Monday, November 12, 2012

Interview with YA author Naomi Rabinowitz

Today's guest is young adult author Naomi Rabinowitz. She's doing a virtual book tour for her novel Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad.

As part of the tour, Naomi is raffling off a prize pack that contains and e-book, CD, and earrings. You can enter at the bottom of the interview. Also, if you'd like more chances to win, you can visit her other tour stops

Naomi Rabinowitz has always loved being creative. Raised in Nesconset, NY -- a suburb on Long Island -- she was introduced to the arts at an early age. Her mother, Joyce, is a pianist; her father, Melvin, plays piano and guitar; her grandmother, Esther, was a talented knitter; her late grandfather, Morris, was a violinist; her late great uncle, Sid Robin, was a well-known jazz musician, who penned the lyrics to the popular big band hit, "Undecided."

Naomi's parents, who were both teachers, frequently took her to museums and concerts. During their summers off, her family traveled. By the time she was 15, Naomi had been to several European countries, as well as China, Japan, Israel, Egypt, Russia and Mexico.

Naomi's love for writing emerged when she was in the second grade and her poem, "The Four Seasons," won first prize in a local literary competition. She became interested in journalism in junior high when her English class was selected to write for Newsday's "Kidsday" column.

She had as much passion for music. Though she began playing piano when she was three, she switched to her "true" instrument, the flute, when she was nine and eventually added tenor sax and clarinet to her list so that she could play in jazz band. She performed in almost every musical group from wind ensemble to orchestra (but never marching band!). In 2008, she released her jazz album FLUTE PATH.

Naomi received a B.A. in English from Binghamton University and an M.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University. From 1998-2012, she worked as a reporter/editor for national TV magazine Soap Opera Digest.

These days, Naomi writes, plays jazz flute and designs jewelry for her businesses Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations. She lives in Queens, NY with her husband, Jonathan, and their cat, Maya.

Welcome, Naomi. Please tell us about your current release:
Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad follows the story of the 15-year-old narrator, Melinda, a self-proclaimed "loser," who believes that the only thing that she has going for her is that she's first chair flute in band. Unfortunately, she botches an audition and loses her seat to her longtime rival, Kathy, who's one of the popular kids.

After, Mel is approached by troublemaking trumpet prodigy Josh, who's had his own problems with Kathy. He persuades Melinda to team up with him so that they can take down Kathy. Mel reluctantly agrees, but is drawn to Josh because he's good-looking and charismatic. They become friends and fall in love, but eventually Josh's schemes get to be too much for Mel. She has to decide how far she's willing to go to win her fight and if staying with Josh is worth it.

Though teen romance is a big part of Band Geek  the story is so much more than that. It's really Melinda's coming-of-age tale as she deals with family problems, issues with her friends and yes, her first love. Josh and Mel are the main characters, but theirs isn't the only tale that I tell: we also get to know Mel's parents, her band conductor, her best friend, Lana, and her nemesis, Kathy. It's a story about Melinda's WORLD in addition to it being just about her life.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I was a band geek myself. I've play flute for 30 years and was in my high school band -- and I had my own flute rival to contend with. She wasn't a bully like Kathy is to Melinda, but the competition was still pretty intense! There are many YA stories that focus on the pressures that athletes face, but I wanted to write one that reflected what I'd experienced as a musician. 

As for the love story aspect of my novel, I initially based Josh on my husband, Jon, who was a bad boy in high school. I wondered if we would've gotten along as teens and that "What if?" became the basis for creating Josh and Mel's relationship. However, once I began actually writing Mel and Josh, they took on lives of their own.

