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Q: What was your inspiration for writing Stalker Girl? Did it start with the concept of stalking, with the character of Carly, or with something else?
A: It started with a half-realized scene of an unhappy teenage girl sitting in a café watching and marveling at another teen girl who, from the outside, seems perfect. Like many writers, I’m a big people watcher and I often find imagine my way into other people’s lives. Some time ago I realized that when I’m happy, I tend to invent sad stories for strangers. I focus in on things that seem to indicate trouble. The girl who keeps checking her phone is desperately hoping to hear back from the boy who’s drifting away. But when I’m sad, I imagine that everyone else is happy. The girl obsessively checking her phone is excited because she and her fabulous boyfriend have backstage passes for a Vampire Weekend show that night and she needs to know when he’s picking her up. Looking back, I think it’s interesting that both Carly and Taylor were present in my initial half-realized scene. Brian, the boy they both love, was nowhere to be seen.
Q: You structured this book in a unique way, opening with Carly stalking Taylor, then “rewinding” six months to Carly’s relationship with Brian. Why did you choose to set up the narrative in this manner?
A: When people use the phrase “Stalker Girl,” they often also use an adjective like “crazy” or “creepy” or “pathetic.” As if to say only the saddest specimens of humanity would stoop so low. I wanted to show how—under the right circumstances—anyone can make bad, stupid choices. The section of the book that goes back and shows how Carly became a Stalker Girl starts out by declaring “She wasn’t always like this.” Once upon a time, Carly was just like any other seventeen year-old. She had friends, a good family. Then, little by little, she started to lose the things that made her feel secure. She doesn’t realize it, but all the little losses take a toll.
Q: In the digital age, it’s relatively easy to use the internet to find out information about old friends, former boyfriends, or—as in Carly’s case—ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriends. At what point do you think the line is crossed from harmless snooping to dangerous talking? What advice would you give teens who worry they have crossed that line?
A: I do think technology makes it more tempting—and possible—to stalk others. Teens today say that a little Facebook stalking after a breakup is “normal.” I think the point to watch out for is when your behavior interferes with your life. If you’re losing sleep or study time or neglecting your friends because you’re so busy tracking your ex (or maybe it’s someone you believe is in your future) then you’re in trouble. I say tell someone the truth about what you’re doing. True, trust-worthy friends help us avoid self-destruction. “Friends don’t let friends . . .” is brilliant because it’s true. Of course, you have to know that you can trust the person you’re going to share your secret with. If you’re not entirely sure you can trust a friend to keep your secret, tell a counselor or teacher or some other adult you trust.
Q: You create two twists in the traditional stalking scenario: (1) your stalker is a girl, and (2) she isn’t stalking her own ex-boyfriend, she’s stalking his new girlfriend. Why did you make these choices?
A: One of my favorite reviews of Stalker Girl, from the online music magazine Caught in the Carousel, says it’s a story about “how we always seem to be chasing the parts of ourselves that we think are missing.” That’s what Taylor represents to Carly—the girl she wishes she could be.
Q: What is your writing process like? Do you write early in the morning, late at night, every day or just certain days? Do you have a critique group or friends or colleagues who give you feedback?
A: Ideally, I write for two or three hours in the morning before I do the work associated with my day job as an English professor. On days when I am able to write, I must first do two things: drink one big strong coffee and swim. And I must not, under any circumstances, check email or go online or try to prepare my classes. If I do any of that, if I concern myself with the world outside my head, it’s very hard to get back to the one that only exists inside my head. I often “run away from home” to write. I get an inexpensive hotel room (in a hotel that has a pool) and write for three three-hour shifts a day with breaks for meals and swimming. These retreats are wonderfully productive for me. And my husband and daughter enjoy some father-daughter time.
I do have a writing group, and I credit the women in it for helping me finish Stalker Girl. I had given up on the manuscript after two failed attempts.—I was not in a group when I wrote those. When I was invited to join this small group of novelists, I asked the members to read the most recent failed version and tell me the honest truth. Was it worth finishing? I was fully prepared to put it aside. Lots of writers have a novel (or two) “in the drawer,” the one that didn’t work out. But my writing group gave me an emphatic “yes!” and cheered me to completion.
