interview with Maxine Kaplan, the author of THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL

I'm super-thrilled to host another interview with my fellow 2018 debut - Maxine Kaplan!

Maxine's YA contemporary THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is a story of Kendall, who finds herself in a dangerous situation after her online identity is hacked. Early Goodreads reviewers praise it as "a clever update to the classic noir genre" and call it "spiky and complicated and punk and badass and feminist all in one". 


This sounds like perfection!'



And here's my interview with Maxine, where we discuss her early literary influences, her path to publication, and how she came about writing complex protagonists needing to navigate their way out of trouble.

What book influenced you most when you were a child (and why)?

I thought long and hard about this one, because I spent a solid 90 percent of my time as a child reading. At one point I considered myself a “tomboy,” but even during that time, I distinctly remember asking my parents why kids on TV were always asking to go “outside to play.” πŸ˜„

But, all that being said, I think one of the most influential books had to be The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye. That was the first book where the main character, Princess Amethyst (Amy) of Phantasmorania, really lived inside me; where she really felt like a friend. I guess that’s a fancy way of saying, I related more strongly to her than I ever had to any fictional character. If I’m going to psychoanalyze myself (and let’s be honest: I will never reject an opportunity to do that), I’d also add that the remixing of classical fairy tales that happens in that book, with an equal measure of affection and subversion, continues to influence what I like to read and the kinds of stories I’m interested in writing. But mainly, I just love The Ordinary Princess. Every time I read it, I still love it, just as much and in much the same way as I did the first time. I have a tattoo from it. It feels like part of me in a really indelible way.

If you have one, what is your favorite book of all time?

This question is the question I dread above all others. I…can’t, man. The Murder at the Vicarage, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Unseen Academicals, Pride & Prejudice, Beauty Queens, A Room with a View, Lucky Jim, A Wrinkle in Time, etc., etc., etc. And that’s only what just comes to mind. I love books. They’re my favorite things in the world. Picking favorites feels like choosing which friend to proclaim your “best.” Too hard.

You had a long career in publishing and even worked as a private investigator (that’s SO COOL!) before becoming an author, but when did you first know you wanted to write professionally?

In a way, I always did. When I was in elementary school, my standard answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up” was “either an actress or an author.” Both super practical, right? πŸ˜„

Thinking about it now, yeah, I always wanted to write professionally. I just didn’t trust myself to manage it. I had a pretty bad – like, clinically bad – disorganization problem when I was a pre-teen and teen. I would forget things, lose things, break things—basically just destroy everything I did, just a little bit. So I always wanted it, but didn’t feel confident enough to try until I – by the skin of my teeth – found methods to get out of my own way. That happened in college and my heart caught up with my head a few years later.

Your debut, THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL, is going to be released in May 2018 - what was your path to publication like?

I know that some people are going to hate me for this, but THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is the first novel I ever wrote. But hopefully I can mitigate that hate by telling you that it took me five years to write, and another year to get an agent, followed by another protracted period of revision, and several months of submission. So basically, my path to publication was gritting my teeth and working it as methodically as possible.

I actually think the slowness was self-protective. I knew I needed to not give up and the solution I came up with for that was to just achieve very, very tiny daily goals: 500 words a day. And, go figure, I used that same method to draft the second book I just turned into my agent and that book is 25 percent longer and took less than half the time it took to write BAD GIRL.

You are a Brooklyn local and THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is set in a Brooklyn school. What was it like to write your hometown setting into a fictional reality of your book?

Honestly, at least at the beginning, that was purely for logistical purposes. I wanted to use layouts that I was familiar with. And I’ve never been a teenager in a small town or suburb, and don’t know firsthand how a girl like my MC would move in that environment, or really any environment other than a city with a highly developed public transit system. But I’m very happy with the decision for dramatic reasons, too, since it allowed me to touch on issues of privilege in ways that resonate with my own lived experiences. I don’t know if I always want to write about Brooklyn, but it was good to have the details of it readily accessible in my brain for my first book.

I love books with complex, compelling protagonists who have to navigate their way out of difficult circumstances. Kendall, the protagonist of THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL, sounds like exactly my kind of protagonist – how did Kendall come to be the leading girl of your debut?

