Bad Girls Don't Die
By Katie Alender
To the world, fifteen-year-old Alexis Warren is just a pink-haired troublemaker. She doesn’t have any real friends, and her parents are way too wrapped up in their own problems to bother with hers. Pretty much the only things Alexis can count on are the photographs she creates in her darkroom and her little sister Kasey.
One night, to help take Kasey’s mind off a vicious family argument, Alexis makes up a story — the first thing that comes to mind, really, just a harmless fairytale about a little girl with no friends. But Kasey seems to take the whole thing a little too seriously. Before long, she’s actually bringing parts of the story to life — and people are getting hurt.
Alexis knows she has to find a way to stop her sister before something terrible happens. But with no friends and no help from her parents, she’s basically on her own — until help turns up in the unlikeliest form — Alexis’ archnemesis Megan Wiley, who happens to be the captain of the cheerleading squad.
IB Teen talks to Katie Alender
KA: Well, if I weren’t married, I would say Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, but considering my husband’s existence, I’d probably say either Lizzie Bennet (from P&P) or John Galt from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Oh, wait, can I have Lassie? I want Lassie!
IBT: How did you survive being a teen?
KA: I’ve written things privately that I know my family and friends will never read! But things I write for the public tend to be family-proof, I hope. I mean, I assume every writer has to say, “Now when XYZ happens to this person, that doesn’t mean I wanted it to happen to you, Aunt Sally.” But it’s all fiction. And I’m pretty much at peace with everybody around me, so I’m not skewering people under cover of my book or anything like that. Although come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.
IBT: What do you think are the biggest issues that teens need to be thinking about today? Do you think teens today are looking for quality in the books they read, or just to live vicariously through superficial characters?
KA: I think it’s fine to do both—separately or at the same time. I live vicariously through Jane Austen characters, but I also live vicariously through Harry Potter. And there’s nothing wrong with fluffier fiction, as long as you don’t come away from those books obsessed with designer labels. First and foremost, I want teens to read! I read a lot of “pop fiction” and fluffy series when I was a kid, and I grew up eager to branch out into other things (but still going back to the old favorites, too). I’m a big believer in instilling a love of reading before trying to force an appreciation for the classics.
As for the biggest issues, I think personal responsibility is a big one. Developing enough of a sense of self to have pride and ownership of your own body, mind, and soul, and then applying that to be a strong and contributing member of your community. Easy, right?
IBT: How have the books you’ve read inspired the books you’ve written, if at all?
KA: As a teen, I loved Paula Danziger, because her first-person narrators were funny, real, and occasionally made doofuses out of themselves. I’m inspired by a lot of the teen fiction over the past few years, because a lot of authors have broken out of the “box” and tackled subjects people didn’t write about when I was younger. When I was a teen, there was no big YA movement like there is now. And I’m also inspired by books that, in my opinion, fall short—characters who behave unrealistically or frustrate me. From those books, I learned to think about what kind of people I wanted to read about, and that became the kind of people I write about.
IBT: What is the strangest thing you have ever gotten inspiration from?
KA: I’ve been through some really tough situations, and I always find that if I stand back and create a little distance, I find something useful to take from them and use in my writing. Sometimes this makes me oddly cheery about my tough times, which might seem strange if you knew what was going on under the surface. A minor example is when someone hurts my feelings or is rude to me—instead of dwelling in that moment, I’ll think, “So THIS is how it really would feel to John if Molly said that to him.”
IBT: Many writers say parting with a character is hard. Do you ever look back on a character and wish you had changed something about him or her?
KA: One character in Bad Girls Don’t Die comes out looking pretty bad in the end. I’m inclined to think this person could use a chance at redemption. But overall, no. I was lucky enough to have an editor who asked me to take a hard look at some of my characters and make sure their words and actions reflected who they really were. Were it not for that process, my answer to this question could be very different! And who knows—if there’s a sequel, maybe we’ll see a different side of that person.
IBT: What is the one thing, such as sky diving or any other daring thing, that you would love to do but you are too afraid?
KA: It’s funny, because as I get older, I’m getting braver. I went whitewater rafting last year. I’ve climbed the rock wall on a cruise ship. I snorkled with (nurse) sharks and stingrays and went ziplining in Belize. I’ve never gone skydiving but I know I could do it, if I were up in a plane and suited up. I want to do a ropes course where you walk a tightrope or jump off a platform.
I would like to become a better skier, because I’ve only been twice and both times I ended up crying (I just get so mad at myself, and I cry when I’m mad).
IBT: What do you do when you are faced with writer’s block? What helps you get over it?
KA: I’m the worst with writer’s block. It’s not that I’m blocked when I sit down to write, it’s that I can’t force myself to write if I don’t feel like it. Or I should say I have a really hard time with it. If I’m faced with a dilemma as far as what should happen or what a character should do, I go into “active daydream” mode. I make a playlist that reflects the tone of what I’m writing and listen to it nonstop. I find that my thoughts flow really well when I’m driving on the freeway or exercising.
As much as I can, I think, “What would my character do or say right now?” You know, sitting at a restaurant with terrible service, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I put myself in the mindset of my character.
IBT: Is Bad Girls Don’t Die a part of a series or stand alone novel? What are you working on next?
KA: I have an idea for a sequel to Bad Girls. It’s up next on my plate, right after I finish the book I’m working on now. The new book is about someone’s life being turned completely upside down and how she deals with it. I don’t want to give away any details, though, because it hasn’t sold yet!
UPDATE 4/22/09: I read this book last night, and I honestly I didn't want to put it down. I'm a pretty jaded person when it comes to scary stories, but I remember lying on my stomach reading in bed and thinking that my back felt awfully vulnerable. Really good ghost stories do that to me whereas I can read the gory stuff with no problem. I honestly couldn't recommend this book enough. Read it and you'll fall in love with Alexis, she's a fighter and can handle anything, and crazy Kasey who will take you on a roller coaster. You really need to read this book.