Interviewing Dana Elmendorf

Dana Elmendorf was kind enough to stop by and discuss South of Sunshine, out April 1.

What is the Twitter pitch for South of Sunshine?

In a town like Sunshine, Tennessee, Kaycee Jean McCoy knows better than to fall in love with the new girl.

This is your first novel. What was the publication process like?

Scary and exhilarating at the same time. I’ve believed in this book from the moment I finished it. Most writer’s hate being on submission. I never let it get to me because I knew it would sell to the right house. At the year mark, I started to get a little nervous. It was Friday in December that my agent called me. The only other time she has called me out of the blue was to offer representation so I pretty much started crying right there in the grocery store. Working with my editor Wendy McClure has been a dream. She has such amazing insights and suggestions to really make my story relevant and current. Albert Whitman asked for my input on the cover and I’m happy to say they’ve really captured my vision for the book.

What was the inspiration for South of Sunshine?

An SCBWI LGBT meeting and Ellen Hopkins were the inspiration for this story. Essentially I was stalking an agent who was at that meeting. When a discussion about why don’t straight authors are scared to write about gay characters, they write about vampires and they aren’t vampires. I interjected with how I would be scared to write an LGBT character because I was scared to offend an already offended community. I was scared two write that because then I’d have to show some hard truths about the south and it’s lack of acceptance of the gay community. That’s when Ellen Hopkins pointed her finger and me and said, “Write that. Write that story. Write what scares you.” After that conference I told myself there was NO WAY I was going to write that story. 45 days later, I finished South of Sunshine.

Can you share the first sentence/paragraph?

“You don’t expect to be dumped five seconds after someone shoves their tongue down your throat. But that’s what Dave Bradford just did to me. I suppose the kiss was Dave’s idea of a consolation prize. Or maybe he was giving it one more try to see if there was any possibility of a spark. He has a better chance of lighting a wet match.”

If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be and why?

Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman. It’s brutally honest story about a inner city girl who’s been in juvenile detention since junior high, and the hard life she lived up until she was 18. The author is a psychologist who works with juveniles in New York City. He dishes out a very realistic picture of how a lot of girls in the city live. I think it’s important for books to not only be mirrors, but windows. This book gives others a chance to understand and empathize with youth that might have it harder in life than others.

What are your five favorite books? You can do authors, if that’s easier.

Anything by Jenny Han or Huntley Fitzpatrick. Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols, one of my favorite books ever. The Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan. And I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios.

What 2016 releases are you most excited for?

Definitely In Real Life by Jessica Love, it’s set in Vegas and is such a fun story.   The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, I think it will be an amazing debut. Can’t wait to read it. And The Beast by JR Ward, I love me some Black Dagger Brotherhood. (Got to get my adult romance on the list.)

Thanks, Dana!

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