A website dedicated to books in the Young Adult genre, featuring book reviews, author interviews contests and much more!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Interview with Heather Hepler: Author of The Cupcake Queen

Today I am featuring an interview with author Heather Hepler!

Heather is the co-author of Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (Dutton, 2006), Dream Factory (Dutton, 2007), and Jars of Glass (Dutton, 2008). Her first solo novel, The Cupcake Queen, will be published September 17th 2009.

Heather Hepler grew up in North Texas. She has lived in Reno, on the coast of Maine, in the interior of Alaska, and near Death Valley, but she currently lives in Tyler, Texas where she is still getting used to heat, the East Texas accent, and the astounding obsession that women in Tyler have with big hair. She works as a reviewer for various publications, including Kirkus Reviews, and she teaches YA and Children's Literature and Creative Writing for the University of Maine and several other colleges.

In The Cupcake Queen, Penny’s mother transplants her from the city into the small town of Hog’s Hollow and opens a cupcake bakery. You grew up in North Texas but have also lived in places like Reno, Alaska and Maine. What are your thoughts on small town living and did any of these places inspire aspects of your novel?

I’ve lived in both big and small places. The biggest was Reno, Nevada (population over 200,000) and the smallest was Machias, Maine (population around 2,000). I think small towns are amazing. They are filled with quirky, interesting people, who you just don’t seem to meet in bigger places. It can be tough living in a small town though. Everyone knows everything about everyone. Like one of my characters in The Cupcake Queen says…. “Knowing things about people in small towns is like breathing. You can’t help it.” While it is geographically impossible, Hog’s Hollow is Machias, Maine with its beaches and artists and Tyler, Texas with its festival. (Although in Tyler, they crown a Rose Queen, not a Hog Queen.) Every place I’ve ever lived finds its way into my books in some way or another.

You are a reviewer for various publications and also teach YA and Children’s Literature as well as Creative Writing at the college level. How does your background influence your writing?

Reviewing is both fun and painful. Fun because I love discovering new books and new writers. It’s painful when I have to write a bad review. When I do, I’m always reminded of that quote that critics are the ones “who come in after the battle and shoot the wounded.” I know what it’s like to pour your heart into your writing and then have someone step on it. It’s awful. But teaching… I love teaching. I always feel slightly guilty getting paid for it because I truly learn as much (or more) from my students as they do from me. I am such a writing nerd. I love to talk about books and writing. The fact that people actually listen to me is a revelation sometimes.

You have co-written the novels Jars of Glass, Dream Factory and Scrambled Eggs at Midnight with fellow author Brad Barkley. The Cupcake Queen is your first solo project. How does the process of writing a solo novel compare to that of writing with a co-author? What are the advantages/challenges of writing with alternating points of view?

Writing solo is a whole different animal. When Brad and I wrote together, we made a game out of it. We would just trade chapters back and forth, never knowing what the other was going to write. In our first novel, Scrambled Eggs at Midnight, I gave Brad’s character green lips in the third chapter. Brad called me and asked “Why does he have green lips?” I said, “I don’t know. He’s your character.” Brad came up with this genius reason that I would never have thought of in a million years. It was also really great to have someone in the trenches with me. If I had an off day or an off chapter, I could call Brad and whine to him and he’d tell me to stop flailing and get back to work. Writing solo, I just grouse to myself and eventually have to tell myself to get back to work.

Writing from alternating points of view is pretty cool actually. It was always my dream -- to be able to climb in someone else’s head and see what he just thought of our conversation. With the ping-pong way we wrote, we could do just that. The hard part was that sometimes we had to really shift things around to make sure that one of our characters was going to be present for a certain event or a certain conversation. I have heard some horrible stories about co-authoring going awry, but with Brad, it was always fun.

Being that The Cupcake Queen is of course about cupcakes and you have mentioned that you have over 100 cookbooks, I have to ask you about your own baking expertise. Are cupcakes your favorite baked goods? Also – can you share with us an instance where you had a really great success in the kitchen and/or a mishap (if any)?

I worked for a couple of years as a baker when I was in college. It was really hard work, but fun. I am a really good baker, but a so-so cook. At my house, it’s pretty common practice for me to get immersed in some baking project only to find dinner time creeping up on me. My son has had to endure canned soup for dinner with elaborate chocolate éclairs for dessert.

I’ve had a lot of disasters in the kitchen. I once decorated the whole kitchen with pinto beans when my pressure cooker exploded. I had to open all the windows in the middle of December in Maine because I burned a whole pot of sugar when making brittle. I almost set fire to the whole kitchen when I was trying to make Cherries Jubilee. The list is endless, but it’s because I believe in just trying things. Sometimes they work out (like when I made chocolate truffles with wasabi) and sometimes not so much. (Don’t touch your eyes after you’ve just spent the last twenty minutes dicing jalapeños.)

The Cupcake Queen deals with family, grief, bullying and identity issues. Is there any one message you would like teens to take away from your book and possibly apply to their lives?

Laughing… I was very shy when I was a teen. I pretty much constantly had a book in my hand. I think I lived sort of half-way between real life and whatever fictional world I was reading about.
I don’t know if all writers do this… I suspect they do to some extent… but so much of me is in my novels. Sometimes people will ask me if a certain character is me, but it’s not quite that. It’s more like they are all me to some extent or they might be like I wish I were. Whatever I’m interested in while I’m writing a book ends up in there somewhere. It might be sea glass or the solar system or cake decorating or Disney World. Right now I’m reading about growing apples and lobsters, so my next book will probably have one or both of those in it.

Life can be really lonely at times… I remember thinking often when I was a teen that no one understood me, that no one really knew me. My biggest hope is that my books will make even one person realize they aren’t alone.

What can we look forward to reading from you next? Any upcoming projects or new novels in the works?

I have another novel coming out in a couple of years. It’s in the very early stages of editing right now. Luckily I have an awesome editor to help me with it. I’m also starting to write again after a bit of time off. Right now I’m just jumping between four different books (seriously). I don’t know which one is going to stick, so I’ll just keep playing with each of them until one starts to pull ahead of the rest.

Thank you Heather for taking the time to stop by and talk with us!

The Cupcake Queen

Publication Date: September 17th 2009 (Dutton Juvenile)

When her mother moves them from the city to a small town to open up a cupcake bakery, Penny’s life isn’t what she expected. Her father has stayed behind, and Mom isn’t talking about what the future holds for their family. And then there’s Charity, the girl who plays mean pranks almost daily.

There are also bright spots in Hog’s Hollow—like Tally, an expert in Rock Paper Scissors, and Marcus, the boy who is always running on the beach. But just when it looks as though Penny is settling in, her parents ask her to make a choice that will turn everything upside down again. A sweet novel about love, creativity, and accepting life’s unexpected turns.

35 comments:

pirate penguin said...

that was really great :) I didn't know that she was a baker (or that she had so many accidents in the kitchen!). I can't wait for her book now!

Mariah said...

Great Interview I have only read Dream Factory but I am intrigued of the others!

BrittLit said...

Cool that she likes to bake. I love the cover of The Cupcake Queen too I'll definitely have to pick that one up.

Sara said...

I love the quote that Heather referred to about being a reviewer - it really is horrible to have to write a bad review, but honesty is so important to readers.

I'm definitely going to check out Heather's books - I love that they were written with another author as well. I think the story line will be really interesting because of that detail!

sophia said...

I wasn't familiar with The Cupcake Queen--putting on my TBR list. It looks just too CUTE. I loved the interview- so personable and fun!

Neas Nuttiness said...

I love the name Hogs Hollow - and can you believe it...I know someone who just moved from Machias! Sounds like an interesting book, and this was a lovely interview.

The Book Owl said...

Great interview. :) I've been dying to read her co-authored books for ages now. You've made me that much more excited.

Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

I was really intrigued by the idea of tandem writing and wondered how authors handled that :) Very fun and interesting guest post!!!

etirv said...

Nice to meet Heather here! Love her books!

Limerick said...

Wow, she's debating four new books? I loved hearing her views about working with another author versus working solo. I'm not familiar with her, but she's definitely got me interested in her works now! Thanks for the interview! :)

jpetroroy said...

Great interview. I love cupcake bakeries.

Liz said...

Awesome Interview! I thought it was cool how much she loves baking!

oO mâr!âNâ Oo said...

What a Great Interview!! I love the cover of her books ^o^

Jill of The O.W.L Blog said...

I liked the part about writing in two different people's point of view. I've always wondered how it would be to write like that. I would think that at times it would be confusing.

Llehn said...

The books look so intriguing! And cupcakes rule!

celi.a said...

This looks so sweet! Loved the interview. I'm a good baker and so-so cook, myself. Glad there are more of us out there! Also liked the tidbits on team writing! Nice post.

Wanda said...

Impressive interview! Now I really want to read some of your books!
wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

Jenny N. said...

Nice interview. I really want to read The Cupcake Queen now.

Juju from Tales of Whimsy said...

Great interview.
I loved this quote, "Knowing things about people in small towns is like breathing. You can’t help it."

Jenn said...

Awesome interview! I would love to write with someone that the way Brad and Heather did; it hardly seems like working. :) And I've always wondered why that guy had green lips... and now I know.

Jess said...

I couldn't imagine having over 100 cookbooks. Although I can relate to having to open the windows in the middle of winter. Haha, burnt sugar is the worst smell ever!

Meg said...

Great interview. Looks like a good book to try out.

Anonymous said...

i love Heather and i love her novels! i've told anyone who will listen that she doesn't shy away from being intellectual in her writing, and i love that too. ~jlk [entropydoctor@yahoo.com]

Falling Off The Shelf said...

Fabulous interview as always! You always ask the greatest questions. Very interesting to learn that they just jumped back and forth between chapters, lol..surprise writing!

Wrighty said...

I haven't read any of these yet but I will be now! It's so interesting that her first books were coauthored. I would think that would be even harder. Thanks for a great interview!

5wrights1[at]verizon[dot]net

Casey said...

Great interview! I haven't had a chance to read any of her books but they sound interesting.

insiya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
insiya said...

The interview was quite interesting. The cover of Cupcake Queen looks FAB !! I so wanna read it now !!

jtcallaway said...

Looks like she wrote quite a few...awesome interview! I will have to check all her books out! Thanks!

mussita said...

interesting kitchen experiences! :) definitely will look out for her books! :)

YA_RockStarlette said...

AWESUME!

Giuly said...

Awesome Interview!
Ilove the covers!
Y really want to read those books! they look amazing!

Elle said...

I am already quite inclined with her books! Thank you for the awesome post. Her covers are really beautiful. I must agree. :D

Paradox said...

All of Heather Hepler's books sound so fun! I know I've seen some of them in libraries, so the next time I come across them I'll check them out! Great interview!

Eli said...

Great interview.Thankss