Author Interview: Misa Sugiura

HELLO! Since I am currently away for the week in California (WOOP!) I have decided to use this week to feature some smaller authors and bloggers. Today’s spotlight is featuring an author by the name of Misa Sugiura! Her book It’s Not Like It’s A Secret recently came out, you can learn more about her and her novel HERE!

For those of us who have not read It’s Not Like It’s A Secret, introduce it to us in one sentence?
When a Japanese American girl (Sana) discovers her father’s affair and falls for a Mexican American girl (Jamie), she has to choose between silently enduring difficult situations, and making herself vulnerable by speaking up.

I have to ask the most cliché question of them all, but how did you come up with the idea for It’s Not Like It’s A Secret?
I used to teach high school, and I didn’t see my students or their communities represented in young adult literature. I decided that I wanted to write a story where an LGBTQ couple’s queerness wasn’t the defining characteristic of their relationship, and where different groups of PoC kids interacted with each other instead of exclusively with white people. So I started with a character, Sana, and built the story out of her circumstances, strengths and weaknesses.

What was your favorite part of writing It’s Not Like It’s A Secret?
My favorite scenes to write were the kissing (and almost-kissing) scenes, and the fights—the most emotionally charged moments, I guess. There’s a sort of low-speed car chase that happens that I also had a lot of fun with.

Is the finished version of It’s Not Like It’s A Secret how you always imagined the book? Or did the plot and characters change a lot over the course of the writing process?
All of the major characters “grew” with each revision; it was like going back to a painting and adding another wash of color, or shading and texture. I considered killing off one of the characters at one point, but as soon as I wrote the scene, I knew it wouldn’t work. I also tried a thread during the first draft where one character is accused of theft, and the culprit turns out to be someone else—but that felt heavy-handed and clunky, and it strayed too far from the main story, so I dropped it as well.

Do you have a favorite of your own characters? And, along those lines, do you ship any of your own characters?
I really like Reggie’s mother hen qualities, and Hanh’s loyalty. I also love JJ’s nervous energy and good-natured friendliness. There’s a paragraph that mysteriously disappeared from the book during the printing process, in which a girl in JJ and Sana’s psychology class has a crush on JJ, so I guess I ship those two. J And in a different kind of story, I might have put Caleb and Sana together—he’s a good egg.

Does any of your personality ever go into any of your characters?
A lot of people’s first novels feature main characters who are extensions of themselves, and I guess that’s true for me as well.  Sana and I share a lot of qualities, chief among them being a reluctance to speak up about stuff that bothers us. But I think each of the main characters has a part of me in them. When I figure out what’s driving a particular character, I have to tap into myself to fuel my writing. An ambitious character’s drive comes from my own desire for success, for example, and the emotions of a character who’s feeling betrayed come from my own experiences of betrayal.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what bands or genres?
I’ve tried to listen to music while I write, but I just can’t. Not even classical music. I have to have silence or background white noise.

What is your favorite part of being an author who has recently had one of your novels released into the world?
Definitely my favorite part of being a published author has been meeting other authors, bloggers, and book lovers. I feel like my circle of friends has expanded exponentially

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
This is incredibly boring and pedantic, but I think it’s crucial to learn about craft. I had no idea how to write a story when I started It’s Not Like It’s a Secret. I literally Googled “How to write a young adult novel” when I started, and at every step along the way, I did more Googling: how to write great scenes, engaging dialogue, compelling character arcs . . . everything. Since that time, Cheryl Klein has written a fantastic book called The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults that will save you all that Googling, and that I highly recommend.

What is your favorite genre to read?
I tried to be a fantasy fiction fan for a while, but I’ve discovered that I like it best when characters inhabit the real world. All of my top five favorite YA novels are contemporary or twentieth-century historical fiction, with an occasional side of magical realism.

Do you have any favorite TV shows?
I love “Master of None.” The second season is out right now on Netflix and I’m trying to find a block of time to binge-watch it.

When you aren’t writing what are you doing?
I play water polo twice a week, and I do stay-at-home mom stuff for my family. I love to read, of course, and I spend way too much time on social media.

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