and sexuality and friendship and self exploration and struggles with depression. All of those things, processed over about four years of writing, went into making “Fans.”
2. Fans of the Impossible Life was published in September. How has your life changed since then? Do you have a favorite memory of something that happened during this, your debut year?
My life hasn’t changed at all. Except that now I get stressed about different things that don’t matter, as opposed to the stuff I used to get stressed about that didn’t matter.
For a favorite memory - I just did my very first school visit for “Fans” at an awesome high school in Brooklyn, and it was so lovely to get to be around teenagers and talk to them about the book and about the issues around the book. They really wanted to get into discussing what it meant to write about often marginalized characters and to tell queer stories.
Even when you write for teens, you’re mostly dealing with adults when it comes to navigating the world of publishing, and it’s easy for me to get jaded about a lot of things. So to be around people who are really wrestling with these concepts and having these conversations for the first time is so thrilling to me, because they have no preconceived notions about outcomes. This is not just “the children are our future” optimism, but a personal excitement about being around people who are taking in the world as something new and seeing the flaws and figuring out for themselves how they feel about it.
3. If I were an author, I’d be stealthy and go to a bookstore and sign all the copies of my books that are on the shelves. Have you felt the urge to do that since walking into a bookstore? Have you actually signed books without actually being in a store for an event?
It turns out that you don’t have to be stealthy about this! If a store has your book you can just go up to the counter and say, “Hi, I’m the author of this book! Thank you so much for carrying it and would you like me to sign it?” And they say yes and hand you a sharpie! It’s very cool, and I never would have thought to do it if my friend hadn’t forced me to do it on my pub day. And the best part is that you then have an excuse to talk to the awesome people who work at bookstores!
4. Your debut features three main characters, Mira, Jeremy, and Sebby? Why did you choose to feature three main characters instead of any other number?
5. Jeremy starts off as an outsider to Mira and Sebby’s friendship. Have you ever felt this way about some of your friends?
Kate combined both of the above questions into the following answer.
I’ve definitely experienced moments in adolescence, and even as an adult, where I felt as though I was an outsider within my own group of friends.
Jeremy starts out this way with Mira and Sebby, and then they are actually really generous with bringing him into their friendship. So even though he understands that Mira and Sebby have this primary bond, I think he’s so grateful to be included that he stops feeling like an outsider, and starts to feel lucky to just be a part of what they have.
Of course three way friendships are tricky, which is why they’re interesting to write about, and often when two sides of the triangle become closer the third feels left out. No spoilers, but a big part of Sebby’s problem is that he begins to isolate himself from the other two. And that then becomes a self-perpetuating pattern. The more you feel isolated, the more resentful you become, the more you isolate yourself.
As far as my own experiences, when I look back now on the times when I felt like an outsider among my friends, it was because I was actually beginning to distance myself from them. I was reaching a moment in my life when I needed some independence. But I had no perspective on that at the time. And I think Sebby has the same problem. Although the moments that I went through weren’t as self destructive as his becomes, I had an urge to remove myself from the dynamic that I had been in. Not even because it was a harmful dynamic, I just had some growing to do that I needed to do in private, if that makes sense. Sometimes it’s difficult to be around people who have known you so well when you feel yourself evolving as a person. They might be resistant to that.
All of that said, I don’t think that retreating from your friends is a healthy way to deal with this kind of thing. If people really love you and you stay truthful with them about what you’re going through, they will accept your personal evolution, in the same way that they would want you to accept theirs.
6. Are Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy based on any of your friends?
They each come from parts of myself, people I know, and bits of “Brideshead.” There are details about Sebby and Rose that I stole from high school friends, parts of Jeremy that owe a debt to Charles Ryder in “Brideshead” (Sebby is an obvious tribute to Sebastian in that book) and Mira has a lot of me in her. I like to say that the book is fiction but the feelings are real.
7. Let’s say that Fans of the Impossible Life were to become a movie. Who would you cast as Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy? What about some of the other characters in the book, like Peter and Dave?
Coming from a theater background, I know a lot of adult actors, so I’ve already got a bunch of the adult parts cast in my head. But my knowledge of teen actors is so limited I wouldn’t even know where to start! See, I’m dating myself. But I actually would love if it was young unknown actors, and if “Fans” was how the world came to know them.
9. Do you read classics? If so, what’s your favorite classic?
“Brideshead Revisited” is my number one classic, of course. I dip back into that book (or the excellent BBC miniseries) every couple of years. I read the latest translation of “Anna Karenina” done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky a few years ago and I was just bowled over by how readable it was. I couldn’t put it down. And when you finish reading something like “Anna Karenina” you just feel great about yourself.
10. What’s one piece of advice that you would give your teenage self?
It’s the same thing I would tell myself now (and still have a lot of trouble remembering): be patient. Things happen in their own time. Practicing patience is like practicing mindfulness. You can’t always be living in an expected future. This helps so much with writing too. There’s no way to rush writing a book. There’s no shortcut. All you have is the work that you do on it every day, and you have to honor that.
Kate Scelsa has performed in New York and around the world with experimental theater company Elevator Repair Service in their trilogy of works based on great American literature, including an eight-hour-long performance that uses the entire text of The Great Gatsby. Kate lives in Brooklyn with her wife and two black cats.