Thank you! I love Kendall. Kendall is the reason I wanted to write this book. I’m a big fan of noir and all things noir-adjacent, including James Bond and Hitchcock. But the characters that always struck my imagination the most were the femme fatales—and I never got enough information about them to satisfy me. I wanted to depict these dangerous women/girls as real people. Basically, Kendall is my main character because I wanted to write an origin story for a femme fatale.

Do you listen to music when you write? (If yes, what's been on your play-list lately?)

Yes. I have to. Lately, I’ve been revisiting my favorites from college, so Rufus Wainwright, Liz Phair, Aimee Mann, and We Are Scientists. Also, Strange Names’ new album. (Quick brag: the lead singer is my cousin.)

What comes next? What are you working on at the moment?

As I said earlier, I have turned a full draft of something new into my agent. It’s YA, still, but completely different from BAD GIRL. It’s a fantasy / adventure / comedy and I’m very excited about it. I’m also in the early (very early) stages of another mystery project, a historical murder mystery. I can’t say too much about it yet, but at the moment the process basically consists of constructing Jane Austen fanfic, so it’s kind of a dream.

Any advice for all the aspiring/emerging writers out there?

Just write. That’s really all you can do. I would suggest my 500-words-a-day system though. It’s enough that you do eventually make a story, but it’s also so modest that it makes it harder to blow it off. Also don’t be afraid of writing a terrible first draft. All first drafts are terrible. “You can’t fix what you don’t write” has become my mantra. And I recommend outlining first, at least a little. I know to pantsers it seems like outlining will suck all the fun out of writing, but really, you end up changing outlines as you go anyway. It just helps to have a basic guide, so you don’t rage-quit πŸ˜„

Bonus questions!


Your dream holiday?

My dear friend Ben’s family used to have a house right on the bay side of Fire Island. You could sit out on the private deck and jump straight into the calm side of the Atlantic. It was the perfect beach house. My dream holiday exists in a parallel universe where they didn’t sell that house. Sigh.

In your writing process/routine, are you… a planner, pantser, or…?

Ha! I guess I kind of already answered this. I think I’m a planner that accepts that eventually I will be pantsing this shit no matter how hard I plan. Or maybe a better way to put it is I’m a disorganized planner.

Cats or dogs?"

(*Okay, I’ve read on your website that you have a “complex” cat, so it looks like it’s cats for you, but still..? πŸ˜„

I love dogs, but I feel more attuned to cats. I don’t know if that’s a good thing though, considering my weirdo kitty.

Coffee or tea?

I actually like both! Let’s say “caffeine” and call it a day πŸ˜„


Thank you, Maxine, for dropping by, and huge congratulations on THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL's  



About THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL  



After getting caught hooking up with her best friend’s ex on the last day of junior year, Kendall starts senior year friendless and ostracized. She plans to keep her head down until she graduates. But after discovering her online identity has been hacked and she’s being framed for stealing from a dealer, Kendall is drawn into a tenuous partnership with the mastermind of a drug ring lurking in the shadows of her Brooklyn private school. If she wants to repair her tattered reputation and save her neck, she’ll have to decide who she really is—and own it. The longer she plays the role of “bad girl,” the more she becomes her new reputation. Friends and enemies, detectives and drug dealers—no one is who they appear to be. Least of all Kendall.


Praise for THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL:


"Genuine high school drama, painfully inspiring for the #MeToo age."
- Kirkus Reviews

"An intriguing look at feminism in American culture and the price we pay for our reputations."
- Booklist

**STARRED REVIEW**

"Kaplan’s sharply written, twisty thriller, narrated by the savvy Kendall, deftly explores the shades of gray between “good” and “bad” and the freedom of self-acceptance and shines a light on issues such as rape culture, bullying, and enduring sexual double standards."
- Publishers Weekly


"Kaplan cleverly addresses sexuality, gender bias, identity, and rape culture in this page turner that is classic YA mystery with an undercurrent of sex-positive feminism."

- School Library Journal

THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is available for purchase from:


Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound


About Maxine Kaplan:

Maxine Kaplan was born in Washington, DC. She and her twin sister spent their early childhoods trotting behind their journalist parents as they traveled around the world, eventually settling in Brooklyn, NY. Maxine graduated from Oberlin College in 2007. Following a long stint in the world of publishing, she has worked as a private investigator since 2009. She lives in her adopted hometown of Brooklyn, NY, with her lovely husband and complex cat. THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is her debut novel. Follow Maxine on Twitter @MaxineGKaplan

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