Without further ado, here is a fantastic interview with the lovely KATIE A. NELSON, author of the forthcoming novel THE DUKE OF BANNERMAN PREP!
THE DUKE OF BANNERMAN PREPAuthor: Katie A. Nelson
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Words are weapons. Facts can be manipulated. And nothing is absolute—especially right and wrong.
Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for only one reason: the elite school recruited him after he brought his public school’s debate team to victory last year. Bannerman wants a championship win. Debate is Tanner’s life—his ticket out of his poor-as-dirt life and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and the start of a new, better future.
But when he's paired with the Duke, his plans for an easy ride seem as if they’ve hit the rails. The Duke is the quintessential playboy, beloved by everyone for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and seemingly effortless favors.
And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win.
But as Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of existing on the edge becomes addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of.
But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple down.
A contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, Katie Nelson’s taut debut is perfect for fans of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Kate Brian’s Private series, and anyone who’s encountered the cut-throat world of competitive high school.
Where do you like to write?Katie A. Nelson: I spread out when I write, with notebooks and random post it notes covered in scribbles all over the place, so I have to write at a desk or table. We have a big desk downstairs where our family desktop computer is, so usually I write there. But if my kids and husband are home, it can be pretty distracting, so in those cases I take my laptop and lock myself in my room with my noise canceling headphones.
Why do you write for younger audiences?Katie A. Nelson: So many reasons! From a purely practical standpoint, most of the ideas that I have for stories involve teenagers. I love the possibilities that come with that age: you’re figuring out who you are and how to find your place in the world, but also figuring out how your choices can re-make the world into the kind of place you want to live in. There’s a line in the song “I was a Teenage Anarchist” that asks, “Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?” I wasn’t ever an anarchist, but I do remember that feeling, and writing about teenagers allows me to live in that state, even if it’s only vicariously.
Describe THE DUKE OF BANNERMAN PREP in 10 words or less.Katie A. Nelson: THE GREAT GATSBY meets a prep school debate team.
What was the hardest part of writing a retelling?Katie A. Nelson: For me, I think it was figuring out when to stay truthful to the source material and when to diverge, for the sake of my own characters and their emotional journey. The Duke of Bannerman Prep went through many, many drafts (I think I lost count of how many) while I figured out what I was doing. My very first draft was probably the loosest in following the Gatsby plot. As I re-wrote, I got closer and closer while I figured out who these characters were. I even wrote one draft in second person, which didn’t wind up working for the story, but it allowed me to really figure out who Tanner was. Once I was confident of that, it was easier to tell his story and let go of the elements that weren’t working.
How did you get into Tanner’s head while writing? Was it difficult to write from a male perspective?Katie A. Nelson: I mentioned in the previous question writing a draft in second person. That helped a great deal in getting into Tanner’s head, because there was an intimacy there that hadn’t come out until that point. So even though it didn’t work as far as the final novel was concerned, it was really helpful and I don’t regret the months I spent writing it. (Well, now I don’t. At the time it was a little disappointing.)
I didn’t think it was difficult to write from a male point of view. I’ve been surrounded by guys all my life! I have three brothers and they were always around, along with their friends. Now I have three sons, so I have plenty of guys to eavesdrop on, and to ask questions of. While Tanner and I share plenty of character traits, writing from a male point of view made it easier for me to separate myself from the character and to concentrate on what he would think and do.
What was your favourite scene to write in the book?Katie A. Nelson: That’s hard to answer without being too spoiler-y. I’ll just say it’s the state qualifying tournament. ;)
What do you hope readers take away from the book?Katie A. Nelson: I really believe that books belong to readers, and that they each interpret and relate to them in different ways, so I know there will be different take aways for everyone. But I hope that readers will see that people aren’t good or bad, just like the issues that the characters debate in this book aren’t black or white. We’re all much more complicated than we appear, but that’s okay. The moments where we actually allow others to see our contradictions and vulnerabilities and nuances are the moments that matter. Just like real life, some characters get there; others don’t.
Katie Nelson has always loved words and stories. Formerly a high school English and Debate teacher, she now lives in Northern California with her husband, four children, and hyperactive dog. Katie taught piano lessons for several years and still plays, although not as well as she could if she'd practice more. She loves to ski and mountain bike, and makes a mean mint brownie!
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