Q: Music plays a role in this book since Carly’s ex-boyfriend is a musician. Did you listen to any particular songs or albums for inspiration as you were writing this book?
A: Somewhere in the notes for Stalker Girl I scribbled “more like VW.” I meant “Vampire Weekend” whose music I love for its sound and its stories. Brian’s band—Ernestine is Everywhere—is my attempt to create a band that’s as smart and funny as those guys from Columbia. But I don’t listen to music as I write. If anything, I listen to “white noise,” recordings of waves crashing or birds tweeting.
Q: While this book clearly isn’t autobiographical, are there any elements you borrowed from your own experiences?
A: Ummm. I do very much relate to Carly. I grew up outside New York City in the Connecticut suburbs. My parents were divorced, and my father lived in Manhattan. I based the way Carly sees and feels about Taylor on how I saw and felt about the New York girls I’d see when I went into The City to see my father. They all seemed perfect to me. They had great clothes, great hair and a way of carrying themselves that seemed so—for lack of a better word—cool. Even the way Manhattan girls walked and talked seemed different and better from how I did.
Q: Do you have a sense of what happens to Carly, Brian, and Taylor after the book ends? Or when the book ends, do you mentally leave the characters where they are on the last page?
A: I haven’t thought too specifically about Brian and Taylor but I do imagine that they go on being the (mostly) happy people that they are. Taylor isn’t perfect and as Carly eventually sees, there’s some pain in her life. Maybe more on the way. I think Ernestine is Everywhere (Brian’s band) might continue to enjoy moderate success. Though I don’t think they’ll become stars.
Carly will be okay and to borrow from another great story-telling musician, Bruce Springsteen, “someday [she’ll] look back on this and it will all seem funny.” But that’ll take a while.
Grade 8–10—When Carly's mother ends her relationship with her boyfriend, Carly is given two options for the summer: either go live temporarily with her father and stepmother in Ohio, or take a job at Stony Hollow, an exclusive sleepaway camp at which her mother is the Interim Director. Opting to take the camp position, Carly finds that she desperately misses city life and is unnerved by ordinary sounds in the woods, but soon falls in love with Brian, her fellow kitchen worker and a talented musician. Summer camp comes to an end all too quickly, and Carly finds herself back at her expensive Manhattan all-girls prep school, while Brian rents an apartment in Brooklyn. Greater exposure and praise of his band lead to an increase in female fans, heightening Carly's insecurity and resulting in an irrevocable split in the relationship. When Taylor, Brian's new girlfriend, arrives on the scene, Carly's obsession and stalker tendencies go beyond the pale, leading to unintended and fateful consequences. The action feels a bit flat and moves slowly, although the tempo increases in the last third of the story. Several scenes show promise, insight, and excitement; the tension between the rich Manhattan second-home owners ("Citiots") and year-round residents is believable, while Carly's interrogation by a defense attorney is fast-paced. However, readers never fully empathize with or understand her actions. Although the ending is somewhat tidy and perhaps not redemptive enough, there is hope that Carly has learned her lesson.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Loved it! Excellent fun read. Just when you think you can predict the end or how the main character Carly will react, you end up with a surprise.Published 1 month ago by Jennifer A Basile
I'm not finish with the book but so far the book is better that what I was expecting it to be!!Published 14 months ago by Claire Chané't Townzel
Carly’s your typical teenager: friends, school, work, family, a life… until Brian breaks up with her and meets someone else. Read morePublished 18 months ago by StephTheBookworm
This was a great book! Very exciting! I couldn't keep my eyes of it! Nothing bad to say about it!Published 20 months ago by Karlee
This is a very good book describing how and why an average teenage girl turns to stalking her ex-boyfriend, and his new girlfriend. Her stalking is not violent in nature. Read morePublished on July 4, 2013 by Sue
The cover is what drew me into this book. I'm sort of obsessed with photography, so this seemed perfect. Read morePublished on April 7, 2012 by KaitorTot
Stalker Girl is a weird book, and I'm not really sure what I think of it. If I could rate it a 2.5, I would. Since that's not possible, I just rounded up. Read morePublished on January 29, 2012 by Maddie
Carly never expected to stalk her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend. She knew it was her own fault that Brian broke up with her; she simply wanted to see what the new girl looked like. Read morePublished on October 5, 2010 by Cynthia Hudson