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Q&A with Courtney Summers, Author of THIS IS NOT A TEST

So back when I first started writing, I was on the lookout for some good contemporary books. Good friend and fellow YAHer Kody Keplinger told me that I *needed* to get my hands on this book CRACKED UP TO BE by a girl named Courtney Summers. So I did.
And I became an insta-fan.

Seriously, Courtney's writing is incredible. Her characters are complex, they're interesting, and best of all they are seriously fun to read. Since CRACKED UP TO BE, Courtney's released a couple of other contemporaries, all of which I enjoyed immensely, but when she announced that her newest and fourth novel would be a zombie novel, I pretty much lost my shiz.

Yes, you heard it right. A ZOMBIE NOVEL BY COURTNEY SUMMERS. I was a little bit more than pained that I'd have to wait to read it until June 19th of this year. Then her publisher announced they were releasing the ARC on NetGalley, I requested it, and BOOM! There is was, beautiful and ready to be consumed on my Kindle.

I am so happy I got to read this book. It is truly wonderful in the way that Summers' contemporaries are wonderful- the characters come alive on the page, the story is compelling, and oh, yeah...there are undead lurking nearby and they're hungry for brains. Could it get any better? I think not.

Imagine my excitement when Courtney agreed to have a little sit down with YA Highway to answer some questions regarding THIS IS NOT A TEST, making the genre switch, and what types of refreshments were required to get through this awesome, blood stained manuscript.

Seriously, people. Five stars. When it comes out, go get it. Even if you don't like zombies, because apparently it's so good that even people who are usually wary of the flesh eating undead are also crazy about it.

The synopsis for THIS IS NOT A TEST: (Taken from Goodreads)

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Question and Answer Session with Courtney Summers:

1) So THIS IS NOT A TEST is clearly quite different than your other published books. What inspired you to make the genre leap?

I love zombies!  I've always loved zombies and I always knew I'd write a zombie book, it was just a matter of when.  After I finished Fall for Anything, the timing felt right.  I proposed about four or so (can't remember exactly) ideas to my editor and two had zombies in them.  We both liked the one that was basically, "teens stuck in high school during zombie apocalypse, terrible things happen."

2) Are you planning to write outside of contemporary from now on?

I never know what I'm writing until I'm writing it, so if the next idea that gets its hooks in me is outside of contemporary, then that's what I'll write.  It all depends on what grabs me next.  I love a lot of different genres, though, so I'd love to explore them in my writing.

3) You've said online that you drew major inspiration from zombie films and video games (hurray Left 4 Dead 2!) Any current faves that are influencing your recent work?

L4D2 <3!  The book I'm working on now, ALL THE RAGE, is a kind of a mystery/psychological thriller.  When it sold, it was likened to the movie Brick and the TV show Veronica Mars, but that's more in tone.  Right now, music is its biggest influence.  I was obsessed with Lana Del Rey when I wrote the first half of it.  I love how she sings about lost rich kids and there might be a few of them in ATR.  :)

4) Tell us a little bit about writing the character of Sloane Price... she's a complex girl with a background that's pretty horrific, and that's before the zombies even arrived.

Writing Sloane was challenging at times.  She wants to die, she's ready to die, and this informs the way she responds to the other characters and reacts to the situations she finds herself in.  I knew Sloane was never going to make personal connections or engage with her surroundings in the same way characters like Grace or Cary might.  But at the same time that was what made her interesting to write as well.

5) Last time we interviewed you here on YA Highway, you mentioned that your must-have revision snack was frozen Kool-Aid Jammers. What food held you over while you pounded out THIS IS NOT A TEST? (Besides brains, that is?)

Oh my God, I haven't had Kool-Aid Jammers in five hundred years!  I want them now.  I think I just subsisted on coffee for THIS IS NOT A TEST.  Maybe my entire writing experience would have been different if I had turned back to Kool-Aid Jammers, though.  More refreshing, I bet.

6) Are we allowed to know anything about your next book, ALL THE RAGE?

It's a kind of psychological thriller about a girl who blackmails a rich classmate and then wakes up on a dirt road with no memory of the night before.  And then things happen!  It's about money and desperation and violence, in that order!  And it's probably coming out in 2013!  No zombies, though. :)

Thanks for having me on the YA Highway!  You guys are awesome!

The pleasure is all ours, Courtney. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions!
Amy Lukavics

Amy lurks within the forested mountains of Arizona. When she isn't reading or writing creepy stories, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and playing games across many platforms. She is the author of Daughters Unto Devils (Harlequin Teen 2015) and The Women In The Walls (Harlequin Teen 2016).

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  1. AHHHH!

    Nearly freaked out when I saw that YA Highway did yet another interview with Courtney Summers. Still need to get my hands on TINAT but I've read all of her other books, so I'm not suprised that TINAT is as good as everyone is saying it is. Plus ZOMBIES! Who doesn't love zombies?!

    And why isn't it 2013 already?! Hopefully the world doesn't end this year so that I can read All The Rage it sounds like my kind of book, but then again I think Courtney S could write about killer cows and the book will still be made of all kinds of awesome.

    Thanks for the interview! :)

  2. I love Courtney Summers. :) I'm so excited for TINAT and I know that she can pull off zombies. :D So excited to read it.

    All the Rage sounds wonderful. :)

  3. One of my fave authors on one of my fave blogs talking about zombies and coffee? WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS AWESOME???

  4. Oh God. Just when I think the suffering is almost over (it's a little more than a month to TINAT release) then I find out ATR is not due until 2013... *bangs head against the wall*

    I love Courtney's books so bad! I'm gonna save them for when I'm old and have children and I'll sure give them to them (no, getting extra copies sounds better)

  5. HOORAY!!! I'm so squeaking excited for this book. I even chose to highlight it for my Cover Love meme ( ). It just sounds blow-my-mind amazing.

    Can't wait!


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Item Reviewed: Q&A with Courtney Summers, Author of THIS IS NOT A TEST Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amy Lukavics