Allison Rushby is the author of the Living Blond trilogy: Diamonds are a Teens Best Friend, The Seven Year Itch, How to Date a Millionaire.
Q. What is Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend (the first book in the Living Blond trilogy) about?
A. In Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend, we get to meet Nessa – a thirteen-year-old (almost fourteen-year-old!) with quite the vivid imagination. Infatuated with Marilyn Monroe, she has such a vivid imagination that the plots from Marilyn’s movies somehow tend to work their way into her life. A lot. This is something that tends to get Nessa into quite a bit of trouble!
Q. Was there something in particular that inspired you to write this book?
A. There definitely was! Nessa had a funny start in life as a character. I was house-sitting for a friend, who told me to peep inside her housemate’s room one day (she was also away at the time). When I did this, I couldn’t believe my eyes. All over the room were huge glamour portraits of the housemate dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. Apparently she had quite the Marilyn obsession, as the portraits demonstrated. I wondered about this for years afterwards – I couldn’t stop thinking about how a young person could be so obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, a star long dead. This is how Nessa evolved – I took that character trait to an even younger, stranger place. Imagine a thirteen-year-old with a Marilyn obsession – how strange would that be? What would people make of it? What would her parents do about it if it got out of control? And that was how Nessa came to be. It was interesting to stay with her over three books and watch her grow and her obsession slowly fade, with her eventually handing the torch over to a new Marilyn fan by the end of the third book.
Q. Do you think today’s teens will connect with Marilyn Monroe?
A. Now that I’ve spent so long writing the books, I’m amazed to see how current Marilyn Monroe still is today. There’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t spot a reference to her, or see her image pop up somewhere. For example, just this week I’ve seen a Marilyn Monroe calendar for sale in my local post office, read an article in the newspaper about Hollywood’s top-earning deceased stars (she was one of them) and seen her image also used to sell personalized car number-plates on a TV ad.. And it’s only Wednesday! I’m hoping teens who read the books will be intrigued by who she was and go and watch her films, which are truly hilarious. She may have had a problematic private life, but on screen she is amazing – a brilliant comic actress.
Q. What other novels would you compare Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend to?
A. I think they’re a lot like The Princess Diaries series in tone (which I adore). Nessa is also more than a little crazy and reminds me of Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson at times.
About the author
Q. What are you working on next?
A. I recently finished writing another YA novel called Being Hartley. In Being Hartley, we meet Thea. Thea’s a dancer, but she’s also the daughter of a famous actress from a Hollywood dynasty who’s going to do anything it takes to keep her daughter out of show business. Thea, however, has other ideas! Being Hartley will be released in early 2014 and I’ll also release another YA novel in 2014 called Blondtourage.
Q. What do you do when you’re not writing?
A. I love to travel and had a very nice stint of traveling not too long ago when I lived in the UK for 18 months and Europe was close by. I normally live in Australia (where I am now), which means a little more flying time! I’m looking forward to my next trip away – a South Pacific cruise in a few weeks’ time.
Q. What sort of books do you like to read?
A. Anything and everything, but especially YA! At the moment, I’m reading Gail Carriger’s fantastic Etiquette & Espionage and I recently loved (Loved!) Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. It was so lovely I slowed right down over the last few pages because I didn’t want it to end! I’ve just downloaded Fangirl onto my Kindle and am looking forward to reading.
Q. Do you have any pets?
A. I have a gorgeous Devon Rex kitten, Claudia. Claudia is our third Devon Rex cat (I had to put down my elderly, diabetic Devon Rex, Violet, earlier this year… sob). They’re a very odd breed – rather like monkeys. They like to be up high, on top of bookcases (and shoulders!). After you’ve had a Devon Rex, you’ll never go back to a normal cat! When I had my most recent headshots taken, Claudia was only about three months old and was into everything. I couldn’t keep her out of the headshots, so she stars in most of them – one of which is on my bio. page at http://www.allisonrushby.com
Q. Why did you decide to write YA?
A. I actually started out writing women’s fiction, published four books in that genre, and then realized that my voice was more suited to YA. I really love the immediacy of YA and the fact that characters tend to act on their true emotions, rather than already being weighed down by years and years of emotional baggage!
Q. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A. I’m a terrible, awful plotter. In fact, I’m such a plotter, I have a little formula for writing my books now which is a very odd combination indeed of three-act structure along with a bunch of other plotting methods (mostly screenwriting techniques) that helps to keep me on track. Of course, things change along the way, but I find that if I don’t do this I tend to get lost in the middle of the story and forget what I’m trying to say and what should be happening. Like a lot of novelists, I find I have to write from beginning to end, too.
Q. Do you have a favorite writing quote?
A. I really love this quote from Harlan Ellison. I’m often asked where I get my ideas from, or people will tell me it must be amazing having such a creative job. When they do, I’m always reminded of this:
People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it. – Harlan Ellison
This is so true. In so many ways, writing books is a job like any other. Sometimes it’s very, very difficult, sometimes it’s easy. You have good days and bad days. And deadlines! I never forget, however, it’s a job I’m extremely lucky to have. Not everyone gets to work in their pajamas or use movie ticket stubs as tax deductions!
Read an excerpt of Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend.