This event is hosted by Rachel at A Perfection Called Books!
You can view the whole tour schedule here.
Meet the Newbies is a blog event dedicated to introducing you to the “newbie” published debut authors. In this event, expect to learn more about the authors, their books, and silly fun facts!
Nickname: Big Panda
First Day of School: August 2, 2016
Grade: YA contemporary
Extracurricular Activities: Multiplying powers of two until my head aches, and I pass out
Favorite Class: That one where we drop eggs from tall buildings
Rahul Kanakia is the author of a contemporary YA novel called ENTER TITLE HERE (that’s its actual name, guys) that’s coming out on August 2nd, 2016, from Disney-Hyperion. It’s been described (by his agent, so you know this is a thoroughly impartial assessment) as GOSSIP GIRL meets HOUSE OF CARDS.
Rahul’s short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, Nature, and the Intergalactic Medicine Show. He holds an MFA in fiction from Johns Hopkins University. He also holds a BA in Economics from Stanford University. He used to work for the World Bank, in their South Asia Environment division.
If you had to convince people to read ENTER TITLE HERE in one sentence what would you say?
Well, my agent pitched it as HOUSE OF CARDS meets GOSSIP GIRL, and I think that covers it pretty well–Reshma is the kind of character you’d ordinarily hate–the girl who badgers the teacher for extra points whenever she gets an A minus on an assignment–but my book will make you love her.
Where did you get your inspiration for the novel?
I was reading about a bunch of students in Korea who started a movement to protest against the excessive workload in their schools. They marched down the street, shouting “We are not study machines.” That phrase “study machines” sparked an idea: I was going to write a dystopian novel about a world where kids are forced to work really, really hard. But then I stopped myself, because you know what? That’s not a dystopia–that’s reality. In this world, there are so many kids who work so hard, and I decided to write a book about one of them.
Did you have to do any research?
I read a few books. The one that comes to mind the most is Alexandra Robbins’ The Overachievers. But mostly the book is based on my classmates at Stanford. Many of them had gone to these ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high schools, and they exemplified both the best (remarkable tenacity and intelligence) and the worst (a focus on grade-grubbing and the external markers of achievement) of that system.
What was your favorite scene to write? Most challenging? (No spoilers, please!)
Hmm, all my favorite scenes are a bit spoilery. There’s an extended sequence halfway through the book that is just visceral and heart-pounding, and it was only when it was done that I realized it was based on something which had happened to me–an experience that I’d never told anybody about.
As for the most challenging, I’d say it would be the relationship between Reshma and her drug dealer / enemy / potential best friend, Alexandra. In initial drafts, their relationship had a lot of energy–plenty of banter and chemistry–but it was also perplexing, I really didn’t understand Alex as a character and as a result her motivations and her actions felt really misaligned. It was only over the course of round of after round of revision that I managed to put that relationship into place: it was the last major thing that I had to fix.
What message do you want readers to leave the book with?
I’d like them to learn that hard work is a skill. Reshma, in my book, is a total monster, and the way she acts is a recipe for an unhappy life. But she’s also frighteningly effective, and it’s because she’s willing to work two or three times harder than anyone else.
The world is full of Reshmas who never manage to break out of the path that’s been laid down for them; they succeed at doing things that they really don’t want to do. But it’s also full of people who are the opposite: wonderful, humane, and intelligent people who’re wasting their potential.
Oftentimes smart and creative people tend to be a little bit lazy, because they’ve realized that everything around them is a bit of a sham. They don’t see the point of working at something unless it’s something real and meaningful. They think, “Oh, someday I’ll find my passion, and that’s when I’ll start working hard.”
But sometimes happens is that they find the thing they want to do–or the thing they think they want to do–and then they don’t know how to attain it. A lifetime of slacking is not something that you can overcome in a day or in a year. And then those smart people will either quit or they’ll have to spend years trying to figure out how to work hard. (I’m talking about myself here–I puttered away at writing for five years before I realized that if I didn’t sit down and work, then I’d get nowhere).
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers what would it be?
If you keep working, it’ll happen for you. I’ve seen it so many times. When a writer works hard, reads widely, and is committed to improving themselves, then usually within 5-10 years they’ll manage to sell a book.
About the Book:
Release Date: August 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.
Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.
What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.
But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.
Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)
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