Four Questions For: Melissa Walker, YA Author

“Four Questions For…”: Because five’s a commitment, but three seemed sparse

Sometime subject and full-time friend of FBNY Melissa Walker got herself into a neat piece in this weekend’s installment of T — no mean feat since her latest novel Violet By Design‘s been on shelves for six weeks, inspiring some to argue her promotional moment has passed. She does a nice job on her personal blog in a section she dubs “Marketing Monday” describing how the weekend’s piece came about, so in our new “Four Questions For…” feature, we got her to tell us the stuff the NYT piece left us wanting to know more about.

1) In her T story of this weekend on your and another writer’s fashion-themed YA books, writer Holly Brubach expresses concern for your model-protagonist’s “bone density,” among other things. How is the real-life raciness of a young model’s existence that you depict in the book being received by teen girl readers and their parents?
I haven’t heard directly from parents, but the teens who get in touch with me have been really into the book. I don’t think softening the harsher aspects of the modeling industry is the answer just because these girls are teenagers — they’ve seen and heard it all online, in magazines and on TV. Eating issues, partying and substance abuse are nothing new to the girls who grew up idolizing Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.

2) Did your publisher have any reservations about referencing cocaine abuse and eating disorders in a book meant for high school girls? If so, how’d you make the case that it should stay in?
No, they were very open to what I wanted to write about. I really wanted to get at the darker aspects of the modeling world. It just felt like there was a deeper story to tell than flashbulbs and runways.Also, you’ll notice the heroine doesn’t ever do drugs or adopt an eating disorder; the chaos just swirls around her, so I think that was how I got away with it. And, the imprint I’m on is for ‘older teens’ so it was allowed.

3) Book two, Violet by Design is out now — what’s different about releasing your second book, versus your first?
It’s fun because with a series, you can feel a momentum building in terms of readers — I keep getting more and more feedback from teens, which is the BEST. Scholastic also put out a more G-rated version of Violet on the Runway for their school book fairs, so that is building the audience too. The hard part is that press outlets who covered the first book, which only came out last fall, aren’t jumping to cover the second because they’ve been there/done that with the series in the recent past.

4) How was writing book three? Did it get any easier with two under your belt?
It doesn’t really get easier, but working with the same characters has meant that I don’t have to totally rethink things each time I start a new book, which is nice. Still, the “summarize-without-being-repetitive” thing that you have to do with series books is tough. But book three is done; galleys go out this week. It’s in stores in August, so it’s kind of a whirlwind to have three books come out in less than a year… but hey, it’s fun.