Monday, March 5, 2012

Deborah Blumenthal: A Novel Can Come From A Temper Tantrum

Deborah Blumenthal
Posted by Ruby Johnson
An award-winning journalist and nutritionist who admits to being a Type A personality, Deborah Blumenthal writes children's books and adult novels. She has been a regular contributor to The New York Times (including four years as the Sunday New York Times Magazine beauty columnist), and a home design columnist for Long Island Newsday. In addition, she has written health, fitness, beauty, travel, and feature stories  in many other newspapers and national magazines including New York’s Daily News, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Woman's Day, Family Circle, Self, and Vogue. Deborah lives in New York City.
It's our pleasure to welcome Deborah to Texas.

Don't forget to leave a comment for Deborah at the end of her interview.
So here we go...

Could you share a bit about your book, The Lifeguard, and its characters?

The Lifeguard is a young adult novel about 17-year-old Sirena Shane who is sent off to spend the summer at the shore in Rhode Island with her Aunt Ellie, while at home, in Texas , her parents are going through a difficult divorce.
It turns out to be a summer that will transform her life.
She moves into a beach house filled with ghosts, falls hard for a mysterious lifeguard with extraordinary looks and healing powers, and meets an 80-year old Brazilian artist and shaman who bequeaths her an extraordinary gift.

What inspired you to write children’s and young adult books? Was it hard to get into character for a sixteen year old?
I wrote my first picture book, The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum, almost as therapy, after my daughter Sophie had a pip of a tantrum. My first young adult novel, FAT CAMP, grew out of an article I wrote on weight loss camps for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.It’s difficult for a writer to get into any character, I think, no matter what the age, but I particularly like writing about teenagers because what I remember so well about that time is the conflicted emotions and the search for one’s identity and confidence level.
Do you have a favorite character in this book?

Antonio, the 80-year old artist. He’s a best friend, a mentor, and a joyous man who’s filled with love for people and life.

Do you have a favorite scene, you can share with the readers.

My favorite scene is when Sirena’s on the beach and she turns and looks at the lifeguard chair and she sees Pilot watching her through his binoculars. They have a staring contest that sets the stage for their relationship.

Do you keep real life separate from your story world or do you feel yourself basing characters on real people and writing scenes based on real events?       

I don’t consciously base my characters on real people or write scenes based on real events, but I’m certainly influenced by pictures in magazines when it comes to creating the physical attributes of characters, and in THE LIFEGUARD, I used the beaches of Rhode Island after visiting the beaches not far from Kingston, Rhode Island and falling in love with them.
What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters.

The hardest part is trying to take your time while the bonds strengthen and doing it without readers being aware of your techniques.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part you struggle with.

Just rewriting and more rewriting until you get it right.

Which is more important in your stories character or plot? Do you outline before you write?

It really depends on the story. The new YA I’ve just written is definitely character driven, but The Lifeguard is both character and plot driven. And no, I never outline. I prefer not to know how my stories will end when I’m in the early stages.
What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?
The most rewarding thing for me is feeling that I’m growing as a writer.
The most disappointing? The writing process is so slow and that’s frustrating for someone who’s a type A.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?

Nothing original – just keeping reading as much as possible. You learn so much from other writers. Also, keep writing and rewriting.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just completed another young adult novel that I’m polishing and I’m playing around with some ideas for new picture books. 

Finally, where can we find you on the web?

Don't forget to ask a question or leave a comment for Deborah. She'll be back on Friday with an excerpt of her book.


Thorne said...

Great Interview. You asked great questions and got great answers for an exciting author. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and help with other writers.

Ladson said...

Wish I'd thought of the chocolate covered cookie tantrum as a book. That must have been fun to write.
Now, I want to know what your child said when you read it to him.

Ruby Johnson said...

Thank you for visiting our blog here in Texas. Nice to know you do some plotting when you write. I'm amazed at writers who can sit down and write without a destination of some sort in mind.

SusieSheehey said...

Thanks for sharing, Deborah! By the way, the cover is fabulous!

Deborah Blumenthal said...


Sophie was six when the tantrum book came out, and by that time she was pretty much over the tantrums. She was proud though to be the star of a book!


George said...

Thank you for coming to the blog and the reminder to keep reading: we can learn so much from other writers. That's the best part of our face-to-face group (...even though Ruby catches every grammatical error.)

Deborah Blumenthal said...

Thanks you all for your comments!

BloggerSnop said...

How lucky, spending the summer at the shore in Rhode Island! The beaches in Rhode Island were great!

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