Josh followed me into the hallway and fell into step beside me.  "How'd you like to get your seat back?" he asked.  Only he said it really quickly so it sounded more like "Howdylikegetaseatack?"
    "How'd you like to get your seat back?" he said more slowly.  "How'd you like to knock Kathy back down to second chair —- or even lower than that?"
    I sighed and kept walking.  "I'm not really sure I'm the person you want."
    "The Hindemith Sonata," he blurted, snapping his fingers.  "That's what you played last year at the band recital.  It was very good."
    I stopped walking, surprised by the compliment.  "Thanks."
    "Kathy played a Mozart piece and wasn't nearly as good as you," he went on.  "I remember that, too.  That's how I know she shouldn't have beaten you today."
    I was beginning to understand why Josh was so popular; he had this way of making you feel at ease and like everything you say is important.  My initial nervousness at being around him washed away.  Yet I wasn't entirely convinced that this guy was on my side.  How could I trust someone who tormented Mr. Francis on almost a daily basis?
    He bit his lip and was quiet for a moment.  "Look, I have some issues with Kathy, too," he admitted.  "I asked her out this summer at a party we were both at.  And you know what she did?  She didn't just say no.  She spilled a large Coke on my head in front of everyone and then posted photos of me online.  Can you believe that?"
    I’d missed seeing these photos, but couldn't help laughing at the thought of him dripping with Coke, his ego shattered.  I covered my mouth so he couldn't see me, but he did.  "Yeah, yeah, it was hilarious," he said, rolling his eyes.  "She apparently had some boyfriend there with her who I didn't know about so she was mad at me for daring to approach her.  But she didn't have to be such a beyotch.”  He shook his head, obviously still pained by the memory.  "My point is, she messed with me and now she messed with you.  If we don’t stop her, she’ll do it to someone else."
    "I guess.  But to be fair, Kathy didn't really do anything today," I said.  "It was Mr. Francis who flipped out and I should probably be thankful that he didn't make me last chair."
    Josh's blue eyes narrowed.  "So you think Kathy's innocent in this?  Oh, please.  Who do you think snapped your spring out of place?
    "What?"  This hadn't even crossed my mind.  Could Kathy have done that to me?  No, there was no way.  The spring was really small and she would've had to have gotten really close to my instrument in order to do that.  "She didn't," I said.  "If she did, I would've felt it."
    Josh held up the wallet which I kept in my purse.  "You didn't feel me taking this.”
    I angrily snatched it out of his hand and stuffed it back into my bag.  I then realized I'd been so busy listening to Josh  that I'd missed my bus.  "Damn it!"  I muttered.
    "What?"  He held up his hands.  "I swear, I didn't take anything from your wallet!"
    "No, it's not that," I explained.  "I missed my bus."
    Josh smiled.  "Hey, no problem.  I can give you a ride."
    "Really?  It's no big deal.  I can just walk..."
    "Well, I don't think you can really walk in those jeans."
    He was right.  I didn't need everyone else to see my granny panties and I could be doing worse things than riding home with a hot guy.  "Okay, thanks."
    "But there's just one condition," he said, as we made our way to the parking lot.  "In exchange for this ride, you give me just one chance to help you get your seat back.  If it doesn't work or you don't like what I'm doing, I'll leave you alone."
    "I don't know..."
    "Oh, come on.  I gave you my jacket.  I'm giving you a ride home... it's the least you can do.  Do it for the guy who got a bucket of soda dumped over him?"
    I laughed despite myself.  "Okay, one chance."
    "Oh, good!"  he said, clapping his hands.  "Let's get ready to bring Kathy down." 

What exciting story are you working on next?
I've just begun work on my next novel, which is also going to be a YA book. This one is going to take place in college and is going to focus on the friendship between a straight girl and a gay guy. It's going to be another love story, only in this case, that love will be platonic. 

I'd also like to write a sequel to Band Geek from Josh's point of view, but am still working out the details on that one. Writing from the guy's perspective will be an interesting challenge!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was 8 years old and in the second grade. My teacher entered my poem into a local competition and I won first prize for my age group. Until that point, I'd loved making up poems and stories, but I now realized that people were actually interested in what I had to say.

I wrote my first full-scale novel when I was 12. It was about the goings-on in my elementary school's band. While it didn't directly inspire Band Geek  I've always been determined to do something that combined my love of writing and music. Writing ABOUT music is the best way to do that!

Do you write full time? If not, what do you do other than write, and how do you find time to write?
I work for myself full-time, but actually have several different businesses. For 14 years, I wrote for Soap Opera Digest magazine, but was laid off in March. After that, I decided to become my own boss and am involved in a bunch of different projects. I make and sell my own jewelry online and at craft fairs; my main jewelry business is called Naomi's Designs and my children's line is MayaGirl Creations. I also take jewelry classes and write articles for HubPages. Plus, I have a jewelry blog and my author blog.

Finding time to actually sit down and write my novels can be tough, but I try to put in at least an hour a day. I wrote Band Geek while I was still working at SOD and would wake up early so that I could finish a chapter before work. Now I'm fortunate in that I have some more freedom in my schedule, but I still need to schedule a block of time specifically for writing. Between writing novels and designing jewelry, I sometimes feel like I have a split personality, but I love what I'm doing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmmm... I tend to get my best ideas when I'm doing something mindless. If I'm having some writers' block, I like to take a few minutes to play a simple video games like Tetris, where I can let my mind go and daydream. For some reason, this helps me refocus.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As I said earlier, I've always wanted to be a writer. Once I got older, I focused on journalism instead of creative writing because that seemed as if it would be a more lucrative path to follow, but I've dreamed of writing novels for as long as I can remember. 

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I'm very project-minded and am constantly trying new things. Writing will always be my first love, but there are so many other things that I want to try my hand at. Keep an eye out for me because you never know what I'll be doing next! 

Ways to connect with me: Facebook | Blog | Amazon

Thanks, Naomi!

Readers, here's where you can enter to win the prize pack:


Unknown said...

I write for HubPages, too. Been there now for about 4 years. Seems your tour is going great.

Rebecca - Pit Crew

N.R.E. said...

Thanks, Rebecca! And thank you, Lisa, for posting this interview.


Nightly Cafe said...

Thank you for hosting Naomi :)

Michelle Cornwell-Jordan said...

Great post!:)


Pit Crew

Teena in Toronto said...

I enjoyed this book :)