I am ESTATIC to have Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz stop by the blog today to answer some questions on their unbelievably fab book, Georgetown Academy. I hope you guys love the interview, because I certainly did. And be sure to check out my review of Georgetown Academy below!
1. There’s a lot of voices to keep track of in G.A. How do you break up writing them? Do you each have specific characters or do you write them jointly?
We are both very type-A, so we always start with an incredibly detailed outline for every character and chapter and then we split up the actual writing. We don’t have specific characters that we each exclusively write because we like changing it up (a lot of times we decide who gets which girl based on our moods). But our writing always ends up being cohesive because we’ve been best friends for fourteen years and we basically share a brain (yes, we finish each other’s sentences so much that it creeps people out).
2. G.A. is very political and current, did you model any of your characters or their families on real life politicians?
We pulled a lot of elements from different political families for the Madisons (the Bushes, the Kennedys – if the Kennedy’s were uber-conservative). Taryn’s father has a bit of Obama in him, in terms of the level of newness and excitement her father is generating in Congress as a first-term representative. Overall, we also like to play with a lot of the gender inequalities we’ve seen on the Hill…and unfortunately there are a lot of real-life instances to draw from on that front!
3. Scandal plays a central role in these characters lives and their motivations, what’s the most scandalous thing you’ve done?
It took a while to think of something we would admit to!
For Jessica, she secretly dated her older cousin’s best friend for months, creating elaborate cover stories and lies when discussing her love life with her family. Luckily, though, it didn’t end as scandalous as it began because she eventually ended up marrying the guy!
For Alyssa, it was back in her freshman year days at USC. She met a guy at a bar who was a bit older and she didn’t want to admit she was an undergrad so she told him she was a 23-year-old law student. She kept up the lie for several dates, dinner parties with his friends and a million phone calls (he even wanted to introduce her to his mother who was visiting), but she finally had to end it when she ran out of law jargon she’d learned from Law & Order.
4. Within G.A, who do you relate to most and why? Which storyline is your favorite to write?
We seriously love every character and go through phases where we get attached to different characters at different times. Jessica was born and raised in Los Angeles (and Alyssa lived there for fourteen years) so it’s been fun writing California girl Taryn now transplanted in D.C. And Evan, with her perpetual worrying, is easy for both of to relate to, as well. We love the relationship between Ellie and Gabe and the constant push and pull. But it’s probably Brinley (and all the Madisons) who are the most fun to write because their perspective on everything cracks us both up.
5. G.A. isn’t your average high school and you’ve added some creative elements to make the school function around the political challenges. What is your favorite part of G.A., the school.
Definitely history class. It’s so unique to G.A. – the fact that any given discussion about a current event or past event could involve some student’s parent or grandparent. You can just imagine what it must have been like for Chelsea Clinton when her government class got to the section about her father’s impeachment trial or what it will be like for Malia Obama for the next four years when her class is discussing current events and what the President should do about certain issues. Plus, the students at G.A. are so much more opinionated about policies and government because they’re in such close proximity to it. It definitely makes for a much more heated and personally-charged history class than the typical one you’d find in any other high school.
6. Let’s talk clothes…they’re important in this world and each character has a distinct style. How did you choose their style, who/what they wear, and what is the one outfit from the book you’d love to have in your wardrobe at home?
Clearly, we’re obsessed with fashion and we have so much fun visualizing what every character is wearing in any given scene. We really wanted their clothing choices to feel like extensions of their personalities. Taryn’s style is definitely a product of living in L.A. her whole life – that mix of boho and funky. Clothes aren’t nearly as important to Evan as the rest of the characters (although they will begin to play a bigger part in later books) so we wanted her style to be easy without a lot of fuss. Ellie is still figuring out her style the same way she’s figuring out herself. And Brinely, with her old-school D.C. family, her love of British and Italian Vogue and her aversion to anything nouveau, definitely has an affinity for the more classic, polished designers (and she has a long list of things she would never be caught dead in like animal print or boyfriend jeans).
We draw inspiration from a lot of our favorite shopping websites (Shopbop.com in particular) and we’re constantly emailing each other links of something Taryn would wear or Ellie would wear. The one outfit we both love from Book One is the Burberry dress Brinley wears to the rookie party (paired with the Bulgari bangles). But even more than just that one outfit, it’s Brinley’s closet in general (which Ellie refers to as “the vault”) that we covet. We definitely live vicariously through her when she’s browsing outfits and mulling over what to choose.
7. The Coliloquy format is unique and allows readers to help direct the story. Tell us a bit about how being a Coliloquy title have influenced G.A.
We love reading books told from different perspectives and when we set out to write Georgetown Academy, we knew we wanted to write it from multiple characters’ POV’s. By working with Coliloquy, we were able to expand on that concept even more by offering a choice point within each book where the reader can choose which girl they want to “follow”. And yes, they can go back and read all of them if they want to, which means that readers can potentially see the same even unfold in four drastically different ways. Not only are the choice-point chapters fun to write, but we love how it gives even more insight into how different our four girls are. We grew up reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books so we were excited to get to do our own version of that.
8. Tell us something unusual about each of you.
We didn’t meet until freshman year of college and we grew up across the country from each other, but for some reason, we both have the same favorite movie from back in the day – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. We know you’re laughing at us, but it’s seriously underrated. And just for the record, we have no problem with Kevin Costner’s British accent in the movie.
Thank you Jessica and Alyssa so much for this insider look into Georgetown Academy!