Author Interview: Rosemary Graham on Thou Shalt Not Dump The Skater Dude (And Other Commandments I Have Broken)

Thou Shalt Not Dump The Skater Dude (And Other Commandments I Have Broken) by Rosemary Graham (Viking, 2005). Kelsey is trying to adjust to the sudden move to the west coast. She is excited at the prospect of a new school (preferably of her own choosing). Her divorced parents seem to be getting along a lot (too much?) better. And then, boom! A hand reaches out to her as if from on high. It’s supersmooth C.J. Logan, California “It” Boy AKA “The Skater Dude.” At his side, she’s in–into the hottest social scene, in somebody’s arms. But “side” is the key word there, as in “sidelines.” How long can Kelsey endure of C. J.’s accessory, and what if she dares to do the unthinkable? What if she dumps The Skater Dude? Ages 12-up. Read an excerpt. See more of my thoughts on Thou Shalt Not...

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

Kelsey. Kelsey came to life in my first novel, My Not-So-Terrible Time at the Hippie Hotel (Viking, 2003; Puffin, 2005). She was the pretty, happy girl envied by the narrator, Tracy. When I first introduced Kelsey in that book, I saw her much in the same way Tracy did, as the stereotypical California Girl-blonde, beautiful, and not-so-brainy. The fact that Kelsey’s family was rich made her life seem that much more charmed-and easy-to Tracy (and to me). But at the crisis point in Hippie Hotel, when Tracy lashed out at Kelsey, Kelsey revealed herself to be a much more substantial person than people (including her creator) had assumed. I wanted to get to know that more substantial person I glimpsed in the attic of the Hippie Hotel.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Oy. I wrote the first scene with Kelsey in November of 2001, while my agent was submitting Hippie Hotel to publishers. I wrote the last seen in November of 2004. Now, I did work on edits for Hippie Hotel during that time, and I do have a full-time job teaching college English, but it pretty much took me three years to figure this one out. (Compared with the one year it took me to write Hippie Hotel.) The first draft of Skater Dude, which was called Hey, You Never Know, sucked. Big time. Despite my intentions, I didn’t really get beneath the surface of Kelsey. Portions of that book read as satire, like I was more interested in making fun of her than I was in understanding her.

So I wounded her.

This was a huge breakthrough. Once I realized how truly vulnerable she was (as we all are), I was able to see inside this rich, pretty, and sometimes happy girl. Only after wounding her was I able to look at the world through her eyes rather than looking at her through the world’s eyes.

The other major “event” was working with my editor, Joy Peskin, at Viking. I was halfway through a new draft of what I was then calling “Kelsey’s Book” when Viking bought it and Joy became my editor. Joy was tremendously helpful. She helped me find the story by urging me to follow Kelsey’s lead. Rather than superimposing a plot I thought would be “interesting,” I realized that the process of being wounded and surviving was the plot. Finally, “Kelsey’s Book” was truly Kelsey’s.

Cynsational News & Links

Author Talk with Rosemary Graham from May 2003.

An Interview with Caldecott Winning Illustrator David Macaulay by Brigid Barrett from the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance.

An Outsider, Out of the Shadows: An Interview with S.E. Hinton from The New York Times. September Update: features editor interview with Susan Buckley of Appleseeds; an article on query letters; an article on craft writing; and an article on poetry. See also Inside Markets for the magazine market update.

Thanks to Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy for mentioning my site, blog, and recent author interview with D.L. Garfinkle!