Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Erica Lorraine Scheidt, whose debut USES FOR BOYS, a story about breaking down and growing up, hits the shelves today.
But first, the blurb:
Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna’s new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can’t know.
Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer.
Welcome to the OneFourKidLit blog Erica, and huge congratulations on your debut. USES FOR BOYS is a haunting story, which deals with sex, love and growing up with a brutal honesty that most people would shrink from. What inspired you to tackle such uncomfortable issues?
Thank you so much for including me, Nikki. Congratulations on your book. I think 2014 is going to be an amazing year.
I was inspired by my own teen years and those of the girls I knew and of many of the girls I know now. I was inspired by stories like The Ice Storm and Cruddy and the ways that sex gets used as a kind of shortcut to intimacy. I started out thinking I was going to write about all the reasons a teenage girl has sex; all the good and the bad and the wrong-headed reasons and everything in between—but it turned into something quite different.
Your main character, Anna, makes a lot of mistakes, but she has an innate strength and intelligence that keeps her going. Where did the inspiration for her come from?
Anna was a character born of her situation, I started with her as a young teen, and the ways she was lonely and traded her body for friendship and then I followed her story. She was strong in that way that I think young people are strong: because they’re trying so hard to make a place for themselves in the world.
Weren’t you sometimes tempted to give her an easier ride?
Yes! Yes. You know, I was a writer as a kid. A reader. And that made such a huge difference during my adolescence. I wanted to give her a passion, like art or books or sports, something that connected her to the larger world, but I didn’t. And I think that was especially hard because she didn’t a have a natural path to belonging.
To add to the excitement of your publication day, USES FOR BOYS was chosen as one of the PW Best New Books of the Week. How was that?
It was super great, it was the first thing I saw in my email that morning.
The book is written in an unusually lyrical style, with repeated phrases and short chapters. How did you take the decision to write in this way, and will your next book also push the boundaries of YA in both content and style?
Thank you. I love lyrical books. I love Christine Schutt and Rick Moody and writers like Steve Brezenoff and Nova Ren Suma. Even though the form that Uses for Boys took felt very specific to Anna’s story, both novels I’m working on now also put a lot of pressure on each sentence. But they’re very different in tone. One, A Girl Like Me, is far more populated and less lonely than Uses for Boys.
As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d also like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.
I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I was probably twelve the first time I read it and it was a book that grew up with me. I read it dozens of times as a teenager. This book, Bad Times of Irma Baumlein, was a favorite when I was nine or ten, and when I was little, a thin copy of Lev Tolstoi’s Stories for Children (many of them retellings of Aesop’s tales) had a huge influence on me. Two stories in it, The Plum Stone and The Little Girl and the Mushrooms, I think, are the stories that I am always writing towards.
Teaching artist and longtime 826 Valencia volunteer, Erica Lorraine Scheidt is author of the young adult novel, Uses for Boys (St. Martin’s Press). As a teenager, Erica studied at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and later received an MA in creative writing from the University of California, Davis. She currently runs the Writers’ Workshop at the YMCA Teen Center in Berkeley and is an affiliate artist at Headlands Center for the Arts. Erica lives in Berkeley with her girlfriend, stepdaughter and two dogs.
USES FOR BOYS is on sale at:
|Nikki Sheehan is a reformed journalist who lives by the sea in Brighton, England. Her debut WHO FRAMED KLARIS CLIFF? (OUP, spring 2014) is a story about imaginary people, difficult families, biscuits and a very sinister operation. You can follow Nikki on Twitter: @nicoletteshhh|