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A Chat with Courtney Summers

If you haven't picked up her books, you're missing out. Two of the most hard-hitting and honest novels I've read are by author Courtney Summers. Cracked Up To Be, winner of the Cybil in the YA Fiction category, is a tale filled with secrets and snark. And Some Girls Are, Summers' second novel, released January 2010, is the book I recommend to anyone and everyone: those wanting to begin reading YA to those wanting to understand high school bullying and beyond. It is a fantastic piece of work.

Courtney was nice enough to answer a few questions I had about her novels, her characters and what we have to look forward to, even though she's been working under fierce deadlines. The Highway is thrilled to have her share her thoughts with our readers.

1) I’d like to start with Cracked Up to Be, which was the first book my agent sent to me (contract + book – totally awesome) and which I absolutely loved. I’ve heard friends say it’s a great book to send to people who say contemporary isn’t as interesting as other genres. The story is tense and the characters . . . ! I thought I would hate Parker at first, but then she got me laughing and laughing some more. I love her. Tell us about writing Parker.

Thank you! Also: your agent is awesome. :)

Writing Parker was an intense experience, but a really wickedly fun one. I knew right away I didn't want her to be nice and I also didn't care if she was liked--and those decisions gave me a lot of freedom. It was fun to be able to think, "Okay, what is the most offensive thing Parker can say here?" --And then make absolutely sure she said it. Her defense mechanism was to push people, which basically insisted that I "go there" in my writing, and I liked that. It was enjoyable.

2) There are two love interests in CUTB, and by the end of the book I couldn’t decide which I liked more. Which do you like more (pleasepleaseplease)?

Ah! That's a tough one. Do you mean as a character or for Parker? It's hard to choose between Chris and Jake because they have different things working for and against them--so I can't. Such a cop-out answer, I know. But I really don't think I can choose. I like them both equally. I would not want to date either of them (personally). As far as which one I would want for Parker--that's also tough. They both offered her different things. I think ultimately, Parker needs to work on herself before she worries about boyfriends (or I worry about which one would make a better boyfriend for her).

3) How does it feel to be nominated for awards? Does your expectation of your work change after an award nod?

It's exciting, nervewracking, hard to believe. It was a thrill for Cracked Up to Be to be on the Cybils shortlist (and in the time it took me to answer these questions--bad Courtney!--it went on to win in the YA Fiction category, which totally surprised me and meant a lot) and to be a White Pine nominee. And it's humbling and intimidating to find it alongside other authors and work I greatly admire.

The expectations I have for my work haven't changed, though. When I write, I always set out to do my best for each book and to be happy with what I've done, no matter how it's received. That's what I hold myself to. Once it's out, I have to let it go and let the chips fall where they may.

4) Some Girls Are, your sophomore novel, was released in January. It is one of the most intense books I’ve ever read. As I closed the back cover, I took a breath and realized all my muscles were tight. How much were you aiming to write a book filled with tension, or do you think it’s a natural by-product of the subject matter?

Thank you so much! I'm thrilled you thought it was intense. I think tension is tied to the subject matter for sure, but that said, I was also aiming for it. I wanted to see how extreme I could make the situations Regina found herself in and I wanted to make sure it felt like there was a lot at stake.

5) Your writing style is spare and beautiful. Great tension and no wasted words, which makes for fairly quick reads of stories that are deceptively deep and emotionally wrenching. I love that I can finish your books in an evening, but it takes days to process them. I heard you did some power-editing/writing with Some Girls Are. What was that process like?

It was INTENSE! I blogged about it in-depth here. I went through quite a few rounds of edits with SGA and, when I add up it all up, I think I got over 30 pages of notes. But it was worth it. The first draft was really rough and seeing it come together, turn into a book, was exciting. I'm lucky to work with an amazing editor.

6) I love Regina, though she certainly has her faults. What I love most about her is her honesty and her vulnerability. I don’t look at SGA as a redemption story because I’m not sure Regina would have done the things she does – redemption-wise – on her own. Do you think she would have come to the realizations she comes to had the tables not been turned on her?

Great question! If Regina could have remained Anna's right hand, I think she would have. She would've hated it, but she would've continued on because it was easier (and given all Anna is capable of, I can understand that logic). I always thought Regina would have been a great person post-high school, even if she had never had the tables turned on her, weird as that sounds. I think she would've detached from her experiences and tried to make more positive choices and thought of high school as something like a bad dream (like many of us do...).

7) I love your blog post about mean girls. Insightful and honest and revealing. What – if anything – would you like people to take away from that post and, ultimately, Some Girls Are?

Thank you so much! I strive to be honest in my books and in my blog posts, and after that--how people receive them and what they take away from them is entirely up to them. It's more fun that way. :)

8) Who would win in hand to hand combat – Parker or Regina? How about verbal combat? Backstabbing combat? Who would be more likely to detonate a WMD on their high school? Okay, maybe not that last one.

Hah! Parker would win verbal combat. Regina would probably win backstabbing combat. Mostly, I can't envision these two in the same room together. Parker wouldn't have any time for Regina and I don't think Anna would give Regina any time for Parker--unless it was to destroy her.

9) You have recently posted about your newest two book deal. What can you tell us about these new works, including thoughts on when we might see them in stores?

I'm excited! I just finished the first draft of the first book in the deal and am preparing for edits. The most I can say about it is that it's about a girl named Eddie and she is trying to make sense of her father's untimely death. I'm sussing out book 4. I think the next book will be out some time next year but I haven't got a firm release date yet.

10) You’ve already gotten your twitter shout-out from Jeff Probst, so who now? Who would it make you wet your pants to hear from – on twitter or any other media? Who would do it for Parker and Regina?

Lady Gaga. As for Parker and Regina--I'm not sure. They've never told me! ;)

Five Real Fast:

1) Your ultimate revisions food: it is not really a food, but frozen Kool-Aid Jammers. I NEED them.

2) Your dream vacation: I'd love to see Pompeii.

3) A writer (living) you recommend to everyone: aah! I can't pick just one. C.K. Kelly Martin, Nova Ren Suma, Daisy Whitney, Anna Jarzab, Teri Hall, Melina Marchetta...

4) You would rather: eat bugs at every meal for the rest of your life or cuddle with a werewolf: BUGS.

5) One sentence of advice for girls in High School: It doesn't last forever.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Courtney! To learn more, visit Courtney's website at and be sure to pick up her books: Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are.
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. Holy crap.


    1. LOL @ BUGS.

    2. Both of those books are seriously incredible. Parker is the bitchiest character I've ever loved. SGA made me see red, literally. I couldn't see the pages anymore. I was infuriated.

    3.My vote is on Parker for hand-to-hand and verbal, but Regina for back-stabbing.

    4. Kristin, AWESOME questions.

    Thank you so much for this interview, Courtney!

  2. Great interview! I just recently read both books, so they're still fresh (especially SGA because I had no idea what was going to happen to that poor girl and I couldn't put it down for a single second!)
    Thanks, Courtney & Kristin :)

  3. I almost gasped when I saw the post. Courtney Summers is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Great interview!

  4. I just finished CUtB and SGA this past weekend. Love Courtney Summers. I'm basically aspiring to be her at this point in my life.

  5. I adored Some Girls Are. It was one of those books that you couldn't put down. I almost took a personal day off work so I could finish it, it was that riveting.

    Great interview!

  6. Bugs. So hilarious and so Courtney! Great interview. Courtney is a good friend and yet I still learn more about her every time she does an interview because she always gives thoughtful and interesting answers!

  7. Not a single werewolf question?!? I am so disappointed.

  8. Some girls are is absolutely amazing! I'm recommending it to just about anybody that will listen. Great Interview!

  9. Thanks, all. :)

    Kate, the werewolf Q is in the Five Real Fast.

  10. Dude, it's like I've lost the ability to read lately. #fail

  11. Awesome interview, Kristin and Courtney! Love the questions and the answers. Total Courtney, SGA and CUTB fangirl here.

  12. Great interview! I really liked the questions, they seemed well thought-out and I liked Courtney's answers too.

    Aha, BUGS.

  13. Excellent interview :D Makes me want to read both books

  14. Awesome interview--love both CUTB and SGA so, so much that I'm totally intiidated, lol. Can't wait for the next one--woo hoo!

  15. Great interview! Can't wait to sink my teeth into those two books.

  16. great interview. and, how have I not read SOME GIRLS ARE? I left CUTB on a train in Serbia. I'll have to leave SGA somewhere equally random.


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Item Reviewed: A Chat with Courtney Summers Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook