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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fab Five Questions & Giveaway with Maria Padian, Author of Jersey Tomatoes are the Best!

1. Tomatoes centers on two teens from New Jersey: tennis player Henry (don’t call her Henriette!) and dancer, Eva. They’re super talented, best friends facing more than just a little pressure in their lives. Could you tell us more about the story and explain the title?

The title is from a T-shirt I owned when I was a teen growing up in Jersey. It’s a play on words, since tomato is slang for girl. So that T- shirt and yes, my title, essentially say Jersey Girls Are the Best! It’s the mantra for the main characters, Henry and Eva, who feel a tad defensive about being from The Garden State, where, as Henry explains, “Jersey jokes probably outnumber Polish jokes and lawyer jokes combined.”

Tomatoes is the story about one summer when Henry and Eva head off to competitive, pre-professional camps where gifted kids either make it … or don’t. It’s a novel about friendship and the lengths we’re willing to go for people we love. It’s about battling your demons, making healthy, life affirming choices, and taking ownership of your future.

2. You paint a vivid picture of the competitive worlds of tennis and ballet. How did you research those parts of the book?

I’ve played tennis since I was a third grader and still play competitively, although not at Henry’s level! But while the tennis action scenes were easy for me to write, I relied on pros who work with kids for specifics about competitive youth tennis. I was lucky to tour the Evert Tennis Academy in Florida and speak with a representative there about the work they do with young players. Evert makes a real commitment to educating their players, helping them maintain a good balance in their lives and keeping them healthy … unlike the fictional academy in Tomatoes.

The ballet sections took some real work, because I don’t dance and have never taken a single ballet class. I relied heavily on interviewing young dancers, reading books about ballet, combing through autobiographies of my favorite dancers, and even watching ballet how-to videos. I once tried standing en pointe in some borrowed slippers. That lasted about one excruciating second! I am in awe of what ballet dancers can do with their bodies.

3. Do you have any favorite scenes or characters from the book?

I’ll confess: I have a bit of a crush on David, Henry’s love interest at the tennis camp. When I was 16, that’s exactly the sort of guy I would have liked. My favorite scenes in the book are when the two of them are sparring emotionally: they’re both smart, competitive, and really attracted to each other. I loved writing their dialogue!

4. Do you have any favorite female athletes?

Martina Navratilova, for sure. Martina redefined what it meant to be a woman athlete. Muscular and aggressive at net, she made all the other players on the tour look like children in comparison. Martina was a ground breaker in a variety of ways, and thanks to her, female athletes today know that being strong and competitive are not inconsistent with being feminine.

You know, I live in a college town, and often attend the women’s basketball games. I remember this one game in particular, when a player executed a perfect hook shot: you could see her bright, red manicured fingernails all the way from the stands. That pretty much says it all, and I think it’s great.

5. What do you hope readers take away from Jersey Tomatoes?

Well, I mostly just hope they fall in love with Henry and Eva the way I did! My first goal as an author is to tell a true story that strikes an emotional chord. I hope I’ve done that.

I also hope Tomatoes helps people better understand anorexia, especially as it relates to the negative inner voice which plagues its victims. Both Henry and Eva face a lot of pressure and pretty difficult parents, but only one of them falls prey to an eating disorder. I hope Tomatoes succeeds in exploring why.

MARIA PADIAN has worked as a commercial radio news reporter, an essayist for public radio, a press secreterary for a U.S. Congressman, and a freelance writer. An avid tennis player, gardner, skiier, and hiker, she is also the mother of two teenagers, who, along with their friends, have provided countless ideas, inspirations, and insights for her writing. A graduate of Middlebury College, she has also attended the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Oxford University, and the University of Virginia. She lives with her children and husband, and an Australian Shepherd, in Maine where she is at work on a new novel.

 Want more? Check out these upcoming tour stops for Maria Padian

March 30th—Random Acts of Reading

March 31st—The Reading Zone

April 1st—Cleverly Inked



* Courtesy of Random House!

Jersey Tomatoes are the Best

 Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2011)
This is a hilarious and heartbreaking story of two teen girls and the summer when everything changes for them. Both Henry and Eva are New Jersey natives and excellent athletes: Henry's a master on the tennis court and Eva is a graceful ballerina. When opportunity knocks for both of them the summer before their junior year in high school they throw open the door: Henry sees freedom from her overbearing father and a chance to build her talents on the court. Eva sees the chance to be the best as well as even more pressure to be graceful, lighter, more perfect on the dancefloor.

Soon, Eva's obsession with physical perfection leads her down the path to anorexia, and her health issues overwhelm everything else. But through it all these two best friends know that Jersey Tomatoes are the Best, and nothing will come between them no matter the distance.

Official Rules:
1.You must be 13 years or older to enter
2. U.S Entrants Only Please!
3. Entries must be received by Midnight EST on April 12th 2011
4.To enter to win, simply fill out the form below. Good luck!  


Carina L. Tai said...

Wonderful giveaway :) Thanks so much!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

What a fun concept/post :)
(not an entry)

Mona said...

I enjoy books that cover issues in an interesting way. Another book I heard about recently, HUNGER, has another twist on anorexia.

I also can't fathom how ballerinas dance on their toes. It looks painful. I wouldn't be able to balance much less maintain that posture with any kind of grace,

Thanks for the giveaway.


Vivien said...

I used to dance. I did ballet since I was very young. I can remember the competitive atmosphere.

Sarah Laurence said...

Great to see this terrific book getting more exposure! My teenaged daughter and I loved TOMATOES.