Check out what Sydney has to say about her teenage self.
1. Describe your typical Friday or Saturday night as a teen. Were you a wild child or a bookworm?
Watchful child? My friends and I would linger in the 7-11 parking lot waiting to hear about parties, often bonfires lit in the desert hills surrounding the city. Reno also had a few under 21 dance clubs, so sometimes we’d go dancing. Other times we’d go have a late-night brunch at one of the casino buffets. I preferred observing the wild child teens to behaving like one. On some weekends I volunteered for Safe Ride, a free, no-questions-asked, car service to prevent teens from drinking and driving. I did record all my weekend exploits in my diary though—and I credit all that teen drama with helping me develop my YA writing voice.
2. Tell us about your very first job. Awesome or awful?
Awful! The Cake and Flower Shoppe hired me to deliver cakes and pies to casinos—but I wrecked the delivery van and someone’s wedding cake within a span of a few hours during my first week on the job. Of course, I got fired. I later wrote about that experience in My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters. To make it more realistic, my character worked much longer than I managed to do! When the book came out, a Reno news station interviewed me and we visited my old boss. Even though I’d only worked for a couple of days—two decades earlier—she certainly remembered me!
3. What would teenage you have liked about your books? Is there anything she wouldn't like?
YA fiction didn’t really exist during my teenage years, so I’ve written books that my teenage self would have enjoyed—a bit of romance, friendship dilemmas, plus some life wisdom. I have borrowed several events from real life—that would have shocked my teenage self. And she’d kill me if she knew that older me would read passages from her diary to auditoriums filled with teenagers!
4. What popular books today do you think you would have loved as a teen?
I would’ve devoured all contemporary fiction. No vampires or other-worldly characters for me, though. As an adult, I’m trying to stretch myself more as a reader, but I still prefer stories about real people in real life.
5. What was your best teen birthday and what did you do?
We had a tradition of kidnapping the birthday girl for an early morning breakfast—and then we’d make her wear her pajamas to school all day. My birthday is three days before Christmas, during the holiday break, so I never knew exactly when I’d be kidnapped! On my 17th birthday, we rented a VCR and watched Risky Business. Rewind that Rock-and-Roll underwear scene again, please!
6. Since I thought this was such a great question, I stole it! If you could give teenage you some advice, what would it be?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re learning important life lessons that will help you so much as an adult. Live like life is long.
It's time for the highlights reel! For the five categories below, give us your favorite and least favorite -- the best and the worst! :-)
Favorite: Tom Cruise!
Least Favorite: I didn’t understand the Simon Le Bon thing.
2. Popular TV Show
I loved the Love Boat and Magnum PI. I didn’t watch sitcoms much. In an attempt to stop us from watching too much TV, my mom would move the set to weird places—like her bedroom closet. So we’d end up watching TV in weird places—like my mom’s closet!
I loved Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and The Waves (I knew I’d have a good day if I heard it on the way to school). I wasn’t much for the gloomy stuff, or as my husband would say, the good stuff—like The Smiths. I had terrible taste in music, but I like to think that it allows me to enjoy my fifteen-year-old daughter’s music now. I’m All About That Bass…
4. Fashion trend
I didn’t have the money to keep up with my more wealthy classmates, so I loved being on the dance team. We wore our uniforms—short swishy skirts and sweaters—a few days a week to support school teams. Of course, our uniform included leg warmers! The worst trend for me: big hair. I once permed my straight hair into such a frizzy mess that even my overly optimistic mother felt sorry for me. I made that trend even worse by adding colored mousse to my hair and colored mascara to my eyelashes. Yikes!
5. Moment/Event of your Teen Life
My first dance team tryout was a disaster! I barely remembered the routines, flapped my arms like a bird, bent in two during my high kicks, and two quarters in my pocket jingled—clink, clink, clink—with every move. But I really wanted to be on the dance team, so I spent the next year driving my curvy 16-year-old self to dance lessons with a group of prepubescent twelve year olds. I made the team my junior and senior year, and while I always had to work harder than many of my teammates, I won several individual and team competitions. The combination of bouncing back and working hard after initially failing has definitely helped me as a writer! Persistence + hard work = success!
Thanks again so much for the interview, Sydney!! It was awesome getting to know you! :-)