Monday, June 1, 2015

Harper Collins Spotlight & Interview: Tiny Pretty Things (Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton)

Tiny Pretty ThingsKindle Edition, 448 pages
Published May 26th 2015 by HarperTeen

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.
Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best. 

Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton met while attending the New School's acclaimed Writing for Children MFA program. Sona is a journalist who has written for the New York Times, People, Parade, Cosmopolitan, and other major media. Dhonielle is a librarian at a middle school in Harlem and taught English at a cutthroat ballet academy. Together, the pair cofounded CAKE Literary, a boutique book packaging company with a decidedly diverse bent.

Critical Praise

“A page–turner with a heart.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Appealing both to dancers and drama lovers, this engaging, pulpy read skillfullyexplores a variety of issues, from sexual orientation to ethnic identity to single–parent households, in a glamorous, high–stakes setting.” — Booklist

“Diversity is organically spotlighted [in this] fun and fast read.” — School Library Journal

“A beautiful example of diversity in characters and settings.” — Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

“Charaipotra and Clayton skillfully craft three distinctive, complex characters. This enticing glimpse into the ballet world is rich with detail and drama as the authors highlight its glamour and darkness.” — Publishers Weekly

1.       What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

Dhonielle: I worked at a pre-professional ballet academy as an English teacher. I was surrounded by the beauty of ballet. In grad school I met Sona, and we gabbed a lot about writing together, and doing something big to address the lack of diversity in children’s and YA books. I told her I worked at a ballet school and wanted to write about that. She brought up her love of Pretty Little Liars and we started plotting.

2.       Who is your favorite character in the book?

Dhonielle: I’m Team Gigi because she’s sweet, but I’m heavily invested in Team Bette. She’s complicated in a way that feels very teenage and very real.

Sona: All three girls are fun, but I’m Team June. She’s got this meanness to her, a vindictive streak. But it’s because she always feels lost, neither here nor there. There’s nowhere she belongs, and that’s a hard feeling.

3.       Which came first, the title or the novel?

Sona: Definitely the novel. We’ve had a couple different titles for the book over the course of the writing and publishing process. But I have to say -- Tiny Pretty Things is my favorite by far!

4.       What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

Dhonielle: My favorite scenes are ones with Morkie. The ballet mistresses are the demi-goddesses of the ballet world, and command respect and attention. Each girl has a different relationship with her.

Sona: Some of my favorite scenes are of the girls with their moms. Kind of gives you a bit of insight about where each girl is coming from -- where home is (or isn’t, as the case may be), in a way. Each girl has such a different relationship with her mother, it really is a defining characteristic. 

5.       Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?

Dhonielle: Patience. The industry is slow, and creating really good books takes time.

Sona: Commitment. Seeing something through from beginning to end. I tend to procrastinate and I’m definitely a dilettante -- leaping from project to the next. But if you don’t finish something, you won’t get anywhere.

6.       What do you like most about the cover of the book?

Sona: The pink is so bold, so striking against the black. It gives you an idea about what the book will be, but there’s still a sharp element of mystery. And it will definitely stand out on bookshelves.

7.       What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2015?

Sona: One of my favorites this year is a fellow debut, Renee Ahdieh. Her fantasy, The Wrath And the Dawn, is rich, riveting, atmospheric, and completely swoonworthy. It’s a world we see so rarely in YA, and the way Renee brings it to life is magical.

8.       What was your favorite book in 2014?

Sona: Two stand-outs for me were We Were Liars by E. Lockhart -- for the confounding twist! -- and Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down. Such an important, timely concept, and such innovative storytelling.

Dhonielle: I loved The Young Elites by Marie Lu -- delicious setting and a kickass heroine -- and read Amanda Maciel’s Tease in less than 24 hours. I love characters who aren’t nice girls who make perfect choices. I like girl characters who don’t always think nice thoughts.

9.       What’s up next for you?

Dhonielle: I have a fantasy series with Disney Hyperion called The Belles, about a group of girls who can manipulate beauty, and the dangerous journey of one girl when she uncovers a world of secrets, lies, and cruelty as the personal belle for the future queen.

Sona: I’m trying to finish writing a book I’ve been working on in some form for nearly a decade. It started out as a script, and it was the first thing I tried to do fiction-wise, but I’m committed to finishing it by the end of the summer. It’s time has come!

10.   Is there anything that you would like to add?

Dhonielle: Everyone should get involved with the We Need Diverse books movement -- it’s awesome!

Sona: And thank you so much for having us on the blog